Is it time to start looking for the right Masters degree? You might already have a few graduate schools on your mind, but what is the best way to explore more and choose the best ones? Moreover, how can you be sure that the school you pick will make you feel comfortable with its school culture?

Here is the secret: always use a combination of methods to make an informed decision. Mix and match different channels and means of information to learn more about various grad schools. In that way, you will have the right answer to the question of how to find where you belong sooner than expected.

Reach out to alumni

With so many great study options out there, browsing a couple of websites and brochures may not be enough. There is one method that can help you learn so much more about a particular school, yet it is often underestimated by prospective students – talking to alumni.

No one else can understand your journey better than Masters graduates. They have been in your exact situation before and their experiences in grad school are fresh enough to give you an idea of the study environment.

There are a few ways to go about contacting alumni from your dream school. One option is to check if the school website has already provided contact information of alumni – this is the case with the Master in Management page at ESCP Europe. If they haven’t, you could send a polite email to the programme representative asking them to connect you with a Masters graduate from your region.

Another good option is to search the school name on LinkedIn and see if any names pop up. Ideally, you would want to talk to someone who has graduated within the last two to three years or even someone who is a current student. Type out a respectful message introducing yourself and explaining your intentions. This is one of the most valuable sources of honest information you can find about graduate schools online.

Interactive personal contact is way better than video stories you can find on social media because you want to ask your own questions directly to alumni or current students. It’s important to understand their perspectives. Unimy alumni webinars are a great start.

Add some science and technology – generate your School Cultural Fit

Despite it being one of the best methods of hearing authentic opinions about a particular school, alumni testimonials can still be subjective. A more scientific way of discovering schools where you belong is to complete the school Cultural Fit Test offered by Unimy Masters.

School culture is all about how it feels to be at this school. It’s the overall environment – how you talk to professors, whether you prefer working in teams or individually, how flexible or strict the rules are.

Culture is a powerful factor that determines how comfortable you will feel at school. In an article for Inside Higher Ed, David V. Rosowsky and Kimberly Hallman write: “Culture is the glue that binds organisations together. And colleges and universities, like any other brand, need to communicate culture to effectively articulate who they are, what they offer and why it matters in a rapidly changing global environment.

That’s why Unimy Masters – a pioneering platform that aims to create the best matches between students and schools – developed its own Cultural Fit feature. The five-minute test uses well-researched methodology from the field of organisational behaviour to assess your cultural expectations and beliefs and suggest the top three graduate schools where you will feel at ease.

Based on your survey answers, the Cultural Fit tool performs an analysis using a scale with six cultural dimensions. It compares your results with the profiles of 10,000 leading universities to filter the top three that fit your expectations.

Go on a campus visit

If you are the type of person who lives by the proverb “seeing is believing”, you might benefit from a campus tour. Walking around campus, visiting a lecture, interacting with university staff – all of these activities would be difficult to imagine from a distance. Especially when you’re aiming to study abroad, going on a campus visit also means you will be able to immerse yourself in the environment of a new country and culture for a while. This can be incredibly helpful in your search for a university where you belong.

Campus visits may be organised differently depending on the school’s preference. Some institutions have an Open Day several times a year when prospective students are free to sit in on a lecture and can get advice from programme representatives. If you can’t find any information about an upcoming Open Day, try emailing the school to ask if they can arrange a campus visit just for you. Plenty of applicants opt for this arrangement – in fact, this is how some of the winners of the Access Masters campus visit lottery have organised their trips in the past.

Virtual tours are helpful, but there is nothing like setting foot on campus and soaking up the atmosphere there.

Wondering how to find where you belong is a normal part of the process as a prospective Masters student. As long as you make an effort to research your options and to learn more about the culture at different graduate schools, you will get where you want to go eventually.