Entering graduate school is often the fastest and most secure way to advance professionally. Promotions are easier and you also get to develop leadership experience and traits. Investing in a Master's degree is worth your time and money. The road to getting one is a journey that will bleed you dry in less than three years, but that's only if you come to graduate school unprepared. In this guide, find out what's in store for you so you'll know how to survive this next chapter in your education.
1. Your choice of university matters
Many people enroll in a Master's program just to earn a promotion and add credentials to their resume. If you're serious about learning the ropes of becoming a leader or an academic professional, then pursuing a Master's degree would make so much sense. At this point, you will have to choose a university with the best graduate programs.
It's not because of name recall that Harvard and Columbia stand out as the top options for incoming graduate students. The mere fact that they provide quality postgraduate education is a significant factor. If you value the training you will be getting from graduate school, consider asking former and current students and get recommendations from faculty members in your college. Compare different programs together and choose which one you think will add value to your work.
2. Be prepared for an entrance exam
Doing well in college isn't enough to give you a slot in graduate school. Your GPA won't be the only factor that determines whether you're a good fit for a Master's degree. In the United States and Canada, you may be required to take a Graduate Record Exam or a Graduate Management Assessment Test to qualify.
Both of these assessments are meant to test your level of critical and creative thinking, so don't expect objective questions. You will be assessed based on how well you respond to situational essay questions related to your field.
In the GRE, these questions make up the first two sections. The best preparation you can do is to read literature in your field. You should also train yourself to write fast without diluting the quality of your arguments. Having a strong foundation in essay writing would work in your favor at this point.
3. You're not limited geographically
Getting a Master's degree locally can take you far, but you will have a universe of opportunities if you obtain it overseas. Notwithstanding the immense cost and effort you need to pull off to survive in another country, entering graduate school in another institution can help you stand out. You also get to expose yourself to a new culture and build a network spanning different nationalities.
In case the thought of traveling outside your country seems far fetched, you need not worry. You can still get the same quality of graduate education from an overseas university through a recognized virtual program. If you're looking for an online MBA, there are institutions across the world that offer programs meant for busy professionals.
However, when choosing an online program, you will need to review what it has to offer in terms of learning methods and assessments. It’s also important that you come prepared with a high-speed broadband connection for virtual classroom sessions. However, the most important of all is your drive to finish the program. Even if you’re learning in your living room, you still have to exert effort in making sure you achieve your post-graduate goals.
4. Your networks define your success
No matter what program you take up and where you're getting a Master's degree from, you should always be ready to network. You won't be able to survive long or complete your degree fast if you lack a support system. Aim to develop professional relationships that will contribute to your growth. The people you connect with could end up being your best allies in the career or enterprise you're building.
5. It's all about your research skills
At this stage, you're expected to come up with creative and effective solutions to problems in your field. Brushing up on your ability to find and synthesize new information is invaluable.
If you are required to submit a dissertation or get your research work published in a scientific journal, it helps to be organized and a self-starter. You will have to make the most of your time reading, conducting surveys, and analyzing raw data. Train yourself in this aspect by reading journals and attending seminars and research symposiums. Doing so will help you in writing your paper and defending it before a panel.