An excerpt from the publication Graduate Studies: A Practical Guide of the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies.

As prospective graduate students, you are important potential members of a university’s research and learning community. This orientation and these guidelines are designed to help you approach your future studies as a confident and informed person. Even though you may feel that the process of admission to graduate studies is one in which you are being evaluated by a university, you also have just as significant a role in evaluating your prospective program of study. It is important that you make sure that you have the information you need to make a good decision.

Making contacts

Making contact with your prospective institutions is important. This may mean:

Do your best to talk to prospective supervisors or heads of graduate admissions committees as well as a range of students including those presently enrolled in the program and those who have already graduated. It is important to gauge your potential satisfaction with a program or a supervisor from a student’s perspective. This type of conversation can help you know what to expect from a supervisor or a course, or may just prove helpful in getting tips on potential living arrangements.

Choosing an institution

Students choose to pursue their studies at a particular institution for a variety of reasons. For instance, some people choose to attend universities near to where they live. Others base their decision on the reputation of a university. Keep in mind, though, that the research reputation of a university does not always equate with student experiences in a program of study. Sometimes graduate students’ experiences of the programs at a world-renowned research university may not  mesh with the university’s high reputation. Students may rank their experiences at a lesser-known university as being far more supportive and encouraging than the university’s research reputation might suggest.

In the case of a professional graduate degree, it is important to verify that the university program is accredited by professional bodies. If this applies to your field of study, look into the accreditation status of the institution and/or program you are planning to attend.

Whether you are interested in a professional or a research-oriented degree, you should research the nature of the university you are considering. Because it is ultimately a question of your fit and prospective experience at a university, it is crucial to be as informed as possible.