Considering a long-distance move? 4 things to think about when making your graduate school decision

By: Claire Talbert – Health Policy and Management

Deciding on a graduate school is a really exciting, vaguely terrifying process. This can be especially true if you are comparing schools that may be hundreds or even thousands of miles away. When I was deciding which MPH program to commit to, I was comparing schools 500 – 3,000 miles from where I was living at the time. These are 4 things that I thought about that helped me decide that a big move for graduate school was right for me.

Is the program a good match?

I was always told that the number one factor to consider in graduate school decision making is the program itself. So much of the application process can seem one-directional, with prospective students trying to show schools that they are the perfect fit for the institution. Equally important, though, is that the institution and the program are a good fit for the student. This is really important to keep in mind when considering a graduate school that would require a big move.

Just because a program is located somewhere you’ve always wanted to live doesn’t necessarily mean that the program is a good fit for you. Sometimes the opposite is true. I am a proud Northwest native who never dreamed of living in the South. I applied to schools all over the country, and ultimately, Rollins was the best match for my academic and professional goals.

Will you be able to meet your personal and professional goals?

It is important to ask yourself if the location of the programs would help to further your future personal and professional goals. Ideally, there will be organizations and opportunities that interest you and that are aligned with your goals wherever you end up. In Atlanta, our proximity to the CDC, other universities, and a variety of health-focused non-profits provide plenty of personal and professional opportunities.

Finding a location that furthers your personal and professional goals is also important because graduate school is an opportunity to establish your network. As you set up your network, it may be important to establish those connections in an area that you would be willing to work after you graduate. In that sense, you may want to consider making a move for graduate school if it puts you closer to a region or a field that you want to work in later.

Can you actually see yourself living there?

While in graduate school, you will also have a life outside of the classroom. How you want to live outside of the classroom can help inform your decision. The question to ask yourself is whether or not you could actually imagine yourself living and being happy in a new place. This can be really challenging if you’ve never been to the places that you are considering as part of your graduate school decision.

When I moved to Atlanta, I had never been to the city, Georgia, or the South before. I relied heavily on other people, research, and pure luck to inform my decision. I looked at the things that were important to me like weather, transportation, activities, and proximity to hiking. Think about what is important to your life and see if you can find those things in the places you would consider for a move.

 What might you be leaving behind?

For many prospective students, the thought of moving means leaving behind a place, or people, or a way of life that you love. It’s important to think about whether or not you are willing to leave these things behind and to understand that moving 200 miles away is really different than moving 3,000 miles away.

I will say that after moving 3,000 miles from every place I’ve ever lived, my entire family, my job, and (most importantly) my dogs, I have learned that it is possible to love more than one place at the same time. I have an amazing support system at Rollins from the school, my peers, my professors, and my job that have allowed me to establish something meaningful in Atlanta. There are things that I love from the Northwest, like the Pacific Ocean, that I can’t find in Atlanta, and that’s okay because there are things, like seeing the sun more than three months of the year, that I love about being in Atlanta.