* Master’s or PhD? To know which one is better for you, just look at the differences: masters’ programmes are more practical, more professional and are for those who wish to work at a high professional level. On the other hand, doctoral programmes are about research and are for those interested in teaching in universities and in carrying out research. There’s more funding available for PhD programmes.
* Look at the universities: Is it tough to get into a particular university? What are their entry criteria -- standardised tests (some require Subject Graduate R Examination scores)? How selective is the university? Is it particularly strong in your intended field and specialisation? Are professors moving in and out of the programme? Does it offer funding, and research and practical opportunities?
* Shortlist programmes: Decide on your field and specialisation. Define your goals and objectives. Compare yours with that of the institution: do they vary or is there a match? Zero in on faculty members researching your area of interest. Tap into the alumni network to find out personalities of the professors, which could be a critical factor in your success at the institution.
* Reach out to the professor/ supervisor: Before starting graduate study, it’s important to know who you are going to study/research with at the target institution.
You essentially shortlist professors/ supervisors and fields. Put the horse before the cart. Before picking an institute, choose the professor and reach out to him/her. Except in certain cases, it is better that the faculty knows you before they receive your application.
* What do they ask for? Next check what kind of candidates does the department recruit for their programme? Admissions committees look for applicants with writing skills, research experience, proficiency in English including spoken, and clarity of purpose. They like potential students to have knowledge of the study programme, faculty and their research, as well as the intended field of study. Not researching the chosen department and faculty thoroughly is one of the key pitfalls you must avoid.
* Relying on rankings? University rankings “can be misleading”.