4 Things to Consider When Choosing a Local Graduate School
GRADUATE STUDIES | 4 MIN READ
Attending graduate school can be a great life choice, paving the way to a new or more rewarding career and an increased salary. Of course, you’ll want to make the most of your college experience, so the school you attend is very important.
There are thousands of places to get a graduate degree in the U.S. alone. How on Earth are you supposed to select one school out of nearly 5,000?
Consider going somewhere local. A college near home or work can have many benefits, including culture, cost and the ability to support your current lifestyle.
Here are four things to consider when thinking locally for grad school:
1. Work-Life Balance
Are you currently working full-time at a job and wonder how to fit graduate school into your busy schedule? Do you plan to stay with your employer after graduation, but in a higher position? Are you married, do you have children, or are you otherwise limited in your ability to travel? These types of situations are common for graduate students, which is partially why part-time and online degree programs have taken off. Some prefer an in-person experience; others the social learning of online study. It’s all about what fits your lifestyle.
That’s why a local, suburban college may be perfect for you. Studying near home enables you to stay connected with your loved ones and your career while still allowing you to interact face-to-face with students and faculty members. This type of contact is invaluable, and your college peers can become a support network or even a second family.
2. Campus Culture
College—even graduate school—is a time for growth and new experiences. Still, there’s no reason to force yourself too far outside your element. A suburban school with quick access to a metropolitan area can give you the best of both worlds. You can receive a thorough, personalized education (and a better value) at a smaller institution, but still access the professional resources of a major city.
Plus, smaller schools can be more personal than larger ones. Professors have a better opportunity to get to know you, which means they’re more equipped to help you succeed. You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with your peers on a more personal level, which can lead to fulfilling friendships and business partnerships.
To really understand if a school is the right fit for you, note the language it uses in promotional materials. Are you looking for a school based on the ideals of corporate leadership, or do you prefer one that’s rooted in community service? Would you like a structured education or one that promotes curiosity and intellectual freedom? Certain keywords can give you a great idea of the values of faculty members and other students.
3. Specialized Program Options
As a professional, you need something to set you apart from the competition. You likely have your career goals in mind, so you’ll want a program that both utilizes your past experience and concentrates in the areas that currently hold your interest.
This is where specialized program options can benefit your education. Graduate programs with various verticals or concentrations provided a more tailored education, allowing you to focus on learning the information and skills that will truly help you in the future. Also, you may want to look for schools with graduate certificate programs, which can provide a similarly focused experience on a faster timeline.
4. Expanding Your Network
According to W. Brad Johnson, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, students who have a personal mentor tend to do better while enrolled in school and when they graduate.
“Students tend to get tied into the mentor’s network of colleagues, and that creates more open doors,” he told the American Psychological Association.
A local school likely has fewer students than a major urban one, and thus faculty members can give each person more individual attention. Plus, studying with peers and teachers that are professionals in their fields—as well as the networking opportunities such an experience provides—is beneficial for grad school students.
If you want the best educational experience available, look for a school that provides 1:1 academic advising opportunities. Program directors at Elmhurst College can help you:
- Make the best use of the college’s resources
- Choose the right courses for your degree and personal goals
- Keep on track to earn your degree in a timely fashion
Graduate school can be a great experience, leading to a better salary or the beginning of a new career. Be sure to make the right choice for your goals and circumstances.
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