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The basics
Study abroad : Applying to University

An international student guide on how to compare universities

Thinking of studying abroad? Checking out universities? Read our guide on what to look out for below.

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Studying abroad is definitely an opportunity not to be missed. However, deciding on the right university to attend can be difficult. You will need to do your due diligence and compare the information you’ve gathered, before coming to a decision. Since university applications can start as early as a year before the enrolment date, we suggest that you start your university search as soon as you can. It takes time to source for all of the data that you will need. You will also end up with different questions entirely in the middle of your research. Speak to the university representatives regarding the course that you’re interested and if there are any special requirements. Additionally, these representatives might be able to shed light on activities or other achievements that will give you an edge against other applicants.


We’ve gathered some qualifiers to help you compare the various universities so that you can make an informed decision.


Entry requirements

Make list of the kinds of courses that you’d be interested in and look up the entry requirements for these. Don’t just narrow your search to just popular universities, be sure to check out universities that aren’t as popular, but they may have something extra that would open more doors for you upon graduation. The reason for casting a wider net is to ensure that if you don’t do well as expected, you’ll still have a few choices on hand and if you do perform beyond your imagining, then you can always get into that well-known university that you desired! It’s a win-win situation.


Types of university

What do you look for in a university? Is it one that has an active political scene? Do you want a strong student union with a plethora of activities and nightlife options that you can choose from? Would having a strict student culture, where everyone was serious about their studies be a consideration for you? Some students excel in environments with rigid rules set to help ensure that their progress stays on track. Others chafe at that kind of authority. Each university, big or small, famous or not, will have their very own culture and values. It is highly recommended that you think about the factors that matter to you and find a university that has these and fits your culture and values.



What kinds of subjects are they strong in? What kind of faculty do they have? What type of teaching methods do they prefer? These are all vital questions that you should ask the university or find answers through your own research. If you prefer a more hands-on approach when learning, then it makes sense to search for a university that specialises in that mode of teaching. There’s no point in applying to a university, no matter their prestige if they don’t have a strong faculty and study programme in the discipline that you’re looking for.



From self-contained campuses to city universities, you should consider what sort of location that would appeal to you. Are you comfortable travelling from one place to another for lectures? Do you plan to commute and have the budget for travelling costs? For those who favour the buzzing nightlife, ending up in a sleepy, cosy campus may very well bore you throughout the duration of your degree. Find out the exact location of the university that you’re interested in, so that you don’t end up making an ill-suited choice.

Check out some of these popular study destinations for your education abroad – UKUSAustralia, Canada and Japan.


Student satisfaction scores

All final year students are told to rate their course and university experience. These findings are often published annually, and you can find specific ratings such as teaching, feedback from staff and learning resources. These are particularly helping in providing you with a glimpse into what students on the ground think about the respective courses.

Check out the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-2017 here.


How you’ll spend your time

Will you be provided with a structured timetable or will you be expected to work independently in the library? A history course may have fewer timetabled hours compared to an engineering course. Be sure to compare the teaching hours between similar courses at different universities.

Find out what the students from various universities have to say


Course content

Different courses focus on different outcomes and equip you with a distinctive set skills. Research the career that you want to be in upon graduation and then find a course that will help you get there.

Read the course content thoroughly and ask yourself truthfully if you can happily spend the next few years of your life committed to this course. A degree with the same major might cover vastly different areas. For instance, a degree in communications in one university can offer you more exposure to the industry, while a degree in another might be more technical.

Check the kinds of modules that are offered and compare them carefully. There will be core and optional subjects – find out if they are flexible. Most importantly, do they sound appealing?


How you’ll be assessed

Your degree could be assessed based on your coursework, exams, practical sessions, presentations and group work. Look at the details and find the course that best plays to your academic strengths. If you’ve only ever done coursework in college, then you will face a steep learning curve in university with a course that is more exam-oriented.


Placement opportunities

What sort of placement opportunities do they offer? Most universities offer various study abroad options for their students. You can opt for a semester or a year abroad. There are also partner institutions that you can work at during summer breaks. Competition for jobs has gotten fierce and having an internship or five will definitely put you ahead of the pack. Furthermore, internships might result in a future job once you complete your degree.


Student clubs/associations

As an international student on your own for the very first time and with not many friends (if any), joining a student club or an association will go a long way in helping you adjust to the campus culture and make you friends and these may even lead to useful networks that you can tap on once you begin your career. Some universities have very interesting clubs from the unique to the outlandish. For instance, the University of Wisconsin-Madison had a Concrete Canoe Club, yes, the engineers in this club were able to make concrete float! While the University of York has a KiguSoc. Kigurumis are Japanese onesies that look like children’s animal costumes, you can even get one that looks like Pikachu. It all boils down to the kinds of interests that you have and if there’s a club for you.


Graduate prospects

Find out what students do after they graduate from university. Especially students who graduated from the course that you’re keen on taking. Find out the types of professions they’re working in and how much they’re earning. It’s also worth finding out if the employer you hope to work for some day, favours graduates from a particular university. Talk to your seniors, reach out to any connections that you might have to understand the kinds of opportunities that are open to graduates. Demand for a certain profession is fluid and can be affected by a variety of factors. If the major that you’re interested in is suffering from a lack of demand, it might be wise to consider another, so that you won’t graduate only to find yourself jobless.


Professional accreditation

For subjects like acting, psychology, law, medicine and many other specialised subjects, choose a course that has been accredited by a relevant body. This will ensure that you’re work-ready or able to progress straight into the appropriate postgraduate course. Accreditation also matters if you’re planning to return home and work there. Some employers don’t recognise certain degrees. In other countries, graduates might need to take an additional course before they can practice in the field.



Find out how many applicants received an offer for the course the previous year. A lower number can indicate that it’s a competitive course to get on to.


We hope that these tips have helped you with your search and arrive at an informed decision.


Contemplating studying abroad? Check out the courses available here.

Or download a university’s prospectus now!


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