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Study Abroad: How to make the right decision

January 11, 2014 14:04 IST

Study Abroad: How to make the right decision

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The decision to pursue your higher education education abroad is a complex one, often interrupted by experts who have their own understanding about the course, institute and country you'll be choosing. So, how does one decide?

You have your mind set on a foreign country or university where you want your degree from, but do you know how to get there? 

Consider the choices that lie ahead of you: education consultants, counsellors or you!

Education consultants or agents

The Pros you must consider:

  • Agents also act as education consultants and guide you through the process of choosing the right university. Also, the admission process can be overwhelming; from getting your documents in place to keeping up with university deadlines. Agents make this process easier by organising and submitting your documents, helping you get your student visa and even booking your tickets.
  • As education consultants are well acquainted with the procedure for overseas admissions, they can guide you through all your queries and anticipate problems you might face during your admissions or once you leave for your degree.
  • A number of agents provide additional services such as helping you prepare for tests such as GRE, GMAT, IELTS, etc.

The Cons you must consider:

  • Agents will help you select the right university if you are unsure about where to study. However, ensure you carry out your own research as they might promote certain universities due to vested interests.
  • Several education consultants charge hefty fees for their services. If you are looking to save money, you should consider applying on your own.
  • They act as the point of contact between you and the university, but sometimes delay sending out applications till they receive a bulk of them.

Courtesy:YouthIncMag.com

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Tags: IELTS , GMAT , GRE

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Education counsellors

Pros you must consider:

  • If you are confused about where to study or which course to choose, a counsellor can help you narrow down your decision.
  • Counsellors use tools like aptitude tests to help you choose a course or stream. They even have joint sessions with parents and provide more individual attention to each student.
  • You can use the counsellor’s guidance to choose a university and understand the admission process. After that, you can send your application on your own to save additional costs.

Cons you must consider:

  • Not all education counsellors execute the admission process for you. Some of them inform you about the process and timelines but the application has to be carried out by you.
  • Counsellors give you options based on your interests and aptitude. Sometimes, these options can lead to more confusion and you still have to find a definite answer on your own.
  • Like with agents, if a counsellor has ties with specific universities, they might steer you towards that institute.

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DIY (Do it Yourself) Application

The Pros you must consider:

  • It is a cheaper option as you do not have to pay counsellors or consultants for their services.
  • Most foreign university websites are user friendly and provide sufficient information to guide you through the admission process. Universities also list details of admissions officers to answer your queries.
  • Applying to universities directly helps you get acquainted with the campus, facilities and alumni experiences as you will be more stringent with your screening when the responsibility of your decision lies with you.

The cons you must consider

  • The admission process can be quite daunting for a student. It takes considerable organisation and focus to ensure you have your documents, visas, tests, scholarship applications, etc ready in time.
  • If you have any doubts during the process, you do not have an immediate advisor at your disposal.
  • Agents usually have the latest information on changing rules, education reforms, new scholarships, etc. While applying on your own, you will have to keep an eye out for latest developments.

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Tags: DIY

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Early decision vs early action

Early decision and early action are two forms of early applications sent to US universities (usually by October/November).

Early decision is binding; this means if you apply to a certain university under ED (early decision), you are obliged to attend the course.

On the other hand, if you apply and are accepted under EA (early action), you have the option of turning down the offer letter.

Here are some things you should consider while applying for EA or ED:

  • Since early decision is binding, you can apply to only one university. Therefore, you should be sure of your choice before applying. You are also entitled to financial aid under ED.
  • Under early action you can apply to multiple universities.
  • Some institutes such as Yale, Stanford, Harvard, etc believe binding students to an early decision is unethical and have opted for single choice early action (SCEA) instead. This means you cannot apply to any other universities during the early action period (till mid-December).

Expert advice

Education counsellor Jayanti Ghose shares the following advice for those aspiring to study abroad:

  • Plans for study abroad should begin with research at least 18 months, if not two years in advance.
  • Advanced countries have country websites giving a comprehensive overview of the educational system, admission norms, schedule of applications, and links to different universities, and the standardised tests required.
  • In addition, each university website provides prospectuses and application forms with specifics for international students. It is, therefore, possible for a reasonably intelligent student to identify and shortlist suitable universities on his/her own.
  • Many countries/universities have authorised agents/representatives in India to facilitate students looking for higher education there. 
  • Seeking advice and guidance of agents is practical to sort out confusion about the technicalities, and practicalities, but the agent should not be deciding what the student should study and where, and to write in their application essay, because then the student is not in the driving seat at all. The final decision should be an informed one aligned with personal career and life goals.

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