When starting to look at a Masters programme, you may already have an idea of which one is right for you and will suit your study needs and career goals. However, you may also end up with a shortlist of 5 to 10 courses and wonder how to choose between them?
We’ve put together a few helpful pieces of advice to get you started!
Having a list of criteria helps you focus on what you want from a course. Firstly, check whether all the courses on your shortlist meet all or most of your criteria. You may identify one or two at this stage that only meet some of your requirements. Removing those that don’t meet your criteria is a good place to start.
Then, check back in with your criteria. If all those factors are important to you, take some time to ask yourself if some are more important than others? Try and rank your criteria by importance. Which matters more to you about your Masters course; the course fees or the location of the University? Is having a place to park the thing you really need to help you complete the course, or is it more important to make sure that one particular module is available when you study that course?
Ask for a friendly ear from someone you know. Sometimes telling somebody else and voicing your thoughts aloud can help you clarify them, and if the person you talk to knows you well, they may think of considerations that have not occurred to you. Run your criteria past a family member or friend and see how this changes this list, or perhaps reorders it.
Once you have ranked your criteria, and decided the best order for your personal priorities, then you can revisit your shortlist of courses. Take your top three criteria and compare each of the courses on your shortlist against those criteria. This should help you to prioritise which of the courses will work for you.
Now you have a list of your top criteria, and hopefully a short list of Masters courses that meet the criteria on paper, this is a good time for a reality check. If you can, it’s always a good idea to visit the University in person. A Postgraduate Open Day is a great way to get the further information you need, and have someone answer all of your questions which will help with your decision making.
If there is no specific open day coming up, planning your visit and being in touch with the department or faculty in advance is a good idea, particularly if you want to meet a particular academic or administrator whilst you are there. Course tutors and other academics will usually be happy to meet you if they have enough notice to organise the meeting.
If you can’t visit, contact the University to find out more – are there any postgraduate events coming up in your area where you can meet staff from the University? Can they put you in touch with students currently doing the course? Are there any live webchats where you can talk to staff or students? Does the course, or the faculty, or the postgraduate office, have a presence on social media? Are there any videos you can look at? Can they put you in touch with any alumni in your area who completed the course you are thinking of?
Most Universities will be able to do at least one of the above.
The next stage is to compare not only the courses, but your experience of the Universities. It may help you to give each of the courses and each of the Universities a score out of ten. You may find a course that you really like, but have a better overall impression of one of the other Universities you are looking at. If you are going to be spending a considerable amount of time and money you need to be sure it is somewhere you feel happy to study.