10 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing Your Master's Degree Abroad

by Daniela Dandes

For a few lucky ones, finding the right Master’s programme abroad is a piece of cake. If you already know the study path that you want to follow, then it is only natural that you will easily feel confident about your choice for a graduate programme. 

But for most of us, looking for THE study programme can be just as daunting as applying for it (a process which already poses its own challenges).

Especially when there are so many Master’s options to choose from, you might be tempted to throw in the towel and just go with the flow. But when you leave things to chance, you risk ending up unhappy or unsatisfied with your decision. 

It’s better to get informed and be sure that your time, energy and financial investment go in the right Master’s.

We want to help you avoid the most common going-with-the-flow mistakes that students make when they are choosing their Master’s degree abroad. Read on and learn more about what you should definitely not do when choosing your study programme:

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1. Choosing a university only because your friends will go there

Sure, it sounds fun to rent an apartment with your besties and think that you will have the greatest time ever. But realistically, that is not how things will pan out. After enrolment, everyone gets their own schedule, based on their academic programme.

If you are spending a couple of years in a place only because of your friends, you are missing out on one of the most important investments that you will ever make: in yourself, in your education and in your future employment options. 

Leave the friend reunions for Friday night drinks and city breaks. This decision deserves a bit more attention and involvement.

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2. Choosing a university only because your parents want to see you there

This is the toughest, most common mistake that people make. 

In most cases, students end up enroling for a programme just because their parents intervened in their choice, financially and emotionally. In the end, you are the one who will need to live with the choice, so you might as well go for a degree that you want to obtain (that will boost your motivation to push through, especially during harder times like exam periods). 

Have a discussion with your parents about what you want to do. Explain and argue your position, because, in the end, you will need to live out this decision.

3. Going for a programme just because of the hype

Do you, all of a sudden, think that you need to get a Master’s in crypto and machine learning? Even though you’ve wanted to become a journalist up until now? Stop reading so many TechCrunch articles and do some thorough soul-searching instead. 

News headlines will make you doubt every career decision that you have taken so far (in 2018, engineers are in demand, then it will be all about biohackers, and later you should become a life coach). But remember that they are just that: news headlines. 

Trends come and go. But your decision should be based on your skills and goals, not on what someone puts out as the next big thing.

4. Choosing your Master’s only based on university rankings

Rankings serve as an indicator, and should not be the only defining factor in your decision-making process. For example, even though Harvard has some of the most revered study programmes out there, maybe other universities have better, more suitable degrees for your goals. 

Make a more informed choice about your next study destination by understanding yourself better, asking questions about the campus, the professors, the research opportunities, the extracurriculars etc. Don’t keep it shallow.

5. Not going for something because it’s “too far”

The world is yours to explore. Realistically, you never know where your next greatest decision regarding your Master’s will come from. That is why keeping an open and exploratory mind can lead you to start the adventure of a lifetime. 

What if your perfect Master’s choice is in Iceland? Or in Spain? Or in Malaysia? Take advantage of the opportunities that you have and make the best out of them. To realise your dreams, you should cut out “too crazy” from your vocabulary.

6. Not going for your dream study because “it’s too crazy”

Picture this: today, you are waking up in beautiful Nairobi, Kenya, and have a delicious portion of sukuma wiki just before your classes start (it is delish!). Tomorrow, you are flying to Tanzania, where you will join special conferences and workshops. After that, pack your bags because you are headed towards Pakistan, where you will finish your research project and Master thesis. 

Does this sound like a crazy adventure? Oh yes. 

Is it worth it, from both a personal and professional perspective? Absolutely. 

But how many students would be brave enough to go through with this type of study schedule? You can find many such international programmes and opportunities, but it’s up to you to grab them. Travel and explore, this is the time of your life!.

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7. Not choosing a programme because the admission’s process might be too hard

Some of you out there might suffer from what we call the “terrible admission’s funk”, a very commonly found state of mind that robs future students of their dream university plans. This funk may manifest itself through a general fear of applying for a programme because “it’s not worth it” or “I don’t stand a chance”. 

If you truly believe that this international degree will be useful for you, personally and professionally, you shouldn’t give up that easily. 

As the old saying goes, you will never know until you try.

8. Not keeping an open mind about your future experience

As much as we want to, we cannot predict the future. 

In your case, applying to a university with a fixed mindset can be very counterproductive. A fixed mindset refers to believing that things will happen in a certain way. This way, you don’t let yourself be surprised and may miss out on a lot unplanned pleasant surprises.

Your study experience will be what you make of it, and for that you need to stay open for the unexpected.

9. Not keeping an eye on the prize

The number one question that you should be asking yourself when making your study programme choice, is: what is my goal with this degree? 

Not spending enough time to answer this question can lead to a deeper feeling of confusion regarding your academic direction. Even if, at this stage, you don’t have a clearly defined path in life, take some time for self-reflection. 

The result will pay off, not only in your final degree choice.

10. Not using all the apps and tools available to help you make a choice

The best part about living in the digital age is that you have many apps and websites at your disposal to help you make the right choice about your degree

We would be cheating ourselves if we didn’t mention our own apps, put together to solve your choice dilemma. For example, if you haven’t started using Best Fit yet, you should give it a try. The app estimates your fit with a particular programme based on your financial possibilities and academic experience. 

So far, it has helped over 1 million students from all over the world in their decision-making process.

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To get to the right conclusion regarding what Master’s you should apply to, take some time to make up your mind. Understand yourself and your goals, have the guts to be brave in your choice and craft an experience that you will never regret.

Check out the Studyportals Scholarship to get some help on financing your studies abroad.

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