For students who have worked hard and succeeded in school and college, the prospect of pursuing further postgraduate study is very attractive.
However just applying to graduate school in the United States can be very expensive, as each application costs money, so you need to be selective about where you apply. This guide offers some steps to help you make your decision.
Then you can use GoConqr to help you prepare for the GRE to get you where you want to be!
1. Decide what you want to study, and at what level.
You might think that what you want to study is obvious, but is it really? If you are interested in psychology, you could pursue a Ph.D in clinical psychology, a masters degree in counselling, or a Ph.D in neuroscience. These would be very different programs and would lead to different career paths. Think ahead to what sort of career you would like, and then work backwards to thinking about the qualification you need to get there.
2. Research the best programs in the field that you are interested in
Graduate school in the United States is about further study, so do some research upfront. Find out the best programs in your field or discipline, but also pay close attention to the schools that specialize in topics you are particularly interested in.
Many professional organizations produce guides to graduate programs in their fields. These can include information about research programs, faculty who teach at an institution, areas of specialization in a department, and funding opportunities. It is worth looking through these to assess how the programs align with your interests – a top ranked engineering program might not specialize in the subfield that most interests you – so a top program might not be your top choice.
One way to try and match this is to look for departments where you are familiar with some faculty member’s work. When you read an interesting article, find out where the person who wrote it works – you may be able to do research with, or take classes with, that person.
Click here for a comprehensive list of links to professional organizations you can contact for more information.
3. Research the institutions you think you might be interested in.
You may have some programs in mind, but you need to research the school or college too. The following are important questions to keep in mind:
- How large is the school and what is the student/faculty ratio?
- How much will it cost and are funding opportunities available?
- Will you have an opportunity or an obligation to be a teaching assistant?
- Is the graduate school in an urban or rural area – could you see yourself living there?
- How far is the school from where you currently live?
- Is there support for students with disabilities?
- Is there support for students with families?
- Is there support for international students?
- What types of students attend the school?
- What proportion of students complete the program?
- What types of jobs do graduates of the program get?
You can search the college or university website for general questions and the department pages of the program you are interested in for more specific information.
Listings of research by faculty and students, and information about talks and events will give you an idea of how active a department is. You should also be able to find information about current graduate students and recent graduates.
The most important thing to remember is that there is no correct answer to the question “What is the best graduate school in the United States?”, but with some research, you should be able to answer the question “What is the best graduate school for me?”
4. Start preparing!
You will need to start getting your application materials together – this may include transcripts of your grades, application essays, and letters of recommendation from your college teachers or previous employers. You will also have to take the GRE test. You can learn more about the GRE here. Rest assured that GoConqr’s tools such as flashcards and mind maps are excellent ways of preparing for the GRE. You can even join our online GRE study group to share resources and advice with other students preparing for the GRE.
5. Get your applications in
After you take the GRE, decide which programs you want to send your results to. The first four reports are included in your test fee, but after that you’ll be paying extra, so choose wisely based on the steps above! Then you’ll just have to be patient and hope that offers of places from your top graduate schools in the United States will soon start to roll in. And keep GoConqr at your side as you continue on this important next step of your learning journey.