Career Services for Students - Choosing a Graduate School Skip Navigation

When & How to Choose a Graduate Program

You have a passion for learning and significant ambition. After graduating from Colgate, you can take those qualities with you to graduate or professional school — and we can help!
Many students consider whether to pursue graduate education directly after Colgate or to first gain professional experience. Our advisors will work closely with you on this decision while you are a student or as an alumnus.

Are You Ready?

Consider these questions to determine if you are ready to apply, and whether you have achieved the right mix of experience to be viewed as a competitive candidate for the types of programs you are considering:
  • Is graduate study necessary for me to achieve my professional goals? Are those goals clear?
  • Have I proven my academic potential during my undergraduate experience to convince an admissions committee that I can excel in graduate level work?
  • Do I have a specific discipline narrowed down that I would want to focus on for a number of years?
  • Realistically, am I mentally, physically, and financially prepared to undertake another long-term academic commitment?
  • Do I have other needs or interests that conflict with pursuing a graduate degree?
  • Am I able to put the time and energy into creating a strong application in the timeframe that the program would require—or will I miss key application deadlines?
Not quite ready to apply to graduate school? Visit our Gap Year page to learn more about taking time off before pursuing post-graduate studies.

Choosing a Graduate Program

Once you have chosen to apply for graduate school you will need to create a list of programs to which you will apply. Our advisors are excited to help you in this process. However, competitive applicants also tap into Colgate’s best resource—the faculty.

Colgate faculty members know their disciplines — and its best graduate training programs —very well. Many of the faculty members have colleagues and former students who teach at, research at, and attend the schools you are considering. This extended network can help you explore programs or assist you with landing a paid assistantship. Colgate’s faculty can also speak from their experience of having advised other applicants to help you judge your competitiveness in an admissions process.

Choosing a graduate program is a different process than applying to Colgate. The focus is more on selecting a program than evaluating the university. Each person’s search criteria will be distinct, but here are some points to factor strongly into determining whether a program is the best fit for you. These items may weigh differently for a master’s degree or doctoral program.
  • What are the research interests of the current tenure track or tenured faculty (not visiting professors or lecturers)?
  • Are the curricular offerings interesting and representative of your professional interests? Is there an opportunity to take courses within other programs at the university that could supplement your program’s courses?
  • What is the size and make-up of a typical incoming student cohort?
  • What kind of experience and academic success is the program seeking of its applicants?
  • What standardized tests are required for admission?
  • How quickly do students typically finish the program?
  • Is this program accredited or credentialed by a professional association (especially important for health-related fields)?
  • What are the opportunities to gain applied experience as part of the program (especially important for those investigating admission directly after Colgate)?
  • What will be the cost of the program? Consider tuition and fees, but also living expenses based on the location of the school.
  • Will you have a chance to visit the school and/or speak to current students to get a feel?
  • Does the school offer adequate accommodations or support for your individual learning or personal needs?
  • Does the program offer fellowships or teaching assistantships?


Connect early and often with our advisors and your faculty members to talk through your plans. Additionally, you can explore some of these resources to get a feel for what's out there: