School Specific Considerations

We basically have three areas to look at here, and to determine dealbreakers and preferences around before we get deep into the program websites. We need to look at educational quality and outcomes, international student resources, and student life.

Slide 1: On Your Mark

Lesson 2: School Specific Consideration

So we basically have three areas to look at here.

Slide 2: School and Program Specifics

And to determine dealbreakers and preferences around before we get deep into the program websites. We need to look at educational quality and outcomes, international student resources, and student life. 

So educational quality can mean something different to everyone, and I really encourage you to come up with your own definition for it. The thing I want to tell you, all of the programs in our database are fully accredited. The diplomas are internationally recognized. You might hear people who have said, “Is your degree going to be good here?” Yes, your degree is going to be good here. I promise you that. 

Slide 3: Global Rankings

  • Only based on research related criteria
  • Many schools aren’t eligible since they are small, specialized, and/or aren’t focused on producing research

So now let's talk about global rankings because we do have in the database whether a program is globally ranked by one of the big — kind of the big three: Times Higher Education, US News, and the Shanghai report. So those are three big global rankings, I don’t know, companies, agencies. Whatever they're called, I don't know. But global rankings are really different than rankings in the US, because as you probably know, rankings in the US, when we're talking about just American schools and their rankings, it’s based on a whole bunch of different things. And it's actually one of the reasons that the admissions process is so screwed up right now in the US, because they look at things like selectivity and they look at things like SAT scores. All sorts of different variables. 

Now global rankings though, are only based on research related criteria. So there are a lot of schools that aren't eligible for it. You know, we've talked about universities of applied science. They don't have the research focus. So they're not producing research because that's not what they're there to do. So they're not going to be eligible for rankings. That doesn't mean they're not good. 

Really small schools. AAU in Prague, for instance. They're very small. So they're not going to be producing the amount of research that would be needed in order to be globally ranked. Again, it doesn't mean they're not good. Small specialized schools like — or not even small schools. Specialized schools, in general. Business schools, they also aren't doing the research required. There's some really, really prestigious business schools. And of course, they're not going to be globally ranked, because they're not doing the research side of things. 

So there are other things you can look for that are done by kind of external sites, if you will. Business schools, for instance.

Slide 4: “Extra” Accreditations for Business Programs

  • AMBA

There are these three different types of business school accreditation. And this is extra accreditation. Like I said, they're all kind of accredited at the level they need to be. But then, there are these extra accreditation. There's AACSB, EQUIS, and AMBA. And these are things that schools can choose to go through. Now they’re time consuming, and they're also expensive, so not all schools do it. But some do, and it's noted in our database. And these accreditations really do look at things that are more important. They look at employability, they look at teaching, they look at curriculum, they look at internationalization. These things really do matter. So I think they're a better indicator than rankings. 

You shouldn't really totally rely on this either. Because like I said, they're expensive and time consuming, so there will be really good schools that don't seek them out. And they only apply to business programs. So if you're not looking at a business program, that's kind of irrelevant to you. 

So how else can you assess for quality? One thing you can do is you can look at educational outcomes. You can look at, you know, where the students go to grad school. You can look at recruitment opportunities, you can look at employment rates, you can look at what businesses and organizations they partner with. You know, whether for internships, or projects, or guest lectures, or events. Now one thing to note, universities of applied science in the Netherlands, part of their accreditation is based on the employment rate of their graduates. So that's a really good thing to look at there. 

Now bachelor's degrees at research universities, those are more focused on getting students ready for master's degree programs. So they're not going to have as many of the recruitment opportunities at the bachelor’s level or things that will just kind of help you in the job market, because their students generally go on for that one year master afterwards. So when you're looking at employment rates at a research university, if you can find them at all, they're going to be lower than a university of applied science, because that's not what their goal is. If you're looking at where students go for graduate, for master's degree programs at a university of applied science, it's not likely to blow you away, because that's not what they're there for either. So think of that when you're making these assessments as well. What I really encourage you to do is instead of using, you know, the US News & World Report criteria for a good educational experience, to really personalize it to what's important to you.

Slide 5: What are indicators of good educational experience for YOU?


  • Proportion of seminars to lectures
  • Size of lectures and seminars
  • Accessibility of professors
  • Faculty backgrounds
  • Grading
  • Educational approach/philosophy

You know, think about what the indicators of a good educational experience are to you. Things like are there seminars in addition to lectures? Do the professors lead the seminars? How large are the seminars? How large are the lectures? How accessible are the professors? A lot of this is regional. You'll find in Northern Europe, professors are a lot more accessible in and out of the classroom. You know, sometimes even hanging out with students, or students calling them by their first name. It's a lot more informal than in Germany, where it will be much more difficult to — and much more formal — but much more difficult to access your professors outside of that defined office hour. 

You might also want to look at faculty background. I spoke to this one administrator in Prague — he's in a Forestry program — who said that they had a student from Japan who specifically sought out the program, because she knew about research from one of their professors. So he was kind of a, I don’t know, celebrity to her. So she sought out their specific program. 

Another thing that might be important for the educational experience is whether the grades are based on one test, or if they're assessed throughout the semester. You know, sort of how they come up with the grade. And also, whether there's — this is actually an important one, whether there's an educational philosophy or approach. You know, even at research universities, which are more theoretical, you'll often find something called problem-based or project-based learning. So it does make the curriculum more sort of relevant to today's issues. Sort of like hands-on in a research-related way.

Slide 6: International Student Specific Considerations


  • Percent of international students and where they are from (program specific)
  • International Student resources
  • Number of English-taught programs
  • Housing support
  • Supports for learning needs
  • Language classes
  • Orientation
  • Buddy Program
  • International Student resources

So the next thing you want to consider and to think about dealbreakers and preferences around are international student resources, because I can guarantee you that you're going to have questions and needs that are unique to being an international student. Sometimes, it’s unique to being a non-EU international student. So it's important to make sure that the school has supports and resources in place for international students. You know, there was one school I visited in Bruno that had a 24 hour support line for international students. At Toulouse Business School in their Barcelona campus, they have a dedicated person to help with all parts of acclimation. You know, from the bureaucratic headaches, to housing, to homesickness. 

  • Percent of international students and where they are from (program specific)

So things you might want to look for when you're looking at this are the percent of international students, and where they're from. And you might want to look at this, you know, specific to your program. Now, why is this important? Why is it important to know where students are from, or how many countries are represented? I visited this one school. Again, it was a different school in Bruno. And they had a really high international student population. I mean, I can't remember what it was, but it was something that was really notable. And so, I was talking to the administrator, and it turned out that the majority of those students were from Slovakia. Now, when you have the majority of international students from one country, the needs are going to be different. Now, not only that, but Slovakia is right next to the Czech Republic. You know, they used to be one in the same. So the language is also very similar. And, you know, it's like an hour or a two hour train ride to Slovakia. So the needs of Slovakian students who are studying in the Czech Republic are going to be much different than the needs of students from the US, or the needs of students from China, or wherever else. And so, you'd want to make sure that even though that population of international students that’s non-Slovakian is smaller, there are resources for those students. 

  • Number of English-taught programs

The other thing to look for is how many English-conducted programs there are at the entire school. Now, if it's a small number, just see what the ratio is to other programs, You know, because if it's a smaller school, and there are less programs overall, it could still be a good ratio. And that's going to speak more to things like English speaking when you go to the — you know, kind of the registrar type office. If there'll be somebody there who can meet your needs because it's an internationalized school. 

  • Housing support

Do they assist with housing? As we've talked about, there are different levels of this. Some schools will guarantee it, though that's very rare. Some will, you know, have a process in which you can pretty much almost guarantee you’d get housing if you do it early enough. Some will just give you sort of a list and say, “Here, have at it” and some won't do anything. The don't do anything is also a smaller number. Usually, they'll at least say, “Here are the housing providers you can contact.” 

  • Support for learning needs

You might want to see if there are supports in place for learning needs that you have. Or what those supports are, how you would access those supports and accommodations if you needed them. 

  • Other resources for international students

Other resources for international students. Do they have language classes? do they have a buddy program? Do they have an international student orientation, for instance?

So these sorts of resources can be offered either at the university level, the faculty level, and the program level. So keep an eye out for that, as you're looking through. If you don't see it at the university level, that might be because they're putting it under the program level. So you'll want to look in all of those different places. 

Slide 7: Student Life


  • Availability and options for housing
  • Fitness/sports
  • Student associations (in English)
  • Availability and options for housing

So finally, we have student life. And as we touched on before, student life is much more a part of the city than it is in the US. Student housing, for instance, is generally not owned by the school. And so, you will likely have students from other schools that are within that same city, in your student housing. So you'll want to see how housing is. You know, some cities, it's a lot harder to find student housing than it is in other cities. So you're going to want to look at the availability, you're going to want to look at the options. Whether it's kind of, I don't know, up to your standards. 

Are there RAs? Where Sam is, it's a student residence. Again, it's not owned by Leiden. It's owned by an outside provider. And they do have RAs. And one thing that was nice is that they had set up a WhatsApp group chat for all the students in the residence before school even started. So he kind of felt like he knew people already, and there were even plans made for that first night when he got in. 

  • Fitness/sports

Are there places you can go to work out, if that's something that's important to you? The larger universities will often have some sort of gym type thing. And if you're in a smaller university that has — you know, it's more of a student town, there will almost always be a place for that as well. And then, you'll even find places like Anytime Fitness just everywhere in the world. 

  • Student associations (in English)

You want to look at student associations. Are there a number of student associations that are taught — that are in English, is what I want to say there. You know, some schools will have student associations, again, at the school level. There will sometimes be student associations in some cities at the city level. And there are also student associations at the program level. 

So again, I'll use Sam’s program as an example, the overall association for the International Studies program — for the bachelor’s International Studies program — is called Basis. And so, they have, you know, an orientation weekend right before classes start at the Basis level. And then, what's cool is within Basis, there are probably 20 diifferent clubs that you can join. I showed you guys that when we were looking — in a different lesson at that website. So those 20 clubs are just for the bachelor’s students who are studying International Studies. Then there are also associations with Leiden that he could join as well. So you want to make sure not only that there are a broad range, but that they fit your interests. Who cares if there are a lot, if there are none that are related to your interests? 

So we've talked about educational quality, we've talked about the educational experiences, international student resources and student life. And so, the action step for this lesson is to really think about these and identify your dealbreakers and your preferences in these areas, which we'll bring to the deep dive, which we're doing next.