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Create a Graduate School Ranking to Find the School That's Right for You

By Peterson's Staff updated on Friday, December 06, 2013

The United States has numerous schools to choose from, and graduate programs are no exception. Determining which ones are best suited for you can be confusing. However, it can be done! Keep in mind that there are web resources that can help you gather graduate school information, including graduate school search tools and grad school ranking lists.

Create Your Own Graduate School Rankings List

About 18 months before you plan to enroll, you should start conducting a graduate school search and developing a list of schools that interest you by gathering graduate school information from a variety of sources. Get leads on specific schools by checking with professors or professional colleagues, or by reading current articles, papers, and journals in your field of interest and noting where the authors attended school. Join Internet discussion groups on your intended subject to see what others have to say. Read through reliable lists of grad school rankings. These are all good resources to help you identify appropriate schools, especially if you're not sure where to start.

Using the information you gather, develop a list of 10 to 20 schools that offer programs in your specific field of study and start requesting application materials and further details about curriculum and faculty. If possible, you should also find out if any of the schools on your list are involved in research or projects that match with any of your own endeavors and interests. Thoroughly review the details about each school and eliminate those that don't offer what you are looking for. From the remaining list, choose 7 to 10 institutions to which you think you might want to apply—and make sure they are accredited.

Understand the Costs

Universities in the United States are either public (state supported) or private (independent), and where you live has a significant bearing on how much you'll pay to attend them. American students who reside in the same state as a public institution pay significantly less to attend it than those who live elsewhere. At private schools, tuition is generally higher than at most public schools, and everyone pays the same rates, regardless of where they're from.

Tuition rates for international students attending public schools in the United States tend to be less than what they would pay at a private school, and contrary to popular belief, there isn't necessarily a correlation between the cost of a school and its quality as an academic institution.

Tuition costs usually increase annually and may vary from school to school or from department to department. When you're checking out the estimated costs of attending a particular school, remember that there's more than just tuition, books, and student fees. You also need to account for health insurance, housing, food, moving costs, living expenses. Depending on where you choose to attend school, all of these additional costs can vary as the cost of living varies from place to place.

One option that might work for you, and that avoids a number of the costs listed above, is an online grad school (see a list of online graduate schools). Online graduate programs are increasingly being offered by traditional public and private universities, but many are also offered by career universities.

Consider the Academic Requirements

Most schools have similar admission requirements as far as the paperwork and testing involved, but be sure you know exactly what each school requires in terms of which tests you need to take, the minimum required scores, GPA requirements, deadline dates for admission and financial aid, essay and/or resume requirements, and the number of letters of recommendation you need.

Before you commit to a school, make sure you know what you need to complete in order to graduate, such as credit hours, internships, a thesis, or oral exams. Some programs have optional theses, and some may grant you credit for work experience or other degrees you have already earned. Whatever is required, if you're clear on what you need to do, your academic studies will go more smoothly.

Research Specific Graduate School Information

Academics are important, but don't neglect your personal needs when it comes to choosing a school that fits for you, especially if you're going to be a long way from home. Where and how you live, your quality of life, friends you make, and the activities available to you will all influence your well-being and happiness. Find out as much as you can about each school's campus environment, the lifestyle of the area where each school is located, and the types of health and recreational facilities available at both the school and in the surrounding community.

Most schools should have an office that provides services and information to international students and you might try contacting them to get additional information. They will also be a great help to you after you arrive. Most can provide assistance with immigration and visa issues, financial support, and cultural and social transitions.

Be Patient Throughout Your Graduate School Search

Choosing the right school takes time and energy, but rest assured there is one out there for you. Graduate schools in the United States look for international students who have clear, defined academic objectives and who can fit well into their research and training programs. If you do your school research thoroughly, you should be able to find the school that fits best for you and increase your chances of being admitted by applying to those that best match your personal and professional requirements.

And then, if you want to further maximize your chances to get into your graduate school of choice, you can use the expert essay editing services of EssayEdge to perfect your graduate admissions essay.

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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