Selecting universities is a very time consuming and important process not only from the admission point of view but also because applying to universities is very expensive by Indian standards. Hence, the number of universities applied to has to be restricted to around 10 or 15 that best match your requirements.
The best university for you may not be the famous ones, but those that offer you your field of study as well as meet the other criteria important to you. The range of academic options as well as available universities are so wide that it is not possible to select the best in one go and it may take some time.
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The basic steps involved in the process of selecting universities are :
Step Criteria for short-listing No. of colleges short listed.
Self Evaluation (Level-I)
The first step is identifying your goals and needs which can be done by self evaluation.
A - Identify your reasons for pursuing higher education abroad
- Are you motivated by career goals, job prospects, academic interest, personal satisfaction?
- What particular specialization are you interested in?
It is important to match your objectives with what the universities offer. If your aim is research in some particular field, you should apply to universities with specialized departments in that field. If you are interested in practical experience, you should apply to universities located close to the commercial centers and important cities.
B - Realistically assess your academic and professional background
- Are you a competitive student?
- Are you dedicated and hardworking?
- How good is your academic record?
- Do you have any work experience or research work related to your field of study?
- Do you have any credentials in extracurricular activities?
Only if you have a good academic background, you should apply to highly ranked universities. If you feel you are moderately placed, you should apply to mid ranked universities.
C - Get an academic focus
- Do you have a relatively clear idea of your field of study?
- Have you spoken to your professors, read journals to know more about your field and other new fields?
Education abroad is very different from education in India. Most universities abroad have a very flexible system where you can select your courses and focus more on your field of interest. There are also many specialized courses which may suit your needs.
D -Realistically assess your financial abilities
- Will you get a financial assistance from the university?
- Can you or your family finance your education and stay?
- Do you have an overseas sponsor?
- Are you eligible for funds from educational trusts?
The application process itself costs about Rs. ___- Rs. /- towards examination fees, postage, university application fees etc. Tuition and living expenses are also high and depend on the country you wish to study in. For a visa, you must be able to demonstrate your ability to fund your education and stay abroad.
It is best to narrow down your choice to 25 - 30 universities after this stage by looking at the following :
- Program Offerings (BA, BS, BE, MS, MBA, DA, Ph.D., etc)
- Specialization, faculty, thrust of the programs
- University Rankings
- Program Length
- Cost -- Tuition, living expenses etc
- Availability of Financial Assistance to International Students
- Entrance Requirements (Bachelor degree in same field, work experience etc.)
- Tests ( SAT, GMAT, TOEFL etc and minimum scores)
- Accreditation status (Professional accreditation for some programs)
- Student Profile ( Percentage of international students, average work experience levels, etc)
- Enrollment -- Total available seats and the size of the school
- Location ( Country, climate, semi-rural, metropolitan city etc)
- Facilities -- Library, housing, student associations etc.
- Type of Institution -- Public or Private
These are the usual criteria. You could prioritize your criteria out of this list and shortlist the number of universities on that basis to about 30. You could further shortlist your choice on basis of specific issues like tuition fees, availability of financial etc.
Here we give some details of most important criteria for selecting universities -- academic eligibility, standardized tests, Grade Point Average and Financial Aid.
Each university and college has its own requirements for admission. There is considerable flexibility in the acceptance policies of most schools. The requirements are different for different countries. We list here the most common requirements :
Undergraduate Programs (BE, BS, BA etc.)
U.S.A., AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND
Most Universities all over the world require a minimum of 12 years of formal education. In Indian context, it implies qualifying in class 12th examination or junior college as applicable. The acceptable degrees include : Indian School Certificate, Intermediate Certificate, Higher school Certificate, Higher Secondary Certificate, All India Senior School Certificate.
CANADA & U.K.
Some Universities in Canada and U.K. may ask for 13 years of education for entry into their bachelor degree programs. This would mean one further year of education after high school or taking up of some exams for eg. “A” level exams conducted by the British Council.
Many universities also accept the Indian system of 12 years schooling.
For more details, check out: Education in Canada & Education in U.K. section
Graduate & Postgraduate Programs (MA, MS, MBA etc.)
CANADA & U.S.A.
Most Universities require qualifications comparable to a U.S. Bachelor’s degree (Four Year Degree Program). A minimum of 16 years of formal education. In Indian context, it implies either qualifying in professional 4 years course like engineering or other such courses.
If you have completed a 3-year degree program in India, the advisable plan of action to maximize eligibility for U.S. and Canadian graduate schools is to apply for a Post Graduate degree here in India. A one-year university affiliated program will make up for the fourth year of a U.S. Undergraduate degree.
For more details, check out: Education in Canada & Education in U.S.A. section
AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND & U.K.
Most New universities accept the Indian graduation system of three years for entry into most postgraduate courses. An Indian bachelor degree like B.A., B.Com. or B.Sc. is equivalent to a Bachelor (Ordinary) Degree.
However, some courses and universities may require a qualification equivalent to Bachelor (Honours) Degree in these countries, which require 16 years of formal education, which would mean another year after graduation or a four year degree course like B.E., B.Tech or other such courses.
Confirmation can only be obtained by either writing directly or formally applying to the universities concerned. However, for most Universities, a good first degree from a leading university in India or its equivalent is essential.
Academic Record and Grade Point Average
Your past academic record is one of the most important deciding factors in getting admission to a college abroad. Most schools require you to have a reasonably good academic record especially for programs and courses offering a master’s or doctoral degree. Each university has its own minimum requirement for its programs, which are flexible depending on the candidate profile.
Universities in each country have their own marking and evaluation systems, which are considerably different from the Indian system. For e.g., U.S. follows the GPA (Grade Point Average) system which are based on 5 points scheme - A,B,C,D & F.
It is advisable not to convert your marks in the Indian system of grading to the American Grade Point Average system or any other system since the conversion may not be accurate. You may attach an explanatory note from your college to indicate your rank in your class and/or university. The letter may also indicate your place as compared to the class and the university average and the number of students in the class and the number of colleges and students in the university. You may also provide any other information or documents that you feel may help you in the admission process.
Standardized Test Scores
Every university has its own minimum requirements and scores with respect to standardized tests. Check out the requirements of the universities and short-list the ones that will accept your scores.
English Proficiency Tests
Fluency in English is mandatory for education abroad whether in U.S., U.K. or any other country. You would be required to take tests like TOEFL, IELTS, TSE or other tests depending on the country, university and program you are applying to. The minimum scores required in these tests vary depending on the college and program. Individual departments and colleges usually set their own minimum requirements for admissions.
Different programs and colleges require you to take certain standardized tests for admission and there is a certain minimum that you have to score in those tests to get admitted to those universities. For a management graduate course, you are supposed to take GMAT and similarly for a graduate course in engineering, you are supposed to take GRE. For undergraduate courses, one has to take SAT.
For complete details on various tests, test preparation, reporting additional scores, test charges etc.
Most Indians are concerned about the high cost of education abroad and seek information on opportunities for financial assistance. The expenses for education abroad include tuition fees, living expenses, health insurance, transportation etc. This is an important criterion for selecting the courses as well as universities.
It is important to understand that most universities offer financial assistance to international students based primarily on merit and rarely on need. The amount, and type of assistance offered varies based on the university, department and level of study. Assistance of funds is more likely in Graduate studies and less in Undergraduate courses. Similarly, chances of assistance are more in specific countries like U.S.A. and U.K. Also funds are more likely to be available in fields like Engineering, Physical Sciences and Biological sciences, rather than in courses like Humanities, Social Sciences and Management.
For more details on financial aid, types of aid and aid available in various countries,
Application Stage (Level III)
Once you start receiving application forms and material, go through in detail for the various requirements and deadlines like the application deadline, minimum scores required in the standardized tests, recommendation letters needed and other such information.
Tabulate all these requirements and compare them with your objectives and group the universities under three categories :
- Schools that seem to match your requirements
- Schools that are not suited to your needs
- Schools that do not completely fit in any of the above two categories
Eliminate schools in Group 2 and check out in detail again the universities in Group 3. You can try and focus on departments that you would most like to attend and the school rankings in that field. And any special facilities that the school may offer you in that field. Try and make a list of schools on basis of fresh and more specific criteria like :
- Objectives of the program and kind of methodology as well as approach
- Admission / Entrance requirements
- Availability of assistantships and funds in the field of your choice
- Research facilities
- Profile of students enrolled
Narrow down your list to about 8-10 universities to whom you intend to apply.
Admission Stage (Level IV)
Universities usually inform students of their admission decisions well in advance of the beginning term. If you have received admission in more than one university, you will have to decide which one you want to attend. At this stage, you should compare a few objective and mostly more subjective criteria.