Jul 24, 2010
From the Indian students' perspective the situation is very dynamic as a large number of countries today are vying for the Indian student's attention. Today a student can choose between going to UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and even to South East Asia to pursue their studies.
To further enhance the range of choices, a large number of foreign universities are collaborating with Indian institutions and offering their degrees/diplomas either completely in India or partially on an Indian campus and partially in their own country.
The world as the saying goes has become a global village. The issues and technologies people deal with have become comparable. It is not that only students from developing countries looking westward to study abroad. Even in countries like USA studying abroad is an exciting concept. Americans want to experience the Asian/European world to gain cross-cultural insights.
Companies across the globe are giving preference to people who have experienced other cultures and patterns in society. Just like the products of multinational companies have acquired the global status so is international education.
Since companies are expanding their horizons with international collaborations, mergers, takeovers and international operations, they are looking at employees who are as comfortable working abroad as in their own country. These people are being preferred in the global job market and the best way of way of gaining this experience is by studying abroad.
Apart from the international perspective that a person develops let's try and evaluate if there are any other advantages that studying overseas provide.
Interdisciplinary and New Age courses
Universities abroad offer a very wide range of courses for a student to choose from. You could opt for degree courses in portfolio management, forensic accounting, tissue engineering, internet security etc. Many students might have a wide array of interests and in foreign universities it is possible to do a dual degree or a double major. If psychology and law are of interest to you, you could do a dual degree or if you want to specialize in both management and engineering then that is also possible. If you have more than one course in mind, for example, creative writing with media, studying abroad could be the answer for you.
Flexible entry criteria
As you can see, the range of courses you can opt for abroad, is very vast. Most of these universities are reasonably flexible when it comes to your previous academic background. If after having studied mechanical engineering you want to shift to computers or law, you can easily do so. Sometimes you might have to do a few prerequisite courses, which is not a difficult task.
Collaboration between university and industry is very strong overseas. So it is possible to do industry placements in practically all subjects - like psychology, law, finance, business etc. Learning by doing takes on a newer meaning when you work in an industry of your choice and then you can come back and complete your education.
Cost and duration of courses
On an average the cost of studying abroad (tuition fees and living) can be anywhere between about 8 to 15 lakhs a year. Of course these costs can easily go up or down depending on the institution, country and the course you choose. The Bachelor's degree is for 3 or 4 years and a Masters or a graduate degree is for 1 or 2 years. Thus the comprehensive cost of studying will depend on the duration of the course - shorter the course the cheaper it is and vice versa. Various banks now provide loans, with or without collateral, to Indian students wanting to study abroad. So you need not fund the entire expenses from family funds. However a reasonable assessment of the parent's ability and your "potential ability" to return the loan is vital. It is not worth selling the family home for learning abroad!
Unlike in Indian institutions, you don't have to wait for your results to apply for a course. The process of applying abroad, on an average, can take about a year. There are two reasons for that. One is that international universities take into consideration the complete personality of the student. Thus it is not just about the marks that you achieve but also the extra-curricular activities that you have undertaken, the references that your teachers provide, statement of purpose and the performance on standardized tests, that matter. The second reason why international students need to apply early is because there are legal documents required for student visas that have to be provided by the academic institutions and the paperwork for it is time consuming.
Depending on the course you are choosing, you may need to take some standardized tests. Make friends with abbreviations like SAT, GRE and GMAT as you will be going through university websites to see the one which you need to opt for. For most of these exams you will need to prepare quite well much in advance and plan on taking them well ahead of the application deadlines. The exams required for documenting English language capability are much easier especially for those who have studied in English medium schools and colleges from childhood. IELTS and TOEFL are the two most popular English tests you need to answer. It's best to check with the universities, which exams they would like you to take before you register for either of these.
How do all these options compare? Should you go to one country or the other? Or should you go to an institution with a winning programme? How should you choose and finalize universities? What are the points that you need to cover in the statement of purpose? These and many questions like these are in every student's mind. They are not simple or easy to answer. Much depends upon your aptitude, what subject you wish to study, your budget, your academic capability, etc. So do a realistic self-assessment and comprehensively research your options so that you are in a knowledgeable position to take a decision when opportunities come knocking.
Financial aid & its various forms
When I was student advisor in USEFI (American Embassy) the letter that I received most often would read: "I am willing to go to USA to study on a full scholarship". But it takes far more than your willingness to get a full or substantial scholarship from any institution abroad. Let's first look at the various forms of scholarships that universities abroad provide and then we can take a breath and think about how you can enhance your chances of getting one.
Teaching & Research Assistantships
If you are applying for a Ph.D. and have already done a Masters in your subject then you could potentially get a part-time job teaching undergraduates in the University in lieu for your tuition fees and partial/full living expenses. For RAships you have to work on a research project fulfilling technical responsibilities. Any prior research experience you have had, poster/paper you have presented in a conference, will boost your chances of getting the RAships. Typically you need to work 20 hours a week for both these positions.
Partial or Full Scholarships/Financial Aid
Universities across the world are keen to attract the best academic talent in their classrooms. In a bid towards that they offer partial or full scholarships to reward the best students coming into the various departments. These are mainly merit-based scholarships and students don't need to work for these. In the US, specifically, special consideration is also given at the UG level towards extra-curricular activities like - NSS, NCC, drama, leadership roles like school captain, science projects etc.
Raise your profile
Students sometimes erroneously believe that writing a sob story will increase their chances of getting financial aid (FA). But, having top of the line merit will always remain one of the key factors in allocating funding. If you focus on your academics and ensure that you study after school, compete for those extra credits you can earn by involving yourself in National Science Olympiad and other such merit qualifiers. Also, if you multi-task and participate in various school activities as well then you could be well on your way to being a merit scholar! A reference letter is another vital tool that is used for financial decisions. So raise your hand high when the teacher asks those questions in class and practice your most knowledgeable expression.
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