How to select which foreign university to apply to?
Getting into the #1 university is almost everyone’s focus. The simplest solution, for many, is to refer to any of the popular university ranking lists.
But there’s a problem (more than one problem, actually).
- Such ranking lists barely ever agree with each other
- A university that’s #1 on – let’s say – US News’ list, isn’t any better for you, than a university ranking #20 on the same list. (That’s because your unique requirements weren’t a part of the ranking methodology!)
Then how do you find the best foreign university?
Here are a few pointers to help you pick.
Don’t fall for rankings
A good ranking does not equal the right university for you. Rankings are based on varied criteria, most of which may be irrelevant to your future plans. For example, if the university has presented groundbreaking research in Biochem and you are going to study Data Science, its enviable rank is irrelevant to you.
So, even if you are looking at rankings, look at relevant, specific rankings.
Here is how you can understand subject-specific ranking.
This is the Oxford university subject ranking by U.S. News.
Oxford is a great choice for Arts and Humanities, Clinical Medicine, Environment, and other subjects ranked in the top 10.
If you pick Arts and Humanities, you can see further details on the scoring system on the website. The indicator ranking shows you exactly where Oxford excels.
The Arts and Humanities normalized citation impact and international collaboration is pretty low. So, although Oxford is a great University if those areas are relevant to your academic goals, look for universities that excel in your subject in those areas.
For example, the University of Cambridge holds a #3 rank but its normalized citation impact is #59. A lot higher than Oxford.
Note – Normalized Citation Impact (NCI) of a document is calculated by dividing the actual count of citing items by the expected citation rate for documents with the same document type, year of publication and subject area. Hence, it is an extremely important criterion for students taking up research at the university.
The top reason why students go abroad to study is to get better opportunities and receive a quality education. And this education comes at a great cost. Just the tuition at a good university can come up to 30-50 lakhs.
So, you need to think in terms of RoI as well. Will the education be financially worth it? You can maximize the RoI by selecting a loan at the lowest possible interest rate.
Check what career guidance the university offers. Here is a list of things to look for.
- Established career guidance centres
- One-on-one guidance from mentors
- Established alumni networks
- Career workshops and seminars
Location of the university
To thrive academically, you need to be in a supportive atmosphere. Depending on the person you are, you might need to be in a university that has a strong international community and support. Or else, you risk being alienated.
The location is also relevant for learning during college and further job prospects. For example, if you are going for an MSc in Finance at UCL in London, you will be situated in one of the world’s learning cities in finance that is bustling with opportunities and experiences. The same opportunities will not be available at University of Bristol in South West England.
If you plan on settling abroad, you should also go to a country where the visa allows you to work after your graduation. For example, in the UK a Graduate visa gives you permission to stay in the UK for at least 2 years after successfully completing a course in the UK.
Faculty’s research in the field
How do you determine how good the faculty of a university is? Look at their research. This is especially important for students going for research degrees like Postgraduate research instead of Postgraduate taught.
Think about how relevant their research is to your academic goals and if you can benefit from their mentorship. If you are planning on writing a dissertation during your education, common academic interests will also make it easier for you to find an academic supervisor.
Their profiles should be available on the college’s website. You can read their research and impact areas.
A good university has established centres in its field. For example, if you are applying for an MA in Digital Humanities at King’s, during your course you will benefit from the Department of Digital Humanities. This department is dedicated to the field beyond the course taught.
So, you will be able to learn from exciting research conducted in the department, attend seminars and workshops and may even be able to find future job opportunities at the centre.
If a few universities have similar performances in all the above-mentioned areas, how do you pick?
You look at what else the university is willing to offer and why that is important to you. For example, a university might allow you access to their labs or offer practicum placements during your study with partners.
Keep an eye out for:
- Field experience as a part of the course
- Workshops and seminars as a part of the course
- Guest lectures outside the course
- Study exchange opportunities during your study
- Any additional certifications you might receive during your course
Seek advice from SelectRight
Rely on your community, networks, mentors, and college career services as much as you can. However, in the initial stages, clarity is elusive. The smartest way to go about it is by using platforms built for your study abroad journey like SelectRight.
With the tools and team members available at SelectRight, you will get aid from shortlisting fundable programs to actually securing funding on low-interest rates.
You will also:
- Receive personalized university recommendations.
- Meet mentors who are current students or alumni of the colleges you are applying to.
- Get an expert’s input on your SOP, LORs and essays.
- Attend exclusive events from your dream universities.