Following on from our ThinkPostgrad article looking at some of the factors you may find it helpful to consider when you first start looking at the masters courses that are available, and making a shortlist. You may of course know very quickly which course is right for you, but you may also end up with a shortlist of 5 to 10 courses and wonder how to choose between them and how to compare them. Here are a few ideas you may find helpful.

Refining Your Criteria

Having a list of criteria helps you focus on what you want from a course. Firstly, check whether all the courses on your shortlist meet all or most of your criteria. You may identify one or two at this stage that only meet some, and that you had kept on the list anyway – if you want to narrow down your choices, removing those that don’t meet your criteria is a good place to start. Then, have another look at your list of criteria. If all those factors are important to you, are some more important than others? Try and rank your criteria by importance. Which matters more to you about your masters course, the course fees, or the location of the University? Is having a place to park the thing you really need to help you do the course, or is it more important to make sure that one particular module is available when you want to study the course? Try this idea: ask somebody you know to ask you to explain your criteria and your order of priorities. Sometimes telling somebody else and voicing your thoughts aloud can help you clarify them, and if the person you talk to knows you well, they may think of considerations that have not occurred to you. Once you have ranked your criteria, and decided the best order for your personal priorities, you can revisit your shortlist of courses. Take your top three criteria and compare each of the courses on your shortlist against those criteria. This should help you to prioritise which of the courses will work for you.

A Reality Check

Now you have a list of your top criteria, and hopefully a short list of masters courses that meet the criteria on paper, this is a good time for a reality check. If you can, it’s always a good idea to visit the University in person. A postgraduate open day is always a good way to do this, and many Universities run these in the autumn and the spring. If there is no specific open day coming up, planning your visit and being in touch with the department or faculty in advance is a good idea, particularly if you want to meet a particular academic or administrator whilst you are there. Course tutors and other academics will usually be happy to meet you if they have enough notice to organise the meeting. If you can’t visit, contact the University to find out more – are there any postgraduate events coming up in your area where you can meet staff from the University? Can they put you in touch with students currently doing the course? Are there any live webchats where you can talk to staff or students? Does the course, or the faculty, or the postgraduate office, have a presence on social media? Are there any videos you can look at? Can they put you in touch with any alumni in your area who did the course you are thinking of? Most Universities will be able to do at least one of the above.

Comparing courses, comparing Universities

The next stage is to compare not only the courses, but your experience of the Universities. It may help you to give each of the courses a score out of ten, AND each of the Universities. You may find a course that you really like, but have a better overall impression of one of the other Universities you are looking at.

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