A Step-by-Step Guide to Study Abroad: The Ultimate Guide for International Students
A comprehensive study abroad guide which tells you all you need to know.
Approximately 750,000 Indian students are currently enrolled in a degree-granting program overseas. Tens of thousands more join them each year to seek a global education. Unfortunately, because of a lack of proper guidance or study abroad guides, many end up choosing a sub-standard program of study.
We’ve put together this short and comprehensive study abroad guide to help students make informed choices about pursuing a degree overseas.
Step 1: Plan Your Study
Many students have different reasons to move abroad to pursue higher education. These may include experiencing a different culture, pursuing cutting-edge research or seeking better employment and immigration opportunities.
When you’re considering studying abroad, it helps to start by identifying your goals early on. The easiest way to get your train of thought started is to consider what subjects you’re looking to pursue. Naturally, you’ll want to study in a country and at a university where your subject of choice is a specialization. For instance, it makes sense to pursue a degree in Renewable Energy in Sweden, since the research and employment opportunities for this sector are abundant there.
As you pick study destinations, don’t rule out your favourites. When picking a place to study, consider if the language, culture and living environment of your destination is something you’re excited to explore and possibly integrate into.
Ideally you should begin planning 15 months prior to the beginning of a program. This allows you to keep track of and stay ahead of application/scholarship deadlines.
Step 2: Budget Your Expenses
Students often make the mistake of choosing a program first and look up financing options later. Once you’ve defined your goals, your next step should always be to define your budget.
Your dream school might not be the best place to attend, especially if you can attend another similarly reputed institution for a fraction of the cost. Therefore, it’s advisable that you define a range within which you’re comfortable and then start looking for options that fall within that range. That way, you reduce the likelihood of choosing programs that may not offer a high rate of return.
There are multiple ways you can fund your education abroad. These include education loans, scholarships and other study grants. Be sure to check all your funding options and pick one which accounts for all your anticipated expenses.
Step 3: Shortlist Programs
After having outlined your interests and your budget, you should now come up with a shortlist of programs that tick all the right boxes for you. By planning your study (see Step 1), you would have identified and prepared a list of certain programs you find attractive.
Now, your job is to shortlist programs you plan to apply to, from the initial list. To do this, you should collect as much information as you possibly can about these programs and the Universities that offer them. To start with, compare these options based on multiple relevant metrics (like reputation, research output, outcomes, ROI). Also, do incorporate other factors like student body profile which you feel are relevant.
Overall, this step requires you to put in a lot of effort sifting through data. There are multiple resources for information which you can seek help from in your search. Here’s a list of resources and people you should consult on in-depth guidance for study abroad (link to top 4 places to get expert study abroad guidance)
Step 4: Look Up Application Requirements
It’s important to understand what universities require you to provide during the admissions process. Most universities tend to ask for standardised test scores, academic transcripts, letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose.
However, requirements usually vary for universities located in different locations. For instance, most European universities don’t require a GRE score, but almost all North American ones do. Furthermore, most universities don’t have uniform graduate school programs. They tend to have a lot of variation in curriculum.
Therefore, you should plan ahead and ensure you have everything you need in order to apply.
Step 5: Write Your SOP
The Statement of Purpose is one of the most critical parts of your application to a foreign university. This is because it’s your only opportunity to connect with the admissions team on a personal level and explain your motivations for applying to their graduate program.
Your SOP should highlight your familiarity with the program and understanding of the university’s student body. Moreover, your SOP should emphasize on the outcomes you’re looking for and how the program will enable you to reach them; your ultimate goal is to convince the admissions team that you’re a great fit for their institution.
While writing your SOP, you should be careful not to sound arrogant and boastful. Moreover, you should not undermine any other program or educational institution. You should also not sound boastful. Avoid using any templates to write your SOP. Stick to using personal anecdotes, experiences and facts to tell your story.
Step 6: Apply Apply Apply!
Once you’ve found enough information, decided on a program and prepared all application materials, it’s time to apply!
It’s suggested that you keep a checklist of application materials, so that you don’t lose track of any important documents to be sent.
Step 7: Get Your Visa
After sending out your applications, you arrive at one of the most important steps of the study abroad journey: getting a visa. As an international student, you will almost always need a student visa if you’re travelling overseas for studies. A student visa gives you the right to reside in the foreign country for the duration of your study. Additionally, it may also give you the right to residency for some extra period of time after your study period has ended.
The requirements and conditions of student visas differ by country. However, a student visa application to any country will require you to provide a proof of enrollment (for example, the I20 for US, Immatrikulationsbescheinigung for Germany). Additionally, some student visa requirements may require you to open a blocked account for your personal expenses. This is to ensure that you are able to live comfortably on your own, during your time as a student.
Studying abroad can be an extremely rewarding experience and you might often end up getting more than you asked for. The trick is to plan ahead and make calculated choices so that you don’t end up with a sub-par experience!