One of the most exciting things about deciding to study abroad is that you have, quite literally, a whole world of choices. UNESCO lists more than 16,000 universities worldwide! Each of these schools will offer dozens – if not hundreds – of different courses, and it can be hard to even begin figuring out what or where you want to study.
Here are 10 steps to help you start your search and choose a university abroad. Before we get into the specifics:
- What is interesting to you?
This factor may seem evident but it still needs to be considered. What you study must interest you because it will motivate you more, resulting in better grades and possible recommendations from your teachers. However, it may be entirely possible that what you are studying, although interesting, will not contribute to securing a good job. Some disciplines are less profitable and you need to be aware of this. Is it possible to turn your interests into a hobby instead of your career? For this listen to both your heart and your head. They might take you in different directions, but both have valid points to make. Be honest with yourself, seriously. Any sort of degree is a big commitment, but studying abroad even more so. Make sure that this is something you want to do rather than something you feel you have to do. If you’re doing it because you want to, it will be easier to keep going through the tough times.
- School resources
This factor is very important as you will be spending a lot of time at an institution, trying to meet its requirements. It will almost certainly be a worthwhile investment and life-changing adventure. Gather information about the library the school has, the IT services and any other resources that you might need to conduct your studies successfully, but make sure you know the facts. Check university websites for official data, and student forums for a wider range of opinions.
- Reputation of the university
It is obvious that choosing a prestigious university has its advantages. However, getting into one takes more effort and sometimes more money. A good school has good teachers, student organisations and successful alumni. Information about these factors can be usually found on the homepage of the university.
- Identify your “essential” requirements
Narrow down your search by deciding what you definitely want to do or want to avoid. For example, maybe you only want to study abroad at a university where the language of teaching is Spanish? Perhaps you have a specific budget, or want to be within a few hours’ flight of home? At this stage, it’s best to set out some clear guidelines for your search. Here are some examples to consider:
- Only universities in a particular country/ world region
- No universities in large and busy cities
- Only highly ranked universities (in general or in a particular subject)
This step is particularly useful if you want to study a subject that is offered across a very large range of universities. If you want to specialize in a field that’s particularly rare (such as maritime archaeology), you’ll probably find you already have a narrower field to focus on.
- Choose your subject and see will your qualification be transferable?
This might be one of the most important questions in the current state of affairs. Many former students decide to work abroad, and for this, they need degrees that are acceptable in the European Union, or even outside of it. Check the possibilities you have so your efforts will not be in vain. This is where things might get trickier. Many people know straight away what they want to study, but for some the choice is less obvious. If you’re uncertain of what to study, you might wish to consider a arts degree, famous for offering a more flexible curriculum. Otherwise, it would be wise to narrow down to a list of three or so subjects.
If you already know what you want to study, then great! By default some universities will be ruled out (even the most popular subjects aren’t available absolutely everywhere), but more importantly you’ll be able to select your preferred universities based on the courses and curricula they offer. You could start by checking international rankings or even subject-specific university rankings.
- Attend university fairs and open days
Choosing a university abroad that’s perfect for you will require a lot of research. For international students, most of this is often done online or through university brochures. However, the best option is always to see a place for yourself, and/or talk to a representative from the university in person, so you can get a better feel for the institution and get answers to all your questions. While it is often quite difficult for international students to attend open days, it’s always worth doing if you’re able to. International university fairs such as the QS World Grad School Tour are also great opportunities to meet representatives from universities – and rather than going to one open day at a time, you can talk to staff from multiple schools in the same day. Check for these events in advance to make sure you get a place and can fit it into your schedule.
- Financial considerations
Students, dependent on their families, need to consider the question of finances very carefully. Those lucky to have state-financed education have a limited amount of semesters to finish their studies, which remains free to them if they continue at the same major as they received a Bachelor’s degree in. However, should these students change universities, or even faculties, this kind of help is lost to them? Be sure to check beforehand the cost of living in the university dormitories and any other costs that may arise. Books and accommodation are not always cheap, especially combined with the costs of food and transportation. Be aware of your limitations and look for information on scholarships and other aids for students. Winning a scholarship, be it Erasmus, Comenius, or any other, is a life-changing experience. Getting to know a different culture, perfecting language skills and forming international relationships is useful for the development of empathy, self-sufficiency and collaboration skills. Even though most students think of their semester abroad as a time of relaxation, it should be noted that it is also an opportunity for gathering sources for your thesis. Be sure to check what kind of partner universities your future major has contacts with. Apply for the Study Portals Scholarship
- What can be useful for your future career?
If you have already chosen a career, or even if you already have a job, your current or future bosses may require the knowledge of specific disciplines. University is the best place to learn another language or acquire advanced computer skills. It is advisable to choose a Master’s that adds to the list of your talents and abilities and show your dedication to your chosen path. Some majors require their students to do an internship, which can also look good in a CV, not mention the chance it may provide for forming valuable professional relationships.
- Get personal advice through a webinar
Feeling excited and ready to begin your study abroad adventure? If you’ve found the info here useful, you may be interested in gaining even more tips and advice at the free webinar being hosted by QS Course Finder and HeySuccess.com on 28April 2015. We’ll be providing our top tips on ‘How to Choose the Right University and Get Access to Scholarships’. Furthermore, all webinar attendees will receive a free guide, designed to provide an essential aid in the search for the perfect university abroad, as well as funding resources.
- Language skills
Some majors require the knowledge of a foreign language, especially if the courses are held in one. It is impossible or at least very hard to finish, for example, the English major with only a basic level exam. Be aware of your limitations. On the other hand, some majors provide courses in a foreign language, especially for reading foreign texts related to your discipline that will help you when conducting research later on. It is a good idea to make use of these opportunities to broaden your horizons. Do not forget that without foreign languages, you might not be able to advance as easily in the world.