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How to find your perfect university match

International students and alumni share their stories on they found their perfect university match and the factors that helped them to decide

    August 10 2021
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    Hellas, Hong Kong,  junior majoring in environmental science at the University of California, Berkeley, USA

    I was drawn to the US because of the flexible curricula. With interests in geography and environmental science, I wanted to explore my preferences at my own pace. I chose the University of California, Berkeley through a lot of online research on their academics and their overall and subject rankings. The environmental science major differed a lot among different universities and I liked Berkeley’s one because it was so interdisciplinary.

    But I chose Berkeley for another reason: as a figure skater, I wanted to continue my sport. Learning about the Cal Figure Skating Team cemented my decision, and as an international student, having that immediate community through an extracurricular was monumental to my decision.

    As an international student, I’ve learned so much about my personal values, especially when comparing two different cultures. I have newfound appreciation for my Hong Kong background and its influence on the festivals I celebrate or my mindset towards my studies.

    Maya, India, incoming first year student at the University of British Columbia, Canada

    I primarily chose to study in Canada because as a Canadian citizen, it was more affordable for me than studying in the UK or the US. But until December of my second year of the International Baccalaureate, I was set on attending another university in Canada. It was closer to my extended family in Toronto and had an amazing co-op programme.

    Eventually, through research and discussions with current students at both universities, as well as my family and school’s college counsellor, I realised how many other important factors I had to consider.

    I chose the University of British Columbia because it offered me not just fantastic professors, facilities and research opportunities, but also a beautiful campus to call home.

    I loved the idea of being immersed in nature like Wreck Beach and the botanical garden. I found that UBC’s emphasis on balance in student life and the promotion of their meditation community and professional and peer health and wellness support, aligns with my own philosophy.

    Furthermore, UBC’s geophysics programme is ranked internationally as one of the best in the field, which will allow me to explore my interests in the behaviour of the Earth and geophysical imaging and volcanology.

    Priyasha, Philippines, first year majoring in political economy at Georgetown University, US

    Although I applied to nine universities in the US, Georgetown University was my dream school. I learned about Georgetown when one of my friends was admitted. I began to do some research and chatted to current students and realised that it could be the perfect fit for me.

    Georgetown is renowned in the field of public policy (which I intend to enter), and Washington DC is brimming with internship opportunities with NGOs, international banks etc.

    Georgetown prioritises students’ academic, physical, mental, and spiritual health, and it also emphasises community service. Additionally, diversity is celebrated, with full-time chaplains of different religions present on campus. These unique features really attracted me to the university. 

    I was also able to find numerous clubs that I wanted to join, including choirs and a cappella groups, The Hoya newspaper and Model United Nations. 

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    Sevillana, China, first year student at Boston University, US

    Choosing my university was probably the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make, especially since I was fortunate to have so many options. I had actually got into my dream school (not Boston University) which had a prestigious ranking and is globally renowned. However, it was so, so expensive!

    In stark contrast, my full scholarship from Boston University pushed me to reflect on the long-term impacts of investing less. After endless late nights of research, panic, and messy pros-cons charts, I realised that Boston University was the best way to go. 

    Nowadays, university prices are skyrocketing. Yet our generation seems dedicated to getting into the most expensive, prestigious places. To that I say this: as long as you can get a solid education that fulfils your personal and intellectual aspirations, don’t obsess over spending hundreds of thousands on an institution’s name. I chose not to and I don’t regret it. 

    I believe I’ve had more opportunities here than I probably would have had at my first choice. I love that my college provides me with a tight-knit community, yet I’m part of a large institution with endless opportunities. I have small to medium-sized classes, tons of research labs and student organisations I can join. The people here are so genuine, and I wouldn’t trade it for any other community. Boston is also an incredible city with endless internship opportunities. 

    Alyssa, China, cultural heritage and the protection of cultural goods at Heidelberg University, Germany

    I am currently applying for a master’s in cultural heritage and the protection of cultural goods at Heidelberg University and expect to start at the beginning of 2022.

    I have just finished my bachelor’s degree in cultural innovation and application at the University of Guangzhou.

    For my undergraduate dissertation, I chose to explore a cultural heritage from my hometown. My tutor, who specialises in cultural heritage research, helped me develop my interest in cultural heritage and cultural resource management. I would also like to work in this field in the future. As a result, I decided to study this course at postgraduate level.

    I chose Germany because I like the country and the language. Heidelberg University was the only institution on my shortlist that offered the cultural heritage and protection course and it has an excellent reputation. The course content and internship opportunities listed by Heidelberg interested me as well.

    Heidelberg is also a beautiful place filled with lots of history and culture. 

    Sam, China, strategic marketing, University of Warwick Business School, UK

    After completing my bachelor’s degree in event management in Shanghai, I realised that I would need to be more strategic about my postgraduate degree to build up my business prowess, even though I really loved working in events. After doing some research and discussing my future with my personal tutor, I chose to study strategic marketing for my master’s. 

    I targeted the top 15 universities in the Times Higher Education rankings, looking closely at their academic and industry reputation. My internship experience and international background was recognised by the University of Warwick Business School and I also saw the school as my perfect match – top 10 in the rankings, young but prestigious business school, industry connections and reputation and good MBA opportunities for the future.

    My recommendation for students who are struggling to select their courses is to identify your academic passions first and then choose a course that fits your interests. Also, if you are unsure about your institution have a look at the rankings, course content, career prospects and other resources you can obtain from the university. Remember the more information you can get, the more insightful decision you can make. 

    Anita, China, health psychology, University of Bath, UK

    I studied psychology at the University of Warwick and then did a master’s in health psychology at the University of Bath. I have been interested in psychology since I was very young. 

    However, when I was doing my A levels, my goal was to study music. I tried to complete the whole music A level in one year and unfortunately my grade wasn’t good enough to get accepted for a music degree at any university.

    My music teacher told me to appeal but I didn’t want to take a gap year. So, I went through clearing, which I had never heard of before. I was torn between studying sociology at the University of York or psychology at the University of Warwick but decided to go with my childhood interest, psychology. Another reason I chose Warwick was its reputation and its strong research facilities. 

    I then chose to do a master’s in health psychology. The University of Bath is well known for its psychology department, and the course structure looked good because it included a placement opportunity at the end of the degree. It’s very important to gain work experience when pursuing a career in psychology-related fields.

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