Find the Right International Graduate Program for You

Freelance Writer

Mar   2015



If you’re looking into earning an international graduate degree, you’ve likely considered which locations would fit best with your personal interests. But how do you begin to narrow down the list? Here are some other aspects to consider from the outset.

Subject focus

As a graduate applicant, you’ve made the decision to undertake an enormous personal and financial commitment for the purpose of professional development. It makes sense, then, to focus only on those particular locations that will help boost your career. International development students will make incredible connections in Geneva, while London will provide unparalleled opportunities for those interested in Middle English literature. Beyond locations that have historically fostered great progress in your field, consider areas based on their current growth and future potential. A master’s in technology from India or a business degree from East Asia will put you far ahead of others in your field and allow you to build the language skills necessary to bridge your future work to these economic powerhouses.

In terms of narrowing down programs, make reputation a priority. Don’t get trapped in a program that is not accredited or highly regarded among those in your field. With educational assessment and independent ranking organizations springing up everywhere, this information is readily available. QS Top Universities, an independent ranking organization, has recently released a list of 2015’s top 50 cities for students worldwide. Many websites provide subject-based rankings worldwide or advice on which degrees go furthest in a specific profession. Study every 2015 list you can find to ensure that your investment in graduate school will pay out.


Application requirements for international institutions are often different from those in the United States. For example, most Ph.D. programs in the United Kingdom require that you already have a master’s degree, while many throughout the States offer a joint M.A.-Ph.D. option. Many international institutions require students to have a specific type of bachelor’s degree or number of credits that may not be typical for U.S. schools. Compare your experience carefully, make note of language requirements, and build in time for the additional paperwork required of international students. Finally, pay close attention to timing that may not be what you’re used to. After all, applying to an Australian school in December won’t help if the academic year begins in February.

Educational style

Aside from wider cultural differences, which you’ve likely considered, take cultural differences within education into account when comparing locations abroad. While U.S. graduate programs offer a lot of student support, international ones tend to be more independent and research-focused. There are also small, pervasive differences in academic culture: one American student I know found it very difficult to match his direct writing style with the more nuanced, subtle style preferred at his U.K. university. Read student work or contact current students to gain a sense of educational culture and your own ability to adapt.


One of the biggest perks of completing a graduate degree abroad is that tuition rates are often incredibly low in comparison to U.S. programs. Many European institutions (namely those within France, Germany, and Scandinavian countries) even offer programs with free tuition. Investigating your eligibility for scholarships and tuition remission for foreigners could save you even more.

On the other hand, while French tuition may be inexpensive, consider how hard the exchange rate on all those pain au chocolats will hit your bank account. Factor the cost of living of your area of interest, as well as whether working visas are available for students, into your decision. The StudyCostCompare website helps calculate what a year or two abroad will really cost.

Earning a graduate degree abroad will undoubtedly be one of most richly rewarding decisions of your life. Once you’ve dreamed up the perfect place, a little investigative work will go a long way to ensure that you can both find and finance your perfect experience.

You can read more about one U.S. student’s graduate experience abroad here!

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About Jessica McCann

Jessica McCann

Jessica McCann works as a communications and administrative coordinator in grants and finance at Harvard University as well as a freelance writer and editor. She graduated in 2004 from Northeastern University with a B.A. in English and a minor in international affairs, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in English literature at Harvard University Extension School. Outside of work, Jess volunteers part-time at a Boston yoga studio and tries to spend as much time standing on her head there as possible. She also likes running, traveling, and eating ice cream cones on the beach.