On the other hand, some traditional, campus-based graduate schools compete with the 100% online schools by offering low residency programs where students only have to report to campus so many times a year, spending the rest of their academic careers studying online. And even some fully traditional graduate programs do offer a bit more flexibility than you would find in the old days, with evening and weekend classes being offered by virtually everyone, and some schools allowing you to complete assignments and your thesis at your own pace.
Depending on how many responsibilities you have, the flexibility of a program could matter a great deal to you or it could be of very little importance. If it does matter though, then make sure to look for a graduate school that offers maximum flexibility so that your independence and non-academic priorities won’t be jeopardized by classroom responsibilities.
School Faculty Counts
Faculty can make or break a graduate school, and especially a graduate program’s reputation. Prestigious faculty is one of the most critical elements that you should use to determine where you want to enroll, since better faculty leads to bigger grants, better equipment, more interesting research opportunities and a much easier process for getting papers published.
Learning from esteemed, well-respected academics not only appears impressive on your resume, but also allows you to hobnob with the movers and shakers in your field, lining up opportunities for your post-collegiate career. Well-known faculty will come in handy when it comes to providing reliable references, receiving respected letters of recommendation and finding “ins” at industry-leading companies or academic institutions as well, so don’t neglect this important aspect of the decision making process.
Almost all graduate schools will feature faculty sections on their websites, so make sure you thoroughly check out who teaches within each of the programs you explore. One easy way to assess the quality of a program’s faculty is to see how many publication citations each faculty member has, or how many the school’s faculty averages, and to seek out their individual reputations within their specific academic fields, which you can find by searching their names on Google and spending a few minutes digging around. If you find faculty members that you instantly recognize, that’s usually a positive sign that you’re heading in the right direction.
If you’re not looking to study an academic field but more a practical, industry-based subject then you’ll still want to choose a program that includes faculty who are or were currently top producers within their field. If no one on the staff has been involved in the field, outside of academia, in the past ten years, then you might want to think twice about relying on them for your instruction, as things tend to move a lot quicker these days than they used to.
Faculty may not seem all that that essential at the outset of your search, but they really do play a major role in a program’s reputation, and in the quality of the education that you’re going to receive from your graduate degree program. You might even want to consider turning your school search upside-down, and instead of looking for a school, then vetting its faculty, try to seek out specific faculty members that you know are the best and brightest, then apply to the schools where they teach.