Adding to your education is a great way to level up your career, but choosing an academic program is daunting, as it’s a major, life-changing choice, whether you’re going back to school later in life or you’re just getting started. You may not know if you’re sinking your time and money into something pointless until it’s too late, so it’s important to do your homework ahead of time to find a program that’s right for you and your goals. If you’re currently weighing your options for courses to take next year, there’s further research beyond the introductory program page to be done. Here are some resources to check out to help you discover an education path that’s right for you:
1 – Alumni
With some quick research, you can easily find the notable alumni of whichever program you’re looking into. Take that a step further by searching the program on LinkedIn to check what the alumni have been doing since graduating and seeing if their careers line up with your goals.
If you’re unconvinced by profile searches alone, don’t be afraid to reach out to alumni on LinkedIn with questions about how the program helped them advance into their career – you can even set up an informational interview for detailed answers. Recent alumni are probably your best bet if you do this, just in case the program has changed significantly over time.
2 – Current Students
While they may not yet know where the program will take them, speaking to current students can tell you a lot about the program you’ll be stepping into. The curriculum will be fresh on their mind and they might even provide you with an up-to-date syllabus and project descriptions. This way, you can determine whether or not the program will actually teach you the things that you’d like to learn. It’s worth it to ask the students you speak to questions about whether they personally feel if the course is worth the effort.
If you don’t know any current students yourself, you can find some to speak to through LinkedIn or by posting in groups for current students or people hoping to work in your dream field, like a school subreddit or Facebook group.
3 – Program Opportunities
In some fields, education alone won’t get you the job – you’ll need to accumulate work experience while in school. Check if the program is affiliated with any worthwhile internships or work opportunities and ensure that they align with your career goals. You can also do further research on the individual companies the program is affiliated with to know if you would be entering a positive space where you’ll develop the skills that you need. While not program-specific, it’s also worth checking if the school you’ll be attending has opportunities for on-campus jobs and clubs that will help you work towards your career goal.
4 – Offered Courses
The program itself may sound like what you need, but until you get a hold of the course listings, you won’t know for sure. For example, you may think you’re heading into a hands-on program only to check the mandatory courses and learn the program is mostly theory. Once again, if it’s possible to find the course syllabus somewhere online or from a student, that’ll be your best bet to learn what you’re in for.
It’s hard to be completely certain if you’re entering the right program for you until you’re in the middle of it, but there are at least a number of places to investigate before committing. Just do as much research as you can, speak to plenty of people, and be sure the program is deserving of your application.
Need some extra guidance as you make big career decisions? Ask Style Nine to Five Founder, Christie Lohr, One Career Question!
Emily Morrison is a media professional with passions for writing, film and popular culture.
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