Questions To Ask Any Graduate Program

  1. Can you tell me more about the focus of your program? What do you find unique about your department?
  2. What is the largest and most typical class size for a graduate class? Are classes restricted to grad students or are undergraduates common in your grad classes?
  3. What would be the advantages and disadvantages of going to grad school immediately after completing the undergraduate program? The advantages and disadvantages of waiting a few years? The best use of the interim time?
  4. What are the criteria and process for selecting teaching assistants, research assistants, and fellows?
  5. I will probably need financial assistance. Can you tell me how most students fund their studies here?
  6. Will I get to develop my own topics, or will I be expected to work on a professor’s ongoing research?
  7. What is the mean time to complete (a) class work, (b) research, and (c) dissertation? (I.e., what is the mean time to complete the Ph.D.? Ask about the program as a whole, but perhaps more importantly, by professor.)
  8. What is your attrition rate? Of those who don’t finish, what are their reasons?
  9. What kind of student thrives in your program?
  10. How reliable is your financial support year to year? Is the first-year offer always sustained given attainment of academic goals?
  11. What is the age, race, gender balance, ratio of married/single, and geographical origin of graduate students in the program? (In other words: Are there any other people like me?)
  12. May I have some bibliographies of recent publications by faculty? Which professors have won awards and grants lately (and presumably need grad assistants)?Can you tell me about your placement rates and types of jobs obtained by recent graduates? (Avoid relying on testimonials and anecdotal evidence.)
  13. May I meet some currently enrolled students (in person or via phone or email)? (Be sure to ask about their research topics and be sure to take notes on specific profs mentioned.)
  14. How can I be a strong candidate for a program like this one?
  15. What does the mentor/supervisor relationship look like in this program with faculty/students?

Adapted from Graduate Admissions Essays by Donald Asher (Ten Speed Press, 2000), 1-800-841-BOOK or Donald Asher, Asher Associates, San Francisco, 415-543-7130,