Research Graduate Programs

The final step before applying is to study which graduate programs are of interest to you and would be a good fit.

Specifically, does a given university have the right degree within the right program for your focus?

For example, let us say that you interested in the study of fish as a food. You are pretty sure you want to get a PhD, but you want to get a Masters first. Would your focus be best found in a zoology program where they have a specialization in ichthyology (the study of fish)? In a food science program that considers fisheries (where fish are raised for food) a part of their expertise?  Would either of these programs allow you to start with a Masters then continue on to a doctorate?

  • Check the current Peterson’s Graduate and Professional Programs, which is published annually and lists faculty and research specialties.
  • Research the authors of major journal articles in your area; short biographies, including where they teach, are usually included in the journal, either as part of the article or in a separate “Biographies” section.
  • Use the internet: “Google” your focus, add “university” or a degree (MA or PhD, for example) and see what you get.
  • Ask your professors and current graduate students for their advice.
  • Ask your reference librarian for help finding programs with expertise in your specialty.

From this information, make a list of programs that seem like “good bets.”

How can I narrow the list?

Once you know the programs that offer your specialty, you need to ask:

  • Is the program strong in your focus? I.e., is its expertise recognized nationally?
  • Who are the faculty? What are their specializations and their academic reputations?
  • What resources does the program offer? What  labs, studios, or office space and other resources do they provide for graduate students?
  • What kind of financial support might they offer?
  • How is the curriculum structured?
  • What is required for the degree? How long does it normally take to complete?
  • What are the program’s completion and attrition rates?
  • What is the school’s and the program’s reputations? (Check the Gorman report, the Peterson’s volumes, major business magazines such as U.S. News and World Report, Business Report, or Newsweek, professor’s recommendations, and good old-fashioned gossip and hearsay.)

Answers to these questions should narrow your list to somewhere between five and ten programs.

What are the campuses like?

At the graduate level, the program is the most important factor, but do not just ignore the campus; setting does matter. Check out campuses just as you did for your undergraduate degree:

  • Location (weather, travel costs, rural or urban setting, , etc.)
  • Community (what part of the U.S., available housing, job market, cost of living, level of diversity, etc.)
    Size (of the campus, of the program, of each class of graduates, of the nearest city)
  • Graduate Students (what are they like, what is the program’s “culture,” etc.)
  • Support services (health care insurance, LGBT programs, counseling, etc.)
  • Campus resources (libraries, computer labs, gymnasiums, etc.)