Many would agree that the decision to study abroad never comes easy.
With so many study abroad program types and destinations available to you and the long checklist of tasks you need to complete before actually heading overseas, it can be difficult to decide where to start. Get yourself organized with these seven steps that will help you plan ahead for your time abroad.
1. Decide if study abroad is right for you
Sure studying abroad sounds awesome, but is it a good fit for you? First, ask yourself a few questions:
- Do I have a required budget to support my studies and living expenses?
- Will it be a problem for me to stay away from family and friends in a distant land?
- Would I enjoy exploring a new culture?
- Will I use study abroad to help shape me academically, professionally and/or personally?
If you answer “yes” to most or all of the questions, study abroad is probably a great choice for you. If you answer “no” to a lot of questions, it might be time to do more honest soul searching before you decide. The reality is, studying abroad is a unique, adventurous opportunity to try something new and grow both as a student and a person. And, it also comes with some challenges such as being out of your comfort zone and away from family and friends.
2. Talk to your Consultant
Meet with your consultant to ensure you stay on track so as to graduate on time, plan the coursework you need to take before you go abroad, the coursework you should save and take while you’re abroad and the coursework that you will need to take after you return. A good consultant will not force you to study in a particular destination and in fact, give your various options depending on your needs. It is also advisable to do research online and ensure that all that you have been told is actually true!
Talk with your parents about why, when and where you want to study abroad. This is because parents are generally involved in this decision that is indeed life-changing for the students. Thus, it is important to have a clear and an open conversation with your parents so that they can guide you and help you execute your study abroad plans. However, it is important that you have your points ready before engaging them in a conversation.
For students: Points to discuss with your parents
- International experience can be a big resume booster when it comes to hunting a job. Gaining a global perspective in today’s international marketplace is invaluable, and with the opportunity to intern abroad, students often develop new skills and grow their network of professional contacts.
- By spending time abroad, students don’t only become more mature but they also gain a lot of personal independence. They start understanding themselves better, what they are truly capable of- their strengths and weaknesses.
- Finance is one of the most important aspects and it’s important that the budgeting is done well in advance to ensure smooth study experience.
For parents: Questions to ask your child
- What program(s) are you looking at? What are the reviews of the students who have taken these courses in the past?
- Is the country/city you’re considering a safe place to live? What is the crime rate of the location? What should we know about the health system?
- What are the housing options available and what are the costs associated with them? Will you be on your own to find an apartment, or will your program take care of it for you? Would you want a home-stay (living with a local family) or a dorm setting?
- What is the exchange rate, and what is the average cost-of-living? How much are you willing to spend on travel? Are there any scholarships available that can help reduce your financial burden? In a nutshell, is the study destination you’re considering for yourself affordable?
As you and your family discuss your plans, continue to keep in touch with your consultant throughout the planning and application process.
3. Decide your intake, destination and course of study
Given there are so many destinations to choose from when deciding where you want to study abroad, it can often be an overwhelming choice. It might be best if you first narrow down the type of location that interests you the most, and then make your decision. For example:
- Narrowing your search: While choosing a destination, you will have to ask yourself many questions which will help you identify suitable options. These include your plans of settling down in the host country, budget, your program of interest, language of instruction (English or foreign language), would you take your spouse or kids with you or go alone, are you planning to give exams such as IELTS, PTE, TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT etc, duration of program and your expected scores, post-study work options, expected entry requirements and so on.
- Intakes: A planning for your study abroad journey must start at least 9-12 months in advance. A majority of study abroad programs require applicants to apply minimum six months in advance before the commencement of the program. You must, therefore, have a minimum of nine months at your disposal to research, find and apply to a program(s) at your leisure. Most of the countries have typically two major intakes. However, there are many institutions that offer programs around the year.
- Course: While choosing a program it is important that we look into the interest of the student and also the future prospects of the program. As a recommendation, while choosing a program, understanding the course content is more important than checking out the ranking because more often than not, you will only realize that the number of rankings you find will increase your dilemma. Once you feel you would enjoy studying a subject (or a course), finalize it. You can always take help of the cost calculator to get a brief estimate of income and expenses. Girnar Global can help you identify just the program that you are looking for!
- Check entry requirements: Do check the entry requirements otherwise you are only wasting your time. As a fresh graduate, you cannot join the MBA at a London Business School or at an NYU Stern (as we all call it). You must get real. It also involves money for eg. if you apply to a list of about 8 US universities, it may cost about Rs 40000 to Rs 50000 only in the application process. Thus, randomly applying is useless. The entry requirements will also tell you whether you need to give a GMAT or GRE or SAT and/or TOEFL or IELTS. These are some of the most popular tests accepted worldwide
Based on your answers, you probably have a good idea about the qualities you want in your study abroad destination. Now it’s just a matter of finding it!
4. Register for test dates, gather your documents and apply to institutions
Check the test dates, register for them, as early as possible. This approach helps as you would also then have the timesheet by when you MUST finish your preparations. I would believe IELTS / TOEFL exam requires 15 days to 3 months for preparing whereas GMAT / GRE / SAT may take any time between 1.5 months to 3 months (depending on whether you enjoy or hate Math and English). Another benefit of taking the test early is that if you had a bad test day, you know you have time to give it again. Well, that does not mean you keep appearing for the test. Ensure that your first shot is the best one. While you are preparing for the test, you can start collecting your application documents. Meet your consultant for the document checklist as per the shortlisted options and ensure your application process is started well in time. Many universities issue conditional admissions so the students can apply before appearing for the final exams or the above-mentioned tests. This will help you save time. If you apply early and have been a good student during your academic career and/or have been great in some sports or any other activities, it is always worth giving it a try for some scholarships. You may be in for some useful luck!
5. Collect offers and finalize
Once you have had your admission offer letters and/or decline letters, check when you have to reply to them or accept the offer. It is assumed that through the above process you would have prioritized your choice of University. The day you hear from your best choice, accept it or wait until you receive replies from most (if not all) and then decide carefully. Accept your offer and check with the University if they wish to supply you with any other useful information that may help you. Many Universities may require you to make an advance fee payment, which you must pay and get the next letter of confirmation that arrives from the University.
Check the visa process while you are applying for the Universities. It is important to prepare your visa application in advance as some countries like UK and Australia will require you to show the funds for at least a specific period before you can apply for your student visa. Take the appointment as required (in advance) depending on how soon your documentation will be ready. Once you have applied, it is only in the hands of the visa officers to decide. If you have been accepted go to the next step; otherwise, check the reasons for refusal (if available) and prepare to reapply.
If you wish to live in the Universities’ accommodation, you must apply for this in advance. Thus, as soon as you have an offer, ensure that at least you check this bit of information. Check out and buy your insurance, do your medicals, buy forex, attend a pre-departure briefing (Girnar Global holds a pre-departure program for all students) and get answers to questions like how to open a bank account, what is the life going to be like, about food, etc. Ensure that you also book your tickets as soon as you get your visa (or at least block them) because most students would be traveling at the same time like yourself (evidently) and there might just be some rush. You should also try and get in touch with students who are already studying at the Universities you have selected. They are generally useful and helpful too when you ask them some questions about the place, the university, the cost involved, etc. Online networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more could be very useful during these times.While talking to students, you must clearly mention your plans and viewpoints. This is important as they may have had different plans altogether when they would have decided to study at their Institution. Also, please ask more than one student at a specific university to ensure more students have similar opinions.