Unpacking the whole study abroad myth

A formal education is something that we, as Indians value a lot. It’s no surprise that a lot of students think about pursuing a postgraduate education from a foreign institution in order to broaden their skill-set. Getting an education abroad is beneficial in many ways; you get to learn about a different culture, are forced to integrate and you get to pick up the best practices that are being followed in other parts of the world.

Things have become a little difficult as of late though. With rising tuition costs, increasingly stringent visa requirements and uncertain employment prospects, many Indians are left in a dilemma as to how best to maximise their return on higher education.

It helps to start by identifying your goals early on. Why do you seek an education abroad? Is it to experience living in a different culture? Do you hope to involve yourself in cutting-edge research? Or do you seek to improve your current living conditions by moving to a different country? These are some of the many questions that you ought to ask yourself before you begin the process of shortlisting Universities to apply to.

Once you’re clear about what you want, the next step is to define your budget. Students often make the mistake of choosing a program first and look up financing options later. It’s better to define a range within which you’re comfortable and then start looking for options that fall within your defined range. That way, you reduce the likelihood of choosing programs that may not offer a high rate of return.

After having outlined your interests and your budget, you should find yourself with a list of universities that tick all the right boxes for you. The next step is to collect as much information as you possibly can about these programs and the Universities that offer them. Forcing yourself to sift through tons of data pertaining to research output, student body profile, employment prospects and living conditions should address any and all queries that you might have about these places.

Furthermore, it’s also important to understand what these Universities require you to provide during the admissions process. Most universities tend to ask for standardised test scores, academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose. Depending on what the requirements are, you’ll need to plan ahead and ensure you have everything you need in order to apply.

Everything that’s been written above is best done over the course of a year. It’s recommended that you begin the process as early as 15 months prior to the beginning of a program so that you have ample time to collect and organize the material that you need.

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.

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