Choosing graduate programs to apply to and attend can be a daunting task. Here are a few general tips that you might find helpful.
DECIDING WHERE TO CONTACT AND APPLY
- Ask the faculty members you know now where they suggest you apply and who specifically you might work with.
- Think about the recent research you have read and heard about. What do you find interesting? Contact the authors of those works and see if there is a possibility of working with them.
- Study web pages and graduate information packages for the schools and faculty members you are interested in. Look carefully at their current research interests and what they have published lately. Does that work interest you? Are the faculty members still active in research and publication?
- Look at the university, department and graduate program at places you are interested in. Is the university well known and does it have good reputation? Ask the same question about the department. However, remember there are some great graduate programs at smaller universities. Are there several faculty members there whose work interests you? Are most of the faculty active in research and publishing? Do you see graduates from the department listed as faculty members at other departments? Does the program focus on Ph.D. work? Is that what you want? Does it focus on applied training of M.A. or M.Sc. students? Does that suit your goals?
- It is important to contact faculty members that you want to work with directly. This will tell you if you really want to work with this person. In addition, if you make a favorable impression, it can go a long way to getting you into the graduate program.
- Prior to contacting the person, study up on their recent work. Discuss it with them.
- Tell them your ideas for graduate work, and ask them what research projects they have in mind for new students.
- Don’t be shy about asking about financial support and research funding.
- Be polite and accept that professors are generally very busy people. However, remember, most faculty are always looking for good graduate students!
- See if you can contact graduate students already in the program and ask them about things. They are a great source of information!
- If possible – visit the departments you are interested in. Some programs will even help pay for such visits by top applicants.
DECIDING WHICH OFFER TO ACCEPT
- Which potential advisor is doing the research that excites you most? Who do you feel most comfortable with? Which advisor has a good record of students finishing graduate work and going on to exciting work?
- Which department and university seems the most lively and offers several faculty you would be interested in working with? Which has the best reputation?
- What is the level of financial support? Is the support for just one year, or several? If you have a good offer of support from your Number Two choice and a weak offer from Number One, phone the school you really want to go to and let them know. Sometimes they will up the offer. FINANCIAL SUPPORT IS VERY IMPORTANT. IF YOU CANNOT CONCENTRATE ON YOUR STUDY AND RESEARCH YOU COULD HAVE DIFFICULTY.
- Many students chose a graduate program based on ‘where they want to live’. This is not a great reason. You will be in graduate school a relatively short time. It is very unlikely that you will get a permanent position at the school you do your graduate work at. Be open to experiencing a new city or region.
For further information, contact the Geography Department Student Affairs Officer