Factors to Consider
Because of the size and the variety of higher educational institutions in Australia, the quality of any given institution and its programs is hard to determine. The most expensive institution is not necessarily the best, nor is every program at a highly regarded institution necessarily of the same high quality.
For graduate students, the research and publication records of the faculty in your chosen department are probably the best measures of quality, although even a "good" department might not have a top processor in the specialization that you are looking for. Ask your current professors for advice and guidance. They are usually the best sources of information on the quality of a graduate program.
Factors that can affect the quality of the education available to undergraduates include:
- Class size: are all classes taught in a lecture format, or are smaller seminars and discussion sessions available for undergraduates?
- Opportunities for independent research and direct work with faculty: are there service learning opportunities, undergraduate research programs, and an honors program?
- Educational background of the student body: is the institution nonselective ("open enrollment"), selective, competitive, or highly competitive?
Graduate students will want to consider the type and number of research or study facilities available. For example, you may want to know how many libraries the school has, how many volumes those libraries contain, and whether students can borrow books from libraries at other institutions using inter-library loans.
In addition to finding out about the library, look for information about special research collections, laboratories, and other facilities that can affect your education opportunities. The more information about the university you can obtain ahead of time, the easier it will be for you to decide where you want to study.
For undergraduates, if you think you know what discipline you want to pursue, look at the size of the department, the breadth of its offerings, and related departments. If you are less certain of your choice or major, you might want to consider a larger institution where you would have more options. For undergraduates, the ambiance or mood of a campus can be an important factor. Some universities may stress friendliness, community involvement, and personal attention. Others may stress independence and offer less personal advising and supervision. It is important to read an institution's promotional material to determine whether a campus is going to suit you and your needs.
Tuition costs vary enormously from one institution to the next, ranging from $2,000 to $28,000 per year. In some cases, scholarships or other types of financial assistance may be available through the institution; in other cases the source may be a private foundation, a private company, or your home government. Financial assistance may come in the form of scholarships, grants, loans, teaching assistantships, research assistantships, or tuition reductions. It is important in your selection process to keep tuition rates and the availability or unavailability of financial assistance in mind.
When choosing an institution, you will also want to consider the cost of living in the surrounding area. You will find that the cost of living varies greatly in different parts of the country and even between different cities in the same state.
If your English skills are very limited, you may need to attend an English language institute before beginning your degree program. You may wish to select a university that offers an English-as-a-second-language (ESL) program preceding academic enrollment.
Conditional or provisional admission may be offered to you if your academic or professional qualifications are very good but your English needs additional improvement. If you are given conditional or provisional admission, you may be required to complete English language courses or retake standardized language proficiency tests before being allowed to enroll in certain courses. You may have to satisfy this condition during your first or second term.
It is very important to know the university's policies on English-language testing and classes. When you are admitted to an institution, you should carefully examine the documents in your admission packet to determine whether you will be required to enroll in ESL courses.
If you are an international graduate student and are interested in applying for a graduate teaching or laboratory assistantship, you will need to pay particular attention to any special English-language or other preparation programs that may be required for such assistantships.
Please visit: www.ESLdirectory.com for more information on ESL courses
Many universities have student health centers that offer basic medical care at little or no cost to students. If you know that you have a specific medical condition or will require regular medical care, you will want to locate a university that has adequate student health services and is located near a comprehensive medical center. Remember that health care for major illnesses or accidents can be extremely expensive in the United States, so health insurance is essential.
Please visit: www.InternationalStudentInsurance.com for information on international health and travel insurance.
Housing is an important consideration, especially if you are married and want your family to accompany you to Australia while you are studying. Some universities offer married students housing on campus. In many locations you can find reasonably priced apartments or houses for rent. If you are single, you may want to live in a campus residence hall with a roommate. Be aware that some urban universities have little or no student housing.
Personal safety is important to people everywhere. Some institutions may be able to provide you with statistics about the types and numbers of crimes that occur on their campuses. Even though it is unlikely that you would be a victim, crime can happen anywhere. So regardless of where you choose to study, you should learn about common safety and crime prevention strategies.
Most universities offer a wide array of clubs and organizations representing student interests. You will find cultural and religious associations, sports teams and sports clubs, volunteer service organizations, academic societies, music and theater groups, international student organizations, and many other opportunities for social activity. All of these activities are good opportunities to meet others and develop friendships. Certain types of institutions will offer fewer social activities. "Commuter campuses" in urban areas, for example, cater to part-time American students and do not concentrate on student social activities.
Excellent Colleges and universities are found all around the United States, in cities large and small, as well as in small towns and rural areas. Do not think that all of the best universities are located in large cities; it simply is not so. Consider whether you might prefer living near the ocean, near the mountains, or in the plains.
Climate may be important to you. Students from hot, dry climates may be uncomfortable studying in humid climates or in areas that have a full range of seasons including very cold weather. You should be able to find detailed information about the weather conditions and average seasonal temperatures through the resources at your educational advising center or on the World Wide Web. We have also compiled a brief run-down of climate for Australia - click here to access this.
It may be very important to you to be a part of a religious community while you are studying in Australia. Muslim students, for example, might want to be sure there is a mosque in their campus community.