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Graduate School Exploration Process

Thinking of exploring graduate school?

The first step in exploring graduate programs is to think about what you want from your education. Reflect on how graduate school might help you achieve your career next steps.

It may be helpful to consider: 

  • What skills and knowledge do you want to build over the course of your graduate school education?
  • What professional communities would you like to connect with?
  • What hands-on experience are you looking to gain?

Research strategies

Consult with mentors in your field

If you’re applying to a graduate school in a field that you’ve already taken classes, your professors and advisors will be one of your best resources for learning about programs.

You may also choose to connect with individuals who have attended certain graduate programs via LinkedIn. You can search for the school, view alumni, and message people you are interested in connecting with to conduct informational interviews.  

Attend events, reach out, and visit

Some schools hold graduate school fairs, admissions events and information sessions. At these events, you can learn more about each program, speak with admissions staff, and potentially network with faculty.

You can also reach out to current students in the department to ask about the culture of the program and graduate student life.

Conduct online research

Below are some additional options when researching online:

  • Check out program rankings (this may be more or less relevant depending on your field)
  • Department, faculty, and lab websites
  • Course directories
  • Websites of journals or institutes affiliated with the department
  • LinkedIn profiles to see where alumni studied

Consider asking these questions when you start researching and visiting programs

  • Program outcomes
    • What is necessary for success in this program?
    • How long do students typically take to finish their degree?
    • What are the retention and graduation rates for the program?
    • Where do your students obtain employment after graduation?
    • What support does your department provide to help students navigate the changing landscape of academia?
    • Does the program have a strong alumni network? What services do alumni have access to? Do they have opportunities to get involved?
  • Advising
    • Does the program have diverse faculty, administrators, and staff?
    • How many advisees does each advisor have?
    • What kind of academic support programs are available (i.e. peer advisors)? How and when can students access them?
    • What services are available to help students find employment after graduation?
  • Research and professional development
    • Are students given the opportunity to become active members of professional organizations?
    • Are students required or encouraged to do research and present at conferences?
    • Are there opportunities to conduct research with faculty?
    • Are there opportunities to conduct independent research?
    • Are there opportunities for experiential learning such as internships, practicum, or assistantships? What do these look like?
    • What type of training do TAs or graduate instructors receive?
  • Campus life and resources
    • Is on-campus housing available for graduate students?
    • What facilities are available to graduate students?
    • What kinds of social outlets are available to students in the area?
    • What kind of financial aid is available?
    • What options do the programs provide to finance graduate education? Fellowships and grants? Teaching, research and graduate assistantships? Employee benefits?

As you go through this exploration process, pass by our Center for Career Readiness to get further help with graduate school exploration and application as well as tips on writing personal statements.

Contact us at career.readiness@unco.edu