Whether you are an IB student or otherwise, applying to universities is the quintessential high-school student experience. During my last year of IB, I applied to universities in five different countries; the US, Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, and Pakistan. Unsurprisingly, out of the five, there is not a lot of information out there for IB students applying to Pakistani universities. This is largely due to the lack of IB schools and visibility in the country. So for IB students out there thinking about applying to these universities, here is my first-hand experience of the application process and important things to consider!
Top Universities in Pakistan
All universities in Pakistan offer their undergraduate programs in English which is great for international students! Moreover, Pakistan is home to numerous small universities which are well-known across Asia. The top three are:
- Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)
LUMS is a private research university founded in 1984. It is ranked in the top 200 in the Asian University Rankings. The university offers 19 undergraduate programs and 26 graduate programs, all taught in English. It was also named as one of the 50 Best Small Universities by Times Higher Education.
- Institute of Business Administration (IBA)
IBA is the top school for Business in Pakistan, ranked in the top 200 in Asia for Business. All programs are taught in English for accessibility to foreign students. They have also recently begun a liberal arts and social sciences program.
- Ghulam Ishaq Institute of Engineering Science (GIK)
Ranked top 30 for quality education by Times Higher Education in the World University Impact Rankings 2021, All undergraduate and graduate courses in GIK are offered in English.
A note regarding Humanities and Social Sciences programs
Pakistani universities are known for their rigorous academics, and their Science and Engineering programs are renowned internationally. However, it is important to note that Medicine, Engineering, Mathematics, and Business programs vastly differ from the Humanities and Social Sciences programs in the country. It is their objective nature and the latter’s subjective nature that create a divide between the quality of their teaching in Pakistani universities.
Censorship and free speech are a huge concern for the country, as a result, a lot of the teachings regarding subjects such as History and Politics are biased. Institutes of higher learning often pride themselves on being at the forefront of open-mindedness, acceptance, and inclusivity which is rare to find in the country’s universities. As a direct result, the more subjective and interpretive programs suffer. So if you are considering applying to a Humanities or Social Sciences program, as an IB student be sure to search for a university that strives for open-mindedness and acceptance.
The majority of the Pakistani universities do not directly accept IB scores. Instead, they require the country’s education commission to grant equivalence of the IB score. Meaning that they use formulae to adapt your IB score to their national degree equivalent.
There is a downside to applying to Pakistani universities as an IB student: the education commission does not grade IB students out of 100% when scores are converted to the Pakistani system equivalent; instead IB students are graded out of 90%. So, even if they score a perfect 45, they will only be given a 90%. This significantly degrades the chances of IB students getting accepted to these universities when put up against their non-IB counterparts. This is something important to consider especially for IB students interested in highly competitive fields such as Medicine, for which most Pakistani universities do not consider anyone who has an overall equivalence that is lower than 90%. For IB students, this means they would need a perfect 45 to even be considered.
Most Pakistani universities require a minimum final of 24. However, it goes without saying that due to competition, the higher your score is, the better your chances of being accepted are. Higher-ranked universities such as LUMS and IBA require scores above 32. Arts universities focus more on your portfolios while Engineering and Science universities require high Math SAT scores and high percentages on university entrance exams. You may submit your predicted grades when applying to Pakistani universities. However, unlike other international universities, most Pakistani universities do not accept your final IB score directly. Instead they require a certificate issued by the country’s education commission which converts the IB score and measures it on the Pakistani school system’s scale which is out of 1100.
Requirements for International Students
The requirements for each university differ. However, here is a list of common things you may be asked for:
- Pre-IB Transcripts for 9th and 10th grades; these grades must also be converted to their Pakistani system equivalent
- IBDP Predicted Grades
- IBDP Final Transcript and Certificate
- SAT Scores; the minimum score for most universities is 1200, universities have the right to reject SAT scores and make their own entrance exams compulsory for students. This differs based on university and your program of choice
- The IELTS/TOEFL are not necessary for Pakistani universities at the undergraduate level
- Passport and Visa information as well as passport photos which may be required in their digital form as most applications are online
- Personal Statements (These are required by some universities, but the number of universities that ask is very low. If you are asked to write one, the prompts are similar to the ones that students write about on UCAS and CommonApp.)
- Recommendation Letters (depend upon the university, some do not ask for them, some may ask for multiple)
University Entrance Exams and Interviews
One major element to consider when applying to Pakistani universities is that each university has individual entrance exams. In many cases, this may not just be one exam but rather, one university entrance exam and one aptitude exam to determine whether you are competent enough for the program you are applying to.
Not many Pakistani universities ask for personal essays, statements, or motivation letters the way many other international universities do. Only top schools such as The Institute of Business Administration (IBA) and the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) require such material. This leaves significant emphasis on entrance exams and interviews. Interviews are a must for all shortlisted candidates in many universities across the country. The National College of Arts, Pakistan’s top Fine Arts and Design university, for example, requires all applicants to be interviewed.
Many Pakistani universities also accept the SAT to be sufficient for candidates who wish to forgo individual entrance exams as preparing for them at the same time as studying for high school can be rather hectic. The minimum requirement for most universities is a 1200+ on the SAT.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Pakistan is relatively low as compared to most countries. This goes for universities as well wherein tuition may range from $1000 to $6000. However, it is also important to consider that many universities are subsidized by the government, or are government universities. This is the case for most medical universities and colleges which are usually inaccessible to international students.
The 4-Year Rule
The Pakistan Higher Education Commission (HEC) requires all undergraduate students to complete a minimum of 8 semesters of university taken over 4 years before graduating with an undergraduate degree. This means that summer courses or accelerated programs will not allow students to graduate early.
Applying to universities abroad can be an intimidating experience, but it is something every student must go through. Hopefully, this article offers some clarity to what is expected when applying to Pakistani universities. With that said, happy applications!