It may seem early to be thinking about next year’s application cycle, but if you’re considering applying for admission to a PhD program, you should start thinking about where you want to apply. Your criteria for selecting target programs will depend on your goals and circumstances, but here are a few things to think about.
First (and most importantly), what is your goal, and what are you primary interests? Do you want to pursue an academic career, or do you plan to work in another sector?
If you’re primarily interested in research, your priority should be finding a program that will give you the research training to launch your career:
- Try to identify scholars who are working in the areas that interest you.
- Review the lit in your field, network at conferences, review CVs on departmental websites.
- If you have an undergrad mentor in your field, consult her/him for advice about departments where exciting research is going on.
- Ask yourself: who would be a good mentor, and who would you be interested in working with for the next several years?
- Go beyond the rankings, which often don’t reflect the real dynamism of a department (particularly once you’re talking about the specific sub-fields PhD students are concerned with).
If your goals lie outside of academia, work on identifying programs that will help you reach your goals. What industry are you interested in? Does the university you’re considering have research ties with that industry? Does the department offer opportunities for professional development (fieldwork, internships, etc)? What other resources does the university offer to support graduate students (career development, professional groups, alumni working in the field, etc)?
Do your research to find the best programs for your interests and goals.
By Dr. Rebecca Blustein, Accepted.com editor and former Student Affairs Officer at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center, and author of Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School. Rebecca will be happy to assist you with your grad school applications.