How do I choose my graduate program?

Choosing where to study is a deeply personal choice, but here are four factors you can consider before choosing your graduate program.

  1. Field of study – Before choosing a graduate program, it’s important to first consider how what you want to study links to a future career. Maybe an MBA is good for you, but perhaps an MPA is better. In general, graduate degrees can be great opportunities to pivot into an entirely new career (with a caveat, of course, you can’t do a Masters in German Studies if you’ve never studied any German). It’s not a great idea to just do a masters program for the sake of getting a masters degree. Why spend one to two years of your life not exactly loving what you are doing? And it’s especially worse to do a PhD just for the sake of getting a PhD. So take the time to find out what kinds of graduate degrees people in the career you want to pursue have. That said, I always advise that if you think you will regret not studying something by the end of your life, then by all means, study it! We don’t always have to go into a program for utilitarian purposes. Studying for the sake of study is a pleasurable thing too.

  2. Funding – You should always consider the cost of your graduate degree. Don’t enroll in a program where you will have to pay for your studies from loans you are unsure how you might repay. Ask yourself: Does the graduate program I am choosing offer any funding? Does the country I want to study in have scholarships for international students to study in its universities? Sometimes, you will end up choosing one program over another because of the attractive funding package it offers. If it’s possible to get funding or a scholarship for your graduate studies, by all means, look for it. Note that it might be a bit more difficult for programs like the MBA, where schools often expect that you will get a lucrative job offer and pay for the loans you’ve accrued.

  3. Location – What is the weather like? How does the social life look like? Will I be able to live with a family in this country? Will the graduate degree I earn here be recognized in my home country? Location might or might not be an important factor for you, especially since if you are applying to a university abroad, the location will most certainly be different. But if you have the choice between mild winters or cold and long days, then you might want to use location as a factor. If you are going to have to learn an entirely new language to pursue the degree, then consider if you want to do the extra work for that.

  4. Your gut feeling! – Even as you consider the objective factors above, don’t ignore your gut feeling. When faced with admission choices from different graduate programs, go with the program that feels right for you. Of course, the factors above will often influence that feeling, but ultimately, let yourself be part of a program that at least from the beginning, feels like it was cut out for you.

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