Researching programs and their faculty members is extremely important in the application process. A student who knows about their chosen area of study will be more successful in applying to appropriate programs, and will present an application that demonstrates their knowledge and congruency of goals.
UW faculty members and graduate students are wonderful resources for information about graduate programs. They have all been through the application process and know the reputation of different programs. They may even know the faculty at other institutions. Faculty members can sometimes help students with evaluating their application and help them to find appropriate programs.
The internet also provides a wonderful opportunity to gain information about major fields and specific programs. There are two general ways to conduct an internet search. One is to look at large national or international associations, such as the Association of American Geographers. These associations usually have advice for prospective graduate students and lists of programs.
The other way to conduct a search is to investigate the authors of the articles you find interesting and appropriate to your area of study and discover where they are teaching or researching. It is best to contact the graduate programs directly to ask them about their philosophy and requirements.