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For a lot of people, the cost of graduate school is comparable to that of a new car. In one case, it’s an investment; in the other, it depreciates from the moment of purchase. Regardless of whether you’re buying a car or investing in your future earning potential, you want to do your research and make the decision that’s right for you. Here are five questions I recommend asking when searching for a graduate school.

What’s the mission of the university?

How does that mission fit with who you are and the kind of impact you want to make? If you’re looking to make a difference in the world, consider a school with a mission rooted in social justice. Or if you want to start your own business, look for a culture that encourages risk-taking. But that’s only half of the equation: Be sure to consider how effectively the graduate school delivers on the mission. You likely wouldn’t want to work for a company that goes against your personal values; it’s the same with a graduate school.

How does the school intersect with the business or professional community?

Graduate school is all about the profession. So any graduate program needs to be tied and connected to the respective community. You want to see clear integration between the school and the community. For example, the city of Austin has such a passion for entrepreneurship and social enterprise, so you’d want an Austin-based business program to reflect those priorities. Ask what partnerships or connections are in place to get students plugged into internships and, longer term, jobs.

What are the qualifications of the faculty?

In graduate school, you want faculty who have been out of the classroom and have done exactly what they’re educating students to do. They should be recognized in their field, either as academics or as practitioners. But it’s not only about their credentials. They should be tremendous mentors and provide opportunities for networking. Speaking of …

What kinds of networking opportunities exist?

Going back to graduate school can be a great way to get out of a networking rut because there are so many opportunities for connecting with professionals. You have the students — who in many cases are successful professionals in their own right — you have the faculty who are connected with the business or professional community, you have alumni, and you have events. All of these combine for an effective way to build a network that will lead to future opportunities.

How does the program fit into your current life?

It’s really important to think about programs that will help you learn the same way you work. If you’re planning to continue your career while you’re in school, you’ll want flexibility and convenience that allow you to continue to be in the classroom experience, while you’re traveling for work or just busy with your job and family. Many programs today follow a hybrid model, which tends to be a really good fit for working professionals. You come to campus maybe a couple of times a semester but often work with your colleagues and faculty through virtual platforms.

St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, has a graduate program that will help you reach your professional and personal goals, whether you’re looking to move up in your current job, open the door to a new career or pursue a lifelong passion. Our one daytime and six evening programs will give you the skills and tools to excel in your chosen career. 

Nancy Schreiber is dean of The Bill Munday School of Business at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. She has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology, is a member of the American Psychological Association and the Society for Human Resource Professionals, and is a licensed psychologist in the state of Texas.