Imagine yourself scanning your passport and grabbing some snacks in the terminal before you settle in for your flight. You sit back, watch a few movies take a nap and land in England, or Scotland, or Ireland! You walk off the plane and see some students gathering on the bus that takes you towards campus. You hop on and learn that there’s a student from Hong Kong, a couple more from the States and some others with fun accents that you have yet to discover the origin to. You discover that it’s welcome week and all of the social societies, clubs and sports will be out on the main quad for you to check out. And you stop to realize that you can create any new type of world you want. Your world no longer exists within the high school walls that now seem so small. Your world no longer is comprised of the same Instagram posts and social circles in your town. Nope. Your world has literally expanded into something greater. And the best part is, you’re just getting started.
Honestly I want to go back and do it all over again. You know when your mom or someone older, wiser said something like, “if I could do it over again” and you kind of half listen because, well you just have it all figured out…obviously. Well I’m here to say it’s super true! Studying internationally was something I NEVER considered and now as an adult I’m like 65% considered doing another Master’s abroad, because it has become clear to me how transferrable, accessible and incredible the opportunities really are. Not to mention a complete resume fact that will automatically tell employers you are independent, resilient, a problem-solver a risk taker in a good way, you have confidence and well probably some really good stories. And it’s REALLY affordable!
So even if you’re slightly considered abroad, or just would normally stop reading now, keep reading. Consider it. Honestly what’s the worst that can happen? You get lost in 3 hours of researching online instead of Instragram scrolling? Take a look at some key resources and general tips as you’re diving into this new world!
How to Research in a Smarter Way That Makes Things Way Less Intimidating
- Create a Google doc, excel spreadsheet or a notebook to jot notes down the name of the University and notes
- Take notes as you go, write your initial feelings, thoughts, something unique, something you liked, didn’t like, etc. Something that’ll help you sort back through it after they all start to sound the same
- College can get super overwhelming, especially something more outside the box. Break it into manageable pieces, research two new universities for maybe an hour and then walk away.
- Find and get to know your international representative. Every university has an outreach, recruiting and admissions team that WANTS to help you and can answer those super specific questions. Call, find them on the website and email them! Oftentimes these are young individuals not that far off from college so not intimidating!
Knowing What You Want to Study
American Universities are mostly set up for students to come in and have the flexibility to be undecided and not declare a major until maybe Sophomore year, while exploring a breadth of general education curriculum. Actually almost 50% of students go in undeclared! Abroad it’s a whole different story. Students go in choosing the course (major) of study and really specialize and take tailored classes in a specific manner to complete their degree, oftentimes in 3 years. So you do need to have a sense of what area of study you want to go into. But there can be some flexibility within your field.
For example, let’s say you want to major in engineering, but don’t know what specific type of engineering, because, well you’re 17 and still learning what the heck is a chemical engineer ACTUALLY does. Well a good portion of universities abroad can admit you as an engineering student and then you can decide on your specific discipline as you go along, same with Business, Arts, Social Sciences, etc. There are always exceptions to this so add to your research how much flexibility there can be. Just keep in mind if you start off in Engineering and want to hop over to Drama or Classics that’ll have you starting over essentially.
Tip! Go to a University’s webpage and look up the major you think you’re interested in. Go to that major’s specific course page and you’ll typically find the entire pathway of classes (and descriptions) of what you’d actually take as a student. It also describes career outlook and specific student support for that degree.
How to Narrow Down Your College Search
- Find the academic program you’re looking for and see who offers them. Use the rankings and sites like UCAS (listed more below) to see which universities offer the courses you’re interested in studying. UCAS Course Search
- Consider location (rural, city, campus within a city, surrounding community, etc.) Tip: Google Maps is an awesome tool! Type the university in and zoom out!
- Student support services (societies and clubs, social vibe, career services, specialized programs, etc.)
- Keep track of your research and remember to walk away if you feel like it’s a bit overwhelming!!
Rankings and Why They Can Actually Be Helpful Abroad
Any counselor will generally groan or at least sigh slightly with the mention of U.S. News World Report rankings. Why? Well because the ranking methodology doesn’t necessarily add up to a reputable source giving families key information when making essentially a HUGE decision. Part of being successful at the university has a whole lot more to do with positioning yourself in a university that will allow you to thrive because you’re in the best fit academically, socially, learning wise, financially, etc.
One of the many things I love about the U.K. systems (and there’s a LOT of things I love) is the straightforwardness about searching and finding a program and university that tailors your needs very clearly. The rankings provided can be essential in helping you find an academic course (major) of study and things like overall student satisfaction, not just research, but the quality and impact of the research, the professors, etc. It’s lovely. Here are a few key ones, when doing your research I suggest start broad and then cross reference a ranking sites to start highlighting schools that are popping up more than once.
- The Complete University Guide
- The Times and the Sunday Times
- The Guardian
- QS World Rankings
- Research Excellence Framework
- Teaching Excellence Framework
- Uni Stats
Involving Your Parent/Guardian and Support System
- Look, you can get all excited about abroad and guess what, someone else can be easily put off or wary…why? Because people care about you and if it’s unknown to them too it can be scary. The thought of sending your child abroad for a few years can be terrifying depending on a parent’s international experience and general experience with the world of higher education. Be patient, but help others understand with facts, not emotion.
- Set a time to have a conversation about the idea of studying internationally
- Bring facts to the table, not all emotion. Employment rates, student satisfaction, program ranking, finances, safety information, etc.
- Provide a resource. You know that international representative that you found to answer all of your questions and get connected? Well connect that person to your parent/guardian as well!
- Talk to students abroad or a family that you know who has done it and continue to broaden your research and conversations
- Involve your school counselor too!