International College Search

Choosing a college can be hard, especially for students who want to study in a foreign country. With more than 18, 000 colleges and universities around the world to choose from, according to the International Association of Universities, the options for where to study are seemingly endless. While some students might relish that abundance, others can feel overwhelmed by the choices. These four questions can help students focus their search and calm their nerves.

1. Can I speak the language? It seems like an obvious question, but it is an essential question, says Aaron DeBono, education abroad adviser at the University of Melbourne.

"The biggest drawcard is always the language of instruction, " DeBono says. "This is by far the most important factor being considered when students are choosing a study destination."

Students don't necessarily have to speak a country’s primary language to study there, but they should narrow their search to schools that teach in a language they are comfortable with.

"Just because they don't speak Swedish, for example, does not mean that they should not contemplate an exchange to Sweden, " DeBono says. "Many students are in fact surprised to learn that the further north one travels in Europe, the wider the range of subjects that are on offer to students in English."

[Discover four free tools to help students improve their English skills.]

2. What are my career goals? It takes a mature student to ask, "What do I want to be doing in 10 years?" But that is precisely the kind of student who tends to study in a foreign country, says Elaine Vincent, former vice president of enrollment at the American University of Rome.

"These students tend to have very specific career goals, and choose their college on that basis, " says Vincent, now an admissions coach with My College Planning Team.

Focusing on the big picture can help students narrow their options to a country, city and college that can provide the academic programs, as well as the career and cultural experience, needed to reach their goals.

Students interested in international diplomacy might steer their search toward countries that are hubs for the United Nations, such as Kenya, Switzerland and Austria, Vincent says.

"Those who are interested in agricultural development may do well in Rome with a plan to seek an internship in one of three agencies housed in Rome, " she says. "Africa offers a wealth of opportunities to learn first-hand about microeconomic policy, gender equality or natural resources management."

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