The opportunity to study and live abroad looks exciting. And it is. But how do you find what the best fit is for you?
In short, it’s up to you to figure out what the best school fit is. The good news is that it can be done; moreover, you’ll be much more confident about the choice you do make when it’s an informed decision. The following steps will provide you with a road map.
Don’t rely solely on what you’ve heard from friends and/or friends of friends. Too often, anecdotal information is negative and either inaccurate or out of date. This is particularly the case if you’re looking into professional schools such as law, teaching, medicine, and the related regulated health professions such as pharmacy – these being among the more popular choices. Accreditation of foreign professional degrees in Canada is now a routine process and there is growing recognition of the value of internationally obtained professional education.
Don’t be dazzled by international educational monikers: Oxford, Cambridge (Oxbridge), Harvard, and Yale are internationally renowned universities. However, they may not necessarily be the best educational and lifestyle fit for you, depending on your proposed course of study. Once you begin digging for information, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the number of world-class universities there are in the primary countries of interest, as well as innovative ‘niche’ schools in countries you never thought of that may well appeal to your lifestyle preferences. Obviously, the UK – a primary destination of interest for Canadian students – has a renowned roster of top-tier global universities. But don’t hesitate to think outside of the box.
Do make sure you follow the correct steps in choosing and applying for school. As a registered UCAS advisor conversant with facilitating access to UK law schools, I recommend that prospective students follow the steps outlined below. They’re adaptable to your inquiries at any destination abroad, not to mention domestic inquiries.
Step 1 – Confirm accreditation
Determine if and to what extent the post-secondary educational degree that’s of interest to you has any domestic regulatory requirements associated with its application in Canada. If not, then there are few – if any – constraints.
For example, the great majority of arts/humanities degrees at the baccalaureate level have no domestic regulatory requirements. If you aspire to study English, history, economics, or political science, for example, at a university outside of Canada, because of its reputation or languages in the country of its mother tongue (e.g., German in a German university or Italian in an Italian university), then you have considerable leeway in choosing your preferred university and/or country.
However, if you aspire to work in a regulated profession such as law or medicine, then it’s important that you find out what the basic educational and accreditation requirements are for that profession prior to looking at applying to any international school. A simple Google search will take you to the regulated profession’s web site where you can find out what the basic accreditation requirements are. You can then use them as the basic criteria for determining which professional schools are viable choices. It’s critical to ensure that the professional degree awarded by the university has been approved as a ‘qualifying professional degree’ by the regulatory authority in its own country. That will be step one to getting the degree accredited upon your return to Canada
Step 2 – Research schools
Get a school rating guide of the universities in the country you are interested in. For example, in the UK, the Times’ Good University Guide provides you with a one-page synopsis of all universities, along with student comments, ratings, etc. The Guardian Rankings Guide is available on www.theguardian.com, and provides rankings for all the major UK universities by discipline and degree.
Step 3 – Enlist quidance
Don’t try to go it alone. Retain the services of an advisor who is conversant with the schools you want to apply to. Determine if and to what extent the advisor is conversant with your planned program of study if it’s in a professional field. Do they have a professional designation in the field? Have they done due diligence and visited the campuses of the universities they represent, and met with students and faculty there?
Step 4 – Apply
Get your application started at the earliest opportunity. The sooner you hear back, the earlier you can make plans and arrange for a student visa. Keep in mind that a student visa can take several weeks to obtain.
Step 5 – Check funding opportunities
Check out your provincial student loan plan to ensure that the post secondary institution of interest to you has been approved for funding. Along with that, check out the Canada Student Loans programs at www.canlearn.ca. The good news is that funding is available; even better news is that if you’re going to the UK for your studies, your student visa will permit you to work part-time, making international education that much more affordable, and your experience, that much more rewarding.
John G. Kelly, is a former law professor president of Canada Law From Abroad, which provides an international education bridge for Canadians to attend top tier UK law schools and obtain LLB degrees to practice law in Canada and graduate LLM (Masters of Law) degrees for students wanting to open doors to multi-disciplinary professional careers.