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Steps to Choose a School Abroad

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

You've decided to study abroad. Great! But there are literally thousands of schools to choose from. In this article, we help you to narrow down your choices and find a good fit.

What are you looking for?

If you don't know what kind of school you are looking for, or if you want to study abroad, the first thing that you must ask yourself is why do you want to go? Do you have a passion for a certain place like New York? Or do you want to study a specific subject like medicine or design? Find out what is most important to you before moving on. Other question to ask yourself is how long will you stay abroad. A couple of weeks? One or two semesters? Or do you want to take a full year abroad? What do you want to achieve before returning home? Your answers will affect your choice of school.

Where do you want to study?

If you know that you want to study in Sydney because you can live with your aunt there, you can narrow down your choice to schools in Sydney within a reasonable commuting distance from your aunt’s place. Educare advisors can suggest suitable schools so that you will quickly reach a shortlist with a handful of schools and can proceed to the next step.

If you don’t know where you want to study you can consider the following things:

  • What is the language of tuition? To study at university level you need to have good skills in the language of tuition. For many students that means English. In that case you can either study in an English speaking country or at a university that offers the program you want to take in English.

  • What are the tuition fees? Some countries within the EU offer more or less free education. If this is important to you then you should find a school and place of study in one of those countries.

  • What kind of places do you like? Are you a big city person or do you prefer smaller and calmer places? Do you want to live close to the beach or maybe close to the mountains for hiking and skiing? These kinds of questions can help you find suitable countries and cities for your studies.

  • What countries have a good reputation for the subject you want to study? Australia is famous for their nursing programs. Italy is popular for design and if you want to study French you had better do it in France.

Where do I find lists of schools abroad?

If you are looking for schools in a certain geographic area, our international school database is a good starting point. Here you will find almost all universities in the available countries as well as featured schools of other kinds. The schools are ordered by country and city so you can for example quickly find all universities in Sydney. High ranking schools are marked with a star. We continuously expand the school database with more countries and information. Let us know if you miss information about a certain country or school type.

What subject do you want to study?

What you want to study will have a big impact on your choice of school. Some big universities have almost all subjects but even if they do, some subjects are better or higher ranked at certain schools than others. If you are interested in Medicine, apply to medical school; if you're into Design, go to a design school. But what if you don't know what you want to study? Then go back to step one and think about what you want to achieve. Another good option is taking 1-2 study abroad semesters at a university where you can choose about 4 subjects per semester.

If you are planning to take a several years degree program abroad you need to put a lot of thought into what you want to study. Then there are primarily three things that you should consider:

  • What are you good at? If you are good at something you will most likely have an easier time studying it and be more successful working within that field.

  • What are your passions? If you are passionate about something you will be more motivated to learn and you will enjoy your future job more.

  • How does the job market look for the fields you are interested in? If you for example want to work as a photographer but the job market is already overcrowded with photographers then it might be wise to consider other options. Maybe you can focus on video instead or take photography as a minor while doing a major in a more requested field.

Never let other people make this decision for you. If you’re good with numbers but faint at the sight of blood, study math or economics even if your parents want you to become a doctor. If you’re bad at logic and want to program, don’t do it just because there is a demand for programmers. If photography is your passion and you enjoy it more than anything else, go for it even though the job market looks tough.

What kind of school and experience are you looking for?

If you are not so serious about your studies, we recommend finding a school that does not cost too much and leaves you plenty of spare time for fun and exploration. Some good options can be taking an associate's degree at a vocational school, taking a language course with 15-20 lessons per week or doing a study abroad semester at a college or university choosing some subjects that interest you.

If your primary goal is to make your CV stand out, you should go for a four-year degree from a university that is well known or high ranking. What are your grades? Is it realistic for you to get in to a top ranking university or should you aim for schools with slightly lower rankings?

How do I research my shortlisted schools?

Once you have completed steps 1 through 5, you'll be ready to begin researching schools. Look up schools in the geographical areas that interest you; make sure they match the criteria you set up in step 1. Try to create a list with 3-10 schools that you will have a closer look at. Your best source is, but also check rankings and reviews on external sources.

Look for the following:

  • Available programs and start dates

  • Admissions procedures and deadlines

  • Tuition fees and scholarships

  • Campus life and activities

  • How big the school is

  • Accommodation options

  • Ranking

Summarize this information so you can access it quickly, for example in an excel sheet where you include the links to the schools website where you can read more.

Should I get advice from others?

You should also consider external reviews of the school. Most people only write reviews when they are really happy or unhappy with a service, so you need to take these reviews with a grain of salt. Consider when the review was written and how many reviews there are; many good reviews are a bad sign, many good ones is positive but a single good or bad review does not carry much value—you can't judge a school from one review; it might be written by an employee of the school or a competitor who wants to make them look bad. A better way is to check students' testimonials as we provided on our website

How do I finally choose a school?

Once you have done your research you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which schools have the programs that I am interested in?

  • Which schools can I afford? If I can’t afford them do they have a scholarship program that could help me out?

  • Which schools do I have a chance to be accepted at based on their admission criteria?

  • Which schools have the most attractive location, campus, accommodations or activities?

Based on this information you should be able to scratch some schools and rank the remaining ones based on how interested you are in them.

Then start by applying to the first school on your list and continue to apply to other schools if needed. Good luck!

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