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Study Abroad: 5 things to consider before you apply

March 23, 2014 09:36 IST

Image: Pursuing your higher education abroad can be an enriching experience.
Photographs: Reuters Adarsh Khandelwal

From researching 15 months in advance to evaluating destinations that offer the same programme at an affordable fee, here are some factors that'll help you make the right choice.

Studying abroad has become an increasingly popular option in recent times.

Planning and preparation are the keys to the entire process.

One can significantly increase the chance of getting admission in a great university abroad by focusing on the right thing at the right time.

1. Preparation

Study hard for the standardised tests (SATs, GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, IELTS, etc.); prepare the essays carefully.

Essays are a crucial component of the application and you need time for multiple drafts. Some universities conduct interviews before granting admission or for scholarships.

Prepare for the same and make sure to correspond regularly with admissions officers.

Studying abroad can be a fun and life-enriching experience.

Before you embark on your journey to continue your studies abroad, you must factor in the cost of tuition as well as living expenses.

Depending on where you study, you may be able to have your tuition partially or wholly funded with enough left to cover some living expenses. 

However, no matter how you budget, you should provide yourself a cushion for unexpected expenditures.

The author Adarsh Khandelwal is co-founder of Collegify, an education consultancy.

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2. Factoring costs

Image: Send in your applications well before the deadline.
Photographs: Reuters

Education costs are on the rise irrespective of economic environment, so scholarships help in any environment.

It may be noted that almost all scholarships abroad are awarded on the basis of financial need and not purely on merit.

When you hear from colleges regarding your acceptances, select a college and enrol well before the deadline. This usually requires the payment of a fee.

Lastly, get your passport, visa and financial documentation in order along with health immunisations, health insurance, a credit card that works world over, and make your travel bookings.

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3. Low-cost destinations

Image: Countries like Singapore and Germany are comparatively cheaper
Photographs: Reuters

Financially you can look at Singapore and Germany as costs are quite low compared to other study abroad destinations like the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, etc.

In Singapore the cost varies according to institute, course and duration.

You might end up paying $5,000 to S$20,000 approximately for six months-two year diploma courses; $24,000 to $55,000 approximately for two to four year Bachelor degree course and $18,500 to $30,000 approximately for one to 1.5 year Master's degree course.

If you are pursuing a five-year medical or dental course in Singapore, you might end up paying subsidised tuition fee with an obligation to work for three years in Singapore under the Tuition Grant Bond.

Loans are always an option. To apply for scholarships, one requires an IELTS score of minimum 6.5.

India only has 27,000 foreign students in Singapore, and no plans are there for regulated increase because of controls in higher education.

Germany has no such restrictions. The sole criterion of selection is demonstrated academic excellence, not to mention competition from other applicants.

4. MBA in the US

Image: The United States of America offers plenty of opportunities for MBA aspirants.
Photographs: Reuters

If you are looking for an MBA then it is the USA you must look at.

Every school has its own unique culture, which often can mirror or complement your own working style and preferences.

Do you like a school with a competitive atmosphere, for example?

Perhaps this feeling brings out the best in your performance, with classmates pushing you to achieve your goals.

Among the different specialisations offered by the US b-schools are marketing, international business, corporate strategy, operations management, finance, accounting, computer and information systems, organisational behaviour and human resource management.

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5. The admission process and related factors...

Image: Evaluate all aspects of the admission cycle before you sign up for a course at the university.
Photographs: Rediff Archives

There are a few factors critical in the admissions process to most leading business schools.

Business schools in the US follow a very comprehensive evaluation procedure for admission.

Your GMAT score, academic records, work experience, Statement of Purpose, recommendation letters, participation in extra-curricular activities and interviews are some of the important bases that a candidate is evaluated on.

With over 100 top leading business schools in the country, the United States is the leading business school centre.

Over 80 per cent of the candidates prefer the US as their study destination for MBA, with the UK and Canada falling in second and third places.

Other options...

Rather than choosing courses as in a typical university programme, you can choose a programme planned around a central theme, such as university study abroad in the Amazon ecosystems of Brazil or university study abroad in the public health sector in South Africa.

These programmes often involve quite a bit of travel and frequently take place while you study abroad in developing countries.

Of course, these are just a few of the many options available out there.

If you're someone aspiring to apply to the very best schools in the world, what are the questions you should be asking yourself ?

  • What do I want from this experience?
  • What are the options available?
  • What is the process of applying?
  • When is the right time to apply?
  • Where does one's focus lie within the premise of an application?
  • What are the financials involved in the entire process?

The first thing you need to do is gauge whether a foreign education is for you -- academically, and otherwise.

Talk to students, alumni and possibly professors from the institutions you are considering to acquire an understanding of what you might be getting yourself into.

Accordingly, gauge whether you would be interested in pursuing the option further.

Next, talk to your parents and make your goals and plans clear to them while explaining the details, merits and demerits of the programmes.

You and your family need to take a hard look at yourselves financially and ascertain whether you will require external financial assistance or not.

Do your homework

Image: Spend a good deal of time researching the institution and country you'd like to pursue a course in.
Photographs: Reuters

Your higher studies degree from a foreign country opens the doors of unlimited career opportunities.

Before applying, students should check the authenticity of the university. Simply getting through would not really help.

Students should do their own research. It's very important to see the background of the college and the last three years of recruitment procedure.

Not to waste time, students are advised to start their research 15 months prior to admission.

Some more things to keep in mind...

Go beyond traditional favourites.

Rankings may provide a good starting point but you should improve your chance of acceptance by considering institutions outside them.

Think beyond rankings. You should remember that there is a wide spectrum of institution quality, ranging from Harvard University to Tri Valley University.

Do not be misled by the city's halo effect. You can be swayed by the name and excitement of big cities.

Focus on institutions in lesser-known cities as well.

Leverage communities of current students and alumni through social media.

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