The pandemic is finally in our rear-view mirror. We have seen a spike in interest from students and parents in study abroad options, particularly in the English-speaking countries. In this article we will review the top destinations, their pros and cons and how students should select a suitable course and country for their studies. The fundamental questions that students need to understand and answer are provided below.

Question 1: What should I study in college (Major/Minor)?Do you want to study medicine, engineering, business, economics, arts, or computer science? Do you want to pursue an interdisciplinary course with a major and a minor? or do you want to keep your options open and decide at the end of freshman or sophomore year?

Different countries have significantly different approach to education. For example, while the US education system is quite flexible and provides students a substantial choice of elective courses, the UK universities are more formal, and students have fewer electives to choose from.

Students aspiring to study specialized fields like medicine and law should be aware of significant differences between countries. For example, in USA and Canada, both medicine and law are advanced degrees that can only be pursued after completing four-year college.

Red Minimalist Colorful Progress Dial Infographic Graph

Question 2: What are the employment prospects after completing a Major/Minor in a particular country?
A major consideration while choosing a study abroad destination are employment and visa prospects upon completion of studies. When you spend a substantial amount of money on foreign education, you do want to know your prospects of working there and recovering your investment. Almost all countries require foreign students to obtain a job and apply for a work visa on completion of their studies. Foreign students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) often benefit from favorable employment rules. In recent years, Canada has been quite welcoming to foreign students with Co-Op programs (student visas with paid work periods in between) and a relatively straightforward path to permanent residence.

Students studying in top-tier universities, generally don’t face a problem in landing good jobs. Usually, good students studying in mid-tier universities are also successful. However, if you are going to a relatively unknown college with a weak placement track record, you may not be successful in obtaining a job after college.

Question 3: What recognition will my degree have in case I decide to come back home or move to a different country?
Students that have attended IIT or IIM benefit greatly from the brand name throughout their careers. Similarly, Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, and Cambridge, University of Toronto, Australian National University, University of Sydney etc. are very powerful brands recognized across the world. Recruiters and employers know how selective the entrance process is and the rigor the students are subjected to at these institutions.

In general, a mid-tier university will not have the same recognition outside its home country.

Question 4: How difficult is it to qualify for a top-tier university?
In general, the top universities across the world are extremely selective. For example, Harvard, MIT and Stanford have admission rates of about 5%. Effectively, from every hundred students that apply, about five manage to get in. Please bear in mind that the top forty of these hundred students would have very similar grades. It is crucial to be able to stand out based on your passions, extracurricular activities, and leadership skills.

Oxford and Cambridge on the other hand require students to appear for their own tests. The students are then interviewed based on their test responses. It’s a very demanding entrance process that requires students to know their subject in detail.

No matter which country you are targeting, the entrance to the top universities is not easy and requires focus and preparation over two to three years of your high school.

Given the differences in the admissions process, its best to focus your efforts on one or two geographies. Else you may try to do too many things at once and end up diluting your efforts.

Question 5: Do I need to appear for special tests SAT, ACT, BMAT, UCAT etc.?

Absolutely. Most US universities require or ACT (American College Testing) scores. SAT and ACT primarily test your knowledge in high school Math and English. A good score helps your admission and scholarship prospects. Several students also appear for AP (Advanced Placement) exams. The AP tests are for different subjects like Physics, Math, Economics, Computer Science and Psychology etc. The AP content is more advanced than what you learn in high school and requires significant effort.

Similarly, several UK universities require students (especially STEM) to appear for tests like MAT (Mathematics Aptitude Test), BMAT (Bio Medical Admissions Test) or UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test).

By beginning of class XI, you should be clear about which geographies and universities you are targeting, and which tests would you need to take.

Question 6: Can I afford the tuition and living expenses? Can I expect any scholarship or financial aid?
It is important to understand the financial implications of studying abroad. While many universities offer partial scholarships to meritorious students, there is still a meaningful cost that the students (or their parents) need to bear.

Some universities offer merit-based scholarships to attract outstanding students. A few universities offer need-based financial aid to international students. Students should apply to several universities including some that offer financial aid to international students. As such shortlisting the right universities is crucial to maximize your chances of admissions and scholarships.

Please bear in mind that the quality of education provided by top Indian colleges (IIT’s, NIT’s, AIIMS, Delhi University etc.) is very high. It is important to understand your financial constraints and develop your plan accordingly. Many students complete their college education in India and go abroad for their graduate degrees (M.Tech, MS, MBA, LLM etc.), which require lesser financial outflow. Additionally, the new liberal arts universities in India (Ashoka, Krea, Azim Premji etc.) provide flexibility of majors and minors and provide substantial scholarships to deserving students.

These are the high-level points that students and parents should consider while making their study abroad plans. In case you require specific information, you should consult your school counsellor or study abroad experts.


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