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Weighing the Decision of Switching Schools for a Graduate Degree

written by: Ivy N. McQuain MBA•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 2/28/2011

Now that you have completed your undergraduate degree, you are ready to pursue your graduate degree. There are, however, factors you should take into account when deciding whether to switch schools for your graduate degree.

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    Introduction

    You love your alma mater. It’s where you decided to pursue and complete your undergraduate degree, but now you are ready for a new challenge – graduate school. However, you are unsure if you should continue your education at your current undergraduate school or go to another school for your graduate degree. Before you start applying to various graduate programs, you should know that these degree programs often vary from school to school. Therefore, not only do you need to understand the admissions requirements of your school of choice, you also need to identify graduate schools that offer what you are looking for.

    Here is an example that might be familiar to you:

    You has just completed your undergraduate degree in English. Unfortunately, you have spent countless hours searching for a job and have even substituted at your local school district. You are unhappy that you are unable to find a fulfilling and paying career that allows you to repay your student loan debt. You realize that you are no longer interested in your degree field so you start to consider graduate school. During your job search you see a lot of opportunities in Information Technology and you have a little experience in this filed (as you have worked on computers a few years past). You visit your undergradate school to check out their IT program but you are unsure if they will be able to give you the best education to learn a new field of study. What should you do?

    When you ask yourself, "Should I switch schools for a graduate degree?" you have to determine the costs, the degree programs and coursework, accreditation and your needs as well as the requirements of the graduate school.

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    Considerations

    Photo by Renjith Krishnan The first step you need to take when weighing the decision of switching schools for a graduate degree is to determine the cost to attend your current college versus an alternative graduate school. Many graduate degree programs are costly. In an article written by Ben Edwards, he reported that Business Week estimated last December that the average tuition for a two-year MBA program now tops $60,000 – that doesn’t include room and board or other fees. So for top graduate schools in many fields – not just business – the whole graduate school bill can easily top $100,000. (Moneysmartlife.com, 2010) If your school offers an affordable graduate program, then you may want to consider continuing your education there.

    Next, you should understand what graduate degree programs and courses are available at the alternative graduate school. Typically degree seekers continue their education based on their undergraduate career path, however, with the constant change in the economy, many students are switching majors (as seen in the example above). Nonetheless, you should understand the degree you want to pursue in graduate school and the time and courses needed to complete the degree.

    Accreditation is one of the most important factors to consider when you are thinking of switching schools for a graduate degree. As you look for various graduate schools, keep in mind their accreditation status, which range from regional to national. Accreditation guidelines help future employers identify if your degree is valid or not.

    Finally, you need to realistically assess your needs and the requirements of each graduate school. When assessing your needs, be mindful of your actual ability to travel/move for the graduate program, your work needs, and the needs of loved ones you may support. The requirements of each graduate school vary in regards to admissions, test scores, work experience, competitiveness and other decisional factors that may make it difficult for you to get accepted. If you have no educational experience in your targeted degree field, then some schools may require x amount of years of work experience for consideration instead.

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    Conclusion

    You have been asking yourself, "Should I switch schools for a graduate degree?" but you love your undergraduate college. However, you want to explore other schools for your advanced degree. You need to know there are many factors you will need to be mindful of before you make a decision about attending a new school. Before you start the application process, remember to compare the cost of your current school against the cost of your prospective schools of interest to determine the most affordable graduate program. You should also consider the accreditation of each school and the graduate degree programs available including completion times and coursework availability. The most important thing to consider when weighing the decision of switching schools for a graduate degree is the admissions and competitiveness of all schools.

    References

    Edwards, Ben. "Graduate School Costs and Options". MoneySmartLife.com.

    Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhoto.net/Renjith Krishnan