I often hear international students tell me that they are looking for a "big name school". Everyone is looking for a "big name school" while in reality this does not mean they have big name school money or that the "big name school" is the best study option. What is most important for students to know when they begin their university search is that a true education is really more than just a name!
Often international students do not realize other key factors that should be taken into consideration as they search for a university program. Caliber of faculty, career placement and professional development, international student support services, accreditation and ranking are factors that many students fail to think about as they begin searching for a university.
The faculty we study from including their expertise, professional reputation, research credits and professional connections should be a a focus point specifically for students searching for graduate programs. At the graduate level, you will be enrolled in a focused program and develop strong ties with your faculty. Their recommendations and connections can be a major asset to help you transition into the professional arena. Learning from and working with faculty who are well recognized and respected in their field is also important. In addition, it is important to know about both their professional experience and educational credentials. If you arrive at a big name school and then learn from faculty who have not published in twenty years, do not present at conferences, have no connections to share with you, etc. it may not be the prestigious experience you expected.
Accreditation is important and students can easily find on the university website the names of various bodies that accredit the institution. In some countries, international students who study at universities abroad that are not accredited may have problems when they return home should they attempt to continue their studies or seek positions with certain organizations.
Career Placement and Professional Development
Career placement and professional development support services are also key areas. Students who still believe that merely having a degree from a "big name" school will be their passport to professional success are badly mistaken. In today's competitive employment market having both hands on practical experience is a necessary alignment with your degree.
International Student Support Services
Most important, when international students have traveled far from home it is important to have needed support specifically in the initial transition period. Students would be wise to look closely at the programs and support offered to international students. Check out if there is an office specifically dedicated to helping international students with the basic issue like airport pick up and opening a bank account to more complex issues of finding off-campus housing or organizing monthly activities to bring students together to form a community.
Big name schools can be wonderful as long as all of the benefits both in and out of the classroom are in place waiting for students when they arrive.