Grad School Advice: How to Choose a Masters
Are you getting ready to apply to grad school, but not sure where to start? Get some grad school advice to help you choose a Masters program.
Match the Masters to your career aspirations
There are thousands of Masters programs out there and, especially if you’re open to the idea of studying anywhere in the world, the choice can seem overwhelming. Rather than wasting hours browsing different grad school prospectuses, it may be useful to first identify what you want to get out of your Masters in the longer term. In other words, what are your career aspirations, and what kind of specialist knowledge, skills and experience will help you achieve these?
Wendy Hédiard, head of marketing for graduate programs and career services at EMLYON Business School, emphasizes the importance of targeting your Masters search very closely to match your own professional goals. Studying at Masters level is, after all, a chance to develop your expertise within a particular field. And with so many to choose from, there should be a program which fits every individual.
For grad school applicants who don’t yet have specific career aspirations, this in itself can help to narrow down the list of options. In this case, Hédiard advises, applicants should look for programs with some inbuilt flexibility, opportunities to study a range of different topics, and ideally the chance to sample different professional roles through internships.
Consider the wider study location
The study location you choose for your Masters may be more important than you think – and not just in terms of making sure you enjoy the experience.
First, there’s the general benefit gained from studying outside your home country. International experience is increasingly valued by graduate employers across a wide range of sectors, so by choosing to study abroad for your Masters, you’ll instantly add strength to your résumé.
In addition, you may want to look for Masters programs which have a particularly international intake of students, creating a kind of ‘global village’ in which you’ll have the chance to get to know individuals from many different countries and cultures. Or you may choose a Masters program which allows you to study in two or more different locations.
“In the large majority of professions and sectors, demonstrating intercultural skills and the capacity to deal with an increasingly global world is very important,” Hédiard says. “Make sure the Masters of your choice provides you with the opportunity to do this, either through an international cohort, or various locations.”
Beyond the general benefits of studying abroad, some specific locations may be good matches for particular career sectors. For example, EMLYON offers some Masters programs taught in locations selected based on their leadership in the relevant industries. So Masters students specializing in the luxury industry are able to study in London; those specializing in the sports and outdoor industries have the chance to study in the Alps; while those keen to learn about the Asian business environment will be based at the school’s Shanghai campus.
Seek grad school advice face-to-face
So far, much of this research could have been done independently, probably online. “Obviously, there is a lot of information available on the internet, whether websites dedicated to studying in general or studying in a particular field, sites that address multiple schools, or grad schools’ own websites,” says Hédiard.
She adds that social media and online forums can also be useful, as ways to get grad school advice from current students and alumni. In addition, education fairs such as the QS World Grad School Tour provide opportunities to meet with university representatives and advisors directly, and get individually tailored advice.
In fact, whether you attend a fair, visit the university in person, or contact the school by phone, Hédiard says it’s essential to get some personalized grad school advice before making your decision. “Always contact representatives from the school of the Masters of your choice, and share your questions and concerns with the relevant person at any stage of your search.”
Don’t be afraid to do this, or feel as if you’re wasting someone else’s time. After all, as Hédiard points out, grad schools themselves are also looking for the ‘right match’ – students who fit well with their programs. And while the internet has undoubtedly made it much easier to discover information without speaking to someone directly, it still can’t beat personal interaction.
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This article was originally published in August 2013 . It was last updated in February 2022