What Makes a School the Right Match?

by mba

Sic itur ad astra: Thus you shall go to the stars

Laska Dimitrova leads the Candidate Management team of the global Access Masters Tour. She has been a school orientation consultant for almost nine years. Laska has guided thousands of prospective Master’s students on five continents to their best-matching graduate schools around the world. She has also managed language courses for adult learners. Her background is in ancient languages, culture and history.

When is the right time for students to start researching their graduate school options?

I guess it is just before they graduate from their Bachelor’s degree and when they already have an idea that they want to continue with a Master’s degree. This is the best time to start researching different opportunities, just to clarify for themselves what they are really passionate about and where they would like to work later on.

What should prospective Master’s students consider when looking for the best programme and graduate school?

Many prospective Master’s students first look into the subject. Very often it is related to their previous academic background. However, some candidates are looking for a change or for an additional qualification. For example, we meet students with an engineering background who would like to study management in order to better their career chances.

Another factor important for them is location, because they are passionate about travelling, getting to know new people from different cultures, experiencing new things, and changing their environment. In addition to the academic part of a programme, these opportunities are highly valuable in terms of gaining international exposure, multicultural immersion, self-awareness, and maturity – all much needed for a successful career today.

Many Master’s prospects haven’t made up their minds what exactly they would like to do in terms of a particular job. That is why it is important for them to research the internship options and career services at different universities.

What makes a school the right match for a student?

The right match is a combination of factors. First, the opportunity to study what you are keen on in a way that you like. The networking opportunities and internships that will help students in their professional path are also very important. Second, the student should fully meet the admission requirements of the school – academic background and performance (GPA), test scores, etc. A safe and nice environment is also important, as is a school culture where the student will get to feel at home.

How do personal meetings with admission advisers from different schools help students select the right programme?

I think it makes a great difference whether you look on your own for information on the Internet or speak directly with a person who represents the school and is well aware of everything about the school, the application process, and the admission criteria. In the latter case, you can get first-hand information directly from the insiders and actually communicate. Online resources are a great starting point but in order to be able to narrow down your options and make a well-thought-out decision, it is much better to have someone to talk to, share your aspirations, concerns and goals with, and get details, feedback and advice.

It’s an interaction with the right person, that can be continued after the meeting. And of course, it feels very reassuring to have a personal contact on campus once you are admitted.

How can prospective students get in touch with and meet grad school representatives?

One of the ways is to register for our Access Masters events. By signing up, prospective students gain access to a number of international business schools from around the world. With our help, they will be able to participate in personal meetings with admission advisers and get all their questions answered.

What makes a student eligible to apply for a particular school?

International Master’s programmes are taught in English. Applicants need to sit tests such as the IELTS or TOEFL. You also need to have a Bachelor’s degree or be in the final year of studies. For some programmes, you need to have a certain academic background – for example, if you want to study Finance or Mathematics you need to have a similar background. Typically, schools are looking for more junior candidates, so you don’t really need to have professional experience for most Master’s programmes. Sometimes it may be required, but that’s rare. Of course, you need to be motivated and aware of what you are looking for.

What do admissions committees look for beyond the eligibility requirements?

They are looking for bright, motivated young people who are determined to achieve their dreams through international education. During education events, they want to see people who are curious and proactive. They are impressed when applicants have researched the school in advance and ask meaningful questions about the programme and university life, beyond what is available on the university website.

How do you as an orientation consultant decide which schools are the best match for a student?

Once the prospective candidate has registered on accessmasterstour.com, they actually start building their Master’s application profile. Orientation consultants evaluate the information – education background, level of English proficiency, and preferences for the Master’s degree. We also examine their preferred location and study format – full-time, online, hybrid. We take into account the most important criteria for them, be it location, the reputation of the school, or tuition fees.

We also arrange a phone call between the student and our qualification centre. This is done to get to know the person better, make sure the information in the student profile is accurate, and gain a more in-depth understanding of the motivation and the preferences of the candidate. In this way, we can match the students to the admission criteria of schools according to the student’s preferences. As a result, we prepare a personalised schedule for all qualified candidates.

What do students ask you most often during a school orientation session?

In general, they are quite interested in what options for programme customisation the schools offer – elective courses, internships, and exchange opportunities.

We also receive a lot of questions about specific subject areas. Most of the schools at our events offer business-related programmes. However, there are also STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) programmes. Sometimes we have participants who want to do a Master’s in other areas such as Architecture, Arts or Design and ask about their specific admission requirements.

Finally, students often ask about the options to finance their education. This is quite understandable because they are young and not yet financially independent.

How many students and from how many countries have you advised so far?

That’s very hard to say because I’ve been advising students on Master’s programmes for almost nine years now. I have certainly helped orient thousands of candidates on five continents.

What is the most challenging and most rewarding part of your work as an orientation consultant?

I have thought about that many times before. I think it’s when there is a perfect match; when you are able to please the candidate and the school at the same time so that both sides are happy. I have to say it’s not easy, but that’s what we do best at our company – educate, match and personally connect people in graduate education.

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