Graduate School Questions

Questions to ask when researching graduate school choices:

The academic program

  • What are the biggest strengths of the department?
  • In your opinion, what could be improved about the department?
  • Which professors have served as committee chairs of the most PhDs in your program?
  • What are the requirements to graduate?
  • Are there any changes planned for the qualifying exams/prelims/comps in the next few years?
  • Will I be assigned an advisor as an entering student? If not, what is the process for choosing one?
  • Which hurdles (prelims, comps, qualifying exams, dissertation proposal, etc.) are the cause of the most dropouts?
  • Can I see a few theses/dissertations from recent graduates?

Teaching assistantships/funding

  • Are most assistants Teaching Assistants or Research Assistants? How is this determined?
  • Do you have a recommendation for which one to be?
  • Do TA's serve as assistants to teachers or the main instructors of sections?
  • What kind of training is provided for TA's?
  • What is the standard teaching load for TA's?
  • Is funding available for students beyond the fourth year?
  • Are there limits to the duration of an assistantship? Is it renewable?
  • Am I expected to do summer classes? Is funding available?
  • Is it possible to have out-of-state tuition waived? How is this done?

Perks and Amenities

  • Will I have my own computer for research and coursework?
  • What access would I have to labs, computer facilities, statistical software, etc.?
  • What field-specific resources not affiliated with the university are available?
  • Do graduate students have office space? Is it shared (and with how many others)?
  • Are there quotas on printing, copying, etc.? Does the department pay for such things or do TA's/RA's pay for their own needs?
  • Does the department have its own private library to supplement the main campus library and its satellites?
  • Does the department have its own computer facilities?
  • What funding is available for graduate travel (for research, conferences, etc.)?
  • Is there a graduate student union? Who is the contact in the department?

After graduation

  • What percentage of incoming students graduate with a PhD?
  • What is the average time to completion of the PhD?
  • Is the time to completion of the PhD counting the time to get a Masters or assuming I already have completed my Masters?
  • What kind of job-hunting advisement does the department offer?
  • What percentage of the department's graduates are working in their field? Where do department graduates tend to end up working?
  • What kind of accomplishments (research, publishing, etc.) have the department's alumni achieved recently?

Questions for other graduate students

  • Have you had opportunities to work closely with professors in your area of specialization?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of this department?
  • What problems have you experienced in the program?
  • What is the atmosphere like in the department (supportive, competitive, etc.)?
  • Are there political issues among the faculty to be aware of?
  • Are you happy in the program?
  • What is the typical cost of housing?
  • Is there a portion of campus housing for graduate students only?
  • What is the best way to find housing/roommates?
  • What kind of public transportation does the city offer?
  • How safe is the school's campus?

Questions for the business office

  • How often is pay distributed?
  • Do I have to do quarterly payments for federal and state income taxes for my stipend/fellowship? Or is this automatically deducted monthly or quarterly?
  • When do salary/fellowship payments start?
  • Is tuition paid directly from my graduate stipend, or am I reimbursed for all or a portion of it?
Apply Now