Questions to Ask Alumni about Grad School
Get the inside scoop before you commit
One of the best ways to find out about a graduate school is to talk to someone who completed the program. You can find out everything from which professor to take for your first set of classes, to where to find a parking spot that's almost always empty. As much as you can, find alumni whose interests and study habits are similar to yours. To get the most out of your discussion, ask good questions. Here are some ideas:
What influenced your decision to attend your graduate school?
Dig into what made them choose this particular school. In the end, the school made sense for them, so find out how they came to the decision to pick this school over all others.
Was your graduate school experience worth the price?
Education is an expensive product. Some degrees are worth the money, but others are not. If the degree isn't worth the expense, better to find out before you apply to graduate school than after you've put time, effort, and money into it.
What was your total cost per semester?
Prices rise year after year, so make sure you check the school's official information. However, the brochures and website may not tell you all the expenses you'll really encounter.
What do you wish you would have known your first day of graduate school?
Get pearls of wisdom to help you start off on the right foot. Learn from the mistakes of others rather than making those mistakes yourself.
Did the curriculum prepare you for your next job?
This is a big question. If the program doesn't prepare you for the job you want, chances are you don't want to go with that program. Maybe a similar program at another graduate school will be better, or perhaps you need to look at an entirely different graduate program.
What sort of career services were available?
Career services should help you land a job, but some schools are better than others in this respect. Find out whether they had to go it alone on the job hunt, or if they had good support from the career services department.
How much time per week did you spend studying?
This will help you decide if you have the time to invest in your education. You can plan where you need to cut back on other activities to make time for school.
To what extent do assignments prepare you for exams?
The work should help you do well on the tests. If not, that could be a red flag.
How much personal attention did you receive from faculty members?
Sitting in a 250-seat auditorium may be acceptable your freshman year, but in graduate school, that lack of attention doesn't cut it.
How much interaction did you have with other students?
Graduate school is as much about the school work as it is about networking. You never know which of your classmates will be able to clue you into your next job.
Were the available class times conducive to your schedule?
If you work a full-time schedule, you need night and online classes. If classes are only offered during the day, that could be a show stopper.
Which classes do you recommend taking?
Who are the good professors? Which classes are most helpful?
Which classes were most difficult?
If you need to cut back on the course load, find out which classes are best to take when you don't have as many competing for your time.
Which professors do you recommend?
Who are the easy ones? Who are the ones who help you engage with the material? Who won't put you to sleep?
Which professors should I avoid?
A demanding professor isn't necessarily a bad thing, but some are unreasonable.