How to Find the Right Graduate Program in 4.5 Simple Steps

These Tips, Tricks, and Tools Make Finding a Graduate School Easier Than Ever

You survived undergrad. Maybe you’ve even survived a few (or more than a few!) years out in “the real world”. First of all, congratulations! Making it this far is no small feat. But now that you have decided to pursue a graduate degree, there is a whole new set of challenges to deal with– first and foremost, deciding on the right graduate program for you.

If choosing the right graduate program seems overwhelming, don’t worry– we’re in it with you. That’s why we put together this simple guide to finding the right graduate program for you. Here’s the short version:

  • Search the internet
  • Make a spreadsheet
  • Send some emails
  • Take a road trip (or plane trip, or boat trip)
  • Get the inside scoop

The first step in finding the perfect graduate program is searching the web for schools you might want to research further.

1. See what the internet has to say about programs in your chosen field.

There’s a reason that the verb google was added to the dictionary— it’s a huge part of how we find out information these days. “Googling it” is a great way to start any information-gathering process, and researching graduate programs is no different.

You can also try using these resources to find some graduate programs that might be a good fit for your goals. At this point, you want to cast a wide net– try to find 15 to 20 potential programs using:

  • GradSchoolMatch. Narrowing your search to programs that truly fit your interests has never been so easy. GradSchoolMatch also gives you reminders about application deadlines and other important dates.
  • Peterson’s. This is your one-stop shop for all things grad school. Whether you need to find a school, learn about funding your education, or prep for important entrance exams, Peterson’s has you covered.
  • GradSchools.com. AKA, the #1 graduate school directory in the nation. If there’s any information you’ve been unable to find thus far in your search, you can find it on GradSchools.com.

Organizational tools like Google Sheets and Gmass are essential to finding the right graduate school for you.

2. Get organized with Google Sheets.

How are you going to keep track of the important information you find during the research phase? With a handy dandy Google Sheet, of course. Part of Google’s cloud-based suite of professional tools, Google Sheets are a free way to keep all of your grad schools in a row (or column– whatever floats your boat).

Make sure you have an email address for each institution on your list– this will be important in step 3.

3. Harness the power of mail merge and put admissions office to the test.

Most guides to selecting a graduate program will tell you to come up with a question you can’t easily find online– such as “What type of career services do you make available to graduate students?”– and email admissions offices to see how they respond.

In addition to getting the answer to your original question, the way the admissions office responds will tell you a lot about how each institution treats its students.

Mail merge is a powerful tool that allows you to use information from a spreadsheet (like the university name, email, and other information you collected in step 2) to streamline the process of sending emails to lots of people at once.

All you have to do is create a message template and link it to your Google Sheet. That might sound complicated, but with the mail merge tool Gmass, it’s as simple as drafting a message in Gmail.

Visiting prospective schools gives you a much better sense of what it will actually be like to attend.

4. Take a good ol’ fashioned college road trip.

Based on the results of step 3, narrow down your list to the 5 graduate programs you are most seriously considering. After that, make some time in your schedule to stop by and visit those schools. Nothing gives you a better sense of what a school’s like than actually being on its campus.

4.5 Get the inside scoop from faculty and students.

While you’re on campus, take advantage of your greatest resources– the school’s students and faculty. Unlike tour guides, who will give you a practiced spiel about the school, you can rely on students you find milling around the library or quad to tell you what it’s really like to attend. Be sure to have questions ready!

Finding the right graduate school can be tricky, but you’ll be glad you did your research and found the perfect program in the end.

Finding the right graduate program can seem daunting, but when you follow these steps, the whole process gets a lot easier. Be sure to take advantage of tools like Google Sheets and Gmass to keep your search organized. Good luck!

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