Sorry for the delay with the follow-up posts. I got busy due to university coursework and presentations. Although, we have less number of lectures compared to India, we are given a lot of references to read during the free time. And as a sincere student (!!!), I do read most of the referred books and papers, sometimes even go beyond them.
In the last post, I covered the following topics
- How to select a course?
- How to select a good consultant?
- How to make the most of education fairs and university representative meetings?
You can read the post at the following link.
In this post, I will be covering the following topics
- How to select a university or a country?
- What are the prerequisites? And what exams you have to take?
- How to draft a satisfactory statement of purpose?
- How to apply? What are the documents needed?
Step 3: Choose a good university or a country
As I said earlier, students choose the country before even choosing the course. But I strongly advise that course should be the primary choice instead of the country. When you select a course, you will have a list of universities that offer the course. Here is the tricky part, the more widespread specialization you are looking at, more universities you will end up with.
For example, there are only a handful of universities offering digital marketing course in Europe while every university will be offering a course like Marketing Management. So it’s important that you do your research. There are few ways you can identify the right university for you
- Check the rankings offered by different independent marketing research organisations/media publications. Every year, these publications release rankings based on different criteria (course content, student satisfaction, employability etc.,). You should check how the universities are faring in different categories like world university rankings, continent based rankings (Europe or Asia or Americas), country based rankings and also subject wise rankings (ranking in your chosen subject). The rankings can help you to shortlist a list of universities if you are taking more generic course.
The rankings that you can check are
- QS World University rankings
- Times Higher Education Rankings
- The Complete University Guide by The Guardian
- Global Business School Rankings by The Financial Times
- Business School rankings by The Economist
And there are plenty more.
- Check for the research papers submitted from the University – especially your faculty. The quality of professors can be assessed based on the research papers they have submitted to diverse journals. If your lecturers have authored papers in 4 star journals, it means that you will be safe hands and the modules will challenge you.
- Check out student forums for experiences shared by alumni. The Student Room in the UK has a huge forum and students consistently supply information on courses. Even university representatives answer specific queries in these forums.
- Check for specific research based innovations that has happened in the university. For instance, my university prides itself on engineering innovations that were pioneered at the campus. This attracts excellent researchers, professors and students to the university.
- Check Facebook pages/groups of your university. Every course has its Facebook group for the current year. The students have closed groups to rant about their problems in the university. It’s one of the best places to obtain feedback.
- Talk to alumni in different social media platforms.
- Check for facilities at the university. The diversity of the library, the infrastructure needed for your course, hostel facilities, travel facilities and above all the food.
Important questions that you should answer before choosing an university
- Is this the best university for my course?
- Will they give me a seat if I apply? (Your consultant can help you with this)
- What are my alternatives?
- Is the fee affordable?
- Does the university have excellent research facilities?
- How does it rank among other universities?
- Will I be capable of coping with the pressure?
- What are the visa restrictions in the preferred country? For example, Ireland gives an extra year to find a job whereas UK gives only 4 months extension.
Step 4: The tests that you need to take
1. IELTS – If you like to do a course in the UK, Canada, Australia or Ireland, you have to take the IELTS exam organized by The British Council, Cambridge University and IDP. The exam is divided in to four modules – reading, writing, listening and speaking. Most universities need an average band score of 6.5 (out of 10) and minimum 6 (out of 10) for each of the modules. IELTS exams are not tough, but it’s tricky. If you are not confident, it’s better to take a short course in any of the institutes that train you for IELTS exams. I have seen people failing the exam multiple times. I met a student in Chennai who took the exam for the third time and he still didn’t make it.
Sometimes students can’t clear the required IELTS score. In that case, students can take an one-year foundation course (English for academic studies) at a UK university. Usually, students from China, Middle East and South East Asian countries take this course. European students go for a three-month foundation course (usually from June to September) before taking the actual course. It does cost a lot when you consider it in Indian rupee. My suggestion is tantamount to clear the IELTS exam in India. It is valid for 2 years.
2. GRE and GMAT – If you wish to take an engineering based course in the US you should clear GRE and GMAT if you are looking for MBA. The consultants will be in a position to specify the average scores that you need to gain a seat in specific universities as it differs from each university. Sometimes consultants advise you to take the exams before applying so that it would be helpful for them to assess.
Step 5: Application process and documents needed
As I indicated in the previous posts, it is better to use an agent’s help while applying to universities, as there would be no application fee. A university will give you two types of offers when you apply
1. Conditional offer – this is given when you don’t have some documents needed for them to release a complete offer. For example, I applied to most of the universities without taking the IELTS exam and all the universities gave me conditional offers.
2. Unconditional offer – This is a complete offer provided by the university after they receive all your documents. Some universities will also require a refundable deposit to reserve the seat for you.
These are the documents that you are required to submit while making your application. The agents will take only copies (so don’t worry about losing your originals).
1. Complete transcripts of your 10th, 12th and UG course (if you are applying for masters)
2. UG certificate (if you are applying for masters)
3. Statement of purpose – an important document that you write to the admissions office stating why you are the best fit to take this course
4. IELTS or GRE or GMAT mark sheet
5. Reference letters – if you don’t have work experience, you have to get two reference letters from your college or school. If you have work experience, one reference letter from your college and one reference letter from your work would suffice.
6. Written application form if the University requires one – I had to write for two universities but most of them take it electronically
7. Work experience certificate and if you are taking sponsorship from your company, the required documents can be presented. This will help you to get the offer quickly because they know your funding is sorted.
Step 6: Write a good statement of purpose
Statement of purpose (SOP) is extremely important because that’s the single document the admissions office will read in order to shortlist your applications. The transcripts are given just to prove your claims on scholastic excellence. SOP should clearly state why you want to take the course and how you are eligible to do the course.
1. Make your SOP personal and show that you have done a good research on the university
2. See program requirements and write relevant points to show that you match those requirements
3. Give a structure to your SOP and keep it organized. Clear signposting of what you are intending to write in the document will help.
4. Ensure that your goals are clearly articulated in the SOP. Don’t be cocky but be confident.
5. Stick to the length specified by the University. Usually UK universities expect one page to one-and-half pages long while US universities expect a 1500 word essays.
6. Don’t copy stuff from the Internet. That’s hara-kiri.
7. Give it to someone who can proofread, make changes and give constructive feedback on your essay. A professional is preferable.
- Like in India, there are good and bad universities in every country. There is a difference in getting a degree from London School of Economics and London School of banking and finance. I would suggest students to research about their course and the universities. You are spending hard earned money or getting loans to do this course. So make your decision after complete research.
- As I mentioned earlier, agencies are just facilitators. If you provide them with perfect documents, they will process your applications quickly with the universities.
- Apply to minimum of 4 universities to have back ups incase you don’t receive an offer from your preferred university.
- Receiving conditional offers from all the universities should be the first priority. The follow up posts will help you to choose the best university go to after receiving the offers. I will share the process that I used with you.
Next post in the series will be online next week. These are the topics that I will cover in the post.
- How to choose the best university after getting a conditional offer?
- How to make payments? What are the problems you will face with Indian banks?
- How to get loan, scholarships and funding for your course?
- What are the accommodation choices? Private or university hostels?