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Study abroad: DITCH the education consultant and SAVE money

September 17, 2013 17:26 IST

Study abroad: DITCH the education consultant and SAVE money

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Rituparna Roy Chowdhury

In the light of falling rupee adding up to your tuition costs, overseas education consultant Rituparna Roy Chowdhury explains what you can do to cut additional costs and help fund your education abroad.

Are you thinking of applying to a US university -- perhaps the most popular studies abroad destination among students across the globe -- in the coming session?

You must have taken the mandatory GMAT/GRE/TOEFL by now or are about to do so.

It is quite possible that you are not very well aware of the application procedures in the US universities, and have gathered a fair idea about Fall and Spring sessions, official transcripts, application fee waiver, letter of recommendation, statement of purpose, letter of acceptance and sending test scores.

But you are still unsure how you can deal with each of these in your admission process so as to give you the maximum overall benefits.

And if you don’t happen to have a sibling or a friend who had applied in the past, you have nobody to seek help from.

Finally you fall back on a consultant to get things right and avoid delay.

A consultant’s assistance is always available, but definitely at a steep price.

In India, the charges range anywhere between Rs 30,000 to 40,000, which can easily be avoided, given the current economic situation.

Here we discuss the various aspects of the application process and try to explain the jargons for your easy understanding.

Once you understand the process, you can apply yourself and save good money!

The author Rituparna Roy Chowdhury specialises in helping students frame essays/ SOPs and edits thesis for PhD students, conveying their themes with better communication skills. He can be contacted at rituparnaroychowdhury@rediffmail.com

Help Study Abroad Aspirants

Dear Readers, how did you fund your overseas education? Did you take an education loan or did you apply for a scholarship?

How can Indian students reduce their cost of education abroad at a time when the falling Indian Rupee is pinching them hard?

Share your suggestions and experience and help our young readers make an informed decision. You can e-mail your ideas, suggestions and advice to us at getahead@rediff.co.in (subject line: Study Abroad Advice) and we'll publish the best responses right here on Rediff.com.


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Photographs: Reuters

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Application: Why it is important to apply on time

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Fall and Spring sessions

These are two main admissions sessions in the US. While Fall usually begins in August, Spring starts in January.

Why students prefer the Fall session

The global demand is centred around Fall session, and you would find most people applying for this session. This is because there are higher number of seats available for the Fall intake.

Also Fall session has maximum options for financial aid (scholarships, fee waiver etc), a factor is crucial for education abroad.

The number of courses in various disciplines are also much more for the August session.

When to apply

But the applications process begins almost a year ahead of the commencement of classes.

So if you wish to apply for Fall 2014, the notifications for applications are usually hosted on the websites of respective universities by August 2013.

The period for application falls between August and first week of January.

And if you plan to go for Spring 2014, then you have to apply between March and August to September 2013.

Always avoid the last deadline

Usually there are three deadlines for most of the courses across disciplines.

One should never wait for the last deadlines to apply.

Your chances are close to absolutely nil if you apply by the third deadline.

You should try to apply by the first deadline, but at the most by the second deadline, and never by the third.

However, if a university has four deadlines then it is still safe to apply by the third deadline, but definitely not the fourth.


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Be careful with Official Transcripts

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What is an Official Transcript?

These are nothing but your mark sheets.

But this is not the mark sheet your university gives in the normal course of awarding the degree to a student.

The Official Transcript is different in the sense that your university has a separate format in which they would compile the data of your marks received with an official stamp and signature on it.

How to apply for an Official Transcripts?

All that you have to do is to request your university for the number of Official Transcripts you may need.

This will depend on the number of universities you are applying for.

Usually universities require one set, but some even ask for two copies.

If you are applying to more than one university, you will have to make necessary arrangements to request for adequate number of transcripts well in advance.

What should be ensured in Official Transcripts?

Official Transcripts being very important documents, you have to ensure certain aspects.

All Transcripts that you'll send have to be in original and not attested photo-copies of the same.

Secondly they must be sealed with the university stamp and signature.

Now majority of the universities ask for the Official Transcripts to be sent directly by the issuing authorities.

You should check what the universities you are applying to is asking for.

Accordingly, you may send your OT along with other documents or arrange for direct dispatch of the same from the place of issue.

In case you make an error while sending the official transcript, you will have to resend it which will add up your cost and may also cause unnecessary delay.

 


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Heard of Application Fee Waiver?

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The term is self-explanatory.

But how you may get the waiver, remains unanswered.

After you have short-listed your university, you may send a detailed resume to the admissions committee of the university and request for an application fee waiver.

While it is not very often granted, it is not rarely approved either, especially if they are convinced from your curriculum vitae that you are a serious and promising candidate for the course.

The application fee ranges from 80 to 150 USD for MS and PhD courses to even up to 300 USD and more for MBA studies.

While sending an application waiver does not cost anything, it can even save your precious money, in case lady luck is kind enough to you.


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Who should issue the letter of recommendation?

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A letter of recommendation is issued by somebody who had taught you or someone under whom you had reported to at work place.

It may even be the Head of your educational institution or the CEO or departmental head of your company, or someone under whom you might have undertaken a specific project.

Should it be sent online or offline?

There are two ways you can send your Letter of Recommendation.

You may notice that almost every university has its offline and online formats for the recommender to either fill up in hard copy and send as document or sign-in electronically with his official e-mail ID and post the recommendation for the candidate.

You can choose either of the systems depending upon your convenience. However, if your university prefers the online option, then you have to stick by it.

Documentation procedures

Now if the recommendation is sent online, then mentioning the official e-mail ID of the recommender is a must, as the organisation name of the recommender as reflected in the e-mail ID proves the genuineness of the sender.

And if it is sent offline then, it has to be typed on the letter head of the organisation the recommender is associated with, and sealed and stamped in the same way as the Official Transcripts.

Again some universities may specify that the Recommendation Letters are to be sent directly by the issuers.

Please follow the instructions to avoid any last minute surprises.

How to issue the letter

There are two ways to issue recommendations as well. One is the university format, in which one has to simply fill up the university listed form.

The other is the essay format where the recommender basically writes a letter and sends the same electronically or in hard copy.

Now which procedure should you choose: The university format or the essay format?

Choose the right format

It is always advisable that the student chooses the essay format.

This is because in this process, the various attributes of the candidate can be described to the widest possible range as per the recommender’s experience.

The limitation of the university format is that the recommender may not be able to describe the candidate in whichever way he or she would like to.

This is because, one just has to answer by ticking whichever is relevant in the provided columns between poor, average, good, very good on a given aspect say leadership or hard working nature or innovative nature to quote a few examples for our understanding.

But before choosing the essay format, one has to check the requirement of the university on its website.

If it is mentioned that the applicant may use the university format for the recommendation, then the candidate has the liberty to use the essay format.

But if it is mentioned that the candidates have to use only the university prescribed format for the recommendation, then there is no choice left for the student.


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Tips for sending other crucial documents

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Statement of Purpose

This is the most important presentation of you the student, and hence needs to be written with great care.

You should spend not less than a month’s time to prepare it, by continuously improving upon the changing draft and bringing out the best of all of your attributes and interests, portraying your promising candidature.

Letter of Acceptance

After your application is short-listed and the Admissions Committee decides to accept you, which may also necessitate a telephonic interview, following which you are issued a letter of acceptance.

This is a very important document for you to apply for a student visa at the consulate.

Sending test scores

You have to intimate ETS for GRE and TOEFL or Graduate Management Admissions Council for GMAT of the universities you would like to send your test scores.

While it would be done free of cost for the first four institutes, for every additional college you have to pay a nominal fee.

Try and make use of this opportunity and apply to only those universities where you stand a bright chance of getting in.

I hope the above pointers has given you a broad idea of the application requirements.

If you have any more university specific admissions queries regarding documentation or related issues you can always write to the Admissions Committee of the university for clarification.

They are not only very prompt in their response but also the most reliable source for information.

Knowing these trivial but important details will definitely help you cut down additional costs while sending your application abroad.

All the best.

Help Study Abroad Aspirants

Dear Readers, how did you fund your overseas education? Did you take an education loan or did you apply for a scholarship?

How can Indian students reduce their cost of education abroad at a time when the falling Indian Rupee is pinching them hard?

Share your suggestions and experience and help our young readers make an informed decision. You can e-mail your ideas, suggestions and advice to us at getahead@rediff.co.in (subject line: Study Abroad Advice) and we'll publish the best responses right here on Rediff.com.


Image: For representational purposes only
Photographs: Illustration by Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com

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