Choosing a Graduate Program

Choosing a graduate program is an equally exciting and challenging task. With so many options available, narrowing down your list of potential schools can be the hardest part of the process. Here are 4 important things to keep in mind while you’re researching programs and choosing the best fit for you.


Write down your goals.

Your long term and short term goals are important to understanding how graduate school will benefit you. Having a clear understanding of your goals is important to ensure that you choose the program that is the best choice for you! Think about your career – where do you want to be in 10 years? How will this degree impact your goals as a professional? At Gardner-Webb, you will work with an Enrollment Development Officer who will help you choose a program, determine your goals, and keep you on track with any next steps you need to take.


Make a detailed list.

This is the most basic step to organizing all of the factors that will ultimately help you make your decision. List out every school that you’re interested in. Then, break down the pros and cons of every place. Add factors like cost, delivery method, resources, and program length. Which schools require the MAT or GRE? Which schools have an application fee? Gardner-Webb’s graduate school application is online, free, and easy to complete. Organizing all of this information can help you narrow down your list of potential graduate schools, and keep you organized – so you aren’t blindsided by requirements or fees when it’s time to apply.


Pay attention to cost and financial aid.

Keep in mind that the value of a program is more than just money. Think about what is important to you, like research opportunities, faculty mentors, assistantships, and more. Don’t rule out a program as “too expensive” if it checks every box on your list of must-haves. Discuss your financial aid options with the Financial Planning Office, and make sure that you explore every avenue to finance your degree.


Consider program length and delivery method.

Online and accelerated programs are becoming the norm in graduate higher education. Most learners prefer the flexibility and convenience of online classes, but some schools still offer seated options. Accelerated programs are great ways to get a degree quickly, but the fast-paced environment may not be ideal for some. In addition, determine if there is a residency requirement for your program. Some may require that students be on campus for one weekend per semester, per month, or not at all. If you’re looking at schools out of state or far from your current location – that could be a factor. Make sure that you understand the unique benefits and challenges of each, and what that means for you.


Additionally, if you know anyone that went to graduate school, hearing about their experience can be beneficial. It can be useful to learn about what they liked or disliked, what they found beneficial and what they didn’t. Other folks who’ve completed graduate programs can be a resource for tips on study habits, time management, maintaining a work-life balance, and more. Above all, when choosing a graduate program, remember to make your decision based on your opinion and not someone else’s. You’re the one completing the courses, so it should be the best fit for your needs and wants! This is an exciting time for you as you begin the next step in your education.