Weekly Blog by Don Martin

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“This excerpt of Road Map is taken from Chapter One, entitled “Getting Started:  Doing research on graduate institutions/programs”

Allow Enough Time for Your Search

Allow time for your search. Graduate school is not something to take lightly. As we have just observed, it involves a major investment personally, intellectually, socially, emotionally, and financially. Be sure to allow yourself enough time to do your “due diligence” and get all of the information you want and need. It is wise to take about a year to do your research. If you are considering starting your program of study in the fall, you will want to start your search two years ahead of time. Why two years, you may ask?  Typically, graduate schools start accepting applications just under a year before the intended start date. In order for you to have time to thoroughly evaluate all of the information you will receive and read, you will need at least a year before applying to gather that information and thoroughly review it.

Monthly Checklist for Your Search

Twelve months before applying:

1. Answer the seven personal questions posed at the beginning of this chapter.

2. Do an initial web-based search on graduate programs, based on the answers to your personal questions. For example, if you have decided on a part-time program and know where you would like to study, do a search of educational institutions that offer a part-time program in the area and degree classification you desire. You can also do a search by program, such as Psychology, Law, Humanities, Advertising, Finance, etc. Make sure you do a couple of searches, so as many institutions matching your search criteria as possible are found.

3. Once you have done a thorough search, make an alphabetical list of all your options, regardless of what you presently know/have heard about them. Write them all down or put them on a spreadsheet. REMEMBER:  PERCEPTION IS REALITY – IT’S WHERE YOU END UP, NOT WHERE YOU START. Be very careful about accepting word of mouth or what you think you know as final at this point in the search process. We are individuals, and as such, have different needs, expectations and experiences. This is YOUR educational experience – not someone else’s.  You need to start by gathering a list of options. Do not eliminate any of them at this point. You want to get as much information as possible so you can decide what options are most appealing.

4. Go online and do some initial research on all the institutions you have on your list. Assess not only the content of material on websites, but look at the way in which it is presented. Is information easy to find? Is the tone friendly and inviting? Are there easy and quick ways to request more information? Speaking of which, this would be a good time to request written information from each of the institutions. This will enable you to review what you receive any time you want. It will also provide you an opportunity to find out just how responsive admissions offices are to you. This can be very telling, and may shed light on the general level of responsiveness of those institutions about which you have made inquiry. Give each institution a grade on their website, and on the level of responsiveness they provided to you. Here is a suggested grading system:

A = easy to navigate, informative, captivating

B = well-done, good information, friendly

C = fairly easy to navigate, not as helpful/friendly

D = difficult to navigate, not very informative

F = what were they thinking?

FF = no website, or close to nothing
A = had a response within 7 business days

B = had a response within 12 business days

C = had a response within 17 business days

D = had a response within 22 business days

F = took three weeks or longer for a response

FF = no response