When comparing universities, take rankings into consideration. Rankings are based on various criteria, such as quality of teaching, number of students, percentage of international students, female to male ratios, students to staff ratios, etc.
Beware that there are rankings for universities as whole institutions and degree-specific ones. Once you have chosen your degree, it will be easier to prioritise universities based on the track of achievements in the specific field of your interest.
Entrance exams and degree specific requirements
Although most universities require filling out an online application, submitting a motivation letter and letters of recommendation, check whether you need to have an in-person/skype interview or, in case of prospective medicine students in the UK, take a BMAT exam (a Biomedical admissions test).
If the fees for exams and admissions add up quickly, check alternative universities which are test-optional or consider countries with less admission requirements.
Need-based vs Merit-based scholarships
University experience abroad can be very costly for an international student. So when you are considering applying for a scholarship, search universities that provide financial support matching your specific criteria.
Beware that merit-based scholarships depend on your entrance exams and outstanding academic achievements whereas need-based scholarships are based on your family’s financial status.
Wording on university websites may be misleading as well. Do not assume that if it says “scholarships are merit-based”, they will cover the whole total sum. Not necessarily. In reality, it may be a vague way to say that the scholarship is partial.
A tip here would be to contact the admissions office and ask them directly about how much the scholarship covers and what are the options for financial assistance in this specific university. Don’t assume – always check!
On/off campus universities
Depending on your preference, keep in mind that your lifestyle will be dependent on whether the university is located on campus or in a city.
Campus-based universities tend to be located outside of the city centre away from hustle and bustle of the downtown. This provides a great feel of a small community and is great for concentrating on your studies. Your accommodation will also be likely in a walking distance from where your lectures take place which will result in a quicker commute.
Another bonus is that your professors are also likely to live close to campus which increases chances of getting extra help outside of classes. A downside of a campus-based university may be that it can sometimes feel like a bubble or that you will need to make arrangements for shopping and take longer commutes to off-campus jobs.
City-based universities do not have a campus per se which means your lectures may take place in buildings in various locations. Such universities will offer a greater range of in-city entertainment and job opportunities. They are great for those who are used to active social life and want to explore a new city.
In terms of accommodation and commute, keep in mind higher living expenses and more planning for your movement throughout the day.
Additional funding for initiatives
Wouldn’t it be great if university helped you and backed up financially your initiative? Make sure to check if the university supports its students in terms of competitions, conferences, and exchange programs. Will it be easy to start an initiative and receive funding for events? Does the university have bilateral agreements for mutual programs with other institutions?
If this is one of the criteria on your list, then you are a rather picky person! On a serious note, start with a bigger picture and work your way down to small details. Do you want to experience seasons? Do you want to live by the sea or in the mountains? Are you willing to put up with humidity or aridity? Will there be mosquitoes in that climate or other insects? If you have any chronic diseases, will that climate aggravate them?
These questions may be of interest for international students so consider them when making up your mind.
Will the university let me take up a part-time job?
What is my learning style? Do I prefer smaller classes? Am I good at self-study?
What is the language of command at university?
How much money do I need to have in order to provide evidence for sufficient funding for living expenses when applying for visa?
We hope this article will help you create a clearer picture of the university of your dreams and make the most of your time there!