Studying abroad is an increasing trend around the world. Many students look for the chance to explore new experiences away from home. When I’m away at study abroad fairs I always make time to wander around and listen to what other universities have to say. One thing I hate is hearing universities giving false promises to prospective students. Yes, it happens very frequently. As student recruitment officers, we have targets to meet, and strive to get the best results possible.
Some colleagues like to sugar coat their institution just a bit too much. This may work in the short term, but you’ll find in the long term this will collapse. It’s like building a bridge on plastic foundations. The reason is that the student will end up transferring to another university or even worse, writing a formal complaint. If that complaint goes to the education ministry in their host country, disaster.
Besides this, prospective students generally approach university representatives with 3 common questions;
- What programs do you offer?
- What are the tuition fees?
- Do you offer scholarships?
Although these are indeed crucial questions, they are in no way enough to decide whether that university is the right university for them.
So in order to assist you, prospective students, I have put together 10 questions you need to ask when searching for a University abroad.
1) Is the university recognized by my country’s MOE?
This is the first thing you should find out if you are looking to study abroad. There have been many cases where students have studied at less popular universities, only to find out their diploma will not get approved by the Ministry of Education due to the university not being recognized. China, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan are the first countries to come to mind which are very strict with this issue.
2) Are the programs offered at the university accredited by international accreditation boards?
Especially for those who wish to study engineering, it is important to know whether your desired program is accredited. In other words, is the program curricula approved and recognized by international accreditation boards? This will give you an edge in your CV for the future. It’s not the end of the world if it isn’t, but your life will be a lot easier in the future I can assure you.
3) What is the Student to Faculty Ratio?
How many students are in a class? What is the interaction level with your professor? These are crucial questions to ask any university representative. The more interaction you will have in the class, the more enriched your education will be. Would you rather attend boring lectures in huge lecture halls with over 100 students? Or engaging, active lectures with 30-40 students maximum? It is very important that you have a good relationship with faculty members. You should feel comfortable in approaching them whenever you may need assistance.
4) What is the International Student Ratio?
If you wish to study abroad, you should look to do so in the most international friendly environment available. You will witness different cultures, expose yourself to new ideas and ultimately have a friend in many different countries. It will make a difference in the future when you need to put your networking skills to practice at work. Don’t only ask about the International student ratio on campus, but look at the population of international citizens living in the city where the university is. Trust me, you will feel much more comfortable and adapt quicker than you think, to life abroad.
5) Does the university assist with employment near graduation?
Another crucial question. Getting a respected degree alone may not be enough to get employed soon after graduation. What steps does the university take to help you find a job as soon as possible? Are companies frequently invited to meet graduating students? Does the university assist with preparation of CVs? Are there any workshops on interview techniques? Not only should universities strive to recruit students on the way in, but they should do their best to prepare them for what awaits them after graduation. At the end of the day, the graduating students are a university’s best reference.
6) How big is the campus?
When a student is briefed about a university, many of them ask the complex education related questions, and forget to ask the simple ones. They then apply, pay their fees and travel to campus only to realise that the campus they had dreamed about for months is only a 3 floored building with no outdoor facilities. The horror! Research, Research, Research. Ask how big the campus is. Is everything accessible and within walking distance? How big are the academic blocks and laboratories? How big is the library? What’s the total student capacity on campus? These questions will give you a good idea before you begin your journey to university.
7) How new are the facilities?
If you are a person that is picky with accommodation then you may want to ask how old the dormitory facilities on campus are. Do they get cleaned up and painted every year? Many students travelling from abroad prefer to stay on campus in dormitories or as close to the university as possible. You do not want any bad surprises when you get to your room after a long period of travel. Further on, ask about laboratory facilities if you wish to study a science related program. It will give you an idea of how well equipped the university is.
8) Are there any extra costs besides tuition, dormitory and registration fee?
Make sure that you are well aware of all the costs when you arrive to university. You may find that obtaining a student residency permit or health insurance will bring extra costs along with it that you were not made aware of prior to arrival. Dormitory deposit may be requested from you and not stated on the website. All types of surprises may await you. Be certain about the amount you must pay, and if you are being funded by your parents the last thing you want to do is keep bugging them for more money.
9) Are there any notable Alumni?
If the university has graduates working at top companies in respected positions not only on a national level but on an international level, then you know that university is doing something right. Ask about alumni and where some are currently working. It will give you confidence when making your decision and also an idea of how well they follow up with their alumni.
10) Can you put me in contact with a current student?
This is where you really put to the test what an international recruitment officer has said to you. Getting information from a current student is the best way to find out if the university is really as great as the recruitment officer says it is. You may also get a chance to sense the level of enthusiasm and happiness of a current student. You can get insights on class time, dormitories, campus life and the general atmosphere. Another bonus would be that you make a friend before you even get to the university. It will make you feel so much better about your decision.
For Undergraduate or Postgraduate study, whatever level of education you are seeking for abroad, asking these 10 questions are essential to make sure that you are making the right decision.