Completing a degree from a university abroad has its own advantages - it can not only help you land a job in the host country but can also give you an edge in the competitive Indian job market if you plan to return to India. With more than 5 lakh students studying abroad in 2019 as per government statistics, a figure which dropped to half in 2020 owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, pursuing higher education abroad is still the preferred option for a lot of Indian students. Here is some question to ponder before taking the leap:
What are my qualifications?
Are you interested in experiencing a new culture and language, delve deeper into your favourite subject or just want a job that is guaranteed to pay well later on? Your objective could be a combination of these as well. Whatever your purpose, check your qualifications and academic scores first and compare them with the entry requirements of the course and the country. Some universities might ask for an additional English proficiency test as well. Additional test requirements like GMAT, GRE and SAT are also common.
Which university and course?
Universities are ranked according to different criteria, and students should first ask themselves what they want and search accordingly. The QS Rankings, for example, ranks the best universities in the world based on the individual subject areas. If it’s a Masters in mechanical engineering which you wish to pursue, it would be wise to search for institutions known for the best engineering departments rather than just any top university. If there are two institutions that offer the same course, check the infrastructure, department facilities, public opinions, teaching style, campus placement assistance, and job opportunities offered by the university.
It might be tempting to do the most popular courses or the ones which supposedly help you land a job easily but always think about what course aligns with your interests. One should ideally have a clear five-year plan before choosing a course. Above all, connect with alumni of the university or peers who are already there to get a real picture of the course and life on campus.
How do I write a statement of purpose?
Every university will ask for a Statement of Purpose from aspiring students, which is how you introduce yourself. There will be umpteen templates and ghostwriting services available but unless the statement represents your own vision, you don’t stand a chance, especially in the interview stage which comes next. The statement helps universities narrow down on genuine students and gauge students’ soft skills and the ability to work well in teams.
The statement should be precise and succinct. Through this statement, your objective is to introduce yourself, give a background, the reason why you chose this particular country, university and course over others. Research well on the different modules of the course and be clear and concise about your plan and your career goals.
How do I plan my finances?
Courses in the best institutions cost a lot often, and it is up to you to make a cost-benefit analysis and go for the best deal. Stay updated on the scholarships and fellowships available, not just those offered by the University, but by the host country as well. Education is relatively cheaper in countries like Canada or Germany. Part-time jobs are also an option though, owing to COVID restrictions, the usual part-time jobs are at an all-time low. Look out for student loans with low interest rates so that you will be motivated to pay them back.
Which country is the best?
In the pandemic era, an additional checklist for students has been to look for countries that are handling the COVID situation best and have adequate safety and precautions on and off-campus. Check with the authorities concerned on how the classes will be held, or you might end up attending the entire course online without ever seeing the campus.
Course fees should definitely be a priority when choosing the country; studying in the UK or Australia, for example, is cheaper compared to the US. The safety of the country is also of prime importance, a reason why a lot of students have been choosing the UK, Australia and Canada over the US. Questions you should ask are: What is the quality of education of the country as such? How is the immigration policy? What are the sponsorship programmes available? Other crucial factors are the weather, living expenses, tuition fees, stay-back options, part-time job options, availability of residency permits etc.
College is a place to gain knowledge and expose one’s mind to new things and will be playing a significant chapter in a student’s life. While creating a checklist like this might seem daunting at first, it always helps to be as prepared as possible and arrives at a decision after having considered all the alternatives.