Things to consider before applying to foreign universities
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Whether you are planning or thinking of how to apply for foreign universities or how to apply for study abroad with scholarship, the option to apply and study at a university anywhere in the world is an exciting one. The problem for most students is knowing where to start when choosing a university outside their home country. The US alone has more than 4,000 universities, so it’s essential to understand the different systems and what these overseas universities require from applicants.
Most of you who consider studying abroad have a place in mind, and that’s the first step in the process, but location might be determined by more than just your favourite country. For those who will have strict major requirements, you probably want to choose the schools that work best for your desired course. Be it as it may, you’ll enjoy your experience no matter where you go. Anywhere you end up is going to be both challenging and incredible, and you will come back to your country with a completely different point of view. No matter where you go, you’ll be getting an experience that is completely different and worthwhile
There are also more minute factors to think about in regards to academics, like grading, credits and difficulty. “Understanding that international universities look very different from Nigeria universities [is important], especially when it comes to the level of student services provided. Students who attend international universities are expected to be very independent and do not necessarily have access to services that home base student have (writing centres, tutoring, access to professors, etc.).” Because of this, you need to be willing to be more independent in your studies —although deciding to go to college abroad is a pretty big indicator that you are independent.
Plus, the grading system that you might be used to won’t necessarily be the same. For example, Nigeria uses A, B, C, D, E, F for grading, U.S. schools use a 0-100 scale represented by letter grades, in France, a 20-point grading scale is used. So make sure that you’re ready for a change in what you’re used to.
Distance from home
Remember that studying abroad means you are way more than a few hours away from home. Coming home due to homesickness isn’t an option, and you might have to sacrifice a few holidays too. Although it seems like college in itself is a big step towards being independent, chances are there will be some days that you wish you could just go home and snug up in your own bed. Plus, anytime you come down with a cold, you’ll be on your own.
Additionally, don’t forget that being abroad can also mean time differences. If you’re studying in Australia, for example, you’ll be on the complete opposite time schedule of the Nigeria/U.S., which can make it difficult to talk to family and friends. Plus, you’ll probably have to figure out a different cell phone contract too, because international calling and texting isn’t typically covered. So yes, although distance does make the heart grow fonder, it can also grow lonely if you aren’t prepared.
Applications for university can be either centralised, with one governing body controlling how students apply, or decentralised.
In the UK, this centralised process is operated by Ucas (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service), which requires students to meet minimum entrance requirements as well as submitting a personal statement and academic references. Ucas allows students to apply for up to five courses, but other centralised systems can differ. For example in Australia, you can apply for up to nine courses.
In the US, as well as in France, Germany and Spain, there is a decentralised system. Each university is applied to individuals and can establish their own set of values and requirements. These can vary; US universities, for example, are known for reviewing an applicant on a holistic basis encompassing grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation and essays. Most universities require at least a personal statement and certain grades depending on the course and with the decentralised system, you can usually apply to as many universities as you like. Just be aware that in some countries, like the US, you have to pay for each application.
In the US, because applications are decentralised, most schools advise their students to submit their applications by November, and regular offers are made in January or February.
In Australia, the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) covers most universities in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The state of California in the US has a centralised system, as do some European countries. These systems generally assess students on the basis of academic results, although some institutions set their own admission requirements and most offer alternative pathways to applicants who don’t the school requirement. Some courses select applicants on the basis of additional criteria such as a personal statement, a questionnaire, portfolio of work, audition, interview or test. Other courses may use a combination of both academic qualifications and additional selection criteria.
In Australia, Japan, South Korea and other countries where the new academic year starts in January, the application cycle is shifted around to work with this date. So, for example, the earliest date for submitting an application to an Australian university is in August, with later application dates following on in “rounds” from this date.
Most centralised systems open for applications at the beginning of the academic year for those hoping to begin studying the following academic year, but for certain courses and universities, it can be earlier. The processing time varies depending on the type of application and how accurate and complete your application is. With Ucas, for example, students can receive offers from universities any time after submitting their applications. These timings, after submitting through the centralised system, are dependent on each university.
Students applying to university in the Netherlands can do so through Studielink, which requires you to make one application at a time through a centrally managed process. Studielink allows you to apply for up to four courses at a time, with the possibility to change the courses you wish to apply for at any time before the enrolment deadline. If you are rejected by one university, you can then apply to another one. However, students can also apply directly to the university in a way that would not be possible in other countries such as the UK.
Of course, if a university has minimum entrance requirements, then students must meet these before they will be considered. But simply meeting the entrance requirements does not equate to admission. It’s equally important to diversify yourself with extracurricular activities and work experience, as well as showing passion for your subjects.
There are some distinct variations in what universities in different countries are looking for in student applications. US universities, for example, really value an entrepreneurial mindset, and an ability to work well in groups is favoured.
The most vital thing for students considering universities in the UK and abroad is to understand the differences between each system. If a student ends up applying to multiple countries, they should utilise the different application methods to highlight the traits they think will best fit the university.