Two students discussing

Are you trying to decide whether graduate school is the right choice for you? Or which graduate program is the best fit? This section provides information and advice on choosing the right graduate school and program for you.

1. Decide whether you want to pursue a master’s or a Ph.D.

Master’s and Ph.D. programs vary greatly in their areas of focus, the amount of financial support, and the time commitment. Choosing the right program means finding the right balance between career plans, monetary cost, and opportunity cost. Here is some guidance to help you make that decision. 

2. Identify what to look for in a graduate program

Once you know which degree you want to pursue, you should draw up a list of key criteria for the kind of program you are looking for. This includes obvious factors such as an institution’s reputation, the academic rigor of the curriculum, and the quality of the faculty. You should, however, also look at factors such as how well the program fits your goals, the culture of the department and campus, and the vibe of the surrounding community. We have compiled a list of things to consider when evaluating a graduate program. 

3. Collect information about the programs you are interested in

Once you know what to look for, start collecting information. Common sources include your undergraduate faculty, current students and faculty in the programs of interest, as well as online sources. Check out our list of resources to consult and a spreadsheet we have created to help you take notes.

4. Prepare a strong graduate school application

Once you have narrowed your list of programs, it’s time to make your application as good as it can be. Think carefully about how to present yourself in your personal statement and whom to request recommendations from. You will also need to prepare for the admissions interview, if there is one. Check out our guide and a list of tips from Duke graduate students and faculty.

Tips and Tools

Sloan Boot Camp attendees
Advice on Applying to Graduate School

Tips and insights from Duke graduate students and faculty on what to do and what to avoid.

Things to Consider

A checklist of various factors in evaluating a graduate program's fit for you. Download the table (Word) and use it to take notes as you do your research.

Questions to Ask

Some questions you should ask about student support and funding during your campus visit or interview.