If you are confused about how to study abroad or struggling to get started with the study abroad application process, this post will help you to clear your doubts and/or initiate the process. Studying abroad is definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity, and comes with several advantages. My own study abroad experience played an instrumental role in shaping up my career journey. I admit, there are various challenges involved as well, but those challenges along with the key advantages of studying abroad will only make you a better individual if you face them head-on. So, let’s dive into the study abroad process.
Image Source: University of Utah
Study Abroad Application Process
How to Get Started and Six Important Things to Consider
Study abroad is a long process. It might seem a bit complex at times and can be intimidating and overwhelming at times. But, you are not alone. Even I went through those problems as well a few years back.
1. Choosing the Right Study Abroad Program
Choose the appropriate subject based on your interests, skill set, career goals, and job opportunities. You need to keep finding the right balance of all those four parameters. There is no point in studying something that doesn’t interest you. Similarly, you need to be practical as well; at the end of the day, you need a job. Read more about the best courses for getting jobs abroad.
2. Choosing the Right Study Abroad Destination and College or University
It could be a possibility that your relatives or friends are well settled in a particular country (say Canada or Australia). But, don’t let that be the key driving factor for choosing your study abroad destination. Choose wisely as it’s your career and future depends heavily on this decision. You need to think about the reputation and job market of the program (subject field) in that particular country. You also need to consider factors like your budget (tuition fees and living expenses differ from country to country and university to university), population of international students, ease of post-study work (work permit), weather etc.
The same goes for the college/university selection – choose wisely. Don’t go gaga with over the reputation and ranking of a school. Do your research to find out the schools, which are good for your subject field and also ticks other boxes – tuition fees, location (proximity to companies and industrial hubs), departmental/subject rankings etc.
For example, Harvard University and USC might be more prestigious and better on overall rankings. But, the colleges like Harvey Mudd and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology are well ahead of Harvard and USC on the US News ranking for Undergraduate Programs in Engineering.
Since the small colleges do not offer graduate or doctorate programs or they might not be too old, these colleges fall behind the heavyweights on overall rankings. There are more than 4, 000 colleges in the US and there are top colleges in every state. So, don’t worry if you don’t end up studying in an elite one.
3. Prioritize the Best-Fit School over Reputation and Ranking to improve your Return on Investment (ROI)
As mentioned earlier, ranking and reputation are all well and good. But, your focus should be attending the best-fit college. The right course at the right college and at the right location is very critical to your career success. For example, a strategic location plays a vital role in getting internships and jobs apart from cultural mix and weather.
Of course, you will be getting a degree, gain valuable experience, and develop a wide range of soft skills including cultural intelligence and international exposure by attending any college in a foreign country. But, as I said, study abroad is an expensive affair, and it’s important to think about your job prospects (and earnings) after finishing your degree. Besides, it’s very likely to get rejected if you are not applying to the right school. Need help with deciding the best-fit school for yourself? Get in touch with us, and we would be more than happy to help you.
If you are on full scholarship or supposed to return to India for joining your well-established family business, you can put the ROI factor at the bottom. But, if you are thinking of getting a job abroad or a well-paid one in India, and/or if you are depending heavily on a bank loan for financing your study abroad, then the ROI of studying abroad should be your top priority.
Rankings and reputation are not useless at all. But, it’s a different ballgame altogether. Know more about the Methodology of the World University Ranking Tables. Quite often Indian students do this mistake, and very common among the MBA aspirants, and also among those looking at to do Bachelors or MS abroad.
4. Respect the Timeline and Deadlines
Ideally, you need to start your process at least 18 – 24 months before the date of course commencement. MS aspirants can also get away if they start 15 months ahead, provided they already hold a Passport. Be it for improving your admission chances at the top schools, or securing financial aid or scholarship, submitting an early application can do wonders for you. Since the process is so long, a delay at one or a couple of steps can affect your admissions. So, it’s better to plan and start the process as early as possible.
5. Don’t Neglect the Financing Part and Be Practical with the Scholarship Chances
It’s not a hidden secret – study abroad is an expensive affair. There is no point of targeting out of reach schools. Be realistic and act smart. For instance, the USA is the most preferred study abroad destination for international students including Indians. There is no denying that the US is one of the best countries for STEM and other fields, both in terms of education and job prospects. But, education in the US is expensive as well. If not planned properly, it could be hard to get any kind of financial aid or scholarship for study in USA.
The same is applicable to Canada and Australia. There is a chunk of the Indian student population who opt for Canada and Australia with an underlying hope of getting permanent citizenship after studies. But, those two countries are also very expensive and do not offer generous scholarships like the USA.
Image: Average Annual Tuition Fees (USD) in Foreign Countries
Nowadays, many people think of Germany as an ideal study abroad destination, especially for the Master’s programs because of Low or No Tuition Fees. Yes, it’ true, German universities offer Masters Programs that at low or no tuition fees. But, getting into German universities is extremely competitive. There are quite a few German universities that discourage you to submit an application if your Bachelor aggregate is not 80%. So, as you can see, that’s the minimum entry criteria. So, the admission is not guaranteed even if your aggregate is hovering around 85%. However, if you are proficient in German language (B2/C1), you can get into a top-tier German University with 65 – 70%. In that case, the medium of instruction will be German (or both German & English).
A full scholarship is not a myth. There are numerous instances of international students getting full scholarships. But, be realistic and practical. Not everyone will receive a generous scholarship. Scholarships depend on both your academic merit and financial need as well. More importantly, when it comes to generous scholarships, opportunities are far more for the graduate programs (Masters and Ph.D.) as compared to the undergraduate ones.
It’s always better to consider the available partial scholarship funding options. Even a 20% scholarship can solve your problem if you manage the rest through a bank loan and family support. Hence, you need to assess how much your family can support, and how much education loan you can avail. Remember, in the majority of cases, you will need to provide full collateral security against an education loan for study abroad.
Image: The Study Abroad Process and Common Roadblocks (where students struggle the most)
Financial Aid & Scholarships for Undergraduate International Students to Study in the US
6. Don’t Procrastinate and Start Preparing the Application Kit at least 10 – 12 months before the Program Start Date
Typically, your application kit will include the following components:
- Valid Passport
- CV or Resume
- Statement of Purpose (Personal Statement) and/or College Application Essay
- Letters of Recommendation
- Academic Documents – certified copies of certificates and mark-sheets (transcripts) of Class 10, 12 and Bachelors (if applying for Masters)
- Certificate of English Language Proficiency (IELTS, TOEFL or PTE)
- Scorecard of Standardized Tests – SAT/ACT (for undergraduate studies), Subject SAT (highly recommended if you are eyeing top schools), GRE (for graduate level and non-MBA programs), GMAT (for MBA programs)
- Certificates of any extracurricular activities, internship or any foreign language (if applicable)
- Portfolio (mandatory for design and architecture programs)
Need professional guidance for a particular step, or the end-to-end study abroad process? Our Team can help you with college selection, SoP & essay writing, LoR & CV guidance, test prep, bank loan and other services.