Road Map for Graduate Study: A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students by Dr. Donald C. Martin
Dr. Donald Martin shares great insider advice for those exploring the idea of going to graduate school. For the complete 12-month checklist, seven personal questions to ask about grad school, and much more, read his book, Road Map For Graduate Study.
- Make a few campus visits. You can visit unannounced, as we mentioned earlier. In addition, graduate schools usually offer two ways to visit campus. Both will most likely appear on the website for each institution and under the section dealing with applying, and are as follows:
- Most institutions provide opportunities to visit during the academic year. Visitors can usually attend classes, take a campus tour, meet current students and talk with someone in the admissions office. If an admissions interview is required as part of the application process, have the interview as part of the visit. Some institutions also have special campus visit programs, which include sessions on the admissions process, financial aid, housing, student life, career services and more. Most often, these special programs take place in the fall.
- Another way to have a “campus visit” is to find out if admissions information sessions (also called receptions) are being held close to where you live. Many graduate schools recruit in areas they have identified as strong or developing markets. This provides a great way to get to know the institution better, especially if you are not able to go there for a visit.
- If possible, divide things in such a way that between campus visits and local admissions presentations, you will be able to “visit” all of your options before applying.
- Make sure to evaluate your visit on your spreadsheet as soon as possible after it is completed, so that your experiences and impressions will be fresh in your mind.
TIP: Always Remember: perception is reality - it is where you end up, not where you start. Reputation, rankings, and reality are very different things. When it comes to reputation, while a graduate school may be well known or considered highly prestigious, this does not mean it has to be on your final list of options or that it has the best program for you (see my final two points at the end of this chapter). As I mentioned earlier, rankings are useful. But remember that those publishing them are looking to sell what they publish. Also, make sure you take a close look at the methodology behind the rankings. You will see that some methodologies are sound while others are lacking. If an institution is ranked highly, but the methodology is not credible, you need to interpret that accordingly. Also, take a look at several rankings by the same organization/publication over time. If there is a sizeable difference between one ranking and the next, is it likely that good methodology is taking a back burner to selling copies of the ranking. It is very unlikely that one institution would move up or down several places in only one or two years. Finally, it is what is real for YOU that is most important. It is your time, energy, and financial resources that are being spent.