Article contributed by chief-editor of MyGraduateSchool.com - Sarah Brown Tesolin
As you make your way through the graduate-school application process, you will come across many suggestions and tips and tricks from various "experts" who claim to be able to help you succeed. This is especially true if you are using the Internet as your main source of information. Yes, the Internet is a valuable resource and there are many skilled professionals offering great advice on applying to graduate or professional school or career information in general, but they should not be your only source of information.
The number of "educational" web sites dedicated to college and university students exclusively is staggering.
We should know... MyGraduateSchool.com is one of them!
The problem arises when students start to take everything that they read as being "the one and only truth" and try to follow all the advice to a tee. There is bound to be some conflicts and a lot of ambiguity in all of that advice. You have to remember that authors on many of these educational web sites are not really "experts" on applying to graduate school. Some of the time, they are career-columnists or free-lance writers who are being paid to write the articles. This does not mean that their advice is not valid or useful. However, its important to keep in mind that they are doing the same thing as you are; they are researching a topic, and many are using the Internet as their only source, and coming up with their own conclusion and opinions. You, the reader, is left to guess how useful or complete their advice is to you, and how to apply it to your own situation.
A good way to confirm the credibility of an author is to take a close look at his or her credentials, when available. Many times, there will be a link or a short description of the author of the article. Take the time to follow the links and I would even suggest looking at other articles they have written. Ask yourself, is this person an expert in applying to grad school or in giving career advice? Do they have any experience in career counselling or academic advising? Do they cite other reputable sources, or are they writing solely about their own experiences?
If there are no links or very little information about the author via the article or via Google or other search engines, then you may want to take their advice with a grain or salt, and move on the other more credible and transparent web sites.
If you are having a difficult time discriminating between legitimate and not-so legit resources, you might want to check out this link to the Online Library Learning Center, which provides lots of tips and advice on how to detect questionable sources from reputable ones.
Another issue with using many educational-resource web sites for your grad school preparation is that there is often an underlying financial objective of the web site. In other words, they are trying to sell you something! Again, we should know, MyGraduateSchool.com is selling something, too! (In case you hadn’t noticed, we like to promote Dr. Dave G. Mumby’s book on preparing for and applying to graduate school – Graduate School: Winning Strategies for Getting In).
There is nothing wrong with educational web sites offering services or products that you have to pay for. In many cases, the services/products that are being offered are useful to the consumer. Moreover, it can take a lot of time and more than a bit of money to administer a website, and as much as one might like to offer free advice at all times, there are hosting fees, e-commerce fees, downloading fees, web-designer fees, staff and so on. One effective and inoffensive way to recover those costs is to charge a small user fee for some extra service or product.
A problem arises, however, when it becomes unclear whether the main objective of the educational web site is to provide useful and credible information to their readers, and subsequently to make money for the services they provide. Or rather, is it to make money using clever SEO strategies to attract as many readers as possible using no original information or insight.
Advertisement on educational web sites
Another way to pay for web sites is to include ads on the site. These can be in the form of image ads or text-link ads. In most cases, web site owners will register for affiliate programs and receive a small percentage every time you click on one of these ads. It's completely acceptable to have a few ads on web sites - MyGraduateSchool.com does this, as well.
A problem can sometimes arise again when there are more ads than there is useful information. For most savvy consumers, this puts the credibility of the web site in question. Is the purpose of the site to provide good advice and offer useful links to other reputable web sites? Or was the web site created to collect advertisement fees with little useful content to the reader?
One of the best ways to determine the aim of these educational web sites is to take a look at the number of ads that are on the web site. Is every page awash with distracting and flashy ads? Is the article you are reading infiltrated with many image ads or text-link ads? Ask yourself whether the ads you notice are even related to the content of the website you are at.
Having said all this, the point is, don't limit your research about applying to grad school to one or two web sites and don't take any of the advice you find to be infinitely truthful. Rather, check your resources carefully, and keep in mind that most web sites and web site owners may have their own objectives that go far beyond helping you. And finally, take the time to visit career services, libraries and bookstores for alternative sources of advice on applying to grad school.
Find lots more expert advice on getting into grad school in the newly released book: Graduate School: Winning Strategies For Getting In, 2nd edition, by Dave G. Mumby, Ph.D. It is the most comprehensive advisement handbook for College and University students who are considering graduate school. Whether you are still deciding if grad school is right for you, or are looking for ways to maximize your application, this book is for you. Paperback version available at Amazon & Barnes & Noble. eBook available on Kindle and for Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps. Get Your Copy Now!