Once you have decided to go to graduate school, the next step is to research and choose a select number of graduate schools to apply to. When making a list of potential graduate programs, keep an open mind. The reputation of the university may not equal a good program in your discipline. You may find that the best program in your field is located within a less prestigious university. The best source of information about graduate school programs is Oberlin faculty members in your field of interest, but do some preliminary research in the Office of Career Services, the library, or on the Internet.
Once you have done preliminary research, consult faculty members and individuals who have specialized in the discipline of your choice and have knowledge of the field. They may be able to refer you to graduate schools that they know of, answer questions about the strengths and weaknesses of the programs, admission requirements and refer you to resources that you can use. The staff at the College's Office of Career Services is also an excellent resource and can assist you in this process from beginning to end. It would also be good to consult OBIEWeb, a database of alumni, some of whom may have graduated from a school that you are considering.
There are a number of factors that will help you in narrowing down your search for graduate schools to apply to. While evaluating each school, consider the following:
How competitive is admission? What are admission requirements (GPA, work experience, classes, test scores, etc.), and do you have the requirements needed? You may want to apply to one or two "safety" schools and one or two more competitive schools. Does the program favor applicants with work experience, or those who are recent graduates?
Look at the courses of the program. Does it meet your needs, and does it suit your educational and professional goals? Is a thesis or a final exam required? Is there some sort of practical experience or internship included? How long is the program, and how many credits are required? The same program can vary in credit hours from one school to another.
What is the reputation of the school, in general, and what is the reputation of the program within the field? Is the program accredited, and if so, by whom?
How many students in the program complete it? How many of the graduates find employment in their field, and does the department assist students in this process? What kinds of employment do students find? Where do most students find jobs and live after graduation? Seek out the career office associated with the graduate program for this information.
What is the faculty/student ratio, and are the faculty accessible to the students? Is the faculty committed to teaching, research or both? What is the philosophy of the department, and do most professors share this view? Is the faculty well- known, and what have they published recently? If you are attending graduate school for research in a specific discipline, it is important to identify a faculty member with research interests similar to yours, to have as a mentor.
Do you want to attend a large or small school? Do you prefer a large or small program? In what geographic area would you like to attend school? Do you need to be close to family and/or friends? Would you like the school to be located in an urban or rural setting? What activities does the community offer? Is there graduate housing available, and how difficult is it to find off-campus housing? What public transportation is available?
What is the cost of the program, and are there hidden costs? Is the cost expected to increase in the future? How much financial assistance is available in the form of assistantships, loans and fellowships?