Guide to Admissions for International Students

Admissions for International Students

Pursuing a degree is one of the most important decisions a student makes in his or her student-life career. Thousands of schools/universities offer undergraduate and graduate programs the world over, with many offering doctoral (PhD) and postdoctoral (Postdoc) degrees.

Many types of universities exist across Europe, Australia, Americas, Asia and Africa. Fees vary from region to region, and also university to university. It is indeed worthwhile to consider what each school demands as international fees (as against Home fees) before applying. There is also the issue of living expenses to consider, which is either high or low depending on prevailing economic circumstances of regions where the school is located and also students' spending habits. Consideration of whether there are scholarships offered are also important, especially for international students from Africa and other parts of the developing world.

It is important that an international student understands the basic differences between schools, so that they can make the right choice of institutions for themselves:

Public Universities

Public schools are state-managed or state-affiliated institutions which are relatively inexpensive when compared to other universities. Some are easily recognized by the inclusion of "Federal University" or "State University" in their name. The downside is that getting admission into these universities may be more difficult than into a private university or institution.

Federal or state government schools tend to have very large enrollment of students, with numbers running into tens of thousands. Due to this large number, international students may easily find on-campus jobs and teaching assistantships compared to non-government schools.

In addition, many government-funded research projects are allocated to these universities, which provide research assistantship opportunities for highly qualified home and international students. Most of these schools offer partial or full tuition fee waivers to both taught masters, and teaching and research assistant students.

Private Universities

Private institutions are financed by student tuition, stake holder's investments, research contracts and donations. Tuition fees are higher at private universities or colleges than for government universities or colleges. Depending on which part of the world, the quality of education is the same in both public and private universities, but major differences are funding and fees.

Public universities are majorly based on funds by the state, but also on student tuition payments and private donations. Since public universities are supported by state governments, they offer enrollment preferences and lower tuition fees to indigenous (in-state) students. Although, international students are subjected to foreigner (out-of-state) student tuition which is higher than in-state fees at public schools, yet this tuition is usually lower at most public/state institutions than at private institutions.

For the listings of private institutions, see Wikipedia's Private schools and Private universities.

Community Colleges

Community colleges are institutions run by local communities for their own people. Many high school graduates who cannot afford to go to a university, or who simply are not ready for a four-year institution choose to go to community colleges.

Community colleges, popular in the USA and also elsewhere, accept international students, but have fewer number of attendees, as most students are commuters from near-by. Although community colleges focus on undergraduate programs, some also offer good graduate programs. They are mostly found in the suburbs, and the most important advantage is the minimal academic fees.

Technical Institutes

Technical Institutes mainly specialize in highly technical areas like Engineering, Medicine, etc; and also offer Masters and Doctoral level education. They are famous for their renowned research programs and most international students are attracted to them.

Aside the high level of academia and research, admission can be stiffly competitive. Admission decisions are based on the student's application package including resume, performance in standardized tests, work experience, etc; and recommendation letters especially for postgraduate students.

Related: Lists of universities and colleges by country AND List of Schools by Country.

Written: 25 September, 2008. 
Updated: 17 March, 2013


  1. Thanks for your article.
    Its very useful for me.

  2. Interesting! Never considered the different categories. Makes a lot of sense. Thanks!