Shortlisting universities can be a cumbersome process for students who wish to study abroad. Students and parents need to take into consideration several factors such as ranking, degree/program offered, subjects of interest, financial aid for international students, on-campus jobs and career opportunities, tuition fees, as well as living expenses, before finalizing the universities. Nevertheless, if done scrupulously, it would save a lot of time, effort, money, as well as worry at the time of application. Here are some suggestions on how to create a list of the right universities and maximize your admission chances.
Maintain a balance
Whether you are applying to 15 universities in the US or 5 in the UK, a good shortlist of Reach, Target, and Safety schools will increase your chances of admission. Let’s understand what are reach, target, and safety universities.
Reach Schools are universities where your grades and test scores (SAT/BMAT etc) fall in the bottom 25 percentile of students admitted. For example, Stanford, Harvard, Oxbridge, Berkeley, Princeton are reach schools for most students since their admission process is very stringent and extremely selective. Reach schools are your dream universities where chances of getting admission is low but not entirely impossible.
Target Schools are universities where your grades and test scores fall in the middle 50 percentile of the students admitted. As such, you have a reasonable chance of getting admitted to such universities.
Safety Schools are universities where your grades and test scores fall in the top 25 percentile of the students admitted. These should be comparatively easy for you to get admitted to.
Please note that a Safety School for one student can be a Target School for another. Likewise, a Reach School for an average student may be a Target School for a student with excellent grades.
Furthermore, for most students, tuition fees and living expenses are two of the biggest constraints while shortlisting the universities. Therefore, applying to a good mix of universities maximizes your chances of admission and scholarships.
Research the University Website
A lot of information is available online. It is in our hands to sift wisely through the humongous amount of data, collect essential information, and make sense out of it. And the right place to start your research is the University website itself. You can check for the available courses, total cost of the program, internship facilities as well as career opportunities. For students seeking merit-based scholarships, it is a good idea to read about the professors and their ongoing projects and connect with them via email. You may talk about ways you can contribute to their research and if they find your ideas intelligent, they might offer you a Teaching or Research Assistantship under them.
Talk to current students or alumni
Quite often, we come across parents who are concerned about things like the weather conditions, campus safety, accommodation, workload, student life, and availability of Indian food on campus. Answers to such queries are not easily available online. In such cases, we suggest connecting with current or former students and hear it from the horse’s mouth. You can also get more information about campus life from the Indian Student Association of the respective university. Speaking with current students will help you get a realistic idea about campus life and make a smart choice.
Connect with admission representatives
Participating in virtual campus tours, one-on-one meetings, live events, and pre-admission interviews with admission counsellors is a great way to explore the university further. These meetings serve two main purposes – (a) You can clear your doubts pertaining to the degree program and make an informed decision and (b) You can demonstrate a serious interest in the university–which is highly appreciated by the university representatives.
Compare, Compile, and Create
The three rewarding ‘Cs’ for every student wanting to study abroad. It is crucial to compare the universities based on different criteria such as tuition fees, acceptance rate, average grades, average test scores (SAT, BMAT etc.), scholarships available and so on. Once you have researched and collected all the necessary data for the universities and matched your profile, constraints, and requirements, compile it in an excel sheet. Divide the university list into three parts reach, target, and safety. Finally, create a perfect mix of 15 to 20 universities across two geographies to maximize your chances of admission.
There are specialized counselors and companies which have expertise in conducting this exercise and helping you shortlist the right universities. It may be a good idea to consult with experts during your grade X or XI to decide your strategy.