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?
- 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?
- 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?