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Student Focus: Things To Consider When Choosing a Graduate School

by Jane Lapham

Chairs in a classroom

Photo by alamosbasement

By this time next year, I will be one of thousands of graduate school applicants crossing my fingers and hoping to be accepted into the school of my choice. In the here and now, I need to focus on determining which graduate programs I will apply to. A little thought today could go a long way toward helping me make informed decisions in the future. As I narrow my graduate school prospects and begin the application process, I plan to take the following criteria into careful consideration:

Program Focus and Features

Some programs boast a broad education that prepares graduates to work in any setting, while others offer a medical or educational domain focus. One school might feature a clinic with an outstanding reputation in the community, while another might offer opportunities to participate in cutting-edge research. I need to be sure I understand the focus of each program in order to determine whether it would be a good fit for me.

Clinical Facilities

In our field, facilities are a huge concern since so much of our education revolves around clinical labs and service to our communities. I need to think about the populations served by the clinics connected to each program I consider, as well as the condition, quality, and modernity of clinic buildings and equipment.


If I am open to the possibility of relocating for a program, I need to consider moving and living costs as part of my decision. If were to relocate for a program under the assumption that I would come home when finished, I also need to consider the possibility that moving after grad school could mean turning down job opportunities and leaving newfound friends.


It would be nice if comparing the cost of various programs were as simple as comparing the price of tuition, but it is not. While some programs seem, at first glance, to be far more expensive than others, I need to consider opportunities for scholarships, grants, and assistantships. A program whose cost seems prohibitive to me now could turn out to be the most affordable program for me if I am lucky enough to be offered funding.

Surrounding Community

I need to be sure I’ll be happy spending at least three years living in the community my graduate school is a part of. Would I be comfortable moving to a city that is a different size than my own? Will I be able to find the comfort foods I am accustomed to in my new city? Will I fit in well with the general lifestyle?

I would like to encourage readers to comment and discuss additional criteria important in making graduate school choices. May we all find the perfect program and enjoy success in our future endeavors!

Jane Lapham is a student in the California State University, Dominguez Hills Post-Baccalaureate Communication Sciences and Disorders program. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Language and Linguistics from Cal State Dominguez Hills, and looks forward to entering graduate school in the Fall of 2012.

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Cecilia March 18, 2011 - 1:54 pm

Great blog. I picked a grad school that was relatively inexpensive, had professors with a broad range of clinical and research knowledge and a great clinic. Those were the most important to me. Looks to me like you’ve covered all of the bases. Best of luck!

zealousidler March 19, 2011 - 1:13 am

This is an extremely timely post! I am in the midst of both hearing back from graduate schools and picking one. Thank you very much for these insights!

sarteague June 15, 2012 - 11:23 am

Great post. I am just starting the process of researching and applying to grad schools after taking the past year off to work full time. I have been struggling to narrow down where it is I want to go from here, and this article really helped put things into perspective. Thanks!

Jane Lapham June 15, 2012 - 1:47 pm

I am delighted to hear that this post has been useful to some of my fellow future Speech-Language Pathologists! I am also happy to report that I will be attending MGH Institute of Health Professions this coming Fall. If there’s one thing I learned during the application and decision-making process, it’s that there are TONS of great programs out there with TONS of excellent professors and faculty.

Best wishes to each of you as you move forward with your career.

Jessica January 30, 2013 - 7:55 pm

I also took a year off to work so that I could afford grad school. I live in the NY area and don’t have the luxury to relocate. My largest obstacle thus far is that I did not major in CSD as an undergrad. As a result my options have decreased significantly but I won’t stop until I’m accepted somewhere!

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