Going to Grad School is a big decision, and when students plan to go abroad to pursue their graduate studies, it becomes an even more challenging task.
A typical student who has decided to go to the US to pursue his/her Master’s would first Google the following –
- Top Universities in the US
- Top 50 Universities for his/her major
- Top Universities which offer financial aid…
- And so on…
For the record, I have been there and done all of that. So, let me take this opportunity to impart my wisdom to you, avid reader.
There are three main things you need to ask yourself before selecting your University –
- Where do you see yourself 5 years down the line?
- What is your budget?
- Location, Location, Location.
It is important to know what you want to in the near future, as a master’s degree is more like a specialization of your skill set in a select field. In my case, my undergraduate studies were in Mechanical Engineering (-.-). By the time I graduated, I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to go, but I did know the different core areas that I was comfortable with (Designing and Manufacturing). Understanding your interests is important. So sit down and introspect. This will help you find the right major for your master’s degree.
To explain my second point, let me first show you this chart, –
I think it goes without saying that “Best” ranked universities have significantly higher tuition rates. Remember, these rankings are mostly survey based, or in other words, simply someone’s opinion. I am not saying that top ranking universities don’t have their advantages; sure they do (I could come to that later), but choosing the right university requires you to research deeper, check the department you want to join. Do they match with your interests? Check the research areas, go through their published papers. This will give you a better idea of the department. Once you feel comfortable with the department, approach the department’s academic advisor and ask about curriculum, course syllabus, student faculty ratio etc. so that you will be 100% sure about the University before you apply, 🙂
Now that you have finished scoping out your universities, let us superimpose that list to the chart.
(Notice, how the universities above the curve now seem more favorable, so find the balance between your budget, department and “rankings”.)
Location matters. That is one of the reasons why I chose UT Tyler. (2 hours from Dallas, 3 hours from Houston and again 3 hours from Austin, if I drive really, really fast) to strategically place myself between the Oil & Gas/ Manufacturing hubs (Houston, Louisiana and so on) and the IT Hubs. Deeper research also shows that local places around Tyler and Longview have a number of small scale industries (Yep, internship opportunities!!).
Anyways, remember that one point where I said that Rankings do have their advantages. Let me come to that, to conclude this blog entry. I do believe that a high ranked university would help you gain a more recognized degree and better career opportunities. But with student debt surpassing $1 trillion people will have to decide to make that trade-off. A study by Alan Kreuger of Princeton University and Stacy Berg Dale of the Allen Mellon Foundation found that students who went to highly selective colleges and students who got accepted to similarly highly ranked colleges but opted for less-selective schools earned around the same wage.
Ultimately, it’s the knowledge you gained from your Master’s degree that counts. Implementing those acquired skills at your workplace would take you up the corporate ladder and not the University rankings (even though it does play a role initially).
If you are interested in doing a PhD later on, then go for a thesis!! Work with the department, come up with an impressive paper and get recognized!! So the department, location and your budget should be the first things to consider about a University, rather than its rankings.
Happy hunting 🙂
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