The question of how to get a Masters degree safely is on the mind of many prospective students, if not all, as they weigh their options ahead of the upcoming academic year.

With so many uncertainties resulting from an unprecedented pandemic, making a plan, even for the foreseeable future, is a difficult task. Aware that there is no such thing as zero risk, let’s try to think about ways to get quality education while keeping yourself and those around you safe and healthy.

Research is essential

Good research is vital to school selection, especially now that safety is an extra factor to consider. When you are exploring different universities, it is a good idea to check the Covid-19 section on their websites and specifically the part where they provide the latest information about plans for the new academic year. In addition, most schools are currently offering numerous informative webinars where they describe the measures they are taking. These are valuable resources if you want to ensure that the university you want to attend is doing all it can to guarantee the best possible academic and student experience this autumn and beyond.

Bear in mind, however, that plans may change. There will always be an element of uncertainty as long as the pandemic rages. Universities that now intend to open for in-person instruction may have to change their plans depending on the situation.

Read: What Campus Life Will Be Like After Lockdown

Start early

If you are serious about enrolling in the Masters programme that suits you best and offers the highest degree of safety, you need to start early. Preparing a strong application package takes about six months at least. In addition, many universities have two admission intakes every year – one in autumn and one in spring. You need to research these details and decide early which of the intake options you favour. Bear in mind that applying in the first round demonstrates that you are serious about the school and signals ambition to the admission team. “First round applications, in the statistical sense, also tend to offer the highest chance of acceptance as schools will often take the largest fraction of applicants from this pool […],” according to the Economist.

Scholarships are another good reason for early planning and application. If you aim for financial assistance, it matters which round you apply in. A first round application can improve your chances of securing a scholarship because schools appreciate your commitment.

Online options are an option

With the coronavirus raising question marks over in-person instruction, more and more students are giving online education a thought. Online options allow students to stay safe at home while still earning a degree, but before jumping at the opportunity it is wise to consider some factors such as your attitude to online learning. If you have experience of online instruction and found it rewarding – great. Some find it hard to focus during online lectures, while others complain of low retention rates. 

Another important aspect is the institution delivering the online programme. It is best to look for schools that have a proven track record in offering quality online education. Details such as how long the school has offered online courses and the satisfaction levels among students and alumni are significant. Also, you may want to contact alumni to learn what online education looks like at a particular school. You can ask about the level of student-teacher interaction, the quality of the online discussions, and if the school succeeds in keeping students engaged virtually.  

Mind the sanitary guidelines

Measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 on campus will be effective only if everyone respects them. “To keep students, faculty and staff safe on campus, colleges and universities will need to create and support a culture of respect for physical distancing — and students will need to be part of the effort,” David Wippman, president of Hamilton College (US), and Glenn Altschuler, professor at Cornell University (US), wrote in an article for the New York Times.

So if you choose a university where instruction takes place on campus, make sure you are part of the effort to keep everyone healthy. On campus, you can expect physical distancing rules in residence halls, dining facilities, classrooms and other gathering places. In addition, you will be required to wear a mask in public and wash your hands on a regular basis, along with other measures.

As you can see, obtaining a Masters degree safely is possible, yet you need to review your options carefully. Weigh all the pros and cons and decide on your best way forward.