How to Choose the RIGHT Graduate School

Right Graduate SchoolWe couldn’t do our national survey of current graduate students without asking our respondents to reflect on their grad school search experience and to give some advice to the next generation of grad students on how to choose the right graduate school.

Nearly half of our respondents indicate that knowing what they know now, they would change the way they researched grad schools. And while the majority of our sample is satisfied in their current grad program, a quarter of our respondents indicate they wish they had chosen a different grad school/program or decided not to pursue a graduate degree at all.

So with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, what do current graduate students recommend to prospective students for choosing the right graduate school?

Our respondents indicate that in addition to spending time researching program/school websites, the following three things are the most critical to choosing the BEST grad school for you:

  1. Contact program faculty/staff

82% of the current graduate students surveyed indicated that communicating directly with program administrators or program faculty would have improved their ability to make an informed decision about graduate school and prospective graduate programs. Grad students indicate these interactions were not only influential in deciding which programs to apply to but also affected their final decision of which program to attend.

  1. Contact current/former graduate students

While many prospective grad students consider communicating with program faculty far fewer reach out to current/former grad students at programs they are interested in. This is a mistake! Current and former graduate students may be the best resource for determining which faculty to consider working with, understanding the academic/social environment and even for getting tips/suggestions on how to make your application stand out!

This is likely why nearly 90% of our respondents indicated that communicating directly with current or former graduate students would have improved their ability to make an informed decision about graduate school and prospective graduate programs.

  1. Seek advice from academic professors/mentors

Lastly, our respondents suggest seeking advice from academic professors/mentors. Tapping into these resources would be a great way to learn about a program or a field you know little about. And while our respondents do recommend seeking advice from professors and/or mentors from your undergrad institution, less than a third of students found their Career Services Advisors and/or On-Campus Academic Advising Offices useful in their graduate school search.

We at Gradschoolmatch are not surprised by these responses! We have always seen the value in direct communication between prospective grad students and faculty, admins and students. That is why facilitating communication between student and program is at the core of what happens on

So get matchin!


Check out the other articles on our current graduate student survey:

Survey of Current Graduate Students

Graduate Student Survey – Demographics and Fields of Study

Students Don’t Apply to Many Graduate Programs

Getting Into Grad School – How to Improve Your Chances

Are Grad Students Happy?


What Are The Top Prospective Graduate Students Really Looking For?

Whether they are millennials, or adults returning back to school after years in industry, there are hundreds of thousands of people around the world seeking higher degrees for a variety of reasons.

It can be difficult to capture your audience; as more and more people are going back to school, factors such as age, experience level, and an increased desire for flexibility emerge that make it harder to understand and cater to high-quality students.

Regardless of these socioeconomic factors, many prospective graduate students are looking for the same set of criteria when choosing a program. By better understanding trends amongst the graduate student population, you will be able to more effectively target your offerings.

So, what are some of the questions that top prospective graduate students are asking of potential programs?


Will this additional degree help me get a better, higher paying job after I graduate?

In some fields, an advanced degree is required for success and career advancement. However, with many newer fields such as web development requiring less time in school and more time gaining practical experience, many millennials question whether additional degrees will provide them with a competitive advantage.

Despite some shifting views, 90% of U.S. adults believe that going back to school for a higher degree can increase their earning potential and opportunities for future career advancement; a survey conducted by Georgetown University found that career and financial advancement opportunities rose by 57% for those holding a Master’s degree.

With millennials accounting for around 40% of the current unemployment rate, it’s crucial to communicate job placement rates, tangible skills that your program can provide to make students more attractive to employers, and resources your program offers to connect students with career opportunities.


Will I be able to afford this degree?

With average undergraduate student loan debt hovering around $35,000, recent graduates and seasoned workers alike are concerned about racking up more and more money in loans.

Prospective students are looking for a serious pay-off from a graduate degree, especially when it comes to increased earning potential. For example, software engineers with a master’s degree can earn an average of 17.5% more in their lifetime than those with just a bachelor’s- definitely worth the extra spend on tuition and time in school.

Communicating the value-add that your program offers is a key component of attracting and recruiting the right students. By quantifying the benefits that your program provides relative to the cost, you can show prospective students that an initial investment can yield lifelong financial gains.


What will this program invest in me as an individual?

Millennials are consistently demanding more individual, tailored experiences in their work, personal lives, and educational endeavors.

Not only do millennials seek more flexibility (37% would take a pay cut if it meant more job flexibility), they also look for nurturing and support in big life decisions and career or education shifts.

Provide resources to cater to the needs of prospective graduate students, such as the opportunity to speak one-on-one with a graduate admissions officer, or a forum to connect with other students at your college or university to talk about housing options or things to do in your city. The top prospects want a steady flow of information and communication to make the best choice for their graduate education.

While it might take some extra work, giving prospective students resources and tools for success up front will empower them to make smart, informed decisions for their future, as well as the future of your program.

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