Local vs Abroad Universities

There are many universities in Saudi Arabia, some are amazing whilst some lack behind. Even though there are amazing universities in the kingdom they hardly compare to the world’s best. According to QS ranking-which is a world-renowned organization that focuses on the ranking of universities- the top 3 universities in Saudi Arabia are King Abdul Aziz, KFUPM, King Saud. The highest-ranking being King Abdul Aziz university at rank 186. Now comparing these universities with the ones abroad we can clearly see a difference. MIT, Harvard, Stanford the top 3 universities in the world are on a different level of excellence, but that doesn’t mean that universities in Saudi Arabia are bad, it is just that many other universities are better. But what makes a university higher in the ranking?


What makes a university amazing and how ranking works.

There are 6 measures that QS do to rank universities and they are:

1- Academic Reputation 40%.

it is based on an academic survey that collates the expert opinions of over 94,000 individuals in the higher education space regarding teaching and research quality at the world’s universities.

2- Employer Reputation 10%.

it assesses how successful institutions are at providing valuable preparation for the employment market

3- Faculty/Student Ratio 20%.

Teaching quality is typically cited by students as the metric of the highest importance to them when comparing institutions. Measuring teacher/student ratio assesses the extent to which institutions are able to provide students with meaningful access to lecturers and tutors.

4- Citations per faculty 20%.

it relates to research output. QS measures institutional research quality using citations per faculty metric

5- International Faculty Ratio 5%.

6- International Student Ratio 5%.

international universities acquire and confer a number of advantages. It demonstrates an ability to attract faculty and students from across the world.

This information is taken and summarized from QS: 


The different ranking criteria  

There are different rankings for universities, not just the overall ranking. Looking at different rankings can give you a wider view of a university. Here are some important rankings:

  • Overall ranking gives the general ranking of a university from all perspectives (this ranking was discussed earlier) the 1st in this ranking is MIT.

  • Ranking by subject lists the universities in terms of a given subject, for example, medicine has a different ranking than that of overall, Harvard being the 1st in medicine.

  • Graduate employability assesses how employable the graduate students are. This is very important since the job market is competitive. Therefore, the university will give much more to the student and he won’t just graduate with a certificate. For example, they might teach their students soft skills. Furthermore, they can connect employers to students.


These are the main ones, but there are many others that you can check like business masters on QS ranking and other ranking organizations. https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings

A look at foundation years

One tricky part about universities abroad or in Saudi Arabia is the foundation year for Saudi students. In Saudi Arabian universities all students, whether they attended a public/ international school they have to study a foundation year. As for universities abroad, not all of them have the same answer, but I will go over the popular countries and their requirements for a foundation year. Generally speaking, you must see whether your certificate will be approved to skip foundation year for each university, and you can know that by contacting the university that is wanted.

  • US

Some, but rare universities require students to attend a foundation year if they don’t meet their entry requirements.


  •  UK 

If you graduated from a public school, UK universities will require you to attend a foundation year. Basically, UK universities require you to have taken at least three


  • Australia

Australia does have a foundation year for students who have a normal high school certificate however if you have another certificate you can check whether they can take it or not.

The requirements for the top Universities abroad.

Top Universities want top students. To get accepted into one you have to try your best to be able to compete with the enormous amount of students who want to get in as well. Every university has certain requirements that differ from others. However, there are things that almost all universities require from international students, which are English proficiency exams (IELTS or TOEFL), SAT or ACT, grades from year 9-12, and Essays. Keep in mind that some of the universities super-score your tests meaning they will take the best score form each section. There is much other stuff in the college admission process like recommendation letters, but I am going to talk about the things that are very competitive.

  • SAT

If you want to get into the top universities in the US, like Harvard, you need to get a really high score in the test. For comparison, the average sat is 1060 but the Ivy Leagues (which are the elite universities in the US) require more than that. For example, Stanford, the world’s second university (QS ranking), has a 1390 score for the 25th percentile and 1540 for the 75th percentile. In other words, a score below 1390 places you below average, and a score above 1540 places you above average. However, not all universities require that high of a score some require lower.

  • SAT Subject

This test is not a requirement for most universities. However, it would strengthen your application tremendously. The maximum score you could achieve in the SAT subject tests is 800. You should aim to get the highest score possible. However, a good score varies from test to test. For example the 74th percentile for the Math level 2 test is 790. In comparison, the Molecular Biology is 740. To see the percentiles for each test click here. To learn more about the SAT subject click here.


every University requires you to take an English proficiency exam. Not all universities accept IELTS, and not all universities accept TOEFL, but they will require one of those. As a general rule, most US universities accept TOEFL, and most UK universities accept IELTS. The score they want differs from one university to another. For top tier Universities, like Harvard, they usually require a score of 100 or higher on the TOEFL IBT, and a 7.5 or higher on the IELTS academic. Also, keep in mind the subscores they want for each section.

  • ACT

ACT which is much similar to the SAT is required by universities. However, you can either take the SAT or the ACT and you don’t have to take both of them. a good score is 30+ or even 33+ for top tier universities. For example, Stanford's average ACT score is between 31-35.

  • Essay

Though when you apply to the Universities in Saudi Arabia they mostly ask for your grades and personal information. However, since most of the top universities’ applicants are already qualified for acceptance, they require much more than that, especially the US ones. One way to prove yourself to them is through long essays with specific prompts. You shouldn’t just answer them as simple as possible, but you will have to put some time and effort into them. You should show the best traits in these essays, and they have to be well-written. The best essays should make the reader go “wow.” And it should make them see your potential.

  • Extracurriculars

One more thing that is important in your application is extracurriculars. Top tier universities want to see students that are not just academically superb but also a student that goes out and does other stuff whether its sports, research or a hobby. they want to see you excel in it. To learn more about extracurriculars click here

How to apply to abroad Universities

Each country and University has a certain method for you to apply for, here is the general idea for these countries:

  • United States of America

 Most Universities in the US, except California ones, use 2 platforms to receive applications, Coalition and Common app. You can make an account in one of these website or both and see if the University you want is there. If it isn’t there check their website and most likely they have their own platform. As for Universities located in California you would have to apply through another platform from here.  

  • United Kingdom

 Almost all universities in the UK share one platform to apply through which is called the UCAS. However, if a certain university or majors isn’t there you should check their respective websites through which you will probably apply. 

  • Australia

 To apply to an Australian university you would have to apply through their respective website unlike the US or UK. 

  • Europe

Most EU university application are done through their websites.

Application dates for abroad universities

  • United States of America

For freshman applicants who are going for undergraduate degrees. US universities usually has their regular decision deadline for the application by late November or late December. And the acceptance will usually come out by late march. There is also another type of application which is called early decision where you get your acceptance usually in December or January. However, you will have to apply earlier, usually by late October or late November. Keep in mind there are some universities that have other deadlines like the University of Michigan which has a deadline at February. But in general, most US universities have their deadline around December. Another point is that if you want to enroll in the second semester you will have to apply much earlier, but most universities don’t offer this option.

  • United Kingdom

The universities in the United Kingdom has a deadline at January 15, and this is the general deadline for most universities. However, there are some Universities that go over this deadline especially for International applicants, for example, the university of Manchester has deadline for international applicant at June. However this isn’t the case for all majors. For those who want to study medicine they have to apply before October 15 which is the general deadline for UK universities for this major. Keep in mind, that if you are going to study a foundation year the deadline will vary tremendously for every University but it is usually after the regular deadline.

  • Australia

Most Australian Universities have to intakes, one for the first semester, and another for the second semester. For most Universities the application deadline for the first semester is by late December, and for the second semester by May 31.

  • Europe

To check Europe's universities deadline by country click here.

Public vs private universities

Many factors make private vs public universities different I will touch on the main ones.

  • Tuition

a major difference in public and private Universities is funding. Public universities are less costly than private ones since they are government-funded. Meanwhile, private universities rely heavily on tuition fees and private contributions.


  • Size and Degree Offering

Public universities tend to have more students per class than private ones, for example, Ohio state university has 42000 undergraduates. Regarding degrees available, Private universities typically offer a small range of majors, but often have a particular academic focus, for example, some universities focus on engineering while others focus on arts.


  • Class Size

Private universities keep classes small, with easy access to professors. At public universities, some classes might have 200 students enrolled in them. Also private and public colleges have different demographics. The reason for that would be because in-state students pay fewer tuition fees than out-state students in public universities. But for private universities sate residency isn’t crucial, so they tend to have a more diverse range of students.


  • Prestige

Private universities have more prestige in general. Their reputation is often better due to various factors like better professors, most classes are taught by tenured faculty rather than graduate students or adjunct professors. Also, they are harder to get into in comparison with public universities which enhances their reputation for being the best

Scholarship from outside universities and scholarship programs

Although there are many scholarship programs in Saudi Arabia, KAUST for example, Universities abroad provide scholarships to students. These scholarships are not always paying the full tuition, sometimes they pay half, 5000$ or any other number. One more thing to note is that these scholarships do not give you a monthly stipend like the ones from the Saudi government. You can use this scholarship if you were paying your tuition so that it becomes less costly on you. If you happen to find a full scholarship from an approved university you can enroll in the Saudi scholarship that will give you a monthly stipend to study there. Earning a scholarship can be difficult, especially if it is a full one. Working hard on your application for the university is an important factor for receiving one. You can apply to many scholarships through each university.