How to select the right university and undergraduate degree?
Young students, who are fresh out of their high-schools, are usually bombarded with education choices that are more often determined under peer or parent pressure. Consulting with the knowledgeable is always a good first step, but the final line in the sand is, and should be, determined by the students. Stepping into the adult shoes also requires the students to think ahead, beyond the three or four years of undergraduate studies they are about to embark upon. Here are some essential quick pointers to keep in mind.
- Choose a degree that you are keen on: As trite as it may sound, chances are you will be continuing on a path of higher-education or profession in the same field. If you choose wisely, it will save you the trouble of being stuck in a major that means little to you. Yes, career change is an option, but it is never too early to introspect.
- Choose the right institution: Right institution refers to a combination of good and reputed faculty, student friendly resources, teacher to student ratio, established alumni and an active alumni network, and the reputation of the institute. Going forward, these can play crucial roles in creating a healthy education experience.
- Value of the Degree: The degree should be an instrument to open up possibilities for establishing yourself in your chosen field. If the degree itself has very little value or ends up closing more doors than it opens, students might be left cornered in an unproductive path with no future.
As high-school students, you should not be afraid to explore future options through career counselling, university visits, campus tours, information sessions, and even consultations with faculty members. After all, you are going to be investing in the university with the expectation of due returns.
Universities Rankings are a good place to start your research. Be aware that these rankings are based on a predefined criterion by the publishers, and your preferences and priorities may not be included in them. That is why it is important to do your independent research and not get carried away by them.
Assuming that you have your higher-education field and specialization, degree, financing essentials (to take care of the tuition fee plus other expenses) and motivation, all nicely sorted out, you may want to turn and use these rankings specific to the location to begin your university specific research. Your final list will determine the fate of your application and future prospects.
In the tables, below, we have assimilated a short listing of the best universities in the country. There are many excellent schools that are missing in the list as this is simply representative. For a complete listing, we recommend a subject specific ranking list on the many university ranking sites.
Top universities in USA
- Harvard University
- Stanford University
- Yale University
- Princeton University
- Columbia University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- University of Pennsylvania
- Duke University
- Brown University
- Cornell University
- University of Chicago
- California Institute of Technology
Top universities in Canada
- University of Toronto
- McGill University
- University of Alberta
- Université de Montréal
- McMaster University
- University of Waterloo
- Western University
- University of Calgary
Top universities in UK
- University of Cambridge
- University of Oxford
- University College London
- Imperial College London
- King’s College London
- University of Edinburgh
- University of Manchester
- London School of Economics and Political Science
Top universities in Australia
- Australian National University
- University of Melbourne
- University of New South Wales
- University of Queensland
- University of Sydney
- Monash University
- University of Western Australia
- University of Adelaide
Top universities in Europe
- ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (Switzerland)
- Ecole Polytechnique Federale of Lausanne (Switzerland)
- University of Copenhagen (Denmark)
- Pierre and Marie Curie University (France)
- University of Munich (Germany)
- University of Amsterdam (Netherlands)
- Utrecht University (Netherlands)
- University of Barcelona (Spain)
Ranking factors generally depend on academic reputation, teacher to student ratio, faculty credibility, international students, research citations, learning environment, alumni feedback, and more, with varying levels of weightage to each. We will add more articles on individual countries and subject specific considerations in the future.
- Top universities in the world – Refer to the University Rankings link above
- Best undergraduate universities in the world for STEM degrees (Coming soon)
Meanwhile, here are some related links for your information.
- MBA Rankings and Methodologies for Best Business Schools
- Are MBA Rankings losing their credibility?
- Best Undergraduate Degrees for Business
How to Apply to the Top Universities?
University admissions have certain common requirements that are similar across the various international study destinations. With elite universities, however, given the demand and the huge number of applications they receive, the admissions process can begin about a year before classes start. Keeping that in mind, if you are looking to apply abroad, as an international student, or study domestically in one of the top universities, for your undergraduate studies, we recommend that you start early to stay ahead in the admissions game.
Most universities will ask undergraduate applicants for the following requirements.
- Academic Official Transcripts indicating your secondary (12th Standard) results. If the result is not in English, it must be translated in English by the issuing authority. Grading scales should be converted to match the destination university requirements, or the authorities should provide a grading standard in the native education system.
- School Report usually compiled by a school official like the Principal or Counselor. This report indicates your performance, experience, and candidature in the context of your past history at the school.
- Letters of Recommendation from teachers who have taught you. The letters can provide a reliable third-party outlook of your candidature. Universities usually have their own recommendation letter format, or specify particular information requirements from the recommender. The letters are usually sealed and communicated directly between the recommender and the admissions committee.
- Statement of Purpose is not always a requirement, when it comes to undergraduate studies. However, many universities may insist on the SoP to obtain better assessment of the applicant. SoP is a personal essay reflecting your career goals, motivation to study at the particular university or program, and other details pertaining to the application.
- Application Fee is usually a requirement. However, it may get waived upon request and/or demonstration of financial hardship.
- Financial Aid letter may be submitted to make a case for financial assistance.
- Standardized Tests are usually a must for most universities. The main ones are TOEFL to demonstrate fluency in English, ACT or SAT scores, and the less common SAT II Subject Tests, if the program so requires it.
- Admissions Tests are asked for in many courses that don’t necessarily require a standardized test score. Testing also depends on the subject area of interest, such as the Sciences. Many universities also arrange Interviews among the shortlisted applicants. This interview, in the case of international students, is often held over the telephone or internet.
To make it into the top universities, good academic record is a given. Also important are the test scores and a wholesome school experience, complete with extra-curricular and volunteer work. Most of these stellar universities receive thousands of applications with near single digit acceptance rates (about 5% for Harvard). Such high competition demands that the applicants should set themselves apart by achieving their maximum potential. How have you used your time? What kind of initiatives have you taken or are willing to take? How motivated are you? What kind of commitment do you have for your interests? How well can you handle extreme pressure? Do you work well with others? What do you hope to achieve from an experience at XYZ (read Ivy) university?
Read these related posts.
- How to network with alumni and students at top universities
- Letter of Recommendation-How to choose your MBA recommender
- What not to neglect for your letter of recommendation?
- Statement of Purpose vs Letter of Intent vs Personal Statement
- How to write an SoP for MS, MBA and PhD?
- SoP for MBA Admissions
- Common Application, for Undergraduate Admissions in USA – Process, Guidelines, Fees, etc
TOEFL, ACT and SAT Preparation
The standardized test scores are used to evaluate applicants on a fixed baseline.
TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) tests the proficiency in English as required to successfully participate in most international university course structures. It is offered by ETS or the Educational Testing Services. The test can be attempted both on the internet (iBT) or on paper (PBT). Good TOEFL scores are usually in the range of 80-90 on the iBT and 580-600 on the PBT. Other possible alternatives to TOEFL are the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and PTE (Pearson Test of English). Here are a few links related to the test.
- ETS TOEFL iBT Test Format and Preparation
- TOEFL vs IELTS vs PTE
- IELTS Exam – Eligibility, Format, Pattern, Exam Dates and Test Centers in India
- IELTS Exam Preparation and IELTS Preparation Books
ACT (American College Testing) is the accepted undergraduate test score in USA and Canada. SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores are accepted in Australia, UK, Singapore, and Canada, on top of USA. Both exams test writing, comprehension and Math skills. ACT also has an additional Science section. These tests are designed to suit high-school difficulty. Here are some links for further information.
- ACT Exam Syllabus: General Test Pattern
- SAT Exam Syllabus: General Test Pattern
- ACT Exam – Eligibility, pattern, exam dates, test centers, and more
- ACT Preparation
- Best ACT Books
- SAT Exam – Eligibility, pattern, exam dates, test centers, and more
- SAT Exam Preparation
- Best SAT Books
- ACT vs SAT – Which one to choose?
Financing your Undergraduate Studies
Cost of education is a big deal when it comes to international degrees in the US or anywhere abroad. Apart from the living costs, the tuition itself can run close to $50,000 in the US, for most top universities. Europe can be a bit cheaper with average cost of tuition running about $5,000 in Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, etc. UK, Netherlands, Denmark, etc may be somewhat higher of the order of $10,000-$20,000.
Most students may find it handy to have a financial plan – funding options, scholarships, financial aid, and more. Explore your options well in advance and refer to the links below for relevant information.
- Cheapest countries to study abroad for international students
- Top study abroad countries for Indian students
- Guide to Education Loans to study abroad
- How to study abroad for free?
Once you have your application in, the university will decide and let you know their decision. Upon which, they will send you the necessary paperwork to prepare you for your journey abroad on a student visa. On that account, here are a few associated bits of wisdom for your study abroad.
Given the increasing competition every year for a few seats at the top universities, many applicants take the help of higher education counsellors. If you are planning to study abroad in the best universities in the world and need help to build your profile and application, send us an email [info at mbacrystalball dot com]. We’ll connect you to the right mentor.
Here’re our reviews from successful candidates who we have assisted in making it into the highly competitive and coveted MBA degree abroad.
Graduate Degrees – Top Universities and Programs around the world
Why stop at undergrad? If you would like to come back in a few years and explore your options for graduate level education abroad, here’s where you can make a great start.
- Guide to Masters Degrees for international students – How to get into the best MS programs in USA, UK and Canada
- How to get into the best MBA Programs in the world
Research your options. Don’t hold back on your full potential and hope you can accomplish the most with your best.