While the application to study abroad begins almost 9-12 months before the commencement of a course, some countries like the US need additional tests and resumé building which starts at least two years before the application cycle, according to Mumbai-based overseas education counsellor Pratibha Jain. Richard Levin, registrar, University of Toronto, however, suggests that the preparations should start right after class X. “We encourage students to start researching their university options as early as possible, especially if they are enrolled in CBSE or CISCE. This is because both these curricula employ a two-year academic system following class X, in which students take the same subjects in classes XI and XII. This, in turn, determines the prerequisites needed to qualify for admission into the target university programme,” Levin says.
Each university may have its individual requirements of essays, test scores, and portfolio. Students must plan to submit their application at least 30 days before the deadline as there are often unseen challenges like website crashing, or academic documents not reaching the destination on time. “Students who wait to submit forms at the last minute may miss deadlines. Applicants must take into account all documents, marksheets, reference letters, test scores, etc, that must reach the university before the deadline. It is not just the form that counts,”says Jain. Often an applicant cannot be fully assessed for admission until all the required documents are received. These will vary from student to student and programme to programme. Adds Levin, “After admission, students also need to apply for a student visa.”
Work on Your Profile
Students should work on their profile before beginning their application process. Says Karan Gupta, an overseas education consultant, “Besides grades and test scores, students should focus on extra-curricular activities, especially those that depict leadership. They should apply early and do their homework well, explaining why they want to apply to a particular course. This will enhance their admission chances.” Jain adds, “Consistently high academic performance of the last three to four years and entrance test scores like SAT/ACT for UG, GRE/GMAT for PG together with a resumé, form the main basis for admission. Quality and excellence on a few relevant parameters can increase the admission chances.”
Know Your Priorities
A common question that most study abroad applicants face is, what factors should they prioritise while making an application? Should they go by a course, college or country? Jain says, “Content of the programme should be the primary reason for selection based on the student's long-term goals. The country can be chosen based on whether the student is just looking for high-quality education or wants to work in that country.” Gupta streamlines the process in terms of countries, explaining, “If they wish to work abroad after studying, they should choose courses in the US and Canada. If they wish to return and work in India, they can study in the UK or Europe.”
According to Levin, while there are significant numbers of students opting for social sciences and humanities programmes, it is still lesser as compared to computer science, commerce and maths.