(Disclaimer: This has a focus on Higher Education Administration or College Student Personnel Programs)
So with a lot of friends currently researching grad schools and attempting their own searches, I would like to offer some knowledge and resources I utilized myself and that you may find useful:
1) What is important to you
This is important in looking at Grad Schools just like it is when you approach your undergrad search. What is the most important thing to consider for you: is it location, academic program, assistantship, school, or something else entirely. Make sure that you know yourself here because it will be a period of your life.
There are so many different elements to consider, but one of the first is how long you want your program to take. There are one and two year programs, so you are making a commitment to spend time in this place. Is this a time where you want to take some time away from everything in a completely new area or stay somewhere you know. Is it important for you to experience a new school or (assuming your undergrad offers a program) are you interested in a new school. Do you want to attend full time or part-time and on campus or distance ed. Do what is right for you.
2) What is important about the academic program to you?
There are so many options with academics where the program is involved. Don’t let this overwhelm you, just take your time and sort through what you need to. Consider the method of instruction and the method of review. Schools offer programs that range from a Thesis Option (performing your own research), Comprehensive Exams (a collective exam in your final semester or so based on all you have learned), Capstone projects (simply put, an in-depth case study), or a simple graded option (you get the grade and graduate based on your class grades).
It is also important to consider the classes themselves and what classes are important for you. Most programs offer either their handbook or a suggested course layout on their website, and these can be important to review. What elements do you want to find in your program? Is theory important? Law? Research, technology, or even history. Talk with your mentors and student affairs professionals to see what kind of courses they found the most useful.
3) What about the work component?
If the work is the most important part of the experience to you, I would encourage to begin your search with assistantships then, or schools where you would like to work. Think about the field you want to work in and which schools will not only offer that, but more. Some great places to start you search if you are interested in this would be the Oshkosh Placement Exchange and the Southern Placement Exchange.
Also consider if there is available elements to stretch your experience beyond work with an internship or practicum. These can really diversify your time and lead you to experiences that may completely change your perspective.
4) Other Random Thoughts
Stay connected. If you have questions, do not be afraid to reach out and ask the faculty and staff of the program. They are excited about their program and their work and they want to make sure you make the best decision as well.
Don’t be afraid to ask your advisors and mentors for their help and suggestions. These are people who will serve as your references and may have some great suggestions on people to meet or even have other connections that may benefit you.
Remember to relax. Take some time and laugh at yourself:
I personally came from a deep DEEP background in housing with connections to orientation, advising, and Greek Life. I knew I wanted a large school experience which led me to look at schools Like University of Miami, University of South Carolina, and the Appalachian State University. I didn’t really look into Michigan or UGA because those are schools I was interested in for my doctorate.
I also looked into schools that were suggested to me by current mentors and advisors and I found some great places. I spent my time applying and working towards my dream of grad school. I knew I wanted a Greek Life Grad Assistantship. After a long application process and great experience not to mention having the chance working at my dream assistantship, I settled on my school. While financial considerations did not hurt my decision, the final straw in my decision came late one night. I had some questions and emailed the director of the program, rather late in the evening, and settled back. I am very much a need to know sort of person, even if the answer isn’t the one I want. I would rather know sooner. That is why my decision was made when half an hour later, the professor emailed back with a response. I knew right then that I mattered even only as a potential student and two months in (not to mention a hefty chunk of work) I am still quite thrilled with my decision to attend Texas Tech University.