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How to choose the right grad school? The vision of the university matters, says Stenden student

News Andy Hayes shares tips for applying to graduate school

To some, making graduate school decision is a never-ending process of weighing the pros and cons of each institution and programme. Common criteria include rankings, employment prospects and financial costs. However, Andy Hayes, a new master’s student at Stenden University of Applied Sciences, suggested that the main priorities should be “the reputation of the institution as well as the vision in which it is heading”.

Graduated from the University of Derby in England, Andy Hayes decided to leave the country for his Masters in the Netherlands. The switch to an oversea education is far from searching for exotic experience or a gap year. “In a world where the fight for jobs is high, it is vital that we stand out from the rest as individuals. I felt it was necessary to leave the confines of my comfort zone and head out into the big wide world in order to push my limits and stand on my own two feet!”, Andy explained his personal and professional motivations.

Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that for the academic year 2013/14, at least 550 British graduates went abroad to continue their studies. Postgraduate students accounts for only 3% of the British student population at international institutions, but it is clear that this number is growing steadily over the past several years.

Needless to say, British universities continue to dominate the World University Rankings this year. For those seeing an elite education, the UK is still the top destination to come. However, drawing from his recent experience, Andy cautioned that rankings shouldn’t determine graduate school decision. Master’s students could have a distinctive experience at a university whose vision matches their personal values.

“For myself, it was vital that I chose a university which reflected my own individual characteristics with the vision to going growing while providing excellent services to its students”, he said. “Unfortunately today, there is somewhat of a derogatory stereotype which over-shadows the term ‘student’. It was important for me that my university saw me as an individual (not just another number!) and allowed me to continue my growth both in my studies and everyday work.”

Andy praised the students and staff at Stenden University for being “committed to achieving great things”, an impression that he got after visiting the university on numerous occasions and working with the faculty prior to his postgraduate study. Stenden University in the Netherlands, he believes, is the right place for him, even though there are many good universities for hospitality at home.

Having started at Stenden University for just over two months, Andy finds that “Stenden was a stepping stone in the right direction. The experience has been one which I have enjoyed immensely”. The individual-oriented approach of the university also has a huge impact on his attitude and ambition: “The party days are over. Now it is all about working hard and looking to the future of endless possibilities.

Advice from Andy Hayes

  • Research about the reputation of the institution as well as the vision in which it is heading.
  • Make sure that the university reflects your academic needs but most importantly, meets with your personal needs
  • Visit the university, talk to current students, talk to local people and visit the surrounding areas … gain a feel for the place and then take your time in making a decision

Read more about Andy’s experience and recommendations here.