I remember returning home, full of excitement, carrying a bunch of University prospectus from the Education Fair, getting on bed, laying them one next to another, admiring and feeling blessed at the opportunity right in front of me. What once felt like a wish, is now becoming a reality. I spent days reading though different courses on offer at each University. I was overwhelmed with all the alternatives. On the other hand, isn’t it a “good problem” to have, all the choices for an education? 🙂
Enough said, let’s dive right in to finding the Best University for You!
Selecting a University is the first dilemma for International Students. Keeping in mind being selected to a top-ranked University is not going to be the make or break of your career, it is still a pretty BIG decision given that you are about to invest between A$10,000 to A$50,000 a year for tuition alone. Hence, don’t make a decision that you will regret.
WHAT IS YOUR PRIORITY?
After being through the tedious process myself, I realised that you will not find the perfect fit with any University, but you will be able to narrow the search down to Universities that meet your requirement closely. Firstly, you need to ask yourself why do you want to study overseas?
Academics and Campus Community
Each University have fields in which they triumph. Some Universities are known for their research facilities, whilst others lead in specific fields of study. You can refer Top Universities website’s breakdown of University rankings by subject in Australia.
It is a fact that 1 out of 3 graduates are unable to find full-time employment, no matter how prestige the degree one holds. The degree is a merely a basic requirement. Employers are more interested in the candidate’s soft skills and their ability to juggle academics with work and extra circular activities. Do consider what the University offer in terms of student life over and above academics. One of the benchmark student bodies in New South Wales, if not Australia, is ARC @ UNSW. They definitely live by their mission of creating the best student experience.
Let’s also address the students who study overseas with the primary intention of permanently migrating after completing their education. For these students, planning ahead is important. If this is your ultimate goal, then be sure to select a field that is valid for migration. In Australia, look if the field of studies fall under the Skilled Occupation List and selected course is a minimum two-year program. I would also recommend you to read our article detailing out on the Temporary Graduate 485 Visa.
TIME TO DO YOUR RESEARCH
Once you have established your goals and courses you wish to pursue, it is time for some research. Most students are quick to settle for the popular option or what is recommended by family without evaluating other factors. Since you are committing to one University for the next 2-4 years (depending on your line of studies); just as any other luxury purchase, , take your time to dig deep in to finding best combination of your requirements.
If you have the time and money, I would recommend this to be the most effective way to feel the University and its surrounding environment. You have the opportunity to talk to peers and other students of similar background. Take time to stroll outside the campus to get a feel of the neighbourhood. So keep a tab on the calendar for upcoming open days at the Universities. Do remember, open days are designed to awe you with colourful events, green courtyards, freebies and shiny new buildings. While you enjoy those, take a look at what really matters. Here are some questions you can ask fellow students / faculty members at open day.
- How long have you been at the University?
- How do you like the University?
- Which buildings hold lectures for [insert major]?
- Are lectures held at off campus locations?
- What clubs and other activities could I participate?
- Do they have a/an [insert your interest] society?
- Is there any flexibility in course section?
- Are the courses more exam based or assignment based?
- Do they assist with job placements?
- Does the University offer support services like counselling, legal aid, etc.?
- Do you live on or off campus and how are the accommodation options?
If you are unable to attend the open day at the University, remember your country may host representatives from foreign Universities. This is a popular promotional method amongst Universities in developed countries to attract International Students. Although this is not the same as visiting the University, it is still a good place for you to ask questions and clear out any concerns. So keep a tab on these events through local education agencies.
It is no secret that International Students are a University’s main revenue stream given how much is spent yearly on tuition. On a general scale, I don’t see a significant variation in course fees between top Universities. In Australia, if you are looking for something in the lower – middle range, expand the search beyond Group of Eight Universities. You will be surprised with the choices and most of these Universities are still recognised by employers.
According to the Australian Government’s Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching 2017 Employer Satisfaction Survey, James Cook University (Australian ranked 21) graduates received the highest percentage of favourable ratings from employers, out ranking all other top universities.
University scholarships are another great method to support you financially. Most Universities want to attract the best and brightest through scholarships. Head over to each University’s website to apply for active scholarships.
You may also consider other options like TAFE Institutes that offer good panel of lecturers and courses at a much affordable rate.
I will be covering more on the topic of finance in a later post, so stay tuned.
Cost of Living
While on-campus accommodation is costly, there are definitely pros of choosing this option. For now, I am focusing on cheaper but yet comfortable off-campus options. Accessibility is key. Try to find a University within close proximity rather than travelling over an hour to attend lectures. Especially in states like New South Wales, you will spend between $30 to $50 per week for public transport. Travel costs are generally high in New South Wales as it is one of two states that doesn’t offer travel concessions for International Students.
If you are concerned about costs, have a grasp of the living cost in the suburb / state where the University is located. For instance, within New South Wales, the Western suburbs are far more affordable than the Northern and Eastern suburbs.
Find out more about how to find cheap accommodation and everything you need to know on this subject on our other article.
LAST, BUT NOT LEAST...
Start University hunting well in advance. Allow yourself plenty of time to make an informed decision. Otherwise, you will settle with the first University to send an offer. Australia has two in-takes for International Students, February and July. Now is a good time to get started for February 2019 intake.
Share in the comment section, what other factors do you consider important when choosing a University?
Until next time….