In April 2018, I had to make a choice that would alter my entire career. With 9 university admits in 6 countries, it was a tough choice to decide which one to go for. However, the best part was that I had quite a few choices which many students or professionals wishing to make a transition to academia usually don’t have. I have been approached by my readers time and again about their dilemma in choosing a foreign university during the application phase. Here is a bit of advice to help you with your choice of international Masters. This is just one perspective and you are free to differ.
“Is The University Worth The Expense?”
Well, this has been a debate for the last two decades which has actually taken a serious tone after Peter Thiel announced the Thiel Fellowship in 2010 for students under 23 to drop out of college and start their own venture. But according to a report, nearly two-thirds of these Thiel scholars have returned back to school to finish their graduate study. So, university education has still not lost its value.
However, it’s on you to decide if you are willing to spend half the amount on almost the same quality of education by attending a public university rather than a private university without a scholarship. For example, attending Carnegie Mellon University would have cost me $47,500 on tuition fees alone. While in Germany, the university doesn’t charge any tuition fees.
2. Does Reputation Matter?
While getting into Oxbridge or Stanford is not a mean feat, being financially stable enough to attend these universities is a matter of concern. Akash Rai, one of my seniors at IIT BHU Varanasi gave up his Stanford admit to pursuing a fully-funded Ph.D. at University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne.
It’s not always about the reputation. In the US, there is a status of elitism affiliated to the university you attend in your undergraduate. However, when it comes to grad school, those elite schools often lag behind. For example, the prospects of research in Biomedical Engineering seems to be vibrant at UC Berkeley than at Brown University, although the later is a part of the Ivy League.
When it comes to World University Rankings, typically 3 rankings are quite well-known: QS, Times Higher Education Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities (also called Shanghai Ranking). I would not shy away to say that Times Higher Education rankings are biased towards the UK universities and the Academic Ranking towards the Chinese universities. Although the QS rankings are neatly balanced, one should have a glance at the rankings published by national bodies of the country you are applying before applying to a university.
4. Job Opportunities
While Purdue University in the US is a great choice for pursuing a Ph.D., the job search is often a hectic process due to its location far away from strategic industrial zones. Similarly, RWTH Aachen is considered to be the best in the field of Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering in Germany. But graduates often have to travel to Munich, Frankfurt or Berlin for job interviews.
So, are you willing to push yourself during your search for jobs? Are you agoraphobic (the fear of traveling)?
I have seen Indian students ditching a better-ranked university and choosing a slightly lower-ranked university in New York or Texas where the job hunting is easy. However, New York may be difficult to fit into your pockets.
5. Post-Study Work Visa
One of the major reasons I didn’t join KU Leuven was Belgium doesn’t offer a post-study work visa after graduating from one of its university. While top-ranked universities like Ghent University and KU Leuven are super affordable for international students, the lack of a post-study work visa often compels international students to go for a Ph.D.
France, Ireland and Germany are the 3 European countries which have a favorable immigration policy for skilled workers. All the 3 countries offer a job search visa for students graduating from one of their universities. France now offers two years of post-study work option for Indian students while it is typically one year for students outside the European Union or EEA.
6. Cost Of Living
7. Language Barriers
8. Mobility During Your Masters
9. Flexibility In Curriculum
A flexible curriculum allows you to specialize in your area of interest. Some universities have some unnecessary course modules which may not of interest to you. Grad school is about freedom in pursuing your interests and exploring the depth of the subject.
You may also want to take courses which may not be relevant to your course of study but the elective is in sync with your broad career objective. For example, if you are keen to pursue an entrepreneurial career at some point in your life, you may want to opt for courses like Project Management. A ‘Project Management’ course is usually offered by the Faculty of Management or Faculty of Economics in most universities. So, just ensure about the flexibility in the curriculum while choosing your university of study.
The German universities are known for their tough exams and hect