Choice of University for Studying Abroad

Choice of University for Studying Abroad

Anyone planning to study abroad has to think about a lot of things and make a few decisions. These should be well thought out so that studying abroad can be a success – both personally and academically. Of course, the choice of a suitable university also plays an important role.

Criteria for choosing a university for studying abroad

As with the choice of the country of study for studying abroad, there are a number of possible criteria for choosing a university. These are weighted individually by prospective students abroad. So one cannot generally say that one criterion is more important than the other. In the following, we have put together a number of criteria that should be used when deciding on a university abroad.

Location of the university abroad

When choosing a university for studying abroad, the location can play an important role. If you are planning to study abroad, you should consider in advance whether he or she would like to study in a large city or in a more rural area. There are numerous exciting university locations abroad for both urban and rural enthusiasts.

Some also know in advance which city they want to study in. Then it is of course advisable to look out for suitable universities in this city.

The location of the university has an impact on many areas of life when studying abroad, with each location having its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, it influences the cost of living, which is usually higher in cities than in rural regions. The way you spend your free time is also influenced to a certain extent by the choice of location. Lovers of museums, shopping and clubs are more likely to be drawn to the big city. Outdoor fans, on the other hand, feel more in good hands in the country or in small towns.

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Size of the university abroad

Huge campus university or small university with a family atmosphere? This, too, is a point that prospective foreign students should be concerned about. A large university with many students offers a spacious campus, usually with beautiful green areas, sports facilities, restaurants and shops. Large universities usually also have a wide range of leisure activities on campus. At a college with fewer students the campus is usually also smaller. In addition, fewer students are usually enrolled in the university’s subjects. This increases the chance of attending several courses with the same people and making connections quickly. Whether fellow students, lecturers or other employees of the university: At a small institution you run into each other more often and see familiar faces. That makes the study atmosphere a little more personal.

As a rule, however, both large and small universities offer international students sufficient opportunities to make contacts outside of the course.

Sponsorship of the foreign university

A criterion when choosing a university for studying abroad can also be the sponsorship of the educational institution. In general there are two types of universities in this regard:

  • State universities
  • Private universities

Whether state or private universities form the majority in the university landscape differs from country to country. In the higher education landscape in Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, for example, state institutions dominate the universities. There are no or only a few private universities. In the US higher education landscape, on the other hand, there are more private universities than public universities.

Private universities often charge higher tuition fees than state universities. In return, they usually offer more service and are better equipped. But that doesn’t mean that state universities are bad. In the USA, the elite universities of the so-called Ivy League are all privately owned. However, there are also a number of state universities in the USA that have an excellent international reputation and regularly come out on top in various university rankings. And in Australiafor example, where private universities only play a subordinate role, all universities in the most important Australian university network, the Group of Eight, are state universities.

Before choosing a university abroad, it is generally advisable to examine the importance of state and private institutions in the country of study.


An objectively very important criterion is the accreditation of the university and the institute. On the one hand, it can have an impact on the recognition of a degree acquired abroad and, on the other hand, it can also affect the funding opportunities for studying abroad. A degree from a non-accredited university in the USA, for example, is not recognized in Germany. Accreditations are an important means of quality assurance not only for entire universities, but also for individual institutes and programs. They play an important role, especially in the field of economics and for university business schools.

University reputation and ranking results

For many students who are drawn abroad, the reputation of the university is also important. National and international university rankings can provide an indication of the reputation of a university. They can also allow conclusions to be drawn about the research and study situation. However, many well-known international university rankings, such as the ARWU, the QS ranking or the THE ranking, tend to focus more on research.

When choosing a university to study abroad, the question arises of how important reputation and ranking results are to one personally. If you want to study at a university that is very well placed in rankings, you have to expect to be challenged there. If you want to spend a relaxed time abroad and, for example, spend a lot of time with new friends, celebrate student parties and discover the study country while traveling, such a university is probably less suitable. Especially with students who have a semester abroad such things often play a role. In this respect, reputation and ranking positions may take a back seat to other criteria. The opposite is often the case with students who are planning a full degree abroad. No wonder, after all, a degree from a top university can open many doors in professional life. But even a semester abroad at a renowned university always looks good on your résumé.

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Equipment of the university

An important point when choosing a university for studying abroad can also be its equipment. Anyone who attaches great importance to state-of-the-art equipment, for example with the latest multimedia technology, smart classrooms or new laboratory equipment, should find out in advance to what extent the foreign university meets these requirements.

Study and courses offered by the university abroad

A decisive aspect when choosing a university is the range of courses and study programs at a foreign university. After all, this is the basic requirement for successful studies abroad. If you want to do a bachelor’s or master’s degree abroad or do your doctorate there, you must of course clarify in advance whether the university offers the desired course at all. For semester students, the following questions regarding the course offer are important when choosing:

  • Does the university offer courses that interest me?
  • Are the courses offered at the university that I need for my studies and that can be credited to my home university ?


Studying abroad is always associated with costs. Prospective foreign students must therefore ask themselves how much money they can or want to invest in studying abroad.

A major cost factor for study abroad in many countries, the tuition fees. The amount of the fees can therefore be decisive when choosing a university for studying abroad. These can also be very different within a study country.

A full course or semester abroad must also be financed. In addition to foreign BAföG and student loans, scholarships are also possible. When choosing a university, it can be worthwhile to consider whether the universities award scholarships for international students. These can help cover the costs of studying abroad.

Semester dates of the university

A selection criterion for students planning a semester or summer session abroad is the semester dates of the foreign universities. After all, these must not collide with the lecture and examination period at the home university. Abroad there are universities with a semester or trimester system, and some of them also offer summer sessions.

Admission requirements

Do I have a chance of admission to this university? Students should also ask themselves this question when choosing a university. Here are the chances of being approved for a semester abroad as a free mover, generally very good. Most of the time, students only need a high school diploma and have to use standardized language tests such as TOEFL or IELTS to prove that they have a good command of English. However, the minimum number of points required for admission in these tests varies from university to university. Some universities also require applicants for a semester abroad to have a certain average grade in their previous studies. The hurdles for admission to a semester abroad are therefore different depending on the university.

The same applies, of course, to a full course abroad, although applicants here often have to meet more admission requirements than semester students. In addition to language tests, the universities sometimes also require academic admission tests. A good bachelor’s degree is usually important for further courses of study. Applicants for an MBA degree are often required to have professional experience. The admission requirements for studying abroad vary from university to university and often also from course to course.

Anyone who would like to study without a high school diploma also has the opportunity to do so abroad, for example at community colleges in the USA.

Gut feeling

Even if the so-called “gut feeling” is primarily a very subjective criterion, it is not insignificant when choosing a university. Who wants to start the adventure of studying abroad with a bad feeling? So you should “listen to yourself” as to whether you would feel comfortable at this or that university abroad. For example, photos from the campus, videos in which students from the university have their say, or experience reports can provide clues.

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