There are few things I am more proud of than the 130 page document I call my thesis. It represents 3 years of my life. But the $64 million question is, if I had the choice, would I do it all the same way?
The easy answer is yes… sort of. At least, I would have likely ended at the same destination. Although, with a little more care I would have got there faster and with fewer grey hairs.
Here are my top 5 things to consider before you commit to your Masters.
1. Research Topics
You will be studying the same project for a good 2-3 years of your life. So test out your topics for a week. If you don’t still love it after a week, ditch it and move on.
I love learning about biology and the environment and continue to do so to this day. Thankfully, my thesis project involved both topics.
2. Find Professors
Build a list of professors in the topic areas you are considering. Since this person will be your mentor, boss, and mental support, getting a good match is vital. If you don’t think your personalities will mesh, cross them off your list.
I recommend a lot of research here. Meet with them in person or at least in a phone interview. And talk to some of their former students away from the professor’s ears.
It is also important to find professors that have enough funding to support your studies if you aren’t looking to break your bank.
3. Find your School
I know this sounds backwards, but my experience says, finding the right professor is more important than the school.
Look into the city where the school is located, investigate living options, and local demographics/culture/cuisine. You’re looking for a low stress environment.
4. Choose a Club or Two
If you will be choosing a school away from home, clubs can connect you to people who will keep you sane when say, your lab partner drains your bioreactor because it takes up too much space, causing you to lose a month’s worth of data.
A masters is not easy. Put some priority on your personal life, because you’ll need the downtime.
Take advantage of the people you will meet and the opportunities you find. Present your posters, take interesting courses, lecture, become a teaching assistant, and never pass up a good science paper. You are spending a lot of time and money on this education. Don’t focus it ONLY on your research topic. You never know, your research topic may change on you.
Last but not least, much like in undergrad, not everything you will learn will be in a class room or lab. Get outside the program to get the full experience.