The process of choosing a grad school can be challenging and time consuming for students when you have various concerns over the ranking, budget, school environment, major and most importantly - your future career path.
Many students, especially international students, seek help from those so-called "Study-Abroad Agencies" to handle their applications. These agencies usually charge a bunch of money by providing services such as picking schools, resume/cover letter writing and mailing out applications. Of course taking advices from the "expert" might help you save time and effort, however, without doing your own research you might end up making the wrong decision by choosing a school entirely because of its ranking and prestige instead of based on your enthusiasm and reasonable judgment.
Here are some factors that you might want to include in your consideration and research.
Find out your desired major and its job market.
Be realistic! When you decide to invest loads of money, you might want to make sure that you'll get a decent return. You can check the median earnings by major and subject area from CNN money (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/bestjobs/2010/highpay/) or Bureau of Labor Statistic website. I am sure you can find a balance between pursuing the dream and getting well paid.
Get the most beg for your buck
We all know that grad school is a money burning machine; the average annual tuition for master degree is about $15,000 at public schools and can go up to $40,000 for private schools. The cost also varies on the type of major you choose. And remember to check out the living expenses for each area, which might make a huge difference in the long-term.
However, don't be scared away by these numbers; there are sources to finance your study: financial aid, employer subsidies, scholarship programs, and if you are a doctoral student you might also get a stipend. So make sure that you do the exhaustive research beforehand.
- Ace the admission exams
A perfect test score does not guarantee the acceptance to your dream school; however, these standard entrance exams do play an important part in your application. Most schools have set the minimum test scores for different tests; you might want to check on school websites or contact the school departments to gather the info.
The most commonly used exams are GRE, GMAT, LSAT, and MCAT. If your native language is not English, you need to take TOEFL as a proof of your English-proficiency as well.
Preparing for these exams can be extremely time consuming and require your full dedication. Get started with the preparation as early as you can (a year ahead I would suggest); make a nice study plan and stick to it.
Practice the full length mock exams beforehand to reduce your nervousness and help you achieve the best performance.