Choosing a Graduate Program

Faculty and Facilities Available

It is important to identify a graduate faculty advisor who has research interests similar to your own. Departmental webpages (with faculty research statements) are useful tools for locating and emailing potential advisors.

In addition, departmental webpages often describe facilities available to current graduate students. These available facilities can have a strong impact on your graduate research studies. For example, if you are interested in examining memory disorders in patients with head trauma, you may want to consider only those schools which have an associated medical school/hospital (to provide patient access).

Funding Grad School

Check with individual schools regarding tuition/fees and the amount of guaranteed support (if any), Teaching Assistant opportunities, etc.

Happiness of Current Grad Students

Once you have identified which universities and laboratories you may want to choose, it is helpful to contact current graduate students in those labs. By emailing these students, you can get a personal perspective on the program and faculty projects. Some questions you may ask include, “Are there many required courses? Did you feel overburdened with coursework, teaching and research requirements? How long will you take to complete the PhD? Are you satisfied with your graduate education thus far? How much financial support is provided, and do you have to pay tuition/fees?” Remember that another student’s satisfaction or disappointment with the program does not guarantee yours; happiness is subjective.

Advice from a Current Mentor

It is important to develop academic or research relationships with faculty members during your undergraduate career. These relationships will enable you to explore your own interests, will provide valuable letters of recommendation, and will allow you to pursue advice from someone established in your field of interest.

It is worthwhile to ask your research sponsor, or Professor of a course you are taking, which universities and laboratories are well-known (and well-liked) in your field of interest.