Going to study abroad opens up a whole new world of opportunities and choices. How do you decide which place, college and course is right for you? There are thousands of colleges with equal merit all over the globe, so choosing the appropriate one can get slightly confusing. Antara Agarwal provides you with just the right questions to set you on track to determine the dream university for your education.
Take out time to ask yourself these questions and factors to consider:
What course are you looking to major in?
A lot of students these days are looking towards the liberal arts course, which essentially involves studying a combination of different subjects from various fields at the outset, and choosing a specialty in your later years in college. While multiple universities abroad provide extensive and thorough liberal arts courses, most universities specialize in certain areas of study. For example, Princeton University, while being an excellent liberal arts university, is especially renowned for its Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Relations, which is one of the best public and international policy teaching institutes in the world. Therefore, if you have a broad idea of what you would like to study, keep an eye out for colleges that offer excellent and exciting programs in those fields.
One way of doing this is to go to the websites of prospective schools, and explore their programs. Universities almost always list the courses available under particular subjects, the professors that teach them, the alumni of the school and speakers who address students through the year. Note down any aspects of courses that intrigue you, or that are distinct from others. This will help you narrow down a list of colleges that you would like to attend for that particular subject.
Another way of going about finding your dream university is through worldwide rankings of universities for particular subjects, which grade universities according to their proficiency in teaching a particular subject. You might be surprised at how some smaller universities excel in teaching certain courses, or at how some stigmas about universities might be broken. The Johns Hopkins University, for example, is best known for its bio-medical courses; however, the school also offers one of the best English courses in the United States. The key is to not be afraid of picking a university that isn’t very famous or well known to you. It’s the quality of education in your area of interest that matters while choosing your dream university.
Big City vs. Small Town
More often than not, the location of your university is of prime importance. Are you a child of the concrete jungle? Were you born and raised amidst bustling vehicles and a dense population? Many a time, one tends to ignore the environment of a university when making the choice to attend it or not, which can lead to a lot of problems when one begins living there.
City environments provide a lot of cultural diversity in terms of their population, hence the people you meet and interact with and the kinds of entertainment available, such as restaurants and types of theatre, arts, and other cultural activities, to name a few. They are also a lot more industrial, hence the options of getting internships in different kinds of jobs around your university are far greater. Other facilities, such as sporting facilities of different kinds, large shopping malls and supermarkets with scores of products, may also not be found outside of urban settings. A lot of in-city raised people are at comfort with such surroundings and may even see a lot of these aspects as requirements for living. Choosing a rural setting may not always be a wise choice, as these often lack a lot of the facilities, activities and diverse job opportunities that you may find in the city. Most universities in rural settings are based in small towns where activities are limited in range, and life is very low key, so it’s easy for your routine to become monotonous if you are not used to this.
…or the peaceful country
However, some people seek to live in rural towns. Such settings have a large focus on outdoor activities, such as hiking, canoeing and extensive bicycling, which cannot be offered in city campuses due to obvious environmental limitations. If you are a fan of getting outdoors, a small-town university could be the way to go. Additionally, the natural setting is beautiful and can be very quiet and peaceful, and conducive for learning. Most universities in rural areas are within a few hours of big cities, so you can always take a trip to the city for a break over the weekend.
What is your preferred class size?
Universities vary greatly in terms of their overall class size, which is the size of your graduating batch, and individual class sizes. Some offer large classes, with as many as a hundred or more people in a room, whereas others can be as small as seven students to a teacher. The choice of university depends entirely on what you are comfortable with as a person. Smaller class sizes ensure greater attention on each individual from the professor and give you the opportunity to address the professor with many more of your individual queries. Professors learn the individual requirements of each of their students while learning and are hence able to help their students in specific areas of weakness. Larger classes, however, provide opportunities for a greater breadth of class discussion and a larger cultural diversity amongst students, so that learning can be a lot more enriching and you may find people more like yourself to interact with amongst a larger crowd.
What are the extracurricular activities offered by the university?
A large part of learning in your university life will happen outside your classroom, and the richness of the experience will make all the difference. Some people have an extraordinary talent or pursue an activity at a very high level. If you are someone who would like to maintain this activity in college, choose one that has a very good club or team for the same. Some colleges are specialized in certain sports or arts and may even have Olympic coaches on their teams. Find out what you can about these colleges and what you require to qualify for their team. If academics isn’t your main priority, this can become a very important aspect for you to choose your dream university.
Do you like your days, sunny side up?
Weather – do not underestimate the power of this natural force to make you want to be anywhere but in your school. Universities are located all over the globe; some in the warmer and sunnier areas, and some that are almost perennially in the bitter cold. Not being used to harsh weather conditions or omnipresent gloomy weather can very easily affect your state of mind in university. Choose a college that is situated in an area with comfortable temperatures that you don’t mind going outdoors in most of the time. Remember, college is going to be your home for months on end, and you need to make sure your stay is as pleasant as possible.
All things said and done, remember to prioritize and plan well in advance. There’s only so much that statistics and research can help you prepare for two or more years of something that you’ll never experience within India.
Karan Gupta, Education Consultant
“Students should consider many factors while shortlisting their universities including the variety of courses offered, location, tuition fees, career prospects, student-faculty ratio, and diversity. Of these factors, for most students, the type of course offered is probably the most important factor. Students should choose universities which have a perfect blend of modules for their major and they should be allowed to change their major if they wish. Many students also prefer to choose universities based in big cities which have great networking prospects. And of course, choose a university that fits your budget or one that offers scholarships, grants and loans.”
Alisha Mashruwala, Director and CEO, Oncourse Vantage
“There is no one size fits all when it comes down to choosing a dream university; it is ‘fit’ based. When looking for a college that best suits you, it is important to consider factors like academic courses and size. Think about what kinds of courses drive you- what kind of courses you are passionate about and then search for universities that offer them. Look at the colleges that allow you to take these passions further through study abroad, research, or internship opportunities. Another factor to consider is size – are you the type of person who thrives in a larger environment or do you think being in a small school is going to help you grow and develop as an individual?”
Before finalizing your dream university, you can easily ask yourself the questions mentioned above to get more clarity. We hope this was helpful.