How to Find the Perfect Graduate School

It’s never too early to start thinking about what you want to do after you graduate from college. Some people will jump right into the workforce directly after the college, but the rest of us are planning to continue our educational careers by going to grad school or law school immediately after we graduate. I know a lot of people might not want to think about the next phase of their journeys just yet but it’s important, if you haven’t already, to come up with a list of schools you want to apply to after taking the LSAT, the GRE, and for the future doctors out there, the MCAT. I’m not planning on taking the LSAT until June, but knowing what schools I want to aim for gives me an incentive to study hard so that I can get a good score on my test. We’ll talk about preparing for the test another day, but for now let’s stay on the topic of picking a school to attend.

For the most part, I already have my list of universities written down. This list used to be about a page and a half long but after thinking more about what I want out of a law school, I was able to narrow the choices down. For people who are considering going to graduate school, these tips can still be useful to you, especially if you have a long list and aren’t sure how to shorten it.

One of the most important things to be when making your list is realistic. Keep your GPA and the score you get on your test in mind when researching schools. For example, if I have a 3.0 grade point average and I score a 152 on the LSAT, I’m not going to chance applying to Harvard Law. This is mostly because I know that my grades and my test score aren’t high enough and it would be a waste of money to apply to a school I most likely will not get into. Since application fees aren’t cheap, being honest with yourself will keep you from going broke. I’m not saying that it is impossible for someone who has those scores to get into an Ivy League like Harvard or that they shouldn’t apply, but it’s much more realistic to look at schools that you can get into before shooting for the ones that are much more difficult to get accepted into.

You can easily find the test score and GPA range for all of the universities you’re thinking of applying to online. Just use Google or visit the university’s website and you’ll find all the information you need. Once you have all of that information written down and you’ve figured out what schools you could get into and which ones might be a little more difficult, now it’s time to weed out the right ones in that list.

Many people look at the rankings to determine which school is the best, but really, it’s up to you to make that decision for yourself. Only you know what you want out of the law, graduate, or med school you want to attend. If you’re not sure what it is you want just yet, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a clue, it just means that you need some help figuring it out.

When thinking about law school, I initially didn’t know where I wanted to go. Then I started thinking about location. Where would I enjoy going to graduate school? Do I want to stay in my home state or try living somewhere new? Once I had a list of the places I wouldn’t mind living, I started thinking about the cost. Graduate school isn’t cheap, but there are some that are less expensive than others. You don’t have to shy away from the super expensive schools because, chances are, you can get scholarship money and grants to help you out.

This leads into the next thing you should look at when making your list – how much money in scholarships does the university give away each year? Once you’ve narrowed your list down by taking out the schools in the places where you know you don’t want to go and you’ve decided what schools are in your budget and offer the most scholarship money to its students, you can start looking into things such as class size, campus environment, programs offered, etc. If you’re going to law school, check to see if they have the clinics that you’d want, and if you know for sure you want to specialize in a particular law, research the classes they have to see if what offer will prepare you for your career.

Other things to consider that are really important are employment rates. Many universities provide information on where their graduates went on to work or if they got jobs at all. If a school has a high percentage of unemployed graduates, then that’s something that you’re going to have to think about. Really, I can’t tell you what school is best for you. Only you know how to answer that question. If you need more help, speak with an advisor and try to visit the schools on your list, if you can. Go to graduate, med, and law school fairs. Ask the university representatives questions and look at countless websites of different universities. It isn’t just the academics that makes a school good, but the campus environment is extremely important as well. If you want a school that’s huge or one that’s small, that’s something else to factor into your search. If you value approachable faculty members, diversity, or anything else you can think of, then take the time to find the schools that fit that criterion because those schools exist. In fact, they’re waiting for you right now. What are you waiting for?

Image: Brent Hoard, cropped