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Selecting a Graduate Business Program

One of the most difficult decisions you will have to make when pursuing higher education will be choosing the right school for you and your goals, figuring out how to finance your tuition, and deciding how many classes you can juggle while working and even possibly raising a family. It is not easy and there are many things you should consider in order to set yourself up for success.

Things to Consider

1. Select Your Program Based on Your Interests and Career Objectives

What is your end goal? Is it to become a chief financial officer, an entrepreneur, or a business executive? Choosing a program that will qualify you for your dream job is very important. This may be an MBA or it may be a master of science in finance. If financial goals are more important to you, be sure to do your homework on graduate salaries, both short-term and long-term projections. Graduates of degree programs that are in high demand (such as graduates of finance programs) will earn higher salaries than others.

2. Determine Where You Want to Study

Once you know what business discipline you want to study, you will need to determine a feasible location that offers the program you wish to pursue. At the graduate-level, you may not be able to relocate and move like a recent high school graduate that heads off to college. You may be restricted to attending schools that are located near your family or schools that are based in your preferred places to live. If you are restricted to a specific location, consider online programs as well. Although, it is very important to be sure any online program you choose is AACSB accredited.

3. Determine Your Housing and Transportation Needs

Finding an affordable place to live while on a full-time student budget can be a stressful event. Even as a part-time student, you will have unexpected costs associated with your degree program that could restrict your income. As a graduate student, you most likely will not want to live on-campus with a high population of undergraduate students. Therefore, an inexpensive apartment, room for rent in a quiet house, or roommate set-up are your best options.

4. Assess Your Financial Resources

Most students who attend a graduate program will need supplemental, if not full financial support. If you are able to do so, save as much money as you can prior to entering your program. Remember, in addition to your tuition you will have books to purchase, possibly a lowered or part-time income, and a need for some entertainment.

Be sure to explore the school's financial aid and admissions offices. There often are programs that help with housing and transportation (i.e., campus-sponsored housing with bus services, etc.). Additionally, graduate students often are able to use student loan funds to supplement their living expenses. But be careful to track how much you barrow each semester—you will have to repay your loans at some point.

5. Decide Whether to Work Full-Time or Part-Time

Depending on the rigor of your program and your financial resources, deciding whether to work full-time or part-time is a critical decision. As a student you always want to try to set yourself up for success and not failure. Attempting to work 40 hours per week while attending school full-time can create quite a whirlwind for you. However, it can be done with hard work. Working full-time with part-time classes is more manageable but can also be exhausting if you are a dedicated student. If you are planning on attending school full-time, a position on-campus, such as a graduate assistantship is ideal. Although the compensation is usually minimal, sometimes these positions include a tuition waiver and can be very flexible around your class schedule. Due to their popularity, assistantships can be hard to come by, so start searching early.

6. Prepare Yourself for the Admissions Process

There are several steps you should take to prepare yourself for success in the admissions process. The following page will outline and explain typical admissions requirements for graduate-level business programs.