Researching Programs & Schools

When should you begin researching programs?

Start early whenever possible so that you have ample time to prepare for, research, and evaluate programs that may be of interest to you. Some applications may open as early as one to one and a half years before you want to attend. You will need to give yourself enough time to gain relevant experience and information, study and complete admission tests, connect with people you may want to ask for recommendation letters, and prepare your documents and application materials. Career counselors are available to meet with you at any time during this process to provide information and support!

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Researching programs and schools

  • Attend preview or visit days at the schools you are considering. If there are no scheduled preview days, schedule your own visit. Set up appointments ahead of time to talk with faculty, current students, and graduate or professional school coordinators and to tour the campus and facilities.
  • Use graduate school search websites (e.g., or other websites such as the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) to search for schools and programs.
  • Attend graduate and professional school fairs and information sessions.
  • Talk with career counselors, advisors, and other faculty and staff to discuss options and gain various perspectives.
  • Seek out professionals currently working in your desired field and join professional organizations related to your field.
  • Connect with current graduate students and follow career or departmental offices through social media; join LinkedIn groups associated with the school and area of study.
  • Explore what would make you a strong candidate. Determine if you need job shadowing, direct patient care, research experience, etc. and what types of skills or qualities you would want to be demonstrating.

Evaluating programs and schools

Each individual has their own criteria for evaluating programs. Some things to consider are:

  • Quality of the program in your area of interest
  • Degree(s) offered, length of program, program requirements
  • Faculty and their areas of expertise, reputation, and credentials
  • Accreditation
  • Cost and financial aid available
  • Location and surrounding community
  • Career planning and job search assistance
  • Culture of the program, school, community
  • Facilities, equipment, labs, libraries, and practicum/clinical opportunities
  • Additional criteria important or essential for you to succeed

Evaluating Programs & Schools (worksheet)


The following timelines of suggested activities are provided to help you stay on track while researching and applying to graduate and professional schools. These are general timelines. Some students/alums begin the process earlier and some begin later, and the timeline can vary based on the intended program. If you are applying to professional school (e.g., Medical, Law, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy) go to the centralized application services for more specific information and deadlines for your program.

Keep in mind that application deadlines for assistantships, scholarships and other financial aid may be different (and sometimes earlier) than the deadlines for program application materials.

Certain programs offer early decision programs (e.g., Pharmacy, Law, Nursing). Prospective students submit materials, and hear back about admission decisions, before the regular admission cycle begins. This is typically for an applicant’s first choice school and indicates their commitment to attend that school if accepted. Check the specific school/program for information on early decision options.

Graduate or Professional School Timelines