Researching Graduate and Professional School Programs
The CDO recommends using several resources when researching graduate programs:
The Peterson’s Guide (also available in print form at the CDO) is an excellent comprehensive database of graduate programs and is searchable by a variety of criteria. GradSchools.com also provides searchable databases that are helpful when exploring graduate programs.The U.S. News and World Report’s Graduate School Rankings allows you to explore grad schools, careers, top jobs, grad rankings, and best values. Email us (email@example.com) with your name and graduation year to receive access to premium content. Please note that the validity of college rankings is a subject of debate.
In addition to these online resources, we encourage students to talk to their professors to gain specific insights about particular fields of study and to research the schools where some of the scholars they most enjoyed reading about in their classes currently teach, or where they got their degrees from. We have books on specific graduate and professional school disciplines such as urban planning, psychology, and journalism and we encourage you to schedule an appointment to meet with a counselor to learn how to obtain information on Vassar alums who have gone to schools that interest you. Additionally, most graduate school catalogs can be found on the college or university’s web site.
Factors to Consider When Applying to Graduate Schools
Is the program/institution nationally recognized? Regionally? Locally? Ask members of the profession you are considering and check for ranking information in the Career Library (although rankings should not be relied on exclusively).
Faculty Research Specialties
Are faculty members of the institution conducting research in areas of interest to you? (Look on department websites, or ask them directly; read their publications in professional journals.)
Are professors in the program recognized leaders in their field? Are they widely published? (Ask Vassar faculty; scan appropriate journals; request faculty biographies or publication lists.)
Method of Study
Does the program emphasize theory? Practice? Research? A combination? (Read and compare program literature; talk with faculty and current students or graduates.)
How much of the program can be tailored to fit your interests? What courses are offered outside the department which would enhance your core curriculum? (Ask faculty members; peruse university catalog.)
Do you want to live in this area for the time it will take to complete your degree? (Talk to others who have lived there—Vassar alums are a good resource.)
How expensive is the school? What types of financial aid are available and how much could you expect to receive? (Ask faculty members, the school’s financial aid office, or the graduate admissions office about the likelihood of receiving different types of aid; apply for non-university grants, fellowships, and loans.)
Help with Post-Graduate Employment
Where do graduates of the program typically find work? How much assistance is offered to job seekers? (Talk to graduates of the program; gather information from the institution’s career office.)
How extensive is the library collection, how up-to-date is the computer or lab equipment? (Visit the facilities; talk to faculty members.)
Are there opportunities for involvement and/or leadership outside the program? (Request information about the community at large; talk to others in the program.)