How To Choose A University When Living Abroad

Living in another country means you don’t always have the chance to go to an open day and see, experience and ask about a prospective university in person. You therefor end up relying on the internet and the power of our intuition. Here are a few ways how to choose a university when living abroad.

Let’s start at the very beginning: choose the country, then the city and then start gathering a list of universities. The more the better. Don’t worry about any factors just yet. First, worry about:

Entry levels
Human, Hand, Company, Paper, Solutions, Maze, Job

It’s best to get the hard bit out of the way first; there’s no point in finding the “perfect” course and then realizing you don’t have the required grades to get in.  And it’s not just the grades: sometimes it comes down to the subjects themselves. Imagine you decide to study pharmacy but didn’t take chemistry in high school; if they’d let you in, you’d already be at a disadvantage in comparison to the students who did.

In all forms, however, it’s important to understand that a university with a lower entry level is not necessarily bad university. “We’ve seen many courses ask for ‘mid-market’ grades (e.g. BBC) that lead to good employment opportunities, or have a strong academic reputation in a particular field.”

So now you know you have the grades to get in. Next comes the fun part, looking at:

The course
Mindmap, Brainstorm, Idea, Innovation, Imagination

Research this area well. What does it teach, precisely? How is the course graded? via essays? presentations? tests? This might sound rhetorical, but imagine applying for a theatre course (because you want to act) and then finding out that grades are based on written exams; imagine applying to the same degree because you want to direct, and then getting stuck with performance-based assessments?

It also comes down to what you are being taught. Check the compulsory and optional modules and every component they entail. Weigh out which universities have the courses that you prefer, and take it from there.

You should’ve discarded a couple by now and brought your prospective university list down by a few numbers. Great.  Now it’s coming down to:

Hiker, Walker, Rambler, Lego, Walk, Explore, Trek

Depending on your course, you’re going to be spending a long time in this area. Your decision will therefor depend on many variables. City or countryside? Big or small? Do you want to find jobs related to your degree while you’re studying, or do you want to enjoy and make the most of the city?

Your university might be located in a great city with awesome nightlife, but far away from any natural reserve (for a zoology student, this might not be so great). On the other hand, the university town might be small and quite residential, but full of performance venues (hi, fellow drama students!)

If you are willing to compromise, the next thing to look at is the travel and the connections to the next major city that does offer what you want. Think train times, bus routes, underground links.

Once you’ve done that, check out:

The rankings
Yes, Consent, Hook, Check Mark, Board, Flipchart

“Wait…shouldn’t I have done this at the beginning?” you ask. Well…that’s an ongoing discussion. Does the university name make a difference, or is it what you make of your course? The key word here is “course”, and the key action is to look at the course rankings, not the university’s overall ranking.

Consider this: the methodology that goes behind the ranking calculations is not simple.  “The indicators and criteria used are not all encompassing and often measured via proxies. There is a greater overall emphasis on research than teaching, despite the context of rising tuition fees, when prospective students are looking for the complete package. This emphasis also puts universities that are more focused on the arts and humanities at a disadvantage due to the heavy weighting of citations to measure research influence.

Though it’s a good overall indicator of the university’s reputation, and an important factor, one can argue it’s better to look at the individual markings, specifically other students’ satisfaction with that particular course.

By now you’re list should (hopefully) be quite small. If you’ve done the above, talked to former students or seen public opinion (via online forums), and google-earthed the hell out of it and you’re still at a loss of where to go, the best thing is to trust your gut. There’s only so much you can do without being able to get a feel of the place!

Inspiring Interns is a recruitment agency specialising in all the internships and graduate jobs London has to offer. Xiomara Meyer is a drama and creative writing graduate with an interest in psychology and the slightly bizarre. Samples of her prose can be found here