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How to: choose your study abroad destination

The secret to success in having a stress-free application process is to plan strategically. With about 194 attractive destinations to choose from, and over 23,729 universities in the world, choosing where to apply for university abroad can get really confusing. Applying is not an easy task, and if you are already getting overwhelmed by how to start this process, this step by step guide is for you!

1. What do you want to achieve?
By Chestie Nut (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0
 (httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby-sa4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The question which you need to answer is: why do you want to study abroad? Take a pen and a paper, and jot down your top three reasons! Your motives will later influence your university application list, so it's very important that you take this step very seriously. Think about where you want to see yourself at the end of this process. Some people are interested in learning about different cultures, others have their career after their studies in mind. Do you want to open up possibilities for a better future in a new country? Do you want to have a top ranked university on your resume? Take the time to talk to family members, friends and people who already studied abroad who can help you better understand your motives. 

      2. Choose the character of your University
This is where you go into detail. Now that you know what you want to achieve, it's time to consider the parameters of your ideal study experience. Think about how important the location of the school is for you. If you need help choosing a country to study in, take this easy personality test to find out which city suits you.  If you want to stay abroad after your studies, make sure the university you pick is in a country that allows you to do that. Think about the language of the country, the culture, and ask yourself how important the reputation of the university is for you. Also, make sure to take your budget into consideration. How much are you willing to pay for the studies and living expenses? These are all important factors, which will make your life easier in the application process, and will save you time and money in the future. When you finish brainstorming, create a spreadsheet with all the parameters of your ideal university and study experience. 

    3. Locate the universities that match your answers
Now that you know what you are looking for, it's time to do some research. Hold on before you start your google search, because this is where it gets a bit overwhelming. With today's easy access to information, you need to stay focused. Have your spreadsheet open, and start listing the universities that match the top parameters that are most important to you. For example, if the location is the most important for you, list down all the universities in the area of your choice, which offer the study program which you are interested in. Stay open minded and list down even options that you haven't thought about before, as long as they match your criteria. 

After listing the universities, go through the other sections which you wrote down, and tick off each section which matches your ideal choice of school. You will be able to find all this information in the universities' websites. You need to get all of information  first, so that you end up with a list of matching schools that you would be happy to study in.

4    4. Find out the Requirements and your Chances of getting Accepted
Now that you limited your choices, it's time to find out what your requirements are to study in each university on your list. Each country and university has different application criteria for international students. If you have no idea what the criteria in your choice of country is, talk to someone who knowsFind someone from the same background as you. It's even better if they studied in one of the universities on your list. If you have already done some of the required tests, and you know what the criteria for each university application is, get advice to see how you can improve your chances of getting accepted. Talk to someone who already did it and knows what universities are looking for. 

If your dream is to study business or engineering in the United States, there are some advanced predictive tools now available that can help you find out which schools will accept you. Also find out how selective each university is by looking at the percentage of the students that are admitted. Try to match your characteristics to the ones that they are looking for to know where you best fit. 

      5. How many university applications should you send?
This is where you finalize your university application list. Your goal is on one hand, to open up your options, but also to save up as much time and money as you can. Since each application costs between $80-$250 (depending on program and school), choose your application list wisely.

Divide your university list into three categories according to your qualification: dream schools (“reach”), schools you are likely to be a good fit for (“match”), and some “safety” schools, according to your chances of getting accepted to the different schools. By doing this, you are ensuring that you will get accepted to at least one of these schools, but you are also opening up the option of getting accepted into a school above your qualification. Make sure that you will be satisfied with studying in each of these universities. With this strategy, you will have a comprehensive portfolio of ideally 5-7 schools that are the right choice for you.

For more information about how to apply and make your dream of studying abroad a reality, feel free to join us at GradTrain, or ask questions on our forums.    


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