One year ago, I decided it was time to get a master’s degree. In the midst of planning my April wedding, working 40+ hours a week, helping with 4-H activities in my community, and the start of the busy holiday season, I thought I would add something else to my list. So I began my search. Here are my steps to figuring out what program to choose.
- Decide the focus area(s) you want to pursue a master’s degree. Whether you want to continue the path that you are on currently or want to consider switching paths into a new field. Sometimes a dual degree is an option.
- Determine how you want to go about obtaining your degree. Will you attend school full-time? Will you be working full-time and want an evening, weekend, or online program? This will begin to narrow your search.
- Begin searching for schools. As a full-time student, you have virtually unlimited options (except cost) and could participate in a program across the globe. A working professional has fewer options; evening or weekend programs have to consider travel time and work requirements but online opportunities are growing and may be a viable option. Consider schools that are ranked nationally for their programs; potentially employers will view the strength of the program when looking to separate a stack of potential employees. As a working professional, also speak with your employer to see if they provide any incentives for selecting one school over another or offer flex time when pursuing your degree.
- When you have decided on a few potential schools, take time to research the schools and programs. Take a tour of the college/university (if it’s not an online program) and visit with faculty and staff. Participate in information sessions about your program FYI – the next Fisher Working Professional MBA session is Tuesday, November 8th.) Look up course schedules, email professors for a sample syllabus of a course, and read about or talk to students about the programs. Also learn about the school. What is the school known for? What are the traditions and history of the school? Contact alumni and hear their stories and experiences while attending the school.
- Determine the requirements and deadlines for acceptance in the programs and begin the steps to apply. Many requirements include: filling out an application which usually includes writing essays, obtaining letters of recommendation, requesting transcripts from your undergraduate programs, and taking the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). Taking the GMAT requires some time to invest in brushing up on math and verbal skills to prepare for the four hours of GMAT fun.
- Play the waiting game. Once you apply, take a breather, have some fun, and wait on your decision letters/emails/phone calls.
- The Decision. Ok, so you probably are not going to go LeBron with your decision but once you have received your decision letters from the schools, determine your next steps. Did you get in to the top school that you wanted to? Are you and your family ready to begin the next phase of your education?
- Enroll. Begin your new program with a positive outlook, meet new people, and make the most out of the opportunities that await you.
Good luck in your search!