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Find the Right Program

With so many options for graduate study, it’s a challenge to find the program that best matches your personal interests and professional goals. We at HGSE are committed to supporting you in your graduate school exploration and decision-making process. For a closer look, peruse our online viewbooks for master’s and doctoral candidates.

As you explore our 13 master’s programs and two doctoral programs, we encourage you to consider the following questions. These are the kinds of questions our admissions representatives ask when talking to prospective students. In our experience, answering these questions will help you better understand your own interests and goals and how they might align with the degree programs we offer.

Why are you interested in graduate school?

This is an important place to start. A graduate degree in education means different things to different people. Are you primarily interested in an education degree to satisfy teaching licensure or professional development requirements? Do you want to acquire a specific set of skills or particular knowledge to do your current job more effectively or make a transition to a new role? Are you most excited about conducting research on a specific topic in education? To frame this in a slightly different way, what will you need to accomplish during your time in graduate school to feel like the pursuit was a worthwhile investment? Your answers to these questions are critical for identifying which programs might fit. 

What experiences will you bring to a graduate program?

Students play a huge role in making the HGSE experience so extraordinary. Each of our students brings a unique set of experiences and perspectives to bear on the most pressing issues facing education. What have you learned — through school, work, family, volunteering, or travel — that will enhance your peers’ understanding? Use those areas of personal experience as a starting point, and ask yourself if you want to dig deeper into those same topics or take on something entirely new.

What are your career goals?

A graduate degree in education — especially from a respected university like Harvard — can significantly expand your career options. But earning a graduate degree, even from Harvard, will not automatically lead to your dream job. Whether you are just beginning your professional career, looking to advance in your current career, changing careers altogether, or something in between, it is important to have a sense of what you hope to do after you complete your graduate program. This will help you make the most of your time while in your chosen program. Start with the end goal in mind and work backward: identify careers and education roles that excite you and build on your experience, talents, and values, and see what they require. What do you have already, and what are you missing? If you need ideas, read HGSE student and alumni stories for inspiration, or read the “Alumni” section in each of the 13 master’s programs.

Does HGSE have what you need?

The graduate school application process is about more than just “getting in.” It’s about finding the school and degree that will best serve you personally and professionally. HGSE offers 13 master’s degree programs and two doctoral programs, each exploring its own realm of the expansive education universe. A great starting point is to read each of the program descriptions and identify the programs that immediately jump out as most interesting and useful. Another approach is to browse the course catalog by subject and find the individual courses that best match your passions, knowledge gaps, and/or career goals. Look up the faculty members teaching those courses and learn more about their research interests and career paths. Can you see yourself at HGSE? Are you excited about joining this community? Are you up for a challenge? If so, explore our events and opportunities to learn more.

If you’re interested in more than one program, how do you choose?

This is a tough one, but we have some recommendations. A good place to start is by looking at the curriculum requirements for each program. These courses are an excellent indication of the broader intellectual focus of the program. If a program has required courses, are they of interest to you? If any are on your “must-have” list, take that into consideration. Alternatively, if they are getting in the way of other course offerings, consider that as well. Compare your ideal course choices with the curriculum requirements of the programs you are exploring, and see if this helps make your decision more clear. This is also a good time to reconsider the original question: why are you pursuing graduate school in the first place? Perhaps the program that most sparks your interest isn’t the one you actually need. Passion is only part of the equation; practicality should play a role when you’re investing significant time and money in a degree.

Connect with us.

We are committed to helping you make the best decision regarding your graduate study pursuits, whether or not you ultimately choose HGSE. Take the next step in your journey by introducing yourself and learning more about everything HGSE has to offer. 


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