Things to Consider When Applying for Graduate Study

A popular proverb we often hear in Indonesia, “Learn all the way to China”, gives an idea that education is an important thing in life that everybody should strive for. Education also serves as a social ladder –it is a way to have a better life than the previous generations.

This view is in line with a survey conducted by HSBC –which was released on May– to 300 parents in Indonesia. More than half of the parents participated in the survey (54%) believe that higher education should be able to provide access to many opportunities in the future. Not surprisingly, 63% of the participants said that they want their children to have a master’s degree.  

You are reading this because you are probably thinking of going back to school. Well, this is the time to consider several things before you make a firm decision.

The Field of Study

Continuing your study to pursue a master’s degree is not merely to add prestige, but to increase your competitiveness level which will be very useful in the corporate world. There are many people like Elana Rachel who have no plans of taking a graduate program. The 22-year-old had just received her Bachelor’s degree in Food Technology from Pelita Harapan University and had just started working for an agricultural industry company. Looking at her job descriptions now, Elana said she is able to do a good job by learning from books, internet and senior colleagues who have more experience than her. Although she believes that a master’s degree would not hurt to boost someone’s career, she said it is not on her priority list at the moment.       

“Learning is not an exclusive thing that only takes place in university, or provided by professors and teachers. The truth is, we can learn from anyone, anywhere,” Elana said.      

Certain field of studies require their potential students to have a bachelor’s degree in the same field of study, e.g. psychology, medical sciences, or engineering. However, this rule is not set in stone for other fields.

Dwinda Nafisah, 25, a former radio announcer at Bandung’s Rase FM, received her Bachelor’s degree in Japanese Literature from Padjadjaran University (Unpad), Bandung. Since April of this year, she has been residing in Tsu City, Mie prefecture, Japan, as a candidate of Double Degree Master Program in Environmental Sciences by Padjadjaran University- Graduate School of Bioresource Mie University    

Dwinda said her sister had warned her that studying literature and ecology are completely different. However, according to her, the knowledge she received during her undergraduate and postgraduate studies at Unpad actually help her study in Japan. “I learn a lot about ecology, and at the same time, I’m able to communicate with my research sources in Japanese,” she said.

If you ask Reza Hidayat, 24, who has just started his postgraduate study in Electrical Engineering and Informatics at Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), he would say that his reason of going back to college was “to re-develop the knowledge that was learnt during the undergraduate study to a higher level.” Reza, a graduate from Hasanuddin University in Makassar, is hoping to be a better skilled worker who are not only good in theory but also in practice.  

The Long-Term Goal 

In reality, a postgraduate study –which usually takes two years– is only taking half of the time needed for an undergraduate study. However, with your current employment status, this will definitely affect your career projection. This is why you need to have clear objectives in the future, i.e. what to do after getting a master’s degree. Like choosing an investment product, you can’t just follow the streams without knowing where you are going.

Before continuing his study, Reza worked as freelancer at a public university in Banjarmasin. Long before he graduated from college, he already had a plan to take a postgraduate course. “I continued my study because I want to be a lecturer. Based on the government rules, a lecturer at university should at least have a master’s degree,” he explained. He is also saving up to pay for his Doctoral study after he completes his postgraduate study. His goal is to dedicate his life in the education field by teaching at the local universities.  

Although you are not planning to be a lecturer, you should still have a long-term goal to make use of your additional title in the future. Dwinda, for example, has prepared herself to become an eco-travel writer who focuses on vacation sites and eco-friendly travel products. She said the courses that she is learning now would help her to understand more about the principles of eco-travel, so that she would be able to differentiate between the real eco products and those which only put the “eco” label for commercial purpose.    

“I will probably come back to my profession as a radio announcer and host some 'go green' and traveling programs,” she told LiveOlive via email.

The Source of Funding

Other than using the money that you have saved up for years, you can consider getting a sponsorship or scholarship. Nowadays, scholarships information is easy to get, whether it is from the information centre at local universities, official sites of the universities, or foreign educational organizations –e.g. Nuffic Neso Indonesia and DAAD Indonesia.

Make sure that you know the details of the scholarship that will be granted to you. “In Indonesia, the scholarship only covers the tuition fees and research. Whereas in Japan, it covers the airplane tickets, visa, tuition fees, up to our living cost,” said Dwinda, who is one of the recipients of a scholarship  program from the Ministry of Education.

Reza reminded that many local universities also offer a number of scholarships for on-going students, e.g. the Sandwich-like scholarship, the voucher scholarship from ITB, or DIKTI scholarships.

“You can also find double degree scholarships, because there are a number of partnerships with foreign universities, either for study or research –to complete thesis and dissertation,” Reza explained.

Don’t hesitate to join forums and communities of ‘scholarships hunters’ to get more access to information. That way, you will not miss any development related to education policies and you can learn from other people’s experiences.  

Read also: My Challenge Working as an Executive Abroad

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