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Going abroad for higher education, especially for postgraduate courses, is a dream that many Indian students pursue, and most see it as the first step towards landing a career of choice. The rise in the number of international schools with boards such as Cambridge
International Examinations (CIE) and International Baccalaureate (IB), has also seen an increase in undergraduate applications to universities abroad. But whether or not to study abroad is more a question of ‘What’s right for my future’ than of ‘Is it the right decision’. That is to say, there is no easy or right answer; it is a matter of an individual’s goals, needs and means.
You have to ask yourself what advantages studying abroad presents you. While this will vary based on personal circumstances, you have to answer several questions before you decide. Some of them are:
- Why or should I go abroad?
- Where should I go?
- What universities I can attend?
In general, the quality of education you will receive abroad is very high. This does not necessarily mean that there will be more hours of classes a week or more home work. In fact, in many cases it means the opposite. But education abroad is more self-driven and research-based than in India, with the final grades based on several different activities through the year rather than a final exam. For example, the UK has fewer class hours as you get more advanced, encouraging students to do their own research and write papers. As a result, in several universities in the UK, such as Southampton, students who graduate with an bachelor’s degree in the sciences are considered advanced enough to apply for a PhD.
Another factor would be where to study. This could be as broad as a country, such as the UK or India, or as narrow as a single university, such as MIT or ISB. Narrowing down allows you to find out everything about fees, rent, cost of living and visa regulations, and course duration. Each country is different in terms of environment and style of education. The UK has a rigid education system, once a student chooses a degree, they must complete it or start again in a different degree. The US and Canada are both flexible, with undergraduate students not needing to declare their major until their second year. The UG degrees are of four years and PG two years. Australia and New Zealand are more similar to the UK, though they allow more elective courses. Most of Asia-Pacific has degrees of a similar length to that of the US, but with more rigidity, like the UK.
Now you can narrow it down further by deciding the type of university you want to attend.
- Specialised and general universities
- Campus and non-campus universities
Specialised universities can be like the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in the UK to liberal arts colleges such as Oberlin in the US. They focus on specific types of education, and they are excellent in those fields. Campus universities are normally close to, but not a part of, cities. Non-campus universities have buildings spread across the city in which they are based. It is helpful in making connections and finding jobs, both part-time and full-time. Many countries have options to work after completing your degree, with Canada being the most generous.
Studying abroad can be expensive, even though countries like Germany have low tuition fees, living expenses can add up, with food, rent and health insurance to think of, not to mention travel bills. With an undergraduate degree, those expenses can multiply given the number of times a year a student might go home, and multiply again by the length of the course. Given these expenses, you could consider student loans, with both Indian and foreign institutions. Several universities offer scholarships, making the fees more affordable, with the Ivy League ones in the US offering need-based aid to undergraduate students. Universities in the UK offer scholarships up to full fees for postgraduate students.
Finally, a note for women going abroad. Universities offer scholarships for women doing business degrees. These are up to the full fees of top business schools such as London Business School, Columbia, Wharton and Cornell. After having narrowed down the choices, take the time to go through the finances and requirements to see what is best for you to choose.
By Harini Prasad, Co-Founder, www.prep4future.org