Congratulations on graduating college and obtaining a bachelor's degree! This is the first step to success, but what graduate school should you go to? As you may know, there are a lot of things to consider when you graduate with your bachelor's in August or September. Are any of the colleges offering scholarships, full-ride or not? Is the degree program accredited and will your chosen career accept your degree? What is the cost of tuition? Are the professors skilled in your area of concentration and will they challenge you to become better? All of these questions are important, and the final decision is ultimately up to you.
A good rule to keep in mind: Start with what you will do after you graduate.
Since you are applying to graduate school, you should already have a good idea for what degree program you want to undergo. If that is the case, you should also already know what you want to get out of the program, whether that be a step towards obtaining a Ph.D. or being able to start a career with a Master's. Where do you want to go after you graduate? What career do you want to have? Will this degree program be your best chance for success?
Narrow your prospective schools down to five to eight schools. A couple of the schools should be top-notch, even if you don't think you will get in. You never know if the admissions committee at any given school will like your statement of purpose, grades, and academic and personal bio. Different schools look for different things in their applicants, so have confidence in wherever you apply.
You should also consider applying to a couple of schools that would act as a safety net. A harsh truth is that you may not get into any of the schools that you apply to, so being accepted into a school that are easier to get into will ensure that you don't derail your long-term goals. While even the most prestigious schools will help you get a leg-up on the competition when applying for jobs after graduation, even the institutions that aren't nationally ranked will ensure you are professionally ready to start a career. However, no matter what school you choose, be sure that they are properly accredited. Too many for-profit schools claim to offer a great degree program, when in reality companies often will neglect job applicants simply based off of the school they attended.
No matter where you decide, research each institution for their accreditation, what alumni and other students have to say about the program, and what you will be able to do with it after you graduate. Consider also visiting each campus and speaking with professors before you accept their invitation to attend. You want to be sure that you will be able to get the most out of the academic program, otherwise there is no point in going.