Consider contacting alumni via social media sites and asking them if they would recommend attending the school. While most of them probably won’t be willing to speak negatively about their alma mater, there’s no better way to assess the true value of an institution than by speaking with the people who have had direct experience with it in the past.
Fully assessing a school’s reputation can take a great of initiative, effort and time, but it’s an essential part of the process of choosing a graduate school, and it could prevent you from experiencing some major disasters down the line.
Find Out How Alumni Have Fared
Although considering a college or university’s reputation is vitally important when picking a graduate school, the success (or failures) of its alumni are even more relevant to your decision making process. Every school claims that their alumni experience incredible levels of success, get desirable jobs at excellent companies, and become thought-leaders in the field and essentially leading their niche, but it’s your responsibility to find out if the proof is in the pudding. Do a little bit of research of your own to see if the evidence suggests otherwise, and if it does, then you may need to look elsewhere to find your dream school.
Ideally, a good graduate school will be able to prove that its alumni have an excellent track record for gaining fulfilling, high-flying careers, or at least finding stable employment soon after graduate.
Look at the alumni section of a school’s website to see what recent alumni are up to, and know that schools who don’t include any information about their alumni might be leaving that out on purpose. If you can’t find any details about alumni success, this should be seen as a major red flag.
If most alumni seem to have good, stable jobs in the field you wish to enter, then this is definitely a good sign, and you can move on to the next step in the graduate school evaluation process.
At the end of the day, finding a job and achieving a fantastic career is the responsibility of individual students, and not their graduate schools, but those schools with alumni who are doing great will make your resume far more marketable, and since the end goal of earning a graduate degree is virtually always to help advance your career prospects, you’ll want to look for graduate schools that have both an excellent reputation and a proven track record for getting grads hired into prestigious positions.
Seek Out Program Flexibility
Graduate schools are typically far more understanding than undergraduate colleges because their students have real-world responsibilities like families, day jobs and other things that require a great deal of additional flexibility in their scheduling.
However, some graduate schools are far more accommodating than others, so be sure to review just how much flexibility each school actually offers. You’re likely to find the most room for flexibility by attending an online graduate school, since online programs virtually always offer the ability to study in your own time, completing projects and attending virtual lectures whenever you have time for them, and making it possible to retain your full-time day job, or care for family members as needed while you earn your degree.