Applying for a graduate degree abroad can be a cumbersome process, especially sowith the number of criteria one needs to fulfill – the grades, the exams, the letters, the documents and most importantly, the bank balance. Nonetheless, Nevertheless, Indian students are increasingly applying to universities abroad, particularly in the United States. According to the US Embassy, in 2009, there were over one lakh students in the States alone. And in spite of the United Kingdom tightening its visa policies, students continue to apply and secure admission there as well.
With the release of the latest QS World University Rankings, the quality foreign universities are once again in the talk. Here’s what you need to know before starting, and though many deadlines are fast approaching, there’s still time to apply.
Application Process: The Basics
Almost all universities follow a simple (and similar) admission process, wherein the prospective student can log in and register herself or himself. Following this, the entire process is online and the applicant can complete the application in stages. The documents required here are the SOP or the Statement of Purpose (some universities may require two of these, a personal statement and career plans), an up-to-date CV, writing samples (depending upon the course one is applying to), up to letters of recommendation and test scores (GRE/ GMAT/ TOEFL/ LSAT/ IELTS) including English-language proficiency tests.
Shortlisted candidates are then called for a video interview and/or a writing test.
(Before applying, do check if you make the ’years of education required’ criterion. Also, keep into account the lexicon of foreign universities; ‘graduate’ in the US is the same as ‘post-graduate’ in the UK and India.)
Before taking the various tests, it is highly recommended that you check what documents are required for every university that you plan to apply to, in order to not spend time and money on a test that is not required. The commonly taken English-language proficiency tests are TOEFL and IELTS, for reasoning and aptitude, GRE, GMAT and LSAT are the most important tests. While GRE is required by a number of institutions, GMAT and LSAT are used by B-Schools and Law Schools respectively. To register for either of these, all one needs to do is register on their respective sites and book a date. It is best that one take these tests only once, and do well, given the cost of taking them.
The UK government recently decided to terminate its license agreement with ETS, the body that administers TOEFL, GMAT and GRE. Hence, do check with each UK university regarding the scores accepted.
*Holding a valid passport is a must for these tests.
Some of the most sought after scholarships and fellowships, like the Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship, the Rhodes Scholarship and the Endeavor Scholarships and Fellowships and have long closed their applications. However, there are other opportunities that remain open.
1. The Gates Cambridge Scholarship- Accepts applications for all post-graduate degrees at the University of Cambridge. Applications, however, must be made through the University. The deadline for Indian citizens is December 2, 2014.
2. The Felix Scholarship- Especially designed to reward promising students from developing countries, a total of six scholarships are being offered for Indian students specifically. The scholarship funds post-graduate studies at the University of Oxford, the University of Reading and SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies). The applicant can apply to any ONE of these universities for various degrees. The application deadline, going by last year’s dates, would be January 31 for Reading and SOAS. For Oxford, the university’s deadline is to be followed.
3. Hubert H.Humphrey Fellowship- A Fulbright programme, it offers aid students from developing countries for non-degree graduate study and other professional experiences in the US. The deadline is different for different countries, the USIEF Office in Delhi can be contacted for the same.
4. IELTS Scholarship- Instituted by the British Council, the IELTS scholarship is offered to pursue undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at any university in any English-speaking country that recognizes IELTS. The deadline, going by last year, would fall sometime in June 2015.
5. LSE India Scholarship- The London School of Economics is one of the popular options for Indian students for Economics, International Relations and Media Studies. It offers 40 scholarships to Indian students depending upon their financial needs. The scholarship is granted only when a place is secured, the procedure and timeline for which is on the institution’s website.
6. The JN Tata Endowment- These are loan scholarships offered by the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, and are granted to 120 students every year, the full cost of education is not covered. The application process starts in December.
In case you have missed the deadline for a particular scholarship, or are aiming at a scholarship like the Chevening or the Fulbright which require/ consider work experience, it is a good idea to get some work experience. The age limit for most scholarship is 25-30 years.
Most universities offer financial aid to meritorious students, the application for these are made simultaneously with the main application. These loans can cover both full or part of the expenses incurred.
Bank loans: Banks in India do provide educational loans for higher education abroad, however, many of them are small loans (when compared to the university fees abroad) and often come with rates of interest as high as 15%. Nonetheless, they can and should be availed but only after careful consideration.
Selected banks in countries like the USA and the UK (or anywhere where universities accept foreign applications) offer loans to international students at subsidized rates, provided they have a local guarantor.
The most important thing to be kept in mind before applying for a loan is to assess its feasibility.
– Whether one can pay it back through a job in India or not, and how long this will take.
– If it a hefty amount and can only be paid within the stipulated time through a job in some other country, do the bank’s policies and the country’s visa policies allow you to work for that much time.
If you choose to carry out the application process (tests, loans and visa) through an overseas education agency be very sure of its authenticity.
Once admission is secured and the financial aspect taken care of, acquiring a student visa is not a very difficult thing to do. But to plan you post-graduation early, it’s best to start early and be on the lookout for every minute requirement.
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