Choosing your postgraduate programme

Getting started

(18 months before your studies commence)

Consider your reasons for doing postgraduate study and the type and level of study you want to undertake, e.g. masters, taught, research-based or combined, academic or professional or a PhD. Consider:

  • How will this qualification help you achieve your long term career goals?
  • How does it compare with going directly into employment?

Once you are clear about why you want to do postgraduate study think about why you want to study in the USA and what this will contribute to your development and career goals. This will help you identify the best places for you to apply to.

Choosing your postgraduate programme

(14 - 18 months before your studies commence)

There are over 1,700 higher education institutions (variably called universities, colleges or schools) offering graduate level education in the USA. Most are public but about 25% including Harvard and Princeton are private, although as an international student this distinction is not of great significance as you will be ineligible for public funding. The key factors to consider when deciding which institutions and study programmes to apply to are:

  • Is the subject you want to study offered?
  • Are the institution and programme of study accredited? (See Resources)
  • Does the duration and content of the programme match your needs and interests?
  • Do you meet the academic admissions requirements?
  • Will a graduate degree from this institution/department be well regarded by the international academic community and your target employers?
  • What are the tuition fees and the services fees?
  • What funding are you eligible to apply for? What are the terms?
  • What are the facilities like, e.g. library, IT, international students services?
  • What is the cost of living? Is there graduate student accommodation, is it on campus or will there be travel costs?
  • What is the location like as a place to live for one to eight years?

Aim for a list of up to fifteen institutions/programmes which you can assess more in-depth for their match with your interests, needs and goals and your match with their admissions criteria and academic specialisms.

It is unlikely you will be able to prepare quality applications for fifteen schools, between four and six is both more realistic and affordable (application fees range between $50 and $150). A careful assessment will help you produce your short list and provide a strong foundation for your applications.