Academic Master's & PhD
If you are interested in an academic graduate program (usually at the PhD level), start by speaking with faculty in your field of interest. If you want to study in a field different from your undergraduate major, contact that department’s faculty representative. Faculty provide some of the greatest insights into what it takes to be a successful graduate student, offer information about the differences among various programs, and challenge you to think more clearly about your longer-term goals and how to achieve them.
Factors to Consider
- Type of program: Because requirements vary significantly from institution to institution, take time to compare what will be expected of you in each program under consideration. What degrees are granted? What is the length of time to complete your degree? Do you have prerequisite courses to fulfill before starting your program? Are the faculty bound by a common theoretical philosophy or are their interests quite diverse? Are there faculty who are willing to sponsor your research interests? Is there opportunity with collaboration and co-authorship with senior researchers or faculty?
- Quality of program: Unlike undergrad, you will want to look much more carefully at the particular department or program that you are interested in rather than the institution as a whole. Consider the following: (1) commitment to research and scholarship by faculty; (2) reputation of the school, faculty, and alumni/ae; (3) admissions standards and care taken in selection of graduate students; (4) by whom the program is accredited. Base your decision on what the program has to offer YOU. Once again, use recommendations by faculty you know here at Princeton to help evaluate the quality of programs that interest you.
- Satisfaction of current students: Ask for the names of students currently enrolled in the program and get their perspectives on what the program and the faculty are like, as well as the "live-ability" of the community. What are their impressions of the faculty's commitment to students? What advice do they have about securing assistantships and other financial assistance? Do they have recommendations for housing options at the university or within its community?
- Location and size: Are there any residency requirements? How near will you be to family and friends? How big is your department? What is the faculty to student ratio? What will the size of your classes be? Take into account the location and size of the university and the nearest city or town.
- Personal background: In what type of setting do you feel most comfortable (urban/rural, large/small institution)? If you are in a significant relationship, can your partner find desirable employment or educational opportunities?
- Cost and financial assistance: Find out how many times in the past few years a school’s tuition costs have risen. How does the cost of living of the area compare with that of other places? What are the opportunities for fellowships and assistantships?
- Resources and facilities: What kind of support services is available particularly for graduate students? Is there funding support for conferences and research? What are the facilities like (especially if your work will involve being in a lab)?
- Career paths of graduates: What have graduates of the program gone on to do?