Choosing Universities for Masters

posted at May 30, 2019, 12:13 p.m.

Picking out university has always been strenuous but selecting "The One" is crucial. There are so many facets that one has to look for. So, no need to break your back, we got you covered.

Here are key factors for selecting American universities. While this question is CS-specific, a lot of these points will hold true for a variety of programs.

1.) Curriculum: The core courses, the electives and the research opportunities that you have at the university and their relevance to your long term goals are incredibly important. If you want to enter the corporate sector, then the skills that the course work imparts is critical. If you want to enter a particular subdomain of work within your master’s course and if the university you are at doesn’t allow you to gain the required depth in skill-set or knowledge, you will be in a bad spot. Hence ensure you browse the university website in detail and ensure you figure out if you like what you’re going to study. If you want to research or a PhD, learning about the research currently being undertaken by various professors within the department and how this aligns with your interest becomes very important. Going to the university and realising the education you are receiving is not what you expected will be a very expensive mistake. Hence do your groundwork in this regard.

2.) Reputation/Ranking: As much as I hate the word “ranking” in the context of US universities, I use it to make this point easier to understand. The quality of the university and the particular department is a huge factor for recruiters. Hence, needless to say, selecting universities with a great reputation is important. The reason I mention the department specifically is that it would be fallacious to assume every universities pedigree is constant across departments. For instance, the engineering management course at Dartmouth would easily be a top 3 program but it is simply not the case for a CS degree for which a school like UCLA would easily trump Dartmouth even though Dartmouth is an Ivy League School. Hence adequate research on the reputation of specific departments is necessary as well.

3.) Location: This is a crucial factor as well. While most of the jobs you apply to in the US will have online applications, proximity to hiring hotbeds will help you tremendously. I have known Purdue CS grads take a lot longer to secure a job when compared to candidates at San Jose State University. This is purely down to the presence of San Jose in the Silicon Valley versus Purdue’s location in Indiana. Another example would be the ease with which master’s graduates find jobs in the research triangle of North Carolina. Hence location is critical. Stick to the east coast, the west coast, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina among certain others.

4.) Return on Investment: An American graduate school education is expensive. However, it can vary greatly. Columbia or a private Ivy League may cost you over a 100k dollars. Texas A&M may cost you half as much without being too much of a compromise. Put the numbers down on paper and calculate the fee. Check out the average starting salaries for fresh graduates that these universities put out on their website and figure out how long it will take for you to break even. This will take time. But it will ensure you take a decision which will benefit you greatly in the long term. A lot of students make the mistake of being enamoured with the name of the university without understanding the financial risk. Choosing a more expensive university may make sense as well. But its best to ensure your numbers reflect the same.

These are the main areas you need to focus on. Gradvine is always around to help you while shortlisting universities. You can speak to graduates and current students at top programs in the USA to figure out what works for you. Just head to our website and schedule your free call with us, and you will have masters graduate ready on call to help you figure out that path forward.

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