Helping international students find their Best Fit programme | Part 7
This is the seventh in a series of articles, documenting the processes and steps we take towards improving and innovating our product. By understanding the student journey in and out, we’ll show how a platform can be built that is valuable to students and agile to the demands of international education.
Product Innovation Series | Part 7 – Helping students find their Best Fit programme
Studying abroad evokes the excitement of meeting new people, embracing new cultures, and visiting new places. The best part? That’s easy: the opportunity to embark on a journey to personal and professional mastery.
At the same time, pursuing an international education is not an easy quest. Prospect students juggle a good deal of considerations before they make such a life-changing decision. Those could range from visa requirements to housing options and career aspirations. “What is the right programme for me?” is the first and most apparent one, but soon enough more questions arise: “Can I cover my living expenses?”, “Does the campus offer facilities for my hobbies?”, “What are my chances to get hired in the country of my choice?”.
When I was considering a Master’s degree, I had no one to address those questions to. I didn’t even know where to start with my search, so I spent months browsing through university and Foreign Affairs websites, collecting the information I needed. When I look back, I see missed opportunities because of how difficult and time-consuming it was to narrow down all my options.
Many of us at StudyPortals have been through this endless search, our founders included. However, the students of today don’t have to anymore! As we are striving to build the ultimate tool to facilitate study choice, we imagined a tool – like an intelligent personal assistant – that will help prospect students steer through the abundant information about international education and find what’s right for them. We gave it the working title Best Fit.
What is Best Fit?
We gladly borrowed the term “good fit” from the eloquence of the English language to describe what we are trying to accomplish on the long-run with our vision. A “good fit” stands for something that suits you perfectly, like it was custom-made for you.
The StudyPortals Best Fit is a tool designed to match students to the programmes that fit their profile best. We know that every student has unique needs, aspirations, and capabilities, so there is no one-size-fits-all. When we talk about a student’s profile, we are looking at a comprehensive picture of the student’s demands and background: academic, financial, personal, and professional.
Therefore, Best Fit aims to help students understand if a programme is a good match for them, taking into account all four aspects of their profile. It finds the middle ground between what a student aspires to, or their dream scenario, and what is actually possible, or the realistic scenario.
Students are not the only ones using StudyPortals to discover their Best Fit. Universities are also on the lookout for the Best Fit students: the determined and talented students who will enrol at their university and graduate from it successfully.
As we try to strike the right balance between a student’s dream programme and a university’s dream student, we take little steps to create a place where the two meet.
How do we match?
The starting point is to allow students to design their best scenario. This is usually directed by the subject they would like to study. With the help of the Wishlist tool, students can easily shortlist the programmes they are interested in, store and compare them directly on their StudyPortals account.
On the technical side, Best fit uses an elaborate algorithm, which applies for each of the previously mentioned four aspects, and connects a holistic range of data.
Then, we address the most pressing question on a student’s mind: “Do I cover the minimum requirements for enrolling in the programme of my dreams?”
#1 Academic fit
The idea of Academic fit was developed to save students the frustration of getting all the way through an application just to find out in the end that they don’t meet the minimum requirements to be considered for the programme of their choice.
The way it works is as follows: we will ask a student to input information about:
- Academic level
- Field of Study
- Previous university (e.g. where they received their Bachelor’s or Master’s degree)
- Overall grades (e.g. GPA or overall score)
- Work experience
- Language skills
The Best Fit tool will then compare the academic background information students provide with the admission requirements pre-set by the university to be able to estimate how closely they match the requirements.
Once the information is filled in completely, students are given an immediate assessment: High, Medium, or Low. Students can then determine whether, based on the assessment, it makes sense for them to apply for the programme they are looking at.
This suggestion doesn’t aim to replace the judgment of the university admission department, but to give students the confidence to apply, or, alternatively, to save them time and resources.
You can read in detail how the calculation is done in our blog about the Requirements Match checker.
#2 Financial fit
Another area that affects study choice critically is the financial opportunity to study abroad. The budget demand varies greatly from university to university and across countries. Some state universities, for example, will provide education free of charge thanks to their national education policies, while the costs of living in the country might be on the expensive side.
We wanted to give an insight into how feasible is for a student to study in a given university and country, combined. We ask the following questions:
- What is your budget for tuition fee?
- What is your budget for monthly living costs?
If a student scores a low financial fit with a programme, this is in no way to discourage them from applying. Rather, it’s a realistic estimation of whether a study is affordable. Each programme lists information about scholarships and alternative funding opportunities. In the future, the tool will provide recommendations on grants and part-time job opportunities.
#3 Personal fit
Because studying abroad is also a social venture, students are sensitive to whether their choice of country, or city, will be harmonious with their personal endeavours. You would be surprised by how much the location of an on-campus study can influence students’ programme preference.
Students can also be wary about levels of safety and cultural tolerance, or just how much “at home” they may feel in a foreign country. Students’ perceptions of where it’s safe or legally possible for them to study are changing alongside the dynamics of the global political and economic climate.
To compose a good personality match, we are considering the following factors:
- Location safety
- Sports and public services
- Alumni reviews
#4 Career fit
In today’s competitive job landscape, an adequate transition from the academic to the working world is legitimately high on the student agenda.
Just think about it: “Wil I be able to find a job with my skills and education and where?” can be a daunting question for a 20-year old without any prior working experience. Also, some disciplines, such as mathematics or liberal arts, don’t even have a straightforward professional application.
Some students choose their academic track based on what they are good at, and some – based on what is trending on the job market. Still others will look at what are popular disciplines to study.
Moreover, through our research, we identify concerns about salary range, employability options, and necessary work permits in the industry and the country of the study programme.
With our Career fit, we are trying to reflect the nuances of the study-work relationship to build a strong case for an accurate career match. We look at the following indexes:
- Graduate work permit
- University reputation
- Job opportunities
With many universities already provide an overview of career opportunities, we are collecting this information to soon make it accessible via the StudyPortals platforms.
How are we developing Best Fit?
Our team wants to help students and universities alike to find their Best Fit. Currently, we are just at the beginning of developing the tool for it. But, hey, all big things have small beginnings!
Ultimately, we envision to be able to walk with students every step of their study quest: what they choose, where they apply and where they end up studying. Then, we will be able to connect the dots mapping the entire journey, refine our matching algorithm and make sure more students find their Best Fit programme.
Right now, on our portals, some of the listed programmes have the “Requirements Match” feature enabled. In the meantime, the Financial fit checker is being developed by our team of engineers and UX designers. All remaining features are still in the making: they are being conceptualised, designed and tested with students.
We’re curious what you think about Best Fit. Let us know >>
Keep an eye on the Product Innovation series:
Part VI – simplifying search results
Part V – encouraging website registrations
Part IV – mobile-friendly display
Part III – improving search results
Part II – insights into visa requirements
Part I – adding transparency about admission chances
About the series – introduction
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