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Making the choice of field and institution for study.

Updated: May 17, 2023

Identifying the course of study - the initial step. In 2016, when I made the decision to pursue a Master's degree in the United States, my first concern was deciding on what field I wanted to specialize in. Although I had a general notion of the subject areas that interested me, the sheer number of highly specialized courses made it challenging to pick the right one. Below are the steps I followed, which may not be the best approach but worked well for me.

Step 1: The search begins.

To begin with, I focused on identifying themes. I searched for course offerings from several of the top-ranked universities in the US, such as Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, University of Michigan, and MIT, and downloaded their course lists. I then printed them out and crossed out courses/areas that did not appeal to me using a large, bold marker. This left me with a few areas I was interested in exploring, such as Business Strategy, Data Science, Marketing Research, Marketing, and Digital Marketing.

Step 2: Creating a theme list.

Once I had narrowed down my list of potential fields of study, I started to delve deeper. I read up on the courses in the marked areas and studied course descriptions from the universities I had shortlisted. This provided me with a high-level overview of the course. I also spoke to individuals from each of the shortlisted areas to gain more insight into what the work might entail. I then researched the types of jobs one could expect after completing each course, focusing on larger organizations such as Fortune 50/100. The result of this step was a shorter list of areas of focus (up to 2-3 areas).

Step 3: A deep-dive.

Once I had identified the fields of study I wanted to pursue, it was time to conduct a more detailed analysis, focusing on a maximum of 2-3 areas of focus. I created a spreadsheet and began researching the colleges and courses. The following details were recorded:

  1. Deep-dive into the specifics of each course, including college/course name, intakes, duration, links to the course, and deadlines.

  2. Additional information, including STEM/NON-STEM designation, TOEFL and GRE requirements, specializations, deadlines for package in college and online applications, GRE/TOEFL code, and average prerequisites.

  3. Speak to alumni and international students.

After narrowing down my list of courses, I reached out to alumni and current students, particularly international students, to learn more about the course, job prospects, internship opportunities, and other pertinent information.

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