"But how do I narrow down my options?!"
When choosing a graduate school to pursue your Master's degree, one important choice to make is whether or not you should stay at the same school (if the degree is available at your current school) or earn your degree elsewhere. It can be tempting to pack up and move along to the best schools instead of sticking with your current university. After all, isn't it best to have degrees from multiple universities?
That may or may not be true. There can be advantages to continuing your education at your current school instead of changing locations. Here are six things to consider when choosing a graduate program:
The most important factor in many college decisions is cost. Graduate school is no exception. If the program costs too much, then it may not be worth pursuing at that school. When you look to earn your Master's degree, check with your school to see if you can get a "hometown" discount on tuition that will make the cost easier to hear.
On the other hand, if you can't get a discount from your current school, then it may be worth your time to examine other schools to see if they offer a cheaper (though still reputable) program.
Just as cost must be considered, so too should you consider your chances of being accepted. Whether you stay or go may depend on it. Ask faculty or staff if students currently or formerly enrolled in the undergraduate program have a better chance of acceptance if they continue with the university. If you find that the acceptance rate is no better at your current university, or perhaps even more competitive, then you might want to consider looking somewhere else. A higher acceptance, lower competition school with similar programs and credentials would be highly beneficial.
Another important area to consider when contemplating staying at the same school or moving on is networking. If you have grown to love the students, staff, and professors at your current university, you may want to stick around and strengthen those bonds.
If you are the type of person who loves forming connections with new people, however, you may desire to change schools. You would be plunged into a new setting, allowing you to make more connections and broaden your network.
Location, location, location. The old real estate adage can be just as important for a graduate student looking at where to continue their education. A school may be wonderful on its own, but you may consider the area around it to be lousy. If you desire to stay in the same area as your current school, it may be best for you to stay put and continue with that school's Master's degree program. If you've long wanted to move somewhere else, consider finding schools in that area that match your desired field of study.
Programs and Opportunities
At the same time, your current school may offer the Master's degree you are wanting to pursue, but you may want to investigate if it offers internships, research opportunities, or faculty mentors who will mesh with your plans. You need to think about your own goals in addition to other factors.
If your current school lacks the necessary programs and opportunities to further your graduate studies, consider finding a school that's a better fit.
Trends in the Field
Finally, look at trends in your field. Ask current or former grad students from multiple schools what helped them to be the most successful. Did they stick with one college the whole way? Did starting somewhere new for grad school help them improve? Carefully consider the experiences of others and the decisions they made when standing in your shoes.
Likewise, consider what employers are looking for in candidates. Are they impressed by someone who has stuck with a school the whole way through? Would they prefer someone with a varied background? Do they just want the degree? This can be just as important for your decision as the advice of other students.
No matter what you ultimately choose, whether it be to stay or go, make the choice easier by evaluating these six areas ahead of time.