If you had visited my blog in the past 4 months, you wouldn’t have seen any updates. There were various reasons for the lack of blogging and one of the causes was the uncertainty in my career. I attended a few interviews, but none worked and accidentally, I got this idea of doing an international masters program. I went to an education fair organised by Edwise, one of the overseas education consultants from Chennai. You would not believe that it was for my nephew (cousin’s son), but I got interested in the idea and pursued it. Now, I am at University of Southampton’s Hartley Library typing this post.
There would be millions of questions when it comes to overseas education and most of them stay away from doing a course abroad because of the cost and safety reasons. A typical Indian family would not like their children going far away from home for the purpose of studying. Doubts ranging from food to the cultural impact might turn away parents from allowing their children doing an international course. Nonetheless, to be honest, the education system and student culture in countries like the UK are far superior to the education systems available in India (that calls for a separate post).
For most of the students and parents, overseas education seems to be a mystery. They don’t understand how it is possible for an average student to arrive at a good overseas university. Some of them don’t figure out how go about the whole process. Is it tough? Yes, but not if you know how to do it and where to do it. Is it easy? No, there are plenty of processes and intricacies involved. Sorry, I am not trying to confuse you. This is a step-by-step guide on how to choose an international course and successfully get in to a foreign university.
Step 1: Choose the course
The problem for most students is the fact that they choose the country first. I wouldn’t blame them because the countries are the ones that fascinate people. They believe that it would be better to do a course in the country they like. However, it is not the right way. I have seen many students meeting the consultants and ask directly what they want to get in to USA. USA has this ‘country of dreams’ tag that everybody likes. US universities have restrictions on a lot of things like relevant work experience or higher grades. Even some of the UK universities have strong rules before choosing a student. For example, my university got more than 8500 applications for the different management programs they offer, but we have only 300 students in the business school. You can do the ratio by yourself. So it’s not that every student who applies for a course gets in.
One of the biggest advantages of doing a course in an international university is the option for specialised courses. For both under graduation and post graduation, you have extremely specialised courses that you can make a choice between. The postgraduate courses are much more specialised to the micro level. For instance, University of Southampton has two separate courses for Digital Marketing and Marketing Analytics, although there is a lot of synergy between both. The universities ensure that they will cater to the industry with unique specialised programs. Nevertheless, the question is what course would you choose. My choice was quite obvious thanks to my work experience, but I would suggest the students and parents to think about the different options available. Google the subjects you are interested in and I bet you will find courses that will suit your taste. I have a friend at the university who is doing Physics with Nanotechnology specialisation. Another friend studying medieval history and one more doing Palaeolithic Archeology and Human origins… Yup, Don’t look surprised.
Take a list of universities from all over the world that offers courses you want. You would need at least 2 days for this work. You have to be patient and focused. If you are committed to it, do it sincerely. Also, make a maximum of three course choices.
I can hear some questions – “what if I don’t know what to study based on my under graduation and work experience?” You would be a mechanical engineer working in the software industry – quite possible in a country like India. If so, proceed to the next step.
2. Choose a good consultant
When you don’t know which course or country to choose, it’s better to approach a consultant who is specialised in diverse countries. Edwise is good with UK. Australia and Ireland; IDP has a satisfactory rating with respect to Australia. I have heard decent things about Chopras and Study Overseas. A good consultant will check your grades and work experience and tell you which course would be suitable for you. They will also talk to you about the cost, why it is good to choose a country or a university and how likely you would get an admission. The second approach is just my way. I chose the consultant after deciding my course. They facilitated the admission. I had positive choices with respect to the course and universities.
- Consultants are not admission officers. They are just facilitators. A mediator between you and the university. They can’t assure you a seat in any university. Even the university representatives can’t do that. Spot offers you receive during education fairs are conditional offers. If your grades don’t satisfy the admission office at the university, you will be unable to get a seat.
- Consultants charge or don’t charge a fee based on the university and country. For instance, all the consultants charge a fee to facilitate an admission in the US while most of them don’t charge a fee for UK admissions. UK universities due to intense competition give commissions to these consultants for every student they send.
- Choose a consultant who has tie-ups with your list of universities. If they have a tie-up, the application fee is generally waived. At the UK universities, a single application might cost you anywhere between £40 to £80 (do your math, if you are applying for 5 universities)
- You need to be constantly in touch with the consultants because they will be handling more than 20 students at any point in time. At the same time, they are humans too and prone to make mistakes. They can’t be perfect all the time. I suggest that you do your homework before badgering them for every little thing you need.
- If you are doing an undergraduate course, doing the whole process with a parent makes sense but if you are doing a postgraduate course, bring your parents when they are needed.
- Consultants arrange special sessions with university representatives. Meet them whenever you get the chance and you can also take your parents to meet them. Make a list of questions to pose. Be specific and quick because there will be other students waiting to meet them. The same goes for education fairs.
How to make the most out of an education fair?
- Every now and then, you would see overseas consultants arranging education fairs that have a lot of universities from different countries at the same place. The consultants list out all the universities on their website.
- Draw up a list of universities you want to meet. Do a Google search and get basic information about the university. Check out whether they offer any course related to the subject you like.
- Make a list of questions that you want to ask them. Ask specific questions and that will give a good impression of you.
- Keep copies of your transcripts, statement of purpose (will elaborate on this little later), passport and educational certificates ready. If they request it, just give them a copy. I did get a conditional offer from a university on the spot. They were literally surprised at the level of preparation I had.
- And meet each and every university you just wanted to meet. Patience is a virtue.
I chose Edwise because they had tie-ups with all the universities on my list. I didn’t need to shell out a single rupee and my personal consultant was Asiya, who was helpful throughout this process.
Next post in the series:
- How to draft a statement of purpose?
- How to choose a university/country?
- How to apply? What are the documents you need?
- What are the prerequisites? What exams should you take?
If you want me to cover any of the topics, please leave your suggestions in the comments section.