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Franka Zlatic

Croatian in the UK. Franka is full-time PhD student at University of Nottingham, pursuing her degree in Sociology.

How to narrow down your course options for studying abroad

The decision to study abroad is a very important and defining step in your life. Whether you're commencing university for the first time as an undergraduate or you're an adult looking to complete postgraduate studies abroad, there's so much to think about and plan.

For those who are finishing high school, then the end of a senior year is a lot to handle for many students. It's a turning point where you need to make a lot of very important decisions that could take a great part in forming the rest of your life.

That's the reason why when you are shortlisting your preferred countries, universities and courses to study abroad, it's so important to sit down and take a look at everything calmly to make sure you have all the information you need to make the best decision for your future.

Here are some tips to help you shortlist your courses and make the right decision.

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Take your time

Choosing your course is a very important decision that should not be rushed into. Whatever choice you make will greatly affect the rest of your life, so you should take it very seriously.

Don't rush your decision. Take at least a few days off to just think about how you would like to spend your days after you complete your degree. Think about how you see yourself in the future, and what career you think will make you fulfilled.

If you're still unsure, perhaps speak to a course advisor, IDP counsellor or a trusted adult to help you discover what studies you want to pursue, and help you narrow down your passions. This can help you narrow your choices, especially if you can't decide between two options (e.g. being a surgeon or a teacher).

Decide where to study abroad

An important thing to consider to help you narrow down your ideal course is deciding where you will study abroad and what university to choose.

Studying abroad offers up many experiences that can be quite different depending on the country you choose. It will show you how other universities work, to experience living in another country, to learn a new language, and of course – it will help you become even more independent.

So, if you're having trouble narrowing down your decision of what course or university to choose, it might really help to start by picking your ideal country and work out your options from there. This way, you can also satisfy the explorer inside you.

Where you will study will often have a big impact on what you choose to study. Since each country and university will often specialise in different fields, industry, areas of research and how they teach, if you have a preferred country, city or university, this will really help you to narrow down your search.

And if you're quite nervous about settling in to your new home abroad, remember, we get used to things so that your new town will quickly become your second home.

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Make a pros and cons list

Another tip which could be very helpful is to sit down and make a pros and cons list of the various courses on your list.

To start, take a paper and a pen (yes, a physical paper and a pen in the old fashioned way!) and write down as many choices as you want to. Then, write down what you think are the positives and negatives for each of course options you have listed on your paper.

The rest is relatively easy – look at both positive and negative things related to a specific course, count which one has the least of those negative and the most of those positive ones and consider it as your number one preference.

Once more, you don't have to rush this process. Studying abroad is an important decisions so it's important to take as much time as you want.

Explore the university

One of the most important things that can seem logical but some people still don't do, is to do the research and take a thorough look at your potential future course.

You can start by looking up and taking note of all the information available on the university website: look at the modules and what they include, look up your professors and their accomplishments, and lastly, look up the career options available to you afterwards.

You can also get in touch with the university to speak to a course advisor or try to find someone who is already studying the same thing and ask for advice.

If you want to see more of the university or study facilities, some universities offer virtual tours or there are often videos uploaded to YouTube by staff and students that can show you what the campus grounds and classrooms look like.

University ranking lists

Rankings list can be a great help if you're looking for help in choosing the right option since university rankings cover at more than just research output.

First, find your university choices on this year's ranking list of the world's top 1000 universities. If you know what countries you are considering or the area of study, then you can filter your options a bit further to see what the top picks are for your destination or industry.

Some popular university rankings include QS Top Universities and Times Higher Education. Each country might have their own country-specific university rankings such as the UK's Complete University Guide.

You can use rankings to find useful information on universities' focus on research, the number of international students and you can even choose two particular universities to get a comparation between them!

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Talk to an IDP counsellor

If you're still unsure about your course options, then reach and out and talk to an IDP counsellor. IDP counsellors are skilled and knowledgeable, and will help you narrow down your course selections and advise you on the best options. Speaking to a counsellor is always free and there are no obligations to commit.

So, if you are struggling to find the ideal course, or if you have concerns about the university or destination, then it might be worth it to find the nearest IDP office and book in a chat to make sure you have all the correct information to make the right choices.

Wherever you decide, don't feel pressure to make a rushed decision. We are all expected to make this important decisions very young, and it's difficult to know what you want to do for the rest of your life. That's why it's important to take the time you need and consider all the factors, and maybe get a little help along the way.

Did you find this article helpful?

You can explore more stories by international students in our blog.

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