Higher Education is no longer limited to a country’s borders. Students are migrating to the length of the earth and exploring rare and exceptional destinations to study abroad. Moreover, with the rising number of Indian students choosing to study abroad at reputed institutions around the world, the admission process has become tougher than ever before. The following is a detailed and comprehensive blog breaking down the extensive process to pursue study abroad:
Study Abroad: Important Examinations
Universities across the world typically require applicants to submit scores of certain international examinations. These examinations usually test an applicant’s thinking and problem-solving abilities or language efficiency in any particular language like English. These examinations serve as a common step that helps the admission board in selecting a candidate. Often, universities may require a combination of two tests.
Also Read: Exams to Study Abroad
Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)
The SAT exam is a 3-hour long aptitude-based examination which is invariably required for admissions in undergraduate courses. It tests high school students’ preparedness across three compulsory sections, namely, reading, writing and language, math and an optional section of essay writing. The essay section may be required by some select universities. College admission committees view the SAT as a strong part of your application. Thus, a high SAT score can help you get a top college and scholarship to study abroad.
Also Read: SAT Exam Syllabus
Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
Applicants interested in postgraduate and advanced studies in universities abroad are required to take the GRE exam. It is a general ability-testing exam recommended for a variety of programmes. It is a 340-mark exam which comprises of sections on verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing and has both computer-delivered and paper-based options. Scoring above par on GRE will get you scholarship opportunities as well.
Graduate Management Aptitude Examination (GMAT)
Specifically required for MBA programmes, the GMAT tests students on their critical reasoning, data analysis, logic, problem-solving as well as writing skills. It gives management schools a measure of applicants’ readiness to succeed in their courses. The GMAT is a first-of-its-kind computer adaptive exam which sets questions according to a candidate’s individual ability.
Also Read: GMAT Paper Pattern-Latest 2019 update
International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic
The IELTS is an international English language test accepted by universities all around the world. It scores a candidate on his/her skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening. The test-taker can choose either paper-based or computer-based version according to their preference. While a score above 6.5 out of 9 is considered acceptable, some universities may require you to score 7 or higher. Make sure you read the guidelines of IELTS as provided by your choice of college.
Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
Like the IELTS, the TOEFL is also an examination that tests candidates on their English language abilities of reading, writing, listening and speaking. The applicant has an option to choose between the computer or paper-based versions. It scores a student out of a total of 120 marks with each section carrying 30 marks.
Deciding between a Course vs a University
An essential trade-off in the decision to study abroad is whether to prefer the course over university or vice versa. It wholly depends on what a candidate is looking to achieve. As this decision carries a lot of weight, you have to do extensive research, visit educational consultants and approach university alumni to gain all the details about the course and university.
Study Abroad: Deciding the Course
While shortlisting courses in your field of choice, you need to consider the following pointers to make the right decision:
- Program Objectives
Always take a detailed note of the objective of the program and what it aims to teach students. It may be inclined towards scientific research or it can be non-technical. Likewise, programmes can be a standard taught course or can be research-oriented. A candidate must shortlist and compare programs so as to know its details and differences. Sometimes, the same program can be offered in different departments. For example, Bachelor’s in Art History can be offered by the arts as well as the history department. Similarly, a course on international journalism can be in the course catalog of both international studies and journalism departments. Make sure you go through the whole catalog of the offered programmes before making this important decision.
Every programme offered by a university has a detailed list of requirements that must be fulfilled in order to apply for it. Common eligibility requirements are a specific kind of degree, grades achieved, subjects studied, specific score level in aptitude tests like GRE or GMAT score, specific score level in English language tests such as IELTS or TOEFL score and so on. International applicants are subject to a few additional requirements. Some specialised programmes may also prescribe candidates to have at least a few years of industry work experience.
- Career Prospects
Career prospects inform you about the paths its past students have taken after graduating. It also lets you gauge the industry links and connections of the university. Most universities show in clear terms whether the past program graduates have joined MNCs, started companies or non-profits, enrolled in higher studies and so on. Student forums are also a great source of such information. A candidate can also get in touch with alumni on social networking sites and gain information.
- Class Profile
Generally depicted in a pie chart, a class profile shows how much percentage of students in a class belong to different backgrounds. It lets you know about what kind of students have previously gained admission into the programme. This gives an insight into the admission board’s preferences and lets you plan accordingly.
Study Abroad: Deciding a University
Deciding the right university is as important as deciding an ideal course. There are few crucial elements which a candidate must consider while selecting a university to study abroad.
- University Rankings
The first step towards shortlisting a university is to know where it ranks globally. The rankings, although not exhaustive, gives a candidate some measure of comparison by which he may arrive at his/her university of choice. These rankings can be filtered subject-wise and country-wise as well. The Times Higher Education Rankings and QS University Rankings are regarded as the two most accepted university rankings in the world.
- University Reputation
A university’s reputation is built around extraordinary professors and students. The ‘about us’ section on any university’s web page will help you in knowing everything about a specific university including its history, current research and studies, achievements, and notable alumni. Moreover, a thorough research about a university will help you know why students prefer any university.
The country where a university is situated is a key determinant in the performance and appeal of the university. America is still the most preferred destination for a considerable majority of students. Canada, UK, Australia, Germany and France are also popular choices among students looking to study abroad. Nowadays, universities in China, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand are also seeing an increase in the number of international students mainly due to affordability and immense career prospects.
Popular Destinations to Study Abroad:
- Study in Canada
- Study in Australia
- Study in France
- Study in Hong Kong
- Study in UK
- Study in Dubai
- Study in Switzerland
- Study in Malaysia
- Study in Latvia
- Study in USA
- Study in Norway
- Study in South Korea
- Study in the Netherlands
- Study in Russia
- Study in New Zealand
- Student Culture
Vibrant student life and culture are an important component of deciding a university. Choosing to study abroad is a difficult decision and shifting to a new country involves a lot of stress and anxiety. Students often suffer a culture shock during this time. A diverse and lively student environment at any university helps in reducing the pressure felt by an international student.
Also Read: How to Overcome Culture Shock
Getting accommodation at university residence halls is quite difficult. That’s why most of the foreign students look for affordable housing places around the university premises. Comparing prices of accomodation are instrumental while deciding about a university to study abroad.
Planning to study abroad is an expensive affair. With the cost of studying for international students increasing every year and the number of scholarships granted going to a selected few, tuition fee is one of the most important factors to keep in mind. Countries in Europe have considerably lower tuition fees when compared to their peers in North America or Australia. Universities recognised globally tend to have higher fees and other costs so students most likely will have to make a trade-off between low tuition fees and a good university.
Also Read: Scholarship Options for Indian Students
Study Abroad: Application Process
Admission cycles operate under different deadlines. As a general rule, for programmes starting in and around July next year, applications open somewhere around September the previous year. For example, programmes that begin around July 2020, application portal opens around September 2019. Admissions are typically conducted in three cycles of early, regular and late. USA and Canada admissions conclude in and around January or February while admission processes continute until April in European institutions. Additionally, some universities operate on late deadlines going as late as June.
- Statement of Purpose/Personal Statement
The Statement of Purpose or SOP is a crucial part of applying to study abroad. It explains the motivation behind the applicant’s desire to pursue a particular programme at a university. It also describes his/her past experiences and how does that make him/her a perfect candidate. A good SOP narrates a story that starts with a particular incident from an applicant’s life that made him/her interested in the subject they applying for. This may be some project experience or a course studied under a professor. Furthermore, the SOP is all about the candidate’s and the university’s mutual connection and showing how both of them are a great fit for each other. The admissions board also sees whether the applicant has researched the university and its faculty, so it is advisable to mention the names and works of some of the major faculty members that he/she may like to work under.
- SOP to Study in Canada
- SOP for Mechanical Engineering
- How to write SOP for MBA
- SOP for Business Analytics
- Sample SOP for MS in CS
- SOP for MS in Data Science
- Sample SOP for Australian Student Visa
The application process may require an applicant to submit additional essays to assess the suitability of the candidate with the program and the university. Even if optional, it is recommended that the applicant submits well-written essays that can increase his/her chances to study abroad. For instance, universities may ask applicants to describe whether and what research project he is willing to take up after offered admission.
At the time of application, universities require applicants to submit copies of signed official transcripts. They must be signed by the registrar, notary or a high-ranking college official such as a department or faculty head. It should clearly mention the scores along with subjects studied and their credits. Occasionally, universities may require applicants to post their official transcripts in addition to the online application so make sure you read the guidelines carefully. If offered admission, the applicant must submit his sealed official transcripts at the concerned department.
- Letters of Recommendation
American and Canadian universities usually require three letters of recommendation, while others may require two. All recommendation letters must be academic if the applicant is yet to graduate or have recently graduated. In case of the applicant working after graduation, one recommendation can be submitted from his immediate supervisor. The recommendations must speak to the applicant’s ability in terms of critical analysis, reasoning, and judgement. Academic referees must mention what course and for what duration was the applicant under him and his/her performance in the field that the applicant is applying in. This lets universities to know important information from a third person. The references must be submitted confidentially by the referees directly to the university.
Also Read: Recommendation Letter to Study Abroad
- Financial Support Statement
For those who are eligible for funding, a financial support statement or a funding essay is required. This essay mentions why a candidate deserves to receive funding as part of his offer of admission. It outlines what specific needs the applicant has and why he will not be able to start the programme without any kind of support. The universities also run specific scholarships for which the applicant can be considered.
- Submit Application Fee
As the last step of the application, applicants need to submit the application fee. The admissions process is not over until you pay it. Usually, students can pay through an international debit card or a credit card. Applicants can also choose to wire the money via bank transfer. A small number of universities may not require you to submit an application fee altogether.
Study Abroad: After-Admissions Checklist
Universities usually take at least two months to assess and reply to you with their decision. You have to patiently wait for the outcome which will be notified within a minimum period of two months.
- Accepting your Offer
After a long-drawn application process, receiving the offer of admission is the best feeling in the world. The decision may be mailed to you or uploaded on the university portal or both. The acceptance offer may be contingent on completion of a certain course or test. Generally, applicants may be required to do an introductory mathematics or economics course.
- Paying Deposit
With the offer of admission, paying the initial deposit is the first step of the admission process. This deposit counts as a deduction in the tuition fees and needs to be paid before a certain date.
- Applying for Visa
Among the last steps, an admitted student needs to apply for a visa as per the norms and requirements of the country. A student visa for the whole of the duration of the candidate’s studies is mandatory. In the United Kingdom, the tier 4 student visa needs to be applied and granted while in the USA, the F1 student visa is required. Similarly, students admitted to universities in Europe need to follow the regulations of student visa as per the respective country requirements.
As you may have to come to know through this blog, the decision to study abroad requires a lot of thinking and preparation. From writing the personal statement to applying for a visa, it takes a lot of patience as well. We hope this guide was helpful in giving you a quick insight into the application process which is, in all ways, a long and tiring one. It is only reasonable for a lot of applicants to have doubts in this regard. For this, Leverage Edu experts can guide you throughout the application process as well as getting shortlisted and finalizing visa and accommodation requirements.