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The Information Needs of Prospective Graduate Students

Hartnett, Rodney T.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS GRE Board Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Symmetry Principle, Information Sources, Prospective Students, Graduate Programs


In order to learn more about the information needs of prospective graduate students, various sources of prospective student information were studied, and a small sample of graduate students, faculty, administrators, and professional association officers were interviewed. The study must therefore be regarded as exploratory rather than definitive. Most students reported no serious information need and, in fact, indicated that formal information sources (e.g., general directories, guides to graduate study in the specific disciplines, graduate school catalogs) played a very minor role in their choice of a graduate program. The process by which prospective graduate students choose departments is reviewed, and it is concluded that geography, undergraduate faculty members, peers, and other serendipitous factors are important influencers of the eventual choice of a specific graduate program. Finally, it would appear that students' retrospective reporting of a lack of an information need is, to some extent, a function of their unsophisticated status at the time of applying. Many students did not appear to know enough about certain details of the graduate school process to have a good idea of the kinds of questions they should have been asking or the information they should have been seeking. As a result, it would seem that even if more and better information could somehow be provided to prospective graduate students, such information would not be particularly useful unless it were imbedded in a larger guidance process.

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