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The Biggest Mistake Prospective Graduate Students Make By Dr. Don Martin
Dr. Donald C. Martin -- Graduate Study Expert Dr. Donald C. Martin -- Graduate Study Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Chicago, IL
Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Of all of the issues about which I speak regarding graduate school, I consider this issue the most important. By far, the biggest mistake prospective graduate students make is not doing adequate research before they apply.
As a Dean of Admissions and a Dean of Students, I often held open office hours, when students could come in a meet with me to discuss just about anything. On several occasions I would hear complaints about their experience in my graduate program. Some were very upset, feeling that they had been misled about what to expect when they became a part of our community.
When asking how they came to decide to join us, some of the answers I heard were of great concern, among them:
• “My parents went here.”
• “You’re ranked in the top five.”
• “You’re the Ivy League.”
I wanted to say, “And? You came to visit? You contacted current students and recent graduates? You did some research about the institution on the web? You thoroughly reviewed information on the curriculum and faculty? You spent time thinking about what you really wanted out of your grad school experience?
A graduate education is not something most individuals pursue more than once. Nor is it something to take lightly. It involves a major investment personally, intellectually, socially, emotionally and financially. Be sure to allow yourself time to do your due diligence, and get all of the information you want and need.
In my 40 years of working with prospective graduate students, it seems that in many instances, decisions are made very quickly about where they will apply, and the criteria are either word of mouth or rankings. Sometimes a student chooses a graduate program based solely on the name of the institution, or it’s location, or because someone they know and respect attended there. The student does not conduct any additional research whatsoever. It is little wonder that individuals who choose their graduate program this way are often unhappily surprised, and severely disappointed.
This is your life, your money, your education, and most importantly, your future we are talking about. Just because someone you know a great experience at an institution is not guarantee that you will. Just because it’s a top-ranked program does not mean it’s the best program for you. While useful, the downside of rankings is that they leave out hundreds of outstanding graduate schools, with long lists of satisfied, successful and loyal alumni. And there is absolutely no reliable statistical correlation between where someone attended graduate school and their ultimate success in life.
It is wise to take about a year to do your graduate school research. If you are considering starting a program of study in the fall, you will want to start your search two years ahead of time. Why two years? Typically, graduate schools start accepting applications just under a year before the intended start date. In order for you to have time to thoroughly evaluate all of the information you receive and read, you will need at least a year before applying to gather and review that information.
Attending a more prestigious institution may initially open some doors, but that is all. Your ultimate success will depend on what you bring to the table in terms of expertise, communication skills, motivation, resilience, and determination. Don’t just pick a graduate program because of what someone else thinks. Pick those programs to which you will apply because they resonate with what you are looking for. In the end, you will be a happier student and alumnus, and most likely, more fulfilled in our chosen profession.
Be sure to check out Dr. Don’s book, “Road Map for Graduate Study, A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students,” right here on the GSRM website. For a reduced price CLICK HERE, scroll down and click on the Order Now box, and use discount code GSRM.
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Name: Dr. Donald C. Martin
Group: Grad School Road Map
Dateline: Chicago, IL United States
Direct Phone: 773-549-7639
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