6 Things To Consider When Choosing Your Grad School

This time of year most universities have made their admissions decisions and it is now the students time to decide. If you are one of the lucky few with multiple acceptances, it can be difficult to decide! Now, hopefully every school you applied to is somewhere you are excited about going to, but as interviews occur and you interact more with the university, you may gain some insight that leads you towards or away from that particular university. As the last few financial aid offers roll in and interviews take place I want to talk about 6 things to look for when making your grad school decision.

  1. Communication – The university should be communicating with you! The admissions office should be answering questions you have and professors should make themselves and their students available for questions. At this stage, the university is recruiting you, if they are not openly communicating and making themselves available, consider what that means for the future. If you are not important now, what will that look like when you actually start school
  2. Diversity and support – It’s no secret that as a minority in engineering you may face some unique situations or find yourself looking for a community that may not be super easy to find. 
    • Does your university have initiatives to support students from diverse backgrounds?
    •  Do those initiatives actually support your needs? 
    • Are there other women and minorities in the lab or serving as faculty? 
  3. Students and student life –
    •  Do the students seem happy? 
    • What does their workspace look like? 
    • What do they do on the weekends? 
    • Is there a sense of camaraderie?
  4. Onboarding –  Find out how students are trained in your major or lab. This is a great question to ask during interviews as well.
    • Are you automatically placed with a lab or do you rotate during your first year?
    • Which of these do you prefer? Being placed automatically can be great for getting started and making progress quickly but if you don’t know exactly what you want to focus on, a rotational program may be better.
  5. Flexibility – 
    • What happens if your lab doesn’t work out? 
    • If you decide you don’t click with the advisor or the work can you transfer to another lab? 
    • Does the university have a large enough pool of professors that you could switch labs without transferring universities?
  6. Continued support – Make sure you understand your financial aid offer and the related requirements. Is one school offering a fellowship where the other is offering a graduate research position? Though this is probably not a deciding factor, it is something you should still be clear on. You also want to make sure the projects you would work on have enough financial support. 

With all of this being said, I think the decision should ultimately come down to the advisor you want to work with. This relationship has so much impact on your experience and success. If you need help in this area, be sure to check out my post on questions to ask your potential advisor and their students here!

A few other tiebreakers to consider if it’s a close race are the location, student perks such as free sporting events, study abroad opportunities and the campus! 

This is a big decision but an exciting one! Take time to ask all of the questions you need to. You should make this decision with as much information as you can possibly have!


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