Check out the following tips on choosing your course for the lowdown on getting where you want to be – faster.
What to study
Choosing the right course is not a function of interest alone, although that is the most important lever. Rather, it is a culmination of one’s interest, aptitude and the expected returns associated with that particular course choice. (See figure)
Determinants of right course
Why do you want to study?
The most important consideration when choosing your course to answer this question.
Before answering this question work on some of the points below-
- Are you looking for a career enhancement by extending your existing skills or aim to progress in existing work?
- Are you looking for a change in career path completely?
- Consider prospective careers and employment opportunities.
- Discussions with colleagues or peers about which courses would be relevant for your career.
Where do you want to study ?
‘Where’ is the answer to the combination of many factors which suits one(s) needs? Some of the factors are like
- Which is the best suited countries which specializes for one(s) subject?
- Learn about overall economic health of the country which will drive the future job opportunities.
- Learn about the cost of education and living of the country.
- Learn about weather, language and culture of the country.
- Learn about the college rankings and placements etc.
- Discussions with current students and professors of prospective courses helps.
By taking all these factors into account one will reach to a narrow choices of countries and colleges to target.
In choosing colleges one must not completely rely on top notch Ivy League schools neither completely eliminate them from the list. The list of colleges should be mix of top and middle ranking colleges.
When do you want to study?
‘When’ also plays a very important role as for few course like Fellowship or PhD one might have to take time frame of more than 6 months to one year to prepare for the admission. It is also suggested that it is ‘better to study’ when job market is bad so that one gets the better return on one’s time and is ready and skilled when the economy bounces up.
Take a reality check
Now that you have given answer to all the above questions, you would have a narrower list of colleges that you may want to apply to. It is time to match your expectations with the reality of you having a decent shot at those colleges. Some of the basic points to consider for the whole list of courses are
- Learn what are the prior education qualification qualifiers for the course
- Learn minimum GMAT, GRE, TOEFL etc scores needed for the course
- Learn about the chances of getting scholarships and overall cost of the course.
- Learn about the pros and cons of part-time vs full-time course duration.
- Learn about the deadline of the application for admission.
- Learn about the visa procedures.
Choose and Plan
After the reality check, one might able to make a final list of courses/colleges to apply. It is always better to plan in detail before applying.
It is a good idea to apply to at least 6 colleges. In our experience – the list should consist of 2 aspirational colleges, 3 colleges where you have a realistic chance of getting in and 1 backup college where you would surely get admission.
We know that applying to colleges is expensive. If you are willing to stretch, you can apply to 10 colleges with a split of 3 aspirational colleges, 5 realistic and 2 backups.
Focus on the detail
Every subject/course has so many different options, so it’s good to know the most specific which suits all the needs. For example a lot of Masters Students get the option to complete the degree with or without the ‘thesis.’ Both of these two scenarios have implications on work load (in college) and employment potential. So you need to be very careful.
Never too late
Yes, you can always change your mind.
This is an important decision and in case you are not sure about your choice, discuss with student counsellor on campus. You may talk to other people in your network. Reach out – people generally try to help.
Try and see what other options are there which are more aligned with your needs. Remember, the course needs to make sense for you – keep the excitement alive, and you will succeed.
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