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How to Find the Right Graduate School

Attending graduate school can open up a world of opportunities. More and more employers are looking for post-graduate degrees as a minimum requirement to even be considered for a position. In other words, there’s a reason people are saying, “Master’s is the new Bachelor’s.” Depending on your field, a graduate degree may be required or strongly encouraged in order to get a relevant job. 

Starting the application process for graduate school is exciting, but it does not have to be overwhelming. Our goal is to help you take a few key action steps to narrow down your choices and select the right graduate program for you.

Choose a path.

What are you interested in studying? The first step is to find the area that will be the best fit for you. Your undergraduate degree likely provided an overview of a particular field—do you plan to continue your education in the same area and become an expert? Research the industries you are considering and try to narrow down your focus. By getting a glimpse of what professionals in your potential field actually do in their day-to-day lives, you might even be able to cross out some options right away.

Make a list of schools.

Start with around 20 schools that offer the program you are interested in. Abound: Grad School is a comprehensive and user-friendly resource that will help you narrow down your choices without feeling overwhelmed. We have already done a lot of the research for you and only feature schools that we are confident in ourselves—start here and see if any of our schools offer the graduate program you are looking for! This is the time to cast a wide net. You don’t want to waste any time on schools without the degree you want to pursue, but you also don’t need to spend too much time considering rankings or other specifics. The purpose of this step is simply to get an idea of what may be available to you. 

Steps to Take When You're Considering Grad School

Narrow down your list using The Four A’s.

We have created a standard that is a good reference for you to use when you’re ready to narrow down your list. If a program doesn’t have the qualities that are non-negotiables for you, omit it from your pursuit right away.

  • Affordability: What are you willing/able to spend on your graduate degree? After determining what you can pay, you can look for scholarships, grants, assistantships, and a variety of other options in order to make your education work for you. While finances do not have to disqualify you from earning a graduate degree, it is also important to be realistic about the constraints you will have and pursue programs accordingly.
  • Accessibility: Can you make it to campus several days a week? Figure out if you are looking for an online, on-campus, or blended program. Does this program have the necessary resources accessible? Parking, exceptional libraries, academic services, etc. may all factor into what you consider your needs.
  • Acceleration: Find a program that most closely addresses your career goals and will get you there quickly and efficiently. When pursuing a graduate degree, you probably don’t want to spend more time (or money!) than strictly necessary. Research deeply into the program requirements and make sure you won’t have to take unnecessary foundational courses or prerequisites that you’ve already completed.
  • Advancement: Stick to programs that will immerse you in your chosen field with experiential learning opportunities and networking with peers and mentors. If you have the need or desire to do research, focus on the programs that make it possible.

Contact the Program

Ask questions! Find students, alumni, faculty, and advisors, and don’t be afraid to bombard them with your concerns (especially with questions you can’t find the answer to on the internet). If you are looking for on-campus or blended programs, you will definitely want to schedule a campus tour if possible. At the very least, try to participate in a virtual tour to get a feel for what your experience in the program would be like.

There are tons of exceptional graduate programs to choose from. Don’t make the mistake of picking the ones you’re going to apply for based solely on rankings or recommendations from people you know. Do your own extensive research and narrow down your list according to what your specific needs are. Similar to undergrad, your final list should consist of around five schools—a dream school, safety schools, and schools for which you have a good chance of acceptance. And don’t forget: Abound is here to support you while you search, decide, and take every step thereafter.

More About Abound: We’re here to help. Abound: Grad School narrows down your options and gets you in touch with schools that we can confirm are Accessible, Affordable, Accelerated, and Advanced. Take a look at the schools we trust and find the program that works for you.

More Helpful Guides: 

What are the Requirements to Get into Grad School?

What is Grad School?

9 Unique Reasons to Pursue a Master’s Degree

7 Tips to Help You Balance School and Work

Get our weekly advice

Keep up-to-date with the latest advice from Abound Grad School.