Dubai: Almost half of high school students in the UAE spend a year choosing the right university, according to a recent study carried out by Ubrik Media.

Moving from school and deciding whether to attend university inside the UAE or abroad requires extensive research, with most students looking online at university websites, blogs, and online ads.

Ubrik’s study showed that 58 per cent of students claim that many universities’ current social media content is not exciting, and half claim their print ads are not engaging.

As predicted, around 40 per cent of students’ research on universities is done online.

However, 48.6 per cent still prefer physical interactions with university staff and rely on university school visits and exhibitions to find out more information about their undergraduate options.

The study also shows that over half of the students (53.5 per cent) said the final decision on the chosen university is made solely by them. Meanwhile, 32.5 per cent claimed it was a joint decision made with their parents, and 14 per cent claimed their parents made the decision for them.


While the transitional period between high school and university may be stressful, students in the UAE said they have enjoyed researching and figuring out their future career options. Dutch-Kiwi Siena-Maree McKenna, 17, said she started looking for universities last year.

“I looked into different universities and specifically their summer courses so that I could take a few beforehand and see if it’s the type of university I was looking for and the area of study I’m interested in,” she said.

McKenna attended a summer course at Yale in the US last year, and aims to attend another in Amsterdam this year before making a final decision.

“I really enjoyed the experience at Yale but realised it might be a little too far from my family, so I’m looking at the UK and other European cities,” she added. Interested in studying International law or political science, the eleventh grader said she has enjoyed the research process, but found the application process stressful.

“It’s been interesting to see that there’s a massive world out there and to figure out what I want to do from such a big variety of courses, but the stress comes with emailing universities and finding out required scores,” she added.

Getting the grades

For British-American Ronan Dawef, 17, the research process into universities began with an initiative launched by his school that helps students pre-plan and consider their options. Identifying requirements for different subject courses early on in school has helped many students like Dawef figure out his area of interest at an early age.

“I personally knew what university I wanted to get into a while ago,” he said. “But the school has helped me choose the right courses and understand the process.”

With one more year of school to go, Dawef is working on his grades to achieve his goal of studying international relations or political science at University College London.

“I think the process of researching and finding out which university you want to go to is not stressful — it’s more about getting the grades, submitting the applications, and waiting for a reply — that’s where the pressure is.”

Start your research early

Beginning her research into university options over a month ago, 11th grader Meghan Rider from South Africa said she is considering hospitality management or sales as a possible major. Looking at universities in the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden or South Africa, Rider said university fairs and school visits by university representatives have been especially helpful.

“It is a stressful decision that defines what I will be doing for the next five to 10 years, but I have received so much support from my school, the school counsellor and from my family and friends,” said Rider.

Her advice to younger students is “start early to get an idea of what you want to do and look into the details a little later.”