Monday, October 20, 2014

9 Factors to Consider During Your School Search

By Zhengrong Lu
Research Assistant, World Education Services

If you are a prospective international student looking to study in the U.S. in 2015, you may be racing the clock to prepare applications or may have already submitted a few applications to your dream schools, as the first round deadlines for many schools are fast approaching. For whichever situation you are in, here are some findings about international students’ information needs from the latest World Education Services (WES) survey, which could help you during your school search process.

1. Program content
As per WES’s survey results, program content is the number one piece of information sought by international students, suggesting the importance of thoroughly researching the program before you apply. Searching for program content can answer many of your questions such as: what courses are included in the programs, how many courses need to be completed or if the program requires an internship for graduation.

2. Reputation of school
Reputation is the runner-up, implying that most international students consider rank as a very crucial criterion in the process of choosing a school. It is true that reputation is a very comprehensive indicator, but it varies across programs in a single school and it may not include some of the factors below which cannot be neglected neither.

3. Career prospects after graduation
For a lot of students, one of the most commonly mentioned reasons to study abroad is because they want to have a better career prospects and quality life opportunities in the future. Therefore, it is essential to evaluate the career prospects after completing the program in advance before you choose it. Connecting with alumni on social media is one way to help you gather information about employment.

4. Tuition and cost of living
Your source of funding could be coming from your family, personal savings or a loan. Tuition and cost of living should be given close attention since studying abroad is a risky and expensive proposition; you should be aware on investment. 

5. Application requirements
Most of the time, schools require a personal essay, transcripts, English proficiency test scores and recommendation letters. Additionally, many schools may also have specific instructions for these documentations, for example, transcripts evaluated by a third-party organization. Look at application requirements carefully for each school to which you plan to apply so you can get well prepared ahead of time.

6. Faculty research and expertise
If you are applying for a graduate program, it is essential to familiarize yourself with your current faculty’s work. Try to find a program by matching your interests with the faculty’s research.

7. Location
Location is also a significant aspect in students' study abroad information search of studying abroad. Not only does it play as an important factor for studying purpose, but also contributes to the whole study abroad experience. Life would be more convenient as well as expensive if the school is in a city center while the setting would be more beautiful and affordable if the location is in the suburbs.

8. Financial aid and scholarship opportunities
Similar to the importance of tuition and cost of living, financial aid and scholarship opportunities can relieve you from monetary burden. Do your research to find out if the school or program offers scholarship to international students or if they have any on-campus employment opportunities for international students.

9. Student services
Last but not the least, student services and campus safety are details you should not neglect as these services would help in smoothly settling into your daily student life.

All in all, choosing a school is a complex decision, which requires a lot of research. 

We hope this post provokes your deeper exploration of schools that are right for you! Do you have any follow up questions or opinions you’d like to share? Please feel free to leave a comment below!
Zhengrong Lu is currently a research assistant intern of Research & Advisory Services team for World Education Services in New York. She joined WES with enthusiasm to explore the field of international higher education and help international students make wise decisions in studying abroad. Zhengrong earned her Master's degree in Applied Statistics from Teachers College, Columbia University and Bachelor's degree from Fudan University in China.

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