It is important to select the right program and the right institution for your graduate studies. This requires careful research and comparison of programs, and often a visit to the school.
Don’t make assumptions about graduate school programs. Academic disciplines at the graduate level can become tremendously specialized, and institutions that offer superb facilities in one sub-discipline may be sadly lacking in other areas. It is also true that the finest departments of a particular sub-discipline can be found at institutions with which you may not be familiar. Thus, selecting an institution based only on its overall reputation may lead you astray. Approach this task the way a good researcher would, with an open mind and the determination to sift through all the evidence before arriving at a conclusion.
Learning about Schools
Research: You are already doing research and reading publications related to your area of concentration. Start tracking articles written by people you would be excited to work with. If the author is at an academic institution, you may want to consider that school.
Faculty: Through their research and professional associations, your faculty are often familiar with their peers from programs across the country. Talk to them about your interests and ask for advice on potential programs.
Employers: Frequently, people working in your chosen field know which graduate schools are considered the best in that field. Ask them about the reputation in their field of a particular school.
Alumni: Hampshire alums are a great resource. At CORC, they are listed in notebooks organized by career field and geographic location, with information that includes their current work and graduate schools/ degrees received.
Professional Associations: Sometimes professional associations summarize and graph information about accredited graduate programs in the field.
Subject-Based Blogs/On-Line Communities: When you find a group of people on-line who are doing what you want to be doing, ask them for information and advice about strong graduate programs in that field.
School Fairs, Information Sessions, Open Houses, Visits: Every fall there is a Five College Graduate School Fair at the University of Massachusetts. Other fairs are often held in major metropolitan areas, usually during the fall. Many graduate schools offer information sessions on- and off-site, as well as open houses. Also, you can arrange to visit a school to sit in on classes and talk with admissions and financial aid officers, faculty and students.