The graduate school decision-making process is full of questions and contemplation. Choosing between big name or small state schools could be one of the key factors in a student’s decision.

Plattsburgh State’s spring graduation is in seven weeks. Those students that are moving from undergraduate to graduate know where they will be enrolled in the fall.

PSUC senior Abigail Agostino said the reason she chose Queens College was because of the small size of her program and the school as a whole, as well as its low tuition cost, especially because she will be living off campus.

“I chose Queens College because it was close to my house,” Agostino said. She has been accepted to the School Psychology master’s program at the institution.

Director of Graduate Admissions Betsy Kane said the top three influencers in deciding on the best fit for grad school are location, reputation and cost.

Agostino said she applied to a competitive program that only accepted 33 students, so she knew its reputation going into the application process.

“The fact that they even chose me to be a part of the program is so exciting,” Agostino said. “I’m excited to see where it takes me in my next chapter of life.”

Sally Urban, senior career counselor in the Career Development Center, said reputation can be important in deciding which grad school is the right choice for a student.

“If you want to become president of the United States, if you get a law degree from Harvard or Yale, that might increase your odds because a lot of our presidents have gone there,” Urban said.

Urban said she believes it is essential for students to get their grad school paid for.

According to ceo.com, a website for news, insight and other informational articles all about CEOs, 68 percent of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies have a master’s or other graduate-level degree.

The website also lists the top 15 schools that have the most graduated CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, including Columbia, University of Pennsylvania and Stanford. At the top of the list was Harvard, with 65 F500 CEO alumni.

Urban advises, when looking at lists such as these, to look at the guides of the list. Some lists are based on the number of research dollars going into the institution or publications coming out of it.

“Some people are so involved in research or publications, those professors may not have time for you as a student,” Urban said. “So, even though it is good for the institution, it may not be good for you, but then again it might.”

Location and reputation are important in a student’s decision for grad school, but without being able to support the tuition cost, the other things may not be relevant.

Undergraduate and graduate in-state college tuitions are regulated by state governments, which is one of the reasons all SUNY schools are more affordable for the average income than private universities. However, with a higher expense, students can have a reputable name on their degrees, if they so choose.

“Outside SUNY, tuition for grad or undergrad programs could double or triple at least,” Kane said.

Kane said most grad schools offer many opportunities for those students interested in getting financial assistance during their grad experience.

According to the CDC’s Graduate School packet, part of the Career Savvy Series, there are many areas of financial aid students can apply for while applying to their choice schools: grants, scholarships, fellowships, assistantships and loans. Some of this could pay for a student’s entire graduate school experience.

Current PSUC counseling and student affairs graduate student Chris Gebhardt is looking forward to his graduate assistantship for the next academic year.

“I’m very excited because I get free tuition and a stipend on top of it,” Gebhardt said. “It’s a lot of work on top of my classes, but it’s worth it.”

Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA, is also available for graduate students who can’t cover the cost, just like undergraduate.

No matter what graduate school a student chooses, Urban said she believes if students try hard enough at any school, they will do well wherever they go.

Email Lisa Scivolette at lisa.scivolette@cardinalpointsonline.com

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