In Beyond Consultant’s Comprehensive Study Abroad Checklist, we have seen the overall steps involved in your study abroad admission journey. A critical stage in the process is researching and finalizing schools/programs. This post will offer many valuable insights into what this task entails.
School shortlisting is an involved exercise. It needs research on a number of factors and the following set of parameters must be evaluated before you finalize on any school/program.
Factors Relating To Academics
Accreditation and Reputation: You must only consider programs that are well recognized and duly accredited. Accreditation and reputation do not always assure high quality, but lack of accreditation and reputation is certainly a red signal.
Ranking: The simplest, but not the most significant, indicator of a program’s quality is its ranking among similar programs. There are several ranking authorities such as the US News, Financial Times MBA Rankings for B-schools which consider a number of factors while ranking individual programs.
NOTE: While rankings are a good indicator, you must note that no two rankings will exactly match with each other and a higher ranked program does not necessarily mean the best program for you. Why? Because several factors such as location, cost, academic focus, etc are personal factors and no ranking mechanism can account for those.
Faculty and Research/Academic Focus: As is the way in the academic world, leading professors and researchers in a particular field tend to work together. This means that some universities have cutting-edge expertise in one area, while other universities have their own areas of competence. You must factor in this distinction while pursuing a specific field of interest. This is particularly true for PhDs and highly technical graduate programs.
Factors Relating To Career
Career Assistance: How strong is the program’s career assistance department? What are the placement statistics of recent graduates? How about the placement statistics of international candidates? These questions hold prime importance in evaluating career prospects post completion of your degree.
Location: One of the biggest game changers can be the location. It is a well-known fact that for a student in a certain program, the easiest opportunities to grab are those in the same city. This means that big city programs are to be preferred over programs located far off – unless those programs have tie-ups with organizations that visit their campus for recruitment. Generally speaking, for international candidates, the best bet is programs located in metros.
Alumni Network: A typical way graduate school recruitment happens is through alumni references. Hence, always research how strong and active a program’s alumni base is.
Factors Relating To Admissions
Admission Standards: What percentage of applicants get admission for your program? What is the class intake every year? What is the profile (undergraduate GPA, median standardized test score, etc) of the average incoming student? Questions like these determine your chances of admission in any particular program.
Cost/Financial Aid: No question is probably is paramount as ‘can you afford to take up this program?’ What are the tuition fees and living costs? Are there any scholarships? How much, if yes and under what criteria? What about loans for international students and what are their terms? Without getting a clear picture of these questions, you cannot plan your finances, and without planning, you must not commit to any program.
Factors Relating To Exposure
Multicultural/Diversity Opportunities: One of the reasons for you to consider studying abroad is global exposure. So, evaluate where a program stands on this dimension. How many countries/ethnicities/professions are represented in a typical incoming class? How frequent are group assignments? What about meeting diverse student population during extra-curricular activities? These factors, although not a maker-or-breaker, are crucial in understanding what to expect from any given program.
Surrounding Community: Another key factor is the area surrounding a university. Since you are going to spend at least a couple of years there, you must consider a few things – local history and sightseeing places, means of transportation, weather, to name a few.
The above checklist is a great starting point towards your school/program research. There is no particular order, so start where you can. As your knowledge widens, you will learn how to research further. Be prudent and make your most educated judgment before you finally commit to a program.
At Beyond Consultant, we help you bring your dreams to life, by guiding in your overseas education journey. For a free consultation, please get in touch with us here.