Deciding Where to Enroll
Road Map for Graduate Study: A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students
by Dr. Donald C. Martin
Published July 2009
Now it is time to make your enrollment decision. Most graduate schools adhere to an enrollment deposit deadline. While they may be willing to extend it for a short period of time, they need to plan for their enrollments and respond to those who still may be on the waiting list. Do not be surprised if there is not much flexibility around the enrollment deposit deadline.
As you contemplate your decision (even if you have been admitted to just one graduate program), remember that YOU are the one going to graduate school – not someone else. Input is always helpful. You may decide to ask those whose advice you respect for their thoughts. However, in the end, it is your call. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
1. What is most important to ME when making this decision? Finances? Program Quality? Quality of Faculty? Level of Faculty interaction with students? Student Life? Location?
**You may want to review the personal questions you answered in Chapter One.
2. What is the culture of the institution? Would I enjoy it there? Remember, you are about to spend considerable time, energy and resources to earn a graduate degree. Make sure you feel reasonably comfortable about the general atmosphere you believe characterizes the institution(s) you are considering. It is not worth being unhappy for one, two or more years. Your program of study and all that goes with it will be plenty to handle in and of itself.
3. How have I been treated as an inquirer/applicant/admitted student? This is very important. Think about it. Reaching out to prospective students, applicants, and admits is very telling about the way institutions treat their students, and perhaps their alumni too. If you have not been treated very well do not assume anything is going to improve after you enroll. In fact, once you are there, what incentive is there to treat you differently than before you arrived? Your enrollment decision is not just about the academic program. It is about where you believe you can be part of a community that cares about and wants to help each other.
4. Should I defer? Are you ready to enroll now? As you have gone through the application process your feelings may have changed within you or circumstances around you may have resulted in a need to step back and determine if this is the best time to start your graduate program. For different reasons, I deferred enrollment for both my master’s and doctoral program, in each case, for two years. In both instances this decision ended up being the best thing I ever did. You may be told that deferral is only granted in extreme cases. If so, you might consider withdrawing and re-applying. I have rarely seen a situation where someone who was admitted, decided to hold off for that year and re-applied, was denied.
If you do decide to defer or withdraw, make sure you have addressed the following issues:
One other piece of advice: If you defer or withdraw, and you REALLY want to attend this institution, you will need to demonstrate that by periodically staying in touch, and following all guidelines provided to you. It would not hurt to provide a written update every four to six months detailing where you are, what you are doing and what you have done regarding the deferral or re-application process. As the admissions staff review your application folder, they will find regular updates there. This indicates to them that you mean business.
1.Will any scholarship assistance I have received still be available when I do enroll?
2. Is there an additional enrollment deposit if I defer?
3. For how long can I defer?
4. If I am withdrawing, what is the re-application process like?
5. Should I submit an enrollment deposit to more than one graduate school? This is a good but tough question. If, after giving every consideration to you options, you are absolutely deadlocked between two institutions, and enrollment deposit deadlines are approaching, you might do this. But do it for a very short amount of time. Do not send a deposit to more than two institutions. Many admissions officers compare their deposit lists. If it is discovered that you are on more than one list, you will most likely be contacted by the admissions staff and pressed for a decision. This doesn’t look good for you.
By all means do not pay two deposits and just let it go! This is extremely inconsiderate, unprofessional and, some might argue, unethical. Have the courtesy and integrity to withdraw before it is too late for that institution to replace you in their incoming class.
After helping thousands of students through the application maze at a number of prestigious schools, most recently Teachers College at Columbia University, Dr. Donald Martin shares great insider advice for those exploring the idea of going to graduate school. For how to respond if admitted, wait listed or admitted, what to do just before enrolling, making the most of your student experience and much more, read his book, Road Map For Graduate Study.
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Photo by Gerry Dincher