Last Friday I participated in my high school’s Career Day and spoke in front of year 10 and 12 students about study abroad preparation. It was good fun!
They looked enthusiastic (at least to me, hahaha) when listening to yours truly here babbling about things to consider before going to school abroad. I can’t figure out how to share the presentation here (perhaps I can use slideshare but at the moment I’m too lazy haha) so I’m going to share the points, it is rather wordy but hopefully you might find it relevant! 🙂
1) Choosing your major
This is your starting point. I think this is the first thing that has to be considered, because choosing the right major might be tricky to some people. You might want to consider your personal interest, your talent(s), and career aspiration. For example, I love to write, but I also love meeting new people and love music. Unfortunately, I don’t possess a musical talent thus I think being an artist is not the right career choice for me. Lucky me, back in my high school days I met my friend’s parent during career day who works as an advertising practitioner and learned about marketing and advertising from him. That seemed like a logical career choice for me, so I made my own research and figured out that I need to study Marketing or Communication and I can even study Psychology to be able to pursue a career in Marketing/Advertising. I consider myself lucky because I already knew what I want to be since high school so I could plan my studies accordingly. I told you it might be tricky for some people because not everybody already know what they want prior to going to the uni. Some had to change major – which is okay, but bear in mind that going to study abroad is a lot of investment so we want to make the chances very minimal 🙂
2) Choosing the location
There are some things that you can consider when choosing a location. The first is Distance. Do you need to be geographically closer to home? If yes, then your options are limited to neighboring countries only. The second is Language, Culture and Environment. Do you need to study in English speaking countries only? Or do you want to study a third language? Do you need to live within Asian culture? Or not? Which do you prefer, tropical weather or 4 seasons countries? Does size matter? Do you need to stay in big city or smaller towns would do? Those are some things to consider. Finally, Personal Considerations. Perhaps your parent is from a certain country and you want to study there. Perhaps your sibling(s) are residing in a certain country and you have to study there. The list may go on, but I hope some of the questions I raised helped you to consider things already. I believe location is not much of a problem for those of you who chose a common major, for example business or psychology. Every countries in the world would most likely to have at least 1 reputable university which offer those majors… especially for undergraduates. However, if you happen to love Nano Engineering, or Music, or something that is less common.. your choice might be limited because I think not every university has the kind of majors.
3) Choosing the BEST school
Once you have a choice of major and selection of locations.. it’s time to choose the best university! When I say best, of course, is different for everybody. For example, majority would think that Oxford and Cambridge are the bests school in the UK, but not for me, because they don’t have a Media School and don’t offer a master degree program in either communication / marketing communication / advertising / digital marketing.. my areas of interest. Thus, I did not consider both schools at all when I was applying to grad schools in the UK.
How do you choose the best school then? I have divided the things to be considered into two groups; Academics i.e Major (does the school offers your preferred major?), Courses (for that major, do you find the courses interesting? will the courses help you to achieve your goals?), Professors / Research Groups (do they have a renowned research groups? Do they have the best professors within your selected field?), and last but not least.. Rankings. The last one is self explanatory, right? The second group is Non – Academics i.e School Culture (what are the school values? does it match yours?), Student Diversity (does the school value diversity? would you prefer to study in a more diverse or less diverse group?), School Brand (does it matter to you if your school name makes people’s eyes sparkle?), and last but not least.. Alumni.
Some final tips in choosing the best school.. do a LOT of research and ask a lot of questions 🙂
4) Making your way into your best school
Preparation is key. Make sure you truly understand and prepare all the requirements. Read everything written on the school’s website. Most likely you would have to take standardised test(s). Be it IELTS/TOEFL, GRE/GMAT, SAT/LSAT.. it requires a lot of preparation and practice. Another important thing is recommendation letter. Approach someone who knows you very well and try to avoid getting generic recommendation. Now, last but not least.. Personal statement / Essay. I believe this is the most important part. 1000 other applicants might be able to have perfect scores on their standardised tests but none would be able to tell your story as good as yourself. Be unique. Embrace every aspects on your life, but be concise. Exaggerate, but don’t lie! 😉
5) Source of Funding
There are many ways to fund your study, not limited to personal fund. There are many scholarships for us Indonesians ; country specific (example : Fulbright, Chevening, Monbukagakusho, Erasmus+), school specific (example : Reach Oxford Scholarship), or the ones from a specific organization (example: LPDP). In most countries that I know, teaching / research assistanship may cover your tuition costs as well. Depending on the country, you can also do part time work, get a student loan or financial aid. So many possibilities! With those options, I personally think one should not consider funding as a limitation. Just focus on getting into the best school and have faith, there will be a way to fund your study! 🙂
6) My personal experience
I did not go abroad to study right after graduating from high school. Instead, I finished my undergraduate here in Indonesia, worked for a year, then left to the UK. Back then, I sort of knew that I want to focus in Marketing but I want a specific major for my masters. I did a lot of research and decided that I want to study Marketing and Communications, with focus on Advertising or Media. That explains why I ruled out business schools and MBAs from my options and focus on searching a Media / Communication department.
I wanted to live in an English speaking country so my options were only the UK, US, Singapore, and Australia. I tried to find the best school in each countries, found them, but decided to focus on the UK. I applied to several universities in the UK… got accepted to two but chose Bournemouth University because the MA Advertising & Marketing Communications program there offers Digital Marketing course (my area of interest), while the other does not. I applied for a scholarship from the university but failed to get it.. but the UK allows international students to work part – time so it can cover half of my expenses.
So that’s my story 🙂 I hope you find it somewhat useful.. don’t hesitate to contact me if you want to ask questions, I would be more than happy to help! 🙂
P.S – you can also browse Indonesia Mengglobal’s website to find A LOT of information about studying abroad. Do your research and prepare carefully… Good luck!