Here it goes (not in order of importance):
1. It's all about location: If you're pursuing a PhD chances are you're going to be at your school for about 4-5 years. You need to like the location of your school. I'll be honest with you...most of the time grad school is going to suck. You'll be overworked underpaid and then you still have to write a dissertation. You'll need to let loose
2. If you think you're working hard...work harder: Grades don't matter much in graduate school especially if you're doing a PhD. But certain grades send very bad signals...B in grad school is like a C- in undergrad. Yea you "get it" but just barely. God forbid you get a C+ or worse, that's basically an F in most programs. But really work hard for your pride. Cuz there will be those losers who will go extra hard to the point that when you find out their married you feel sorry for their spouse, cuz there's NOOOO way there's any conjugals going on with them studying 24/7. But really when i speak of hard work I'm talking about after your classes are done and you're writing your dissertation. You don't want to be stuck somewhere forever especially if you didn't listen to #1 from above. Let's not take 8-9 years to get a PhD, that's not sexy, well unless you're out living the fast life, in which case I'd simultaneously hate and envy you.
3. Manage your finances: I can't stress this point enough. Your aid package will cover your expenses but most of the time it's not enough money to "live". You know go do fun stuff, visit friends, shop, etc. With such a stretched income, if you fall behind on your bills it's damn near impossible to catch up. Especially if you don't have a safety net to fall back on. This is one reason why I'm against taking time off before grad school, unless you have a very good paying job and/or parentals to support you. Take your ass directly to graduate school, do not pass Go, boardwalk or any of that other crap...GRAD SCHOOL!
4. Choose the right school!: Lots of us care about rankings. We want to go to top 20 schools, some people will only go to top 10 or top 5 schools. Rankings are cool but what good will they do you if you hate the school. Top schools have lots of resources but the great thing about graduate school is that you'll meet lots of people from other schools with resources. The big thing is to go to a school that will support you. This is especially important if you're a minority. (I'm talking legit, police might pull a gun minority, not asians). Look at the school's track record. Talk to the students that look like you. If students that look like you aren't finishing the program, that might be a sign that it's not a place for you despite the rankings. And lemme tell you when you walk into a classroom and of the 75 kids in the class 5 are American, you're gonna need support. I'm sure by now unless you're in an Africana program you won't expect to see too many black and brown faces unless you're at an HBCU. There's another valuable argument to consider when choosing a school: Would you rather go to a highly ranked school and fight over resources with some of the best and brightest overachievers or go to a lesser school be the best student and have all the resources and department support behind you. I guess the answer to that question depends on your personality. But if I could do it all again, I'd choose the latter.
5. Be wary of relationships: We all want companionship on some level, but graduate school puts you in a very odd situation. A lot of the time most of the fellow grad students you meet won't be PhD students (or cute), so you're working with different time horizons. It's tough for a lot of folks to understand the open-ended nature of a PhD end date, it could be 5 years, it could be 6 or more. When they asks "oh when do you finish?" most people will grow tired of "I don't know...hopefully in..." eventually. Then there's the time issue. Most professional students are really busy, they're in grad school for a short period of time and have a lot of stuff to accomplish. PhD students on the other hand, after year 1 and in most cases after year 2, it's pretty easy breezy. Sure you're busy but it's nothing THAT pressing to where you can't spare a few hours for a date and/or a romp. So if you have two completely different types of schedules dating could be hard. I have a friend who's a former grad student and he told me that he had a smash buddy back in grad school. They both knew the deal, they'd call each other up, get it on, and go home. Sometimes we just need stress relief. But those situations can get messy really quickly so i wouldn't recommend them for everyone. And the last thing to factor in with dating in grad school is the fact that you're getting old! If you don't start your program until you're 25, you might be finished at 30, for some that's the perfect age to settle down, for others it's the eve of "why am i not married already" panic mode. That's to say that some folks will be in grad school looking for a spouse, others are just passing the time. This shit is getting way too complicated for me *Barack Obama Voice*
This list is based on MY experience in grad school. It might help you and it might not. But it certainly couldn't hurt to consider these 5 things when deciding on a graduate school. Hope you enjoyed. If you liked it pass the word! Share the link!