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A taught Masters is an investment in your future and you want to be sure you’re investing in the right course at the right university.
Some institutions are well known for certain subjects and departments, but it’s important to question their glowing reputation and find out what it would really be like to study there. Some may have interested you with their unique approach to the subject or lower fees, but to really get a sense of the course and those who will teach you it’s important to ask the right things before applying or accepting place.
Open evenings (or days) are not only to get a feel for the place and the city but also to speak to current students, see the facilities (is the library well stocked?) and to find out about the details of the course.
Remember the university is trying to sell the course to you; they will speak of attentive staff, ‘world class’ facilities and an excellent employment rate. As you will be all too aware after the realities of undergraduate study, expectations are not always matched. Make sure you speak to current students to get a balanced perspective, but be aware they are acting as ambassadors. (Reaching former students on Twitter and asking any questions about the course may also be helpful if you want a more objective view.) For example, were there any issues with the administration side of the course? Were all the promised features of the course delivered?
Some things to ask:
1. What have former students gone on to do? Where are they working?
2. What are the contact times/usual hours?
3. How much material will you have to buy?
4. How is the course structured?
5. Do they have links to the local community or relevant industry? Will they help you find a placement if you need one?
When you get home
If you have a firm idea of the kind of job you would like to do after your course, then contact someone in that field, perhaps at a company or organisation you aspire to work for. Ask them, or their HR manager, if the course at this particular institution would stand you in good stead. But remember, they may have taken a more traditional route into the role so contacting those in junior positions may be more helpful in some cases. Twitter or LinkedIn are good resources for reaching people in certain roles and with the latter you have the added bonus of being able to see their education history.
If you forgot something then don’t worry! Call or send an email with your queries or even pay another visit if you are keen, universities are usually happy to accommodate people outside of traditional open events.
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