Find Your Match
Which University to Apply To
Whether you’ve been planning to study abroad for years or are only now considering it, the entire process might seem daunting.
How do you decide on the right destination? Which universities would be best for you? What will these universities look at in order to evaluate your profile?
This and more is exactly what we’re going to cover today.
Why study abroad?
Why should you study abroad in the first place? The first and most important reason is global exposure.
What this means is you will interact with students and professors from various countries and that will really broaden your perspective in terms of how you think and how you respond.
It’s going to just become much more advanced and sophisticated because of the diversity of thoughts, viewpoints and styles that you will come into contact with.
Secondly once you graduate, there will be very good job opportunities depending on the country you go to. Even if you do decide to return to your home country, you will definitely find better job opportunities and more attractive compensation once you are qualified with a degree from a university abroad.
Universities abroad tend to be excellent in multiple fields not just one or two. For example if you take good universities abroad they are good not only for engineering but possibly for business as well and medicine.
This allows you to experience interdisciplinary programs and projects and courses. You’ll also find that all of your coursework is very practical. The emphasis is on the ability to apply what you have learned in everyday, real-life contexts and not at all on mugging up everything and reproducing that information on the exam paper.
Finally universities abroad do tend to have the most cutting-edge facilities, infrastructure and technology. You will gain a lot of exposure to these amazing opportunities. This is just a sampling of the many reasons to study abroad and gain this experience and exposure.
Comparing popular study-abroad destinations
Let’s take a look at the most popular destinations – Singapore, US, UK, Europe, Australia and Canada.
We’ll compare them in terms of academics and research, career prospects, costs and scholarship opportunities. When we talk about costs we mean the cost of doing your MS and of the cost of living.
When we talk about scholarships, we’re referring to the likelihood of finding scholarships there.
Keeping this in mind, we see there are a lot of advantages for the for US and Canada. In terms of academics, research and career prospects – the USA is unparalleled.
In terms of scholarships, the US leads again because the number of world-class institutes in the U.S. is unmatched by any other country in the world.
Every country definitely has its own top universities. The UK has its top universities – the set of colleges in Oxford and Cambridge.
Singapore has NTU and Nanyang. Every country has a few excellent schools but the number of good schools in the U.S. is so very high.
No other country has an equal number of schools that are in the same league as Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, Wisconsin-Madison, Yale, Princeton, University of Chicago and so on.
Coming to career prospects. The U.S. and Canada make it very comfortable for you to find work. Immediately after you graduate they encourage you to take up work there without requiring an H1B if if your degree is in a STEM field.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics – not management. MBA does not come under STEM. In the US when you find a job you can work after your MS for up to three years without requiring any H1B visa or any special visa.
The same goes to for Canada also and that is why we have given them four stars in terms of career prospects.
In the UK and Australia, typically they would like you to return to your home country soon after you graduate and then if you want to apply for permanent residency it’s a completely different process that you have to initiate.
In terms of costs, Singapore makes the cut. It is less expensive and of course, the U.S. is more expensive.
In terms of the likelihood of finding scholarships nothing beats the U.S. and to some extent Canada.
Keep in mind, different countries have different rules. For example in Singapore if you study in certain fields and if you were to sign a bond saying that you will continue to work in Singapore for two to three years after you finish your degree, then they will actually waive your tuition fee or a large part of it.
Different countries and universities have their own rules and regulations but on the whole this is one good way to compare all of these different places.
One of the most important things here is what factors should you consider when choosing universities? Both sides of the equation is important. You need to know what universities consider when they select students. And, of course, you need to know how you will consider the select universities to apply to.
The most important thing is the field of interest. When we say field of interest it means the area in which you want to specialize in your Master’s or PhD program. This has to be something that you’re really interested in.
It doesn’t matter for what reason you got into your program in your undergrad, even if you were under a lot of mental pressure – make sure that the field of interest that you pick for your Masters is something that you really care about.
You’re going to be spending two years focused on one subject area which might just have been one of six subjects in one semester in your undergrad.
So for example if your undergrad has six subjects every semester and one of them is networking, in your Master’s you’ll be spending at least half of your two years on this one something.
So actually pick something that you really care about. The second is the reputation of the university and also of the department in which you’re specializing. This is important because the brand of the university is going to stay with you for life.
Having said that, you should aim to get the best possible university for your profile. Somebody else’s ‘ambitious’ option might be ‘safe’ for you and your ‘ambitious’ might be somebody else’s ‘safe’. So you want to make sure that the universities you apply to are reputable.
At the same time, the reputation of your department is also important.
For example, if you take the University of California-San Francisco, it is not ranked very highly in terms of engineering courses but for anything related to medicine or biology, it’s extremely well ranked. All the companies that hire in this field know this, they’re aware of its reputation.
The third factor is career opportunities. Again you have to pick a field once you’ve done your research and you know that there are good opportunities to work afterwards and to utilize the learning that you’ve gotten in your Masters in this field.
Location is also important. For example if you take a look at San Jose State University, it’s not very highly ranked but it’s located in the heart of the Silicon Valley and this will help you find jobs easily. So if you know that you want to work in a technical space, this could go a long way towards helping you reach your goal.
Of course the other factors that you should consider are how much it’s going to cost you and the likelihood of receiving funding. So this is what you have to think about from your standpoint when it comes to shortlisting the universities to apply to. When looking for answers, there’s a lot of information that you can find online.
Factors Universities Consider when Evaluating
Now, let’s, turn the tables and try to understand what universities consider when they evaluate Master’s or PhD applicants. They consider several aspects. The first aspect universities want to know about are your academics.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the best way they have of discerning that is through your transcripts, your GPA and your academic credentials. That’s why it’s important to have a high GPA.
Having said that if your GPA is on the lower side but you’ve done well in the subjects that you want to specialize in for your Masters, then you’re safe. You can always make a case for that. You can explain why this is so. But please keep in mind that your academics are a very very important part of your application.
Next, universities look at test scores such as the GRE or the TOEFL. Standardized test scores are very important. This is because they help universities compare students from very different backgrounds.
For example let’s say Student A studied at the University of China and Student B at an IIT. How do you compare these two students both with a 7.5 GPA but in very different academic systems? That’s where the GRE or the TOEFL and all other standardized tests come inhandy.
They are conducted in a uniform manner throughout the world and therefore it allows universities to compare apples to apples. Students who attempt the GRE from any part of the world can be compared with other GRE test takers because the test is the same for all.
In addition to these two factors – academics and test scores – the next aspect they’ll look at are your internships. Those of you who are still in your undergrad make sure you do meaningful internships.
Generally, we encourage that you take your GRE as quickly as possible. This will allow you to free up your summers between years. Between your third and fourth year is the ideal time to do meaningful internships.
We don’t mean implant training and things like that. By ‘meaningful’ we mean an internship where you make solid contributions to the organization. You should be able to get a strong recommendation letter that outlines what you did on the project and the impact that it made to the organization.
It need not be a company, it could even be an internship at a research lab or with a professor.
Speaking of professors, this brings us to the next aspect of your profile that universities pay close attention to – research work. Any kinds of research work, projects, conferences, workshops, paper presentations – these will be supremely helpful. The more prestigious the journal that you’re published in, the better.
Finally, you have two sets of essays to think about.The SOP which is your Statement of Purpose and typically three Letters of Recommendation or LoR’s.
A statement of purpose is a one – one and a half page essay that you write with the aim to distinguish yourself from other the applicants. A statement of purpose (also called a letter of intent or a research statement) introduces your interests and experience to the admissions committee.
For more professionally-focused graduate programs, your statement of purpose will primarily discuss how your pursuit of this professional program relates to your past experiences, and how you will use the skills from the program in your future career.
A statement of purpose for grad school is also where you sell the admissions committee on why you belong in their program specifically. Why do you fit there, and how does what they offer fit your interests?
Your letters of recommendation are the only time you have to get other people’s professional opinion about you. Letters of Recommendation (LoR) work for you when they present you in the best possible light, showcasing your skills and abilities.
It’s important that you get them from the right people so they have the greatest impact.
Bonus Admissions Resources
Pros and Cons of Pursuing Higher Studies in Non US Countries
Profile Building for Scholarship & Funding
How to write a Winning SOP for Masters Abroad
now it's your turn
I'd like to hear from you
Which strategy from today’s guide do you think will work best for you?
Are you going to start applying to universities right away?
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