Blog Career & Leadership Development, College Preparation

4 Things to do When Choosing a Graduate School

Wednesday, February 2, 2022


Are you thinking about going to graduate school? Maybe you just graduated with your bachelor’s degree recently, or perhaps you have been in the workforce for 10+ years. Regardless, choosing a graduate school can seem like an overwhelming task. When you selected the college where you received your undergraduate degree, you may have had fewer responsibilities to worry over. Perhaps you even just applied where your parents wanted you to go.

Now that you are older and more mature, you may have bills to pay, family to take care of, or a job with demanding hours. You might not have a lot of time to spend endless hours researching schools. Here are 4 things to do when choosing a graduate school.

1. Visit the campus

Most colleges are willing to give potential students a tour. Since you will spend the next few years there, it is a good idea to make sure you like the campus first. Don’t wait until orientation or the first day of class to realize that the facilities bother you. Check out the culture on campus, is there a warm vibe? Or do the other students seem generally unhappy there? This may be a huge clue as to how your next few years will be at the school.

2. Communicate with other students

Now is not the time to be shy. Compile a list of questions for alumni and students. Introduce yourself when you tour the campus and request a few minutes of their time. Ask them to be honest with you so you can make a sound decision. Also, consider searching for alumni on LinkedIn. Since it is a professional social media platform, most people are more than happy to tell you what they liked or didn’t like about a school.

3. Start your search early

You should be applying to graduate schools at least 6 months in advance. This ensures you are not scrambling to get into the last school that will accept you. This lengthy timeframe will allow you time to talk to alumni, check out websites, and actually tour several schools. Graduate school isn’t cheap, so you don’t want to waste your hard earned money on a terrible school simply because you waited until the last minute to apply.

4. Research your field

Are you already working in the field you want a graduate degree in? Find out what professionals in your chosen career field do on a daily basis. Contact professionals on LinkedIn and ask them if you can do an informational interview with them. Most people love to talk about themselves so they won’t mind giving you 10 minutes of their time. Ask if you can shadow them to familiarize yourself with a particular job. Many careers sound great on paper, but the people actually working the jobs are unhappy. Find out if those professionals would get into the same career if they had a chance to start over. You may realize that a different degree would be better for your situation in the long run.

Northwestern offers multiple graduate degrees and certificates for adult learners. To find out more or to visit the campus, contact the Graduate Admissions team.