1. Search: Once you have defined your goal, look at various programmes offered by different graduate schools. If the field is specific and specialised, your choice will be easier. However, if the programme falls within a larger span of study, finding the right school with the ideal programme gets tougher.
2. Advice: Speak to your peers, friends, family and, more importantly, alumni and fellow students. Sometimes speaking to the right people will help you identify the right programme.
3. Accreditation: Two main types of accreditation are: one that applies to the institution/business or graduate school or university, and the other that applies to the programme itself. It should be noted that accreditations are not so much a measure of quality but a measure of process.
4. Careers Assistance: One of the main aims of pursuing a masters is to obtain a specialization in a specific field which will help you get a better job or climb the corporate ladder. An assessment of the level of career development and placement support should be undertaken.
5. Cost / Financial Aid: Keep in mind that apart from the basic tuition fees, there are other costs to be considered such as: books and supplies, accommodation, living expenses and other miscellaneous outgoings. Talk to the potential schools about assistance provided towards housing. Most schools also award grants, bursaries, scholarships and rebates for certain programmes; this should be assessed and should be one of the criteria.
6. Faculty: There is no best way to analyse and rate a school’s faculty at this stage; you can, however, look at the percentage of full time faculty that is specialised in the subject they are teaching. Sometimes, the numerous scholarly publications and professional work experiences helps in evaluating.
7. Location: Some students rate this as one of the most important factors when choosing the right masters, but it’s important to keep your final objective of following the programme in mind when making your selection. If you are looking to relocate to a certain industry or geographical sector, then the location of the programme plays an important role. Sometime, certain schools are so influential that the location follows with the school.
8. Student Community & Culture: It is a myth that the school’s location will to some extent determine the culture of the programme. Graduate schools have a large percentage of international mix, and the culture should be vibrant, stimulating and professional. It is also important to look at the international mix of students and different compositions of the student body.
9. Other Factors: Many other factors should be considered with a pinch of salt; these include: physical facilities offered by the institutions, the diversity of the staff and the entire construction of the programme, the academic focus, class size, etc.
Different sources of rankings offer different opinions, and these rankings should be taken as an additional factor when considering a programme. It is highly advised not to take the different and highly publicised rankings as the sole deciding factor. While rankings do play an important part in stamping your CV with a strong brand, they come at a cost, and it depends on whether candidates are capable of supporting these costs.