Fall is the time of orange-colored leaves, burning scented candles and cycling through the rain more times than you’d like to. It’s the time to curl up with a steaming hot cup of tea and a good book, the time to study your ass off when school starts again and the time to think about your academic future. Fall is fishing season for universities and other schools, promoting their institutions like there’s no tomorrow and students traveling across the country hoping to find the perfect study program.
Right now I’m in my third and final year of my Liberal Arts & Sciences study program at University College Roosevelt. In a couple of months, I’m graduating from this school and I’ll be moving out of my student dorm. At this very moment I’m focusing on surviving my midterms, but in the back of my mind, I’m already thinking about my next step: my master program. A couple of months ago, I wrote a piece about my visit to the open day of Utrecht University, which you can read right here if you’re interested. Already back then, I decided upon my master program: New Media & Digital Culture. But even though I already made my decision, I’m still not anywhere near done. There’s still a lot to do and a lot to think about, which is why I’m starting this new series on Almost Famous Writer, titled Master Plan, in which I take you through my process to my next study program.
1. Make a list of your interests & qualities
I personally believe that your ideal study program is based upon both your interests, your passions, and your qualities. Before looking around at actual study programs or schools, I would decide upon a direction – what do you actually want to study? You can start by making a list of your interests, things that fascinate you, areas of study that you are naturally drawn to. Once you’ve made this list, you can make another one of your qualities – what are you good at? Are you very creative, or are you good at helping other people? When you compare these two lists of both your interests and qualities, you should be able to draw a few links between them.
In my case, I wrote down “writing”, “publishing”, “journalism”, “media”, “communication”, “online culture”, “pedagogy”, “linguistics”, “language”, “English” and a few other interests that would fit right into this lists. Then if I list my qualities, I would write down “writing”, “affinity for languages”, “organizing”, “caring” etc. I think that, even from simply going over this list, I can already see a few possible study directions: linguistics, journalism and media.
2. Search for studies that match your list
Now go online, search the web, browse through brochures and maybe visit a few study orientation events. When scrolling through the seemingly endless lists of study programs, keep the lists in mind or even right next to you. This will give you a sense of direction, a focus, while you’re reading course catalogues, looking up information about student housing and writing down study programs that have caught your interest.
3. Go and visit open days
After you’ve made a list of study programs or schools that have sparked your interest, it’s time to actually experience them. Go and visit open days, apply for student-for-a-day programs, contact people currently following the programs of your interest – basically do anything to get a taste of what it’s like to follow those particular study programs. But, when visiting open days and orientation events, do try and be critical of what you see. In the end, schools are always portraying themselves and their programs better than they are, so take everything in and stay realistic.
4. Ask for people’s opinions
One of the things that really helped me when I was deciding upon my bachelor program, was talking to the people that are closest to you – they might even know you better than you know yourself. In the end, you have to decide upon your study program, but it really can’t hurt to ask for other people’s opinions. They might think of options you haven’t thought of yet, or can give you advice when you have to decide a few potential study programs.
I remember that when I had decided what study I wanted to follow after graduating from high school, I got so dead set on that one particular program, I was completely terrified by the idea of not being accepted. I had no idea what other program I would want to follow in case I wasn’t accepted at UCR and it completely freaked me out. Then when I told my Mom about this, she actually really helped me in suggesting other study programs I might like and even options besides university. As soon as I realized there were other options besides the study program I had chosen, I felt much calmer and way less stressed.
5. Follow your heart
In the end, there’s only so much you can do in the often long and stressing journey to your ideal study program. I’m personally a firm believer in the so-called “gut feeling”. I think that once you’ve found your perfect match, you’ll know. Whether this is a case of following your heart or listening to your gut, I believe that you’ll know when you have made the right decision.
I immediately knew when I first walked into my university building that this was the place for me. I did not have any logical explanation or rational thinking to back up my feeling, but I just felt that UCR was the right decision for me. And now, almost three years later, I still don’t regret that choice (okay, maybe a little bit during midterms, but don’t we all regret former life decisions during midterms).