What Qualities Does an International University Want in a Student?

4 minute read

Every university aims to enrol the BEST students from anywhere in the world.  The ideal student for an international university is one who is a bundle of talent: intelligent, diligent, eager to learn, adaptable and one who will contribute to campus life —academically and socially. Does that seem impossible? It’s not! What we need to do is shift the focus. We need to move away from trying to fit an imagined ideal.

Instead let us focus on being the BEST version of ourselves and project those qualities through our applications, Statement of Purpose, Personal essays and if required at the interviews as well.  This is what I am discussing in the Blog. My observations are based on several years of interacting with students at universities in the US (where I taught for nine years) and my extended visits to universities in the UK and Europe where I was an invited speaker several times. These observations would be relevant for foreign universities regardless of whether you are applying for a degree in STEM, engineering, MBA, Data or Humanities.  In this Blog I will cover the following:

  • What is an international university looking for in a study abroad student? 
  • What qualities should I focus on in my study abroad applications?
  • What is the role of the Study Abroad Counsellor in this process? 

First, some good news: Most overseas universities have enrolled Indian students for at least 20-30 years—whether in STEM, medicine, engineering, MBA or the Humanities. Indian students have proved to be successful and high achievers. This has created a favourable stereotype and foreign universities are generally welcoming study abroad students from India! However, not every student gets admission so let us focus on showcasing your best qualities when applying to an international university. 

What is an international university looking for when accepting applications from study abroad students? 

The global ranking of a university depends upon the success of its students. Therefore, every university wants to enrol students who possess: 

  • A desire to succeed. 
  • The will to work hard.  
  • The ability to adapt to the new campus.
  • Resilience to take on challenges and not buckle down. 
  • Be active in campus life—whether in subject-related seminars, competitions, sports teams, or cultural student groups. 

Tip: It is true that your marks are important to secure admission. However, to stand out among hundreds of applications, you need to show how you will add value to campus life and become a member who contributes to the social and intellectual life of the university. 

What qualities should I focus on in my study abroad applications?

There are plenty of ‘Tips online about which qualities to focus on. However, I believe that if you want to stand out, then as an individual you should choose what to highlight from your unique set of experiences and accomplishments. Here are some guidelines to follow. On the basis of the above list (what a university is looking for) reflect carefully on all the activities you have participated in, the competitions, courses, internships and jobs you have done. Then, recall some important incidents during those years of your life.

For example, did you lose an opportunity, get a rejection letter, win an award you did not expect or deal with family adversity?  How did that change you? Did you learn an enduring lesson from that experience? Does that show who you are today: how you handle difficult circumstances or your adaptability to new situations or your resilience in the face of rejection? You can also focus on a cause that is dear to your heart like gender equality, digital literacy for all, sustainability, animal rights etc.  By choosing a cause you value, you can show in your application that you care about the world in which you live. 

Tip: When planning your application materials, think of 2-3 qualities you want to project that makes you special. Focus on those and link them to your life experience. 

Also Read: Top Challenges Faced While Studying Abroad and How to Overcome Them

What is the role of the Study Abroad Counsellor in this process? 

Although the experiences may be deeply personal, it’s always useful to brainstorm ideas before you write and have an expert reader who can objectively review the strengths of your personal essay. This is where a counsellor or coach can play an important role. Your study abroad counsellor should not only be able to shortlist the colleges that best fit your needs but they should also be experienced in supporting students to construct the best stories about themselves. 

Tip: It is always helpful to have your writing reviewed by your study abroad coach, your professor or an expert reviewer. 

We will be back next Friday with another amazing blog from Dr Maina Chawla Singh. Till then, if you have any questions or suggestions, just drop us a comment and we will get back to you. 

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