Download the Exercise
» Selecting a Post-Grad Program chart [PDF - 326kB]
This chart lays out some of the factors you should consider when selecting the program to which you want to apply. Go through the list and think about how important each of these issues are to you. Then research each of your potential programs to see how strong they are in terms of these factors. You'll want to focus on programs that support your highest priorities. Where there are significant gaps between what you think is critical and a particular program, take a closer look to determine if it will really meet your expectations.
Explanation of Categories
Relevant to my career
If your primary motivation for pursuing further education is to enhance your career prospects, than mark this category as a ‘deal breaker’. This means that if a particular program does not clearly link to a related career path, or provide experiential learning opportunities, it may not be a good fit for you. If the career relatedness is not very important to you, then circle ‘don’t care’ and if you are somewhere in between, circle ‘preferable’ which means you’d like it to help your career, but that is not your greatest motivation.
Relevant to my interests
Maybe there is a topic or discipline you discovered during your undergraduate years that you found deeply interesting. This might be the perfect time to dig even deeper in a Masters program. If you want to keep on studying, because, well, you love it, then circle “deal breaker”. If the career relevancy of a program is more important than pursuing your research interests, then circle either “preferable” or “not important”, depending on how strongly you feel about this factor.
By the time you finish your degree, most people will have been in classrooms for 18 years or more, and are exhausted. Are you really up for another two years or more of intensive study? Maybe 9 months or less would feel more doable at this point. If you know it would be a real stretch to face another degree at this point, then circle “deal breaker”, but if this isn’t an issue for you, then circle 'don’t care' – 'preferable' is for people who would prefer less schooling right now, but will do what is necessary to reach their goals.
Many students pursue their Bachelor degree with financial support from their parents. Not very many parents have saved money to pay for multiple degrees however, so most students need to find their own sources of funding to pursue post graduate education. Most Masters programs offer funding now, but few professional schools and colleges do. Consider your own financial status now, and take time to realistically consider how much you will be in debt when you graduate. Maybe you would be better off paying back some of your loans, or saving up for a while before you pursue more education. If the cost of a post grad program is an important factor for you, circle deal breaker. If it doesn’t matter, you would sign up no matter what the cost, circle ‘don’t care’. If you'd like funding from either the government or the institution, but this isn’t an absolute requirement, then circle ‘preferable’.
This is closely related to the previous category, but is separate because most students don’t take enough time to understand how the funding structure of their prospective programs work – they just assume it’ll work for them. One of the most common reasons that students drop out of grad school is that they simply don’t have enough money to survive on. If you are a full-time grad student, you will likely have limitations on how many hours you’re allowed to work to maintain your full time status and your eligibility for funding. Ask questions of your program and make sure you have accurate information on what you will need to finance this next stage of your education. If you can’t afford to attend without a certain level of funding, know what that level is and circle ‘deal breaker’. If you are willing to, and will be eligible for a bank loan or OSAP if the funding isn’t enough, circle either "preferable" or "doesn’t matter" whichever is relevant to your circumstances.
If you indicated that you expect any future education to prepare you for the workforce, you might want to do some research to see what the predictions are for demand in the relevant fields. Keep in mind that employment outlook data is predictive, not fact, so it is no guarantee of employment. If it is important that the program you choose trains you for employment in a high-demand field, circle "deal breaker". "Preferable" should be circled when you’d like the predictions to suggest there will be demand, but it’s not necessarily a deal breaker if they don’t and, of course, “doesn’t matter” should be circled if that’s what’s so for you.
Again, if you indicated that you expect any future education to prepare you for the workforce, what you probably need as much as specific training, is experience. In this case, seek out programs with a hands-on learning component like a field placement, an internship or co-op. These experiences will be invaluable when you graduate, can open doors in the organizations with which you are placed, and be a good source of references in your desired field. If this applies to you, circle "deal-breaker" or "preferable" – and if it doesn’t, circle "don’t care".
Sometimes where the school /program is located can be a really important consideration. If the location it will require you to move, what will that do to your budget? What is the cost of living in that other location? If you are hoping to eventually apply to a PhD program, there are often professional advantages to attending different universities for each of your degrees. Your professors can provide field specific advice about this. If it turns out that location is a significant issue for you circle “deal breaker”; if it is somewhat important, circle ‘preferable” and obviously, if it’s not important, circle “don’t care”.
Reputation of the program
This is less of an issue in Canada than in the United States where they have the ‘ivy-league’ system, but there are nonetheless some cases where the reputation of the program might be an issue. MBA programs, for instance, go to great lengths to foster close relationships with high demand employers, often through alumni relationships. If you are planning to take an MBA, it may be worth finding out which companies have a strong relationship with the programs you are considering. Some programs have strong reputations in particular areas like York’s Political Science graduate program and Osgoode Hall Law School. Your professors can advise you which programs and which scholars are most highly regarded in your area of interest. If it turns out this is important in your case, then select either “deal breaker” or “preferable” for this category.
Review the Exercise
Go thorough the categories and take note of your most highly ranked factors. As you are researching particular programs, pay particular attention to how they measure up in these areas. This should be the only factors you consider when selecting a post grad program, but ensuring the program you eventually select is strong in the areas most important to you, can go a long way to ensuring the investment of time and money this decision will require, will be worthwhile to you in the long run.