“5. Should you consider taking a graduate level course or two now? Perhaps you were an undergraduate student a while ago, or you may have received your bachelor’s degree very recently. Either way, if your undergraduate GPA was not what you believe is competitive, or does not speak to the academic work you believe you are capable of performing, you would do well to register at a nearby institution as a non-degree student and take one or two courses. If you do, earning an A or B will be very impressive to the admissions committee, and will demonstrate that you are able to perform well as a student.
TIP: This is a good time to start setting aside financial resources for your search and application process. There will be standardized tests and application fees for sure. In addition, you may decide to purchase some test taking preparation materials and/or to visit some of the institutions you end up placing on your list of top options.
Eleven months before applying:
1. Based on the two items above (website and responsiveness), you are now in a position to narrow your search a bit. But do not narrow it too much. Obviously those institutions you have graded as F or FF could most likely be eliminated. You may be surprised at some of the options you are eliminating should you rely completely on the grades given. If you still have an interest in a college/university that you did not initially grade well, keep it on the list for now. However, if you continue to get the same treatment you did when first browsing the web and/or asking for information, ask yourself the following question: If I’m being treated this way now, how will it be should I apply, be offered admission, and enroll?
2. Create a research spreadsheet to use from this point on for each of the options that remain on your list. You may have already started a spreadsheet when you did your initial research. If so, you are just expanding it now. If not, this is the time to start one. Down the left hand column will be an alphabetical list of your options. Across the top will be all of the areas about the options that you want to compare. Here are some suggestions:
a. Website grade
b. Responsiveness grade
c. Usefulness of printed materials/brochures
d. Friendliness of admissions staff
e. Interaction with current students
f. Interaction with faculty
g. Interaction with alumni
h. Campus visit/Admissions event(s) you attended
i. Number of students enrolled in the entire institution
j. Number of students enrolled in the program you are considering
k. Professor/student ratio
l. Average class size
m. Grading system
o. Housing options (should you be re-locating)
p. Extracurricular opportunities
q. Career services/employment percentages
r. Total cost of education for one year
s. Tuition cost for one year
t. Financial Aid scholarships, loans, assistantships, fellowships, work study
u. Application deadlines
v. Application fees
w. Application requirements (including what standardized test(s) are needed)
x. Must you do an interview?
y. Do they keep a waiting list of applicants?
z. Can you appeal/get feedback if denied?
TIP: Some of the columns in your research spreadsheet will have letter grades, some will say “yes,” “no” or “maybe,” some will be dates, dollar amounts or various numerical responses, and some will be more evaluative (scale of 1-5, with 1 being terrible and 5 being outstanding).
For the complete 12-month checklist, 7 personal questions to ask about graduate school, essential tips on completing your application, and much more, go to the order page and get a copy of Road Map. You will be glad you did!