Wednesday, January 20, 2016

megaVOICE: Choosing Your School in 5 Steps
By Meghavaty Suresh
Contributing Writer

I had an interesting conversation with an international student about a week ago. We were discussing how we chose our American schools, and I started thinking about all the reasons I went to Syracuse University (SU). Looking back, was it the right decision? It was a very tough call for me back in 2013 to decide that I would go to SU. Syracuse was a city I had barely heard of, and I didn’t know anybody who had gone to SU. It wasn’t a school that was thrown around in conversations back home when discussing the great universities of the West. However, as I was doing my research before applying to different schools, my opinion changed drastically.

Here's how I approached the process in five steps:

Step 1: Decide what you want out of a degree.
My main intention of studying further was to learn about digital media. I had been working in the content and news industries, but I wasn’t sure how content was structured in the digital space and I wanted to gain a better understanding of it. I needed a program that would cater to my needs.

Step 2: Select programs.
I spent a lot of time researching different programs that matched my education goal. I searched programs with three keywords: digital media, journalism, and technology. I ended up shortlisting about 10 programs in different universities across the country.

Step 3: Shorten the list.
There are two ways of ascertaining reputation when it comes to education and universities: the ranking of the university and the reputation of the program. There are many top-ranked programs at less reputable universities, and vice versa. So I had to decide what was more important, the university or the program. I gave more priority to the program and what it had to offer, so I narrowed my list of 10 down to about five.

Step 4: Whittle it down.
The last programs on my radar were at Northwestern University’s Medill School, Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, and the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School, as well as two different programs at New York University (NYU). I also had a preference for the East Coast. Finally, I ended up applying to SU, Northwestern University, and one of the NYU programs.

Step 5: Make the decision.
I don’t know if this is lucky or unlucky, but I ended up getting admitted into all three (editor’s note: It’s lucky! Or at least fortunate). I was spoiled for choice, and in this case, it wasn’t a good thing. I had to decide. But what if I made the wrong decision? I may always wonder. But I had to make the call sooner rather than later. I opted for SU because even though the university is not as well reputed as NYU or Northwestern University, the Newhouse School of Public Communications had a reputation better than the respective communication schools at the other two universities. The program was exactly what I wanted. The tuition was also less than the other two, as I received a scholarship. Bonus: The school was close to New York City.

During my time at SU, I often wondered if I made the right decision. Now that I can see things in retrospect, I most definitely did. I was at a school with great professors, a large network and access to a whole gamut of resources. What about you? Are you in the process of shortlisting schools, or in the midst of your program wondering whether you made the right choice?


Meghavaty Suresh is a brand engagement specialist at The Guardian. She is originally from Mumbai, India. She earned a master’s in new media at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, where she realized what it truly meant to be an international student and how best to enjoy the experience. The megaVOICE column is her opportunity to give a voice to the whispers of international students. Megha lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @meghasuresh.

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