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3 questions you should ask to yourself before taking master degree

I recently went to an event about taking master degree in the US. Like all other participants, my expectation was to know how it felt studying there, how to make recommendation letter, how to make personal statement, etc. Some of the speakers passionately spoke about their experience and gave us tips about how to get scholarship in American universities. Their speeches inspired me to really get there to pursue my master degree.

Finally came a turn to a speaker who surprisingly talked about a topic that was quite different from other speakers’. Other than convincing us to study in the US or giving tips how to get there, she told us a very powerful suggestion. She said “There is no exact formula for success. Everyone can be successful with multiple ways, including not taking master degree. Having said so, build your self awareness first before determining the step you want to take."

For me, this suggestion is powerful because it really tells me what my priority should be. In the context of master degree, sometimes we start our steps by thinking about WHAT university we want to apply, then HOW to get there, not based on what our need is. The biggest risk of starting from the wrong part is there is huge possibility we follow the wrong path.

This way of thinking reminds me on my favorite TED Talk Speaker, Simon Sinek. He introduced us to a simple concept named the golden circle

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This concept tells us that we need to start our decision making process by asking WHY. In the context of choosing master degree, we are suggested to ask ourselves , ”WHY do we need to take master degree in major X in University Y?” not with “WHAT do I need to do to get master degree scholarship for major X in University Y?”

The next thing we need to do is to answer the very important question ,”WHY do we need to take master degree in major X in University Y?” I list some questions that might be useful to help us figuring out the answer of that question:

1. What is my career aspiration 5 years from now? Do I need to take master degree to achieve that?

*If you have not decided your career aspiration yet, maybe you want to take a look this article first

These two questions are very critical due to two reasons. Firstly, there is possibility in order to achieve your career aspiration, you don’t need to take a master degree. If that’s the reality, it means you can save your precious time not to do things that don’t add value to your future such as thinking about the universities, preparing recommendation letter & GMAT, and taking the master degree itself :)

Secondly, this question also “forces” us to start thinking, what type of career that we aspire to have and whether it is realistic. This reason is inspired by a friend of mine who told me that she was devastated about her career. She picked major X in University Y because she wanted to work as A.

She really enjoyed her college life abroad and had a lot of wonderful experience there. One day she found that it’s nearly impossible for her to be A due to some factors related to the job. Ironically these factors have been there for so long but she did not do enough research about A so these factors were overlooked. Situation like this can happen to any of us so better for us to do a thorough research about our dream job before making an important decision.

2. If master degree is something I need to take, what major should I choose?

The first time I see the list of majors of master degree, I am surprised with the level of specificity that universities abroad have. For example, if we want to have career in government office, we need to determine whether public policy, public administration, or political science is the most suitable major to support our career. The answer will vary between people because every people have different aspiration on what position they want to hold in government office which affects which major they should take.

3. Which university will have the most suitable major with my career aspiration?

This is a very tricky question because sometimes we have a huge tendency to pick university solely based on its reputation. The very common example is that a lot of people really want to get in top universities such as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, etc. in the US. That’s not wrong but if we take a step back and think that our aspiration is to be an entrepreneur who sells imported goods, maybe taking master degree in China or even Indonesia, might be more relevant.

Currently temptation to take master degree as soon as possible is so huge. We have so many scholarship opportunities that allow us to take master degree with minimum or even no fee at all. On top of that some of us think that it’s better to take master degree straight from college before we are too busy making money or building our companies.

There is no right or wrong on this but for me personally, master degree is like take one path and follow it until the end of the day. It’s true that we can always work in an area that is different from our major but it would be a perfect scenario if what we learn at master degree aligns with our future career. Temptation is huge but let’s be wise to make this important decision.

So, before doing taking your master degree, don’t forget to ask those questions to yourselves!

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