Deciding a career option is one of the most daunting and challenging tasks for you if you are planning your university education. Students in the developing world often dream of studying abroad after finishing the school. Particularly challenging is when you are trying to choose the right subjects to study in the right University. A large number of students rely on education agents or consultants and simply follow the advice of these agents.

Not all education agents are as good as they are thought to be. You could be a nightmare if you end up with a university that is not suitable for you, as you will be compelled to study the subjects that are not of interests to you.

Here are some tips for you to avoid this nightmare and to enable you to command your study on your own. 10 tips presented below with some real stories (anonymized) that might help you to think and act as you step forward in advancing your education.

Tip 1: The low-cost option does not always work.

Often the education agents advise low-cost options in relation to the choice of University and subjects. This is a common mistake made by agents resulting in heavy consequences for the students.

You should keep in mind that the cheapest option is not always the best; you should remain open to options irrespective of the price. High-priced courses and the University may be a better fit for you as you may be able to find a better job in that subject area. Paying a little more at the beginning could make a big difference on the quality of your education and enhance your employability after you finish your study.

One international student, I met in Sydney ended up with a wrong choice of the university and the course. After landing in Sydney, he realized that the university he attends does not have a good reputation and the subject suggested by the education agent also did not match his future aspirations to migrate to Australia.

Story 1: A couple of thousand dollars more would not have been a problem for me finding the right courses and the right university will make all the differences but I did not get proper advice from my agent at the time of my university enrolment. Now I am paying the cost of it.

Tip 2: Don’t choose a University location simply because the agent recommended you!

The location of your university town may have a significant impact on your study and your student life. If you let others decide, it may not always in your favour. Not all the education agents are bad but their strategy to suggest the right courses and the right University location may not always match with your requirements. Here is an example of how a student had to enroll in a remotely located University when an agent wanted to maximize his revenue (Universities offer differential rates of commission to education agents). The higher commission rate offered by the University motivated this agent to do so. It was the student who suffered most:

Story 2: It’s been a nightmare for me to figure out the location of my University which is quite far from Sydney, although I had been advised that it is in Sydney. I had made a plan to come to Sydney where I can do part-time work and my spouse can do full time. However, as my agent put me in a different city where it is almost impossible to find a job. It’s been a challenge for me to manage my cost of living and tuition fees.

In addition, if you are a female student with small kid (s), the location with easy access to the kindergarten is important for you.

Tip 3: Don’t choose your course of studies in haste!

Like the choice of University and its location, selecting the right courses is a vital thing to think through in advance. You have enormous options to choose your course of studies from around 12,000 courses that Australian Universities offer every year. Be aware of the great choices well in advance before you jump into some particular courses. Be aware it is you (not your education agent) to suffer if you are not been able to find a good fit between your career interests and the course of studies.

Tip 4: Accepting your agent’s wrong advice can force you into sleepless nights  

Often international students are told, “The most important part is to have your feet on Australian soil. After that, everything will just flow smoothly and click into place.” This is the most saleable statement drilled into the heads of all students who plan to study in Australia.

A student who was incorrectly enrolled in a subject that was not of his interest disclosed:

Story 3: My first semester went well but I realised the harsh reality when I completed my first semester with very bad marks and even failed some subjects, which was a too bad experience for me.  Now, I regret but it’s already too late. I just relied too heavily on my agent and did nothing on my side. If I was exposed to all this information this site offers, I would choose my subjects more wisely.

Tip 5: Don’t assume an Australian degree always brings cross-cultural learning

Choosing the right subjects does not always work if your University environment is not good to optimize your learning.

Story 4: I was enrolled in subjects that I was interested in but the University was not good in terms of the mixture of the students. The University is modest in terms of tuition fees that is what my agent took care more than any other things. As an international student, I wanted to maximize my cultural learning and English language competency as I am interested in staying in Australia after I finish my study. But, I ended up in a class with more than 60% of the students coming from the same country who speaks the same language but other than English. When I am in the class, I barely feel, I am in one of the Australian University where I can practice speaking English apart from the lecture.

Tip 6: Avoid undesirable situations

You can do a lot to make your student life better. You need to be careful and smart enough to choose the right University and the right subjects in the right location.

To get most out of your study abroad mission, your first step is to carry out massive research on your own about the University, their locations, and the course of studies. Remember, you and your family are investing a big amount of money in your education. Every cent count!

You will have plenty of educational agents to choose from but spend a little bit more of your time to find the right one. You can also visit the websites other than mainstream education agents to get alternatives views/ideas that help you scrutinize the information that you have gathered from these agents.

Tip 7: Make the most out of information available on the websites and don’t rely on one agent

Remember, we are in the era of the digital world- you can find a large chunk of useful information on the internet itself. I guess most of you have some access to the internet and have some basic skills of web searching. Web sites of the Universities are the great source of information freely available to you. You can also verify your choice from word of mouth from your relatives and friends lived and studied abroad. The reviews of the former students posted in the prospective University site are also helpful for you to decide.

While searching, you need to think about the amount of tuition fee you need to pay. Generally, higher the reputation of the University, higher the amount of tuition fee they charge.

Tip 8: Remember – Universities’ reputation makes a significant difference

Having enrolled in a reputed University is always several steps ahead of your future career. One can see the difference in your quality based on the reputation of the University you studied either in the job market or in your own business. Your investment in high-quality education will be paid off.

Tip 9: Make sure your subjects of study are in the Australian Skilled Occupation List  if you intend to migrate

If you are planning to settle abroad or want to get a suitable job in the country you studied, you need to think about the job prospects of the subjects you will be studying. Remember, Australian government regularly revise the list of jobs that shows the scarcity of subject matter specialists in the jobs market. The larger the number of the scarcity of the subject matter specialists, the better is the chance of getting permanent residency in Australia.

For detail, you can visit Australian Government’s Skilled Occupations List (SOL). Remember, the Australian Government updates this list regularly.

Tip 10: Not all the degrees are eligible for subsequence work visa

Be aware of the worst scenarios! Studying a good subject that has job prospect is not enough. Sometimes the duration of your degree may not compatible with the requirement of the immigration office for work visa application or for applying long-term stay (permanent residency). Cecily Huang, a former international student, writes a bitter story in The Sydney Morning Herald (one of the leading Australian newspaper).

Story 5: I recently obtained my master’s degree in journalism from the University of Technology, Sydney. I got a full-time job offer from a well-known Chinese-Australian newspaper, but I needed a Temporary Student Visa to take this job. Unfortunately, after spending $1600 on a non-refundable visa fee, and waiting a month, my visa application was not successful, because my master’s degree was not a “two-year program.

Is she was known this situation before she started her study, she could have enrolled in a two-year degree program.

If you carefully consider the above-mentioned general tips, you should be able to choose the right courses and the right University that suits your needs