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Study abroad: May the best school win
Karan Gupta
February 13, 2007

Your long wait after applying to various universities abroad is over. And the admission letters are finally flowing in. It's time to freeze on the school you'll attend this August.

First, give yourself a pat on the back for having achieved such an incredible feat.

Next, brace yourself for what is a very important decision -- not just the next two years, but your entire future depends on the choice you now make.

There are many factors to keep in mind when finally selecting your university. The most effective way to decide is to draw up a table and identify the criteria that are important to you.

Rate various schools

Consider these points:

• Initial tuition investment
• Location
• Choice of specialisation within your programme and so on

Once you have identified these criteria, list your schools against them and assign scores to each criterion.

For example, if your grades are good, your GMAT score is around 600 and you are comparing Georgia State University, The City University of New York, Rochester Institute of Technology, Drexel University, Rutgers State University and Fordham University, you might want to draw up two tables:

~ Table I

The first table would list the statistics of the universities you are comparing. This data will be available from the university web sites and other private sources such as ReportED, Financial Times, BusinessWeek, and so on. Remember, you can modify the factors as per your requirements.

Once you have the university statistics clearly tabulated, identify the criteria that are important to you. You may want:

• A high job placement ratio after graduation
• To be near New York City
• To invest as little as possible
• Live in moderate climate

~ Table II

After deciding your criteria, you may give the universities the following scores. Scores are rated from 1-10, 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest.

A university that matches this criteria gets a score of 10, and the scores recede lower and lower till the list is exhausted. Now, you are in a position to decide which university to choose.

Important things to do

~ Check specialisation available

Ensure that your university has the specialisation you are looking for. If you want international business, marketing or finance, your university should have adequate courses in these.

The Graduate Management Admission Council web site states, "You must align your priorities and goals with a programme's strengths, so look beyond each school's marketing messages to uncover concrete evidence that your priorities and expectations will be satisfied."

~ Contact alumni

Another helpful move may be to find alumni associations and Indian Student Associations on university web sites and get firsthand information from these organisations. Students who are currently studying at universities are one of the best sources to tap and can provide you with very valuable information.

Be sure to keep your information requests brief and to the point, as students are usually busy and often, may not respond to long, redundant e-mails.

Mohit Bhatia, currently working with Honeywell Systems, USA says, "I graduated from the University of Arizona in computer engineering and have a job with one of the top firms in the US. When I applied for admission, I had admits from many schools but was seriously considering Virginia Tech University, Ohio State University and the University of Arizona."

"It was a very difficult situation and I knew that my decision would affect my entire career. I spent over two days, carefully researching these schools, and after drawing a factual comparative study between the schools, I chose the University of Arizona. I even sent e-mails to the ISA at these universities and their responses helped me make my decision, " he adds.

~ Inform other universities

Once you have identified the 'right' university, inform the other schools to which you were accepted that you will not be attending their school. This will ensure that students who are on the wait-list will get in.

Remember, you cannot accept more than one I-20 (official acceptance US Government document) from a school and if you do have more than one I-20, make sure you return the unused I-20s back to the school that issued it. This is a requirement of the Student And Visitor Exchange Information System or SEVIS, and should be complied with.

Final word

You will be investing two years (or four years), money, dreams and your future in this decision. Make every effort to ensure that you have thoroughly researched a university before deciding to go there.

Think carefully of all the factors that are important to you and check whether your university offers the things you are looking for.

Don't finalise a university just because your friends are going there or your counsellor recommends it. Be informed and make the right decision.

-- The author is an education consultant and can be contacted at kgc@karangupta.com