The 6Cs to Effectively Choosing a Graduate School

Hi everyone. It has been a while since I posted (for a week actually!). So this time round, a friend of mine (based in the US) guest featured on the blog; something I had in mind as I started this blog. Hope you take something from it and if you have any comments or suggestions or questions don’t forget to leave it in the comment section and she will reply if the need be.

So after weeks of anticipation you finally get a response from all the schools you applied to…. yaaaay! At the moment, you are elated because you have received admission offers from some schools, while at the same time, you are disheartened about the rejection letters received from other schools. Now, it’s time for you to make the big decision! You can only attend one institution at a time, so how do you plan on deciding which one of the offers to accept? Selecting which graduate school to attend is one of the most difficult decisions an individual will have to make and its only right the best decision is made.

Education is an investment and deciding to pursue a higher education is a much bigger investment, considering not only the money, but time involved. If you are lucky to receive some sort of scholarship or assistantship which would take care of the cost while pursuing your goal.. CONGRATULATIONS! If not, there are some important decisions to take into consideration. According to Phillip Mack, Director of Admissions at the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work, there are 6 Cs to consider when taking that crucial decision.


The CREDENTIALS of the school is an important factor to look into when selecting a school. Where credentials at this point is whether the school and program of interest is accredited or not. For example, if your interest is in pursuing a Social Work or Law degree in the United States, you would want to make sure the program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and the American Bar Association respectively. Attending a non-accredited institution could hurt your chances of employment in the near future and can even be a hindrance to obtaining a professional license. To learn more about the importance of accreditation check out

The CURRICULUM of the program should be able to enhance your knowledge and skill of interest. So, if your interest in Social Work is to work in a facility for older people, it would be in your own interest to look out for schools which offer courses in gerontology, adult management, and death and dying. Other things you might want to consider is the class size, full-time or part-time study, faculty-student ratio, certificates offered if any, research opportunities, and percentage of faculty with a PhD in their field.

CAMPUS life could make or break a student depending on how they function in a social environment. Most people perform better when they thrive in a socially engaging environment while others do not. As an individual it is important you are aware of what kind of environment you would function best in, either rural, urban or suburban, and allow it to guide you throughout the selection process. You may also want to find out how diverse the environment is, if the community is internationally friendly or not, and what accommodations are available for graduate students. As a prospective graduate student who may be enrolled for evening classes, you may want to find out if public transportation is available if you don’t have your own means of transportation.


The type of support services the school provides is what Mack identifies as COUNSELLING. Does the school or program offer counseling services in terms of academic advising, sexual harassment, and health services? Certain unforeseen circumstances happen and it is necessary we make sure these services are available to guide us if we ever needed further consultation. Although most institutions offer financial aid and some scholarship, these variables differ greatly among institutions, and as to who may be eligible or not to receive them.


The COST of the institution should be of primary concern and enable you to know how much you are willing to pay for the education, as well as how much you plan on borrowing. It never hurts applying for scholarships, graduate assistantships, paid internships, and grants as and when they become available as they help offset student costs’. In addition, you may want to examine the estimated cost and expenses you may make such as housing, books, and food throughout the duration of your academic program and determine if you would be able to meet all the expenditures.


Finally, after years of being in school, many students hope to find meaningful and gainful employment. It is important that as a student, you had an idea of the type of employment in your field of interest and determine whether you can handle the pressures of the job. Also, you may want to find out the average starting salary for graduates of the program, so there are no surprises if money is of prime interest to you. But more importantly, what CAREER services does the school provide to help students who may need some extra help navigating their way in the job search process? Does the school or program have a career center which helps students with interviewing skills and resume writing techniques are some of questions you may want to find answers to!


After viewing the 6Cs to effectively choosing a graduate school, you should now be confident enough to take that crucial decision. When you do get there, remember to utilize all the opportunities presented and don’t forget to GET INVOLVED! Wish you the best of luck in this new journey.

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