02 Dec Five things international students should think about but usually don’t.
Choosing a university could be the most important decision you make in your whole life, and if you’re thinking of studying abroad (and I would suggest you do), it’s difficult to know where to start. Everybody wants to make a good choice, but picking through the options can be a minefield. How can you go beyond the league tables and find out whether the university you are considering is really right for you?
Here’s my list of five things international students should consider but often don’t:
- Location. This seems obvious but is so often overlooked. What’s the city where the university is located actually like? How safe is it? What’s the weather like? Is there good accommodation available? Will you be able to get good work experience without relocating?
- Reputation. While league tables give us a ‘right now’ snapshot of a university, they often run counter to the popular view on a university. At the end of the day, bragging rights on where we studied really do matter, so speaking to someone who can give an overall view on whether a university ‘sounds good’ should be one of the things you consider while making a decision.
- Course specifications. Pick any two courses with the same name at different universities and it is likely you will find significant differences between them. This could include differences in the content taught on the course (this can be very different even for courses with the same name), different styles of teaching and learning (lectures, seminars, labs, work experience, group projects, presentations) and different styles of assessment (exams, presentations, interviews, coursework). Think hard about what you want to learn and what teaching and assessment styles will work best for you.
- What will the other students be like? If you are heading off for an international experience, you want it to be truly international, don’t you? Depending on where you are from, it is possible to end up on a course where more than half the students come from your home country, or alternatively, none of them do. Most students prefer something in between these two extremes, and researching this before you go can help you pick the right course.
- Employability. Obviously going to a university at the top of the league tables seems likely to increase your chances of getting a good job. However, it’s not always as straightforward as this and in fact in some cases graduates of universities lower down the league tables are far more sought after than those at the top. This might be because their courses were particularly employer focused, featuring large amounts of hands on learning and work experience. Also, some degrees will make you eligible for professional accreditation while others don’t. If you really want a job at the end of your course, it pays to look into this in detail to make sure the university you choose gives your career the boost you are looking for.
Of course there are lots of factors to consider while choosing a university and these are just a few. Going the extra mile and doing your research thoroughly by looking on the internet or talking to someone who really knows the country you are travelling to and the university system there could make a huge difference to making the right decision and getting on a course which will benefit you for the rest of your life