University at Albany
 

What To Consider When Choosing A Program

Obtain information from faculty, graduate students, alumni, admissions offices, professional organizations, university catalogs, and graduate directories. How do you then begin weeding through this enormous amount of information? Based on your personal interests and needs, consider the following:

Curriculum/Program Requirements

Admissions Criteria

Reputation/Quality of Program

Student Population

Facilities

Employment Opportunities after Graduation

Faculty

Location & Size

Cost/Financial Aid


Curriculum/Program Requirements

How long will it take you to complete the program? What are the required courses and electives? Is there an internship/practicum or thesis? Dissertation? Comprehensive Exam? Any foreign language requirements?

Admissions Criteria

Accurately assess your potential to be competitive for the open slots. Do you meet stated minimums or should you work on areas needing improvement? Take a look at the profiles of accepted applicants to determine where you "fit in." Apply to those programs that you realistically have a shot at. Depending on your ability to cover additional application fees, you may consider applying to those that are long shots - you never know!

Reputation/Quality of Program

Is the program accredited by the appropriate accrediting body? What do your current professors know about it? How strong is the program? How well does it prepare students for a given field?

Student Population

Check the ratio of graduate to undergraduate students.  If undergraduates dominate the campus, then the academic and social opportunities will probably be geared more in their direction than in yours.

Look into the makeup of the program as well. If an evening program, will your classmates be working professionals that are significantly older than you? Or, will you share your classes with younger students, most of whom recently finished their undergraduate degree?

Finally, check the number of graduate students in the program. Fewer numbers of students usually signal more personalized rather than large lecture hall instruction.

Facilities

What kind of research facilities does the university have? Are they affiliated with any off-campus sites? What computer centers, art & performance studios, departmental fellowship funds, and library holdings in your field of interest are available?

Employment Opportunities after Graduation

Where do students fulfill internships or practica? What kinds of positions are graduates obtaining after graduation?

Faculty

For programs requiring a research component, investigate faculty research interests & specializations in relation to your own. How well do your interests match with their specialties? Will your classes be taught by adjunct or core program faculty? If applicable, what type of theoretical orientation do the faculty subscribe to?  What is the ratio of professors to students? How available are they outside class for consultation?

Location & Size

Consider your lifestyle and personal preferences. You most likely will spend a great amount of time on your studies, but all work and no play could make for a stressed out and counterproductive graduate student. Are you comfortable in a large city or small town? Which geographical area and climate? What about extracurricular offerings? Is distance away from friends and family important? What are some resources that the location must offer? Is this a place where you would consider settling after graduation?

Cost/Financial Aid

How much is tuition, books, & housing? What are your financial resources? How much will you owe after graduation? What kinds of aid is offered to first-year students? In subsequent years? What kinds of assistantships or tuition-remission programs are offered? If a public university, what is required to establish residency to qualify for in-state tuition rates?

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