In preparing for study abroad, the first, and most important, step is the school selection process. Remember: all schools and programs are not the same. But, with so many schools to choose from, how do you find the school that is right for you? First of all, does the program satisfies your needs and requirements? What is the living and learning environment like? What support services does the school provide? Here are a few other things to keep in mind while looking for the ideal school.
Checkpoint 1: Location
Big city, suburban, small-town, or rural countryside. Which type of environment do you prefer? Do you require every amenity conceivable, or do you prefer to enjoy nature’s beautiful surroundings? Similar to choosing a country destination, your study environment will also play a large role in your study abroad experience. When comparing locations, remember to include key factors such as climate, safety, number of other Japanese students, and the cost of living.
Checkpoint 2: School Size
Language schools vary from small-family owned businesses to large schools with over 1,000 students. High schools and universities, on the other hand, may vary from a few hundred students to several thousand students. Some universities overseas actually have enrollments larger than many small towns. Naturally, there are both advantages and disadvantages associated with the size of a school. It is important to find the size of school that will be the best fit for you.
Checkpoint 3: Course Content
Carefully read the course/program content and make sure that the school is offering exactly what you want to study. What certification or qualification will this lead to? What qualifications does the teacher or instructor have? How many hours per week will you be studying in class? Keep in mind that just because courses have identical names, does not mean they will offer identical content. Confirm that your school is offering a high-quality program.
Checkpoint 4: Length and Timing of Course
How long is the course/program that you are interested in? When is it offered and how many entry points are there? Perhaps another school or program can minimize the length of the wait or downtime.
Checkpoint 5: Admission Requirements
What are the admission requirements? Does your current academic record and employment history satisfy those requirements. Are standardized examinations necessary? Since most schools charge an application fee, make sure that you are an eligible candidate. If you do not meet the admission requirements, either start upgrading your skills and qualifications, or look for alternative schools and programs.
Checkpoint 6: Costs
If you have a pre-determined budget associated with your study abroad experience, it’s important to look very closely at the costs. How expensive are the tuition and living costs? Is there any financial assistance available? Is similar quality available at a lower cost. Don’t forget that reputation, location, support services, and facilities and equipment can all be affected dramatically by cost. Make sure to prioritize your needs and preferences.
Checkpoint 7: School Facilities and Equipment
Facilities and equipment can not only influence the way you learn, but also contribute to your overall satisfaction level while overseas. Short-term language students may want to compare language laboratories, computer rooms and meeting/study rooms, etc., while university students may also want to consider the quality and size of research labs, libraries, athletic facilities, health and welfare facilities, etc. What facilities do you require?
Checkpoint 8: Support Services
What support services does the school provide? Schools that are serious about recruiting international students will have excellent support services in place. First of all, the international office or international student advisor(s) should play a critical role in the level of satisfaction you experience while overseas. Things like orientation programs, housing assistance, coordination of trips and events, provision of clubs and sports teams, language support, tutoring, job-placement, and other services should also be considered.