So you want to study abroad?

Money wise: The duration of your course will vary from country to country. The shorter the duration, the lesser you spend.

It is that time of the year when students start considering the various options they have to study abroad. If you have just started Class XII or your final year Bachelor’s degree, now is when you need to start putting together all the documents for the application process to universities.

With so much information available online, it can sometimes be overwhelming for students and parents. There are plenty of key aspects to keep in mind while choosing a university. Here is step-by-step advice:

Exams to be taken

SAT and 3 Subject SATs for students heading to the US for Bachelors. 

English tests you need to take are IELTS Academic, TOEFLiBT or PTE (while all these tests are accepted all over the world, most UK universities accept only the IELTS). If you want to study Law then you need to write LNAT or LSAT depending on the country where you wish to study. Students who want to pursue MBBS in the UK need to write UKCAT.

For Graduate applicants to the US, GRE/ GMAT ought to be written depending on the subject you intend to pursue.

Ideally, you should have these test results ready by September when you will apply to universities.

Documents required

Attested transcripts of high school for undergraduate applicants, attested transcripts of high school and bachelors for graduate applicants.

Valid Passport

Two to three letters of recommendation from subject teachers.

A statement of purpose that clearly talks about your subject choice, career goals, interests and your strengths.

Resume

Scorecards of entry requirement test results (SAT, GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, IELTS, PTE, AP, LNAT, UKCAT, etc.)

A portfolio of 10 of your best works if you are applying for a course in Art, Fashion, Filmmaking etc.

Points to consider

The reputation of the university: Pick a university that is known for its quality of education, faculty, research facilities, student satisfaction and placement opportunities.

Subjects offered: While most universities offer most subjects, choose the one that offers what you want.

Tuition fee and scholarships: Pick a university that is reasonably priced and offers merit-based scholarships and financial assistance.

Living expenses and work opportunities: Some countries allow you to work for 20 hours per week during weekdays and 40 hours per week during holidays. Many students avail of this opportunity and use the money earned towards their living expenses. Students can also help their parents pay back their student loans by working part-time.

Visa regulations and stay back options: With your study visa, you are expected to stay in that country until the completion of your course after which you are given a limited time depending on the country to find yourself a job. In recent times, we have seen countries like New Zealand offering 3 years post study work visa to all students.

Duration of the course: The duration of your course will vary from country to country. For instance, all Bachelors programmes are for a duration of three years in the UK while they are for a duration of four years in the US, Canada and some other countries. The shorter the duration, the lesser you spend. You not only save on your tuition fee for one year but also on your living expenses.

Sandwich courses or coop programmes: Most universities in the UK and Canada offer a placement year with your course. This increases the duration of the course by one year and hence a longer study visa, you get a paid placement and there is no tuition fee (or in some cases, a nominal amount is charged) for the placement year. This option not only gives you hands-on work experience in a global environment but also allows you additional time to network with potential employers.

Location of the university: Some of you might want to pick a place depending on the weather, some others might give importance to the distance of the university from mountains and beaches. While nearness to a city might be important to some, a quiet university town might seem like the perfect location for others. Having family or friends in a particular city might be of significance to some.

Size of the university or college: What is good for one student may not necessarily be good for another. Some students might like large class sizes while others prefer a small class. Campus size, facilities like resource centres, sports, clubs, housing options both on campus and off campus etc., have to be looked into.

If you are undecided on your majors, you need not worry as the US and Canada allow you to go as an undecided student, use your first year at university to sample various classes before you decide on your subject choice.

My recommendation to those of you who are looking at non-English speaking countries is, learn the local language and enhance your communication skills if you really want to fit in and be considered in their job market.

And one last bit of advice, while preparing for universities, writing your essays, taking your tests etc., also make time to learn some basic cooking. No matter which country you go to and where you study, you should know to cook what you like to eat and not have to depend on bought food.

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