Choosing a Grad School Program
Often times, we find students asking themselves – should I go for an MBA or for a Master in Management, or another related field? There are several considerations when making this decision. We will expose some of them to help you make the decision that will provide the most advantage in your particular case.
Whether you undergo a mainstream graduate school program or one catering a more specific field of study, continuing your higher education is always the right decision. In college, we spend a couple of years completing core courses not directly related to our field of study. Grad school provides the opportunity to gain a deeper perspective of an area we want to become experts in. With the way grad school programs are structured nowadays, they also allow students to gain real life experience in their field of work. This happens often times through consulting engagements schools offer through corporate alliances. Whether you are completing an MBA or a Master’s in Public Policy, both programs could offer chances to practice consulting while being monitored by faculty. This is the Mecca of education – to learn while doing and being supervised by experts who will in turn provide feedback on how you did. With these learning methodologies, grad school has dramatically changed for the better in the last two decades. You cannot go wrong when pursuing a grad school program from an accredited university.
So how do we determine what program meets our needs best? We analyze the following and conclude on each one of these aspects, as they directly pertain us:
1- Fit with competencies: Knowing what our strengths and weaknesses are is essential to understanding if we can maximize success with the program. If we lack mathematics skills and the program is mathematics-intensive from the get-go, what are really our chances to succeed in that program? (Definition of success = ability to accomplish goals and be happy, at the same time). We want to enter a program where our interests, strengths and opportunity to grow all meet allowing us to combine the three to ensure that we will have the greatest potential to thrive. Study the curriculum each program offers, analyze the difference of curriculum between programs, and assess your strengths and weaknesses as they relate to the studied curricula. Take this under consideration when making your decision, however, do be careful about underestimating yourself – pushing yourself some is always a way to achieve tougher goals, and greater accomplishments. Don’t be too hard on yourself when assessing weaknesses, grad school will help you overcome many, but you need to be ready to really give your very best. If you do so, you will have pushed yourself to become the best you could be.
2- Impact on career: The worst mistake that grad school students can make is to not take under consideration what impact a grad school program can have in their careers. If you study something you love, but have no use for, you will have spent money and time in an inefficient way. Is it wrong? No, but could there have been a better way to spend your valuable money and time? Without a doubt – Yes. Evaluating and understanding in depth what career opportunities, what opened doors, and career paths can come out of your grad school work is essential not only to selecting the programs but also to keeping high levels of motivation while completing your studies. Programs have different focuses – research, practical work, concentration on a specific field of study within the masters. Find out what is your targeted program focus and see if it matches the career you are seeking. Many grad school programs have statistics on professions available in their marketing literature. Research this to make sure that the careers alumni follow have some similarities with your own career aspirations. Learn about the percentage of graduates that are able to secure jobs upon completing their programs. These aspects will help you visualize the true and tangible value of the education program you are considering to pursue.
3- Brand recognition: Sometimes attending schools and programs that are highly recognized can pose advantages to students. A Wow-factor™ is created with the resume, as recruiters see the brand-name program listed as part of the educational trajectory of a professional. This is a perk of choosing a program that is widely recognized and popular. Having that name recognition, no matter if it is the school’s or the degree’s, certainly can impact in a positive or negative way throughout the life of a professional. Take this under consideration when seeking grad school programs.
4- Alumni network: When thinking of careers and your professional future, attending a program with a strong alumni base can open many doors. Research about the school, its alumni association and how well organized it is. Many grad school programs offer private job boards that will help graduates connect and seek special career opportunities not available to the masses.
5- The extras: Graduate programs that are fully developed or have long traditions often times have larger budgets and offer great perks for students. Some perks include alliances with major corporations to do consulting engagements throughout the world. Other perks include offering / promoting vacation trip packages at discounted rates, where students mingle with prominent alumni. Special learning engagements, lectures by world leaders and event special scholarship programs are extras universities offer that can take the study experience to another level. Consider these when assessing grad school programs.
The decision of grad school is a good one, no matter what. With a bit of research, insight and a lot of dedication throughout the application process, your grad school can become a life changing experience. Making the best of this decision process is a realistic goal worth fighting for.