You have received your GRE, GMAST, or TOFEL scores and are all set to apply to universities abroad. However, you have a long list of prospective institutes and are confused about how to choose the final few colleges that would be the best bet for you. Here is a list of search criteria that should ideally help you shorten your institute list:
Course Module: The foremost thing that you should consider while applying to institutes abroad is the course module and whether it matches up to your interests and long term career goals. Carefully study the components of the course you plan to pursue at each university and apply accordingly. Flexibility in the course modules can prove to be a great advantage, especially for upgrade students. Flexibility of modules and courses gives an individual the freedom to explore interests that may go beyond the confines of a defined curriculum. They allow a student to gain significant knowledge in peripheral subjects that can augment the knowledge gained in the core area.
Reputation: Most students blindly rely on university rankings. However, what is more important than the ranking is the reputation of the university and specifically the department that one would be pursuing one’s courses in. Good faculty plays an imperative role in making your academic experience a rewarding one. The research conducted by the department should also be looked at since it indicates the quality of faculty at the institute. The main thing to focus on while deciding on the final list of colleges is the quality of the program you plan to study at a particular institute. Many universities may rank high on overall ratings but may not be that great for specific programs and vice-versa. Thus, it’s important to choose a university that will give you the best possible opportunity to pursue an advanced degree in your chosen field.
Placements Records / on campus:
Recruitment: The essential goal of every student who aspires to study abroad is to enhance his/her prospect of future employment, be it in India or abroad. Thus, it is best to short list those institutes that provide good employment prospects.
The employment opportunities provided by the university either directly through campus recruitment or indirectly by virtue of its reputation and recognition is important to consider in the final selection.
Diverse Student population: You are going abroad in the hope that your experience will be an enriching and pleasurable one. With the recent news of racist attacks on Indian students studying abroad, it becomes important to know the number of international students on the campus of the universities you will be applying to. Additionally find out about the institutes approach in dealing with international students.
Financial Aid: Finances are a major consideration for all students aspiring to study abroad. So look for universities that have low tuition and that may even offer scholarships, RAs, TAs, and on campus jobs. Apart from the course, you may make your choice based on the tuition fee that fits into your budget. For example, in the US, there are many private universities, such as the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell which are good but that charge higher tuition more than $50,000 per year. Within the same ranking, there are public universities like the University of Texas at Austin, Purdue where the overall cost of education is less and varies between $30,000 per year to $40,000 per year. Financial aid is very important for a student to make do with any college which gave aid else he/she would not be able to pursue studies abroad. Thus, one must be extremely careful in applying to only those institutes where they would get financial aid.
Location: Do you want to live in the city or would you rather study in the quiet countryside? While living costs in urban areas are exorbitant, life in the countryside may be mundane and more difficult in terms of transportation and everyday living. Make your choice depending on your budget and preferences. If you are going abroad for purely academic reasons, a reputed college in the countryside may be the right choice for you. However, if you aim to gain maximum exposure to life abroad, then you may be better off living in the city.
Life on Campus: One of the most authentic ways of finding out about life at a particular institute is speaking with past and present students of the institutes you are planning to apply to. This will help to make that crucial decision. Students are generally honest about the positive and negative aspects of life on campus. It helps to talk to your seniors even if they are not pursuing the same course as you are. They can give you vital information about the living situation in a particular place, the university environment, job opportunities etc. Most of all, it just helps to know someone once you get there. Personally speaking, connecting with past and present students in finding accommodation and may end up making a couple of good friends.
Be Practical: Applying to institutes abroad is costly. So make an informed and wise decision. Everyone wants to study Oxford and Harvard, but not all are lucky to have the scores to get into these reputed institutes. So be practical and apply to institutes where your chances of getting admitted are reasonably high. There are a number of sources that can answer your queries accurately. If all else fails, write to the university that you are interested in.
Choose the institutes that you feel will be the best academic and social fit for you. Studying abroad is a wholesome experience, so do not make your decision based on a single factor like ‘it is a great name to have on my resume.’ Consider every aspect mentioned above to make your experience a truly pleasurable and memorable one.