It has been nearly a year since I completed my Master’s degree in London, and thus, I have had ample opportunity to reflect not only about my education but the overall experience of studying halfway across the world. Although, I can say for certain now that the decision to move abroad and study my Master’s was the best thing I could have ever done in my own life – I can honestly say that two years ago, with acceptance letter in hand, the choice was not as apparent as it appears now. Put differently, looking back I would jump at this opportunity with no questions asked, however, two years ago while looking forward, I was unsure as to whether I was making the right life choice of pursuing higher education.
Moreover, I often encounter individuals who are in positions similar to the position I was in two years ago. In other words, they are also struggling with the decision of whether or not to pursue a Masters degree and more specifically, how to go about the process of deciding. Put clearly, I continually am asked one simple and recurring question, which is: “I want to complete my Master’s degree, and so do you have any recommendations for someone just starting out searching for schools and programs? I would need many more hands and fingers to count how many times I have been asked this question and I wanted to address it as a way to help those with that crucial life decision. More specifically, I truly believe that my experience was such a success because I made three key determinations early about how I wanted my experience to take shape – which I will share with you today.
With that said, understand that the decision is a truly subjective one and so while these recommendations are what I share with people who ask, take them within the context of your own life and circumstances.
- The first thing I often tell people is that you need to be 100% committed. While Undergraduate studies are difficult, the Masters degree programs – especially those at top tier schools, is a much more difficult process than your Undergraduate was. I don’t want to sugarcoat or ride the fence because it doesn’t do any good. The Masters level is hard and my Dissertation process pushed me to my limits educationally and emotionally. And so, not going in with 100% commitment could mean a very difficult program. Having maximum commitment will not only make your studies more enjoyable, but it will also be your lifeline that pushes and carries you through when there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
- The second recommendation I often give people who ask is to pursue your Masters degree in a different place than where you studied your Undergraduate. While there is nothing wrong with doing them both at the same place, I think there is something special about doing your Masters in a new place. You will not only be pushed educationally but emotionally as well. Emotionally in the sense that you will studying something very difficult in a different place. And if you study in the same place as your Undergrad, I fear that you already have a sense of comfortability built up. But, this may limit and inhibit the level of personal growth and development you may have. Studying in a new place, however, can tear that comfortability down and truly help you grow and stretch even further. Ultimately, it teaches you to be comfortable with the uncomfortable – which is a very important trait to have in life. It also helps you learn about things you never knew you were capable of – as it did with me. It is important to note that I usually gear this recommendation towards individuals who did their Undergraduate studies at home. Often, some have already done their Undergraduate degrees in new, exciting places far away from home, in which I hold off on this recommendation as it does them little help since they are already accustomed to living in new places.
- The last recommendation I often give people is to not just choose which school and program peaks your interest but what city will peak your interest, as well. Often, I find individuals put so much weight on what school to go to they often forget the city that surrounds it. From personal experience my choice to go to London was not only conditioned by the fact that I was studying at a world-class institution, but also because I love the City of London and what it has to offer. The City itself was also a very important determining factor in my decision to go there. In other words, it peaked my interest because many of the things London had to offer matched my own personal interests and hobbies. After all, you will have to live in the city by which you study and so why wouldn’t the choice of city be just as important as the school itself. Put simply find schools that not only offer world-class programs in your chosen field of study, but also keep in mind the city with which it is in and seriously ask yourself if you would enjoy living in that city. I mean, if you love the city and the program/school, it will make your experience that much more enjoyable.
In turn, these are the three key recommendations I often give to people when deciding on certain aspects of pursuing their Masters degree. Again, these recommendations are subjective to myself, and while they worked for me, it may also be the case that you need to alter them to fit within the context of your life.