Dr. Mary Landon Darden is President of HEI, LLC. She served in education administration for 20 years and last served as a university center dean in San Antonio, TX. Darden is the author of a book co-published with the American Council on Education and Rowman and Littlefield titled Beyond 2020: Envisioning the Future of Universities in America.
What program are you interested in and what college(s) offers that program?
Fit for your future career dreams – Think about the long-term goals.What is your dream job – select a master’s that prepares for that goal.Make sure it is something you love.
Support – The greatest barrier for most people returning to higher education is fear and takes many various forms.The greatest tool for overcoming fear is information and support — support from family, friends, and the college you plan to attend.Make sure that you have the support of the people in your life.If you have a friend who is also considering graduate school, talk about enrolling together and supporting each other through the process.
Affordability – be sure to chooses a graduate program that you can either afford, or that you will be able to make financial aid payments for once you graduate. A financial aid calculator can help estimate your payments after graduation.
Fit for you schedule and lifestyle – Obviously a Tuesday/Thursday 11 a.m. class will not work for most full time worker schedules.If it is not a fit for your schedule, you will be unlikely to finish.Online courses can help make learning more flexible.Weekend or evening options work better for folks working during the day.
Institutional accreditation – both academic and organizational accreditation is important.Check to be sure your college of choice is both regionally accredited academically and recognized by your state certification/licensing body.
High pass-rates for sitting for certification exams – Ask college what their pass rates are for the certification(s) you seek.
Students are treated as valued individual and not a number – This should be somewhat evident in the early communications with your prospective colleges.Are your calls returned promptly, are people glad to hear from you, are your questions answered thoroughly, are all the bases covered?
Assisting graduating student with career advancement – is the college willing and able to help you with the hurdles to employment with:
Letters of recommendation?
Advice and networking?
Problem solving and referrals?
Is your college well thought of – ask current students and other professionals. If other people have had a good experience at a college and/or working with graduates of that college, chances are better that you will too.