Why study abroad?
No two applicants have the same reason(s) for studying abroad. For one it could be as simple as not getting into the right college/university in India and for the other it can be because there are not very many job opportunities in his/her field of study and for many, an easy way of a secured future.
Whatever your reason for deciding to study abroad you will find that higher education abroad adds considerable value to your professional development. A good degree is a stamp of excellence that marks you for life. It can enhance your career and prepare you for leadership in your country or anywhere in the world. It can broaden your horizons and expose you to a variety of perspectives, the latest technology, and state-of-the-art research and training. You can make contacts with colleagues abroad which may lead to collaborations with leading international researchers after you return to your home country. With the large number and variety of colleges and universities outside India, you are certain to find one that matches your needs and interests, no matter what your criteria.
And what's more, with the right kind of planning and guidance, you can study abroad at very low costs and even free on a scholarship. Application process makes the vital difference and is the most important criteria.
The application process for studying abroad is time consuming and requires applicants to start preparing well in advance of their anticipated start date. It is very important to begin the admission process early because in many cases application deadlines are far in advance of the start of the semester (sometimes as many as ten months). You also need to allow time for scheduling any standardized tests needed for admission and then having the results of these tests sent to schools. There is no uniform world-wide application system. Each college or university establishes its own unique policies.
The 6 basic steps for applying abroad are:
- Identifying country, universities and the course of your interest
- Request universities for Application forms
- Taking various required tests
- Arranging and preparing essays and recommendation letters
- Completing and Sending Application forms along with required documents
- Reporting various test scores to the universities
Selecting universities is a very time consuming and important process not only from the admission point of view but also because applying to universities is very expensive by Indian standards. Hence it has to be restricted to around 6 or 8 universities which are best matched for your requirements.
The best university for you may not be the famous ones, but those that offer you your field of study as well as meet the other criteria important to you. The range of academic options as well as available universities are so wide that it is not possible to select the best in one go and it may take some time.
The basic steps involved in the process of selecting universities are :
|Level||Criteria for short-listing||Number of colleges shortlisted|
|III||Application Stage (After receiving prospectus & forms||6-8|
Requesting application forms
This is the first stage of your application process. At this stage, you can write to the selected 25-30 universities. You can directly request application materials from the universities.
There are two ways to get application forms:
- Requesting Application Forms via email : You can request application forms from the universities website. Most universities have a form on their website which can be completed online to request application material.
- Downloading from the university website : Many universities have a downloadable and ready to print versions of their application forms on the net. These can be used for applying just as regular forms.
Once you start receiving application forms and material, go through the material in detail and check the application deadline, minimum scores required in the standardized tests, recommendation letters needed and other such information.
Tabulate all these requirements and compare them with your objectives and group the universities under three categories :
- Schools that seem to match your requirements
- Schools that are not suited to your needs
- Schools that do not completely fit in any of the above two categories
Eliminate schools in Group 2 and check out in detail again the universities in Group 3. You can try and focus on departments that you would most like to attend and the school rankings in that field. And any special facilities that the school may offer you in that field. Try and make a list of schools on basis of fresh and more specific criteria like :
- Objectives of the program and kind of methodology as well as approach
- Admission / Entrance requirements
- Availability of assistantships and funds in the field of your choice
- Research facilities
- Location Profile of students enrolled
Narrow down your list to about 6-8 universities to whom you intend to apply:
Wisdom Mart can help you select universities that are best suited for your requirements.
Once you have decided on the universities to apply to, you have to start filling up the application forms. The forms will ask for your personal details, academic record, official transcripts, various essays, personal achievements, extra curricular activities and recommendation letters. We discuss here the three most important criteria for admissions - Essays, Academic School Records / Transcripts and Recommendation Letters
Letter of reference or recommendation letter plays a very important role in the admission process especially for Master's and Doctoral courses. A recommendation letter is a signed statement from a person who knows you well professionally or has taught you in a subject that is related to the course you are applying to. It should list your positive and negative qualities, strengths and weaknesses, your character and integrity and other such information.
The author or teacher must indicate his position, how long he/she has known the applicant and in what capacity. He/she should briefly discuss the need, importance and usefulness of the study the applicant proposes to undertake. Authors are usually asked to rank applicants in their letters of recommendation, which helps admission officers to interpret the academic credentials of foreign students. Students should obtain letters of recommendation (often on the prescribed forms sent by the institutions) from teachers who know them as a person as well as a student. You may like to request your author to give concrete examples that may show your qualities and help your case.
Many universities have their own format and questions that have to be answered by the person who is giving the letter of recommendation on your behalf. Letters, which do not give enough information, can jeopardize a candidate’s chances of selection.
For more details on letter of recommendations, formats and tips, check out Letter of Recommendation
School Records/Academic Transcripts
The transcripts of your academic record are absolutely essential to the evaluation of your academic abilities. Your official transcript or academic record is the objective part of your application. Academic records greatly vary from one education system to the other. Systems of evaluation or grading and the formats used to present this information also differ widely.
Undergraduate : Students who are applying for a Bachelor program or any other undergraduate course would be required to submit a secondary school report and transcripts (report cards) of the final exams. The report form should be filled out by a school official like the principal, counselor or headmaster. This form should introduce you in the context of your whole school experience in relationship to the other students in your class. Admission committees will be interested in learning how you have performed in your own educational system. The school report should talk about your accomplishments and provide a statement of your chances for success in university-level studies.
Since there is a variation between the styles of scoring used abroad and the ones used in India, ask your school to include a guide to the grading standards used in your educational system and your school. If your school ranks students by their level of academic achievement, make certain that the ranking is included with the other details. Also send the school / junior college leaving certificate as and when it is available.
Graduate : Students applying for Graduate courses (MBA, MS etc) are required to submit an official transcript from each college or university that they have attended after secondary school with complete details of the subjects, credits involved and other details like correspondence courses, diplomas etc. Most universities ask for the transcript to be sealed in an envelope and signed and attested across the seal by the registrar. This procedure is to be done for each and every college that you have attended. Some universities may ask for more than one transcripts but most require only one.
If the transcripts are in a language other than English, then it must be translated into English only by the issuing authority or university otherwise it may not be acceptable.
Essays/Statement of purpose
The personal essays, and/or statement of purpose, also play a very important role in the process of evaluating your application for both admission as well as financial aid because it gives the faculty assessing your application their most significant impression of you as an individual.
For MBA candidates this is probably the most important criteria.
In the statement of purpose, which must be concise, the student must define his or her academic goals, and/or research plans, It should include justification for choosing the academic program and specialization, and for selecting the particular college as well as the advantages and benefit of studying that particular course.
For more details on various essay topics, tips, sample essays, check out our Essays section
Universities usually inform students of their admission decisions well in advance of the beginning term. If you have received admission in more than one university, you will have to decide which one you want to attend. At this stage, you should compare a few objective and mostly more subjective criteria. The points you should focus on :
- Best program curriculum, length of program, choice of courses
- Best funding offer or best program with respect to costs
- Cost of living
- Strength of related departments/program
- Overall reputation of university/department/program
- Location-region, safety of neighborhood
- Social life
- Facilities available
- Accommodation & housing
Basically the decision factors at this stage would be mainly three points :
- Best program
- Best funding offer
- Best for your personal goals and needs
It is essential to do a lot of research on the universities and their offerings. Colleges and universities offer varied educational packages. You will have to find out which of these are likely to meet your goals by spending time in the reference library. The more time and effort you put in and the better you utilize your researching skills, the greater are your chances of achieving your goals.
What to do once you have been accepted :
Each college will tell you exactly what steps to follow to confirm your acceptance of their offer of admission and how to prepare for your first term. This information will be included with the letter of admission or in materials that will be sent to you shortly thereafter. You must respond with a "yes" or "No" for each offer of admission. You may also be required to submit a financial deposit to the institution that you plan to attend. This is to guarantee your place in the class. Make sure you do not miss any deadlines.
If you are in the waiting list :
You may receive a letter that informs you that you are on a ‘waiting list’. This generally means that the admission office determined that you were qualified for admission but there was not enough room to admit all qualified applicants. If you are placed in the waiting list of a college you wish to attend, you will be asked whether you are interested or not. If you say yes, you may be offered admission if space becomes available.
If you are placed in the waiting list of your first choice college and confirmed in the second choice college, you may do the following steps to remain on the safer side :
- Accept the offer of the second choice school and pay the deposit
- Accept the offer of remaining in the waiting list of the first choice school
If you get admission later in your first choice school, you can join that but you will have to forfeit your deposit (usually around US $50-$500) otherwise you can decide to study in the second choice school.
Applying for student visa
Each country has its own procedure for visas.
For more details, click here.