How do you choose a university you’re going to spend the next few years at without even setting foot on campus?
International students often have to make this difficult and potentially life-changing decision on which university to attend from back home.
It’s a luxury to be able to travel thousands of miles to check out physical campuses in a host country, one that many international students cannot afford.
While some renowned universities such as Harvard and Oxford need no introduction, depicted often enough in popular culture that students can get a sense of where they’re going, more often than not international students are choosing lesser-known universities in smaller college towns.
Sure, you can browse the website extensively and speak to admissions counsellors, maybe even check out Google Street View, but do they really give you the whole picture?
Here are some handy tips if you’ve received a few admissions offers but finding it tough to figure out how to choose a university you should attend in September or beyond.
Take a virtual tour
As we continue social distancing – experts say it’s still good for us to get outside. If you’re working from home, and can’t take a break – enjoy this “virtual tour” of the Campus Arboretum @UAAgLifeVetExt @CALS_UA @UArizonaCALS pic.twitter.com/NmyTCDrEbU
— UArizona Cooperative Extension (@UAZCoopExt) March 25, 2020
Not sure how to choose a university because you don’t know how it looks inside? Some universities and residence halls offer immersive virtual tours so you can get an inside look at campuses or dorm rooms before you arrive.
Check out CampusTours for video tours, photorealistic interactive campus maps, mobile walking tours of universities in the US, UK, Canada, China and France.
Attend an online information session or webinar
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many universities and departments are offering online information sessions or live webinars where you can ask questions in real-time.
Check if the universities you are eyeing are holding any upcoming ones so you can mark it in your calendar for a chance to speak to the people in your programme or university.
Join a Facebook group
More often than not, there is a Facebook group for students attending a particular university. Sometimes you may even be able to find one specific to your country or department – such as RMIT Vietnam International Students and SUNY Buffalo Electrical Engineering Facebook groups.
If you’re able to find a relevant group, request to join and you can post questions or get in touch with future peers so you can get more student insights on the university you plan to attend.
Unsure how to choose a university despite how beautiful they look on the website? Ask current students. Source: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP
Contact your international student council
Got questions about housing, travelling from the airport to your campus or just looking to make some connections?
E-mail or get in touch with your international student council or association as they’re a good resource to help you get better acquainted with your future university.
You can ask them questions that every international student wants to know – such as weather conditions, what you need to pack, or for help looking for a place to stay.
If you can’t find them on social media, e-mail an admissions counsellor or the international student office to ask for their contact e-mail address.
Check out Unibuddy
Thanks @yasmin_aky for this great interview with our CCO @jtinnacher!
Check it out in @Study_INTNL: https://t.co/7Erou69r1G#intled #highered
— Unibuddy (@Unibuddy_) March 12, 2020
Universities such as UC Irvine use Unibuddy – a feature embedded on their website where you can chat with fellow students – known as student ambassadors – at the university.
You can browse profiles of these student ambassadors before reaching out and talking to them. More and more universities are partnering with Unibuddy for an easy way to connect future students with current ones, so do make use of this resource if your prospective university has it.
Check out the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2021
Known as one of the best college guides out there, the Fiske Guide to Colleges was developed by former New York Times education editor Edward B Fiske to help students on how to choose a university in the US.
It includes extensive information for 320+ colleges in the US, including student quotes and information you won’t find on college websites.
The Fiske Guide to Colleges 2021 will only be out in July this year, but you can pre-order on Amazon as well as read reviews on past guides.
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