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Thinking of Studying Abroad? Your Guide to applying

Once you decide to go abroad to pursue your studies, an extensive preparation is necessary. Following a step-by-step process helps you achieve your goal without getting overwhelmed by the number of things that need to be done! I. Planning: - 1. What, where and when?
  • First decide what kind of program you want to do. For graduate studies, you have options like MS, MBA, Law and research programs. You can do your undergraduate course in many streams including engineering, medicine, language, law, arts subjects like history, economics, fine arts and many others.
  • The next thing you have to finalize is where to study. Here also you have more options like the USA, Europe, Australia, and Singapore.
  • Then decide when you want to go -- fall (August/September) or spring (Feb/March). Generally, the number of programs available in the fall is greater than that in spring; hence the chance of getting admission in fall tends to be more.
  • If you are applying for a foreign (summer) internship, start this process at the beginning of the year and talk to as many seniors and professors in your field- from your college or foreign university, as possible.
Study Abroad Study Abroad 2. Identify your course The next step is finalizing your course. Below are some valuable suggestions to choose a right program that best suits you.
  • First consider your interest and priorities along with your academic performance
  • Research study abroad programs and portals
  • Talk to program co-coordinators and study abroad advisors
  • Consult current students and professors of your choice of program
  • The above steps are very essential and help you gauge your chances of getting in a program. Applying to a college is a lengthy, expensive and time consuming process and by talking to professors, existing students and bench marking your academic performance with those who got admitted into the program in previous years helps you determine programs and schools where you are more likely to get admitted to.
  • Attend study abroad fairs and expos (optional step- may be useful for some programs, but not all universities with conduct their fairs in every country).
  • Join online groups or forums related to applying abroad or GMAT/GRE/TOEFL/IELTS/SAT exams to ask questions and share knowledge with others. You could also form study groups with others in your college planning to apply abroad. These groups help in getting valuable information, guidance and even potential roommates and friends!
  • While choosing programs and universities, be acquainted with their accreditation, credit points and ranking. For knowing the latest world ranking, check out
  • http://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings-articles/university-subject-rankings/qs-world-university-rankings-subject-2013
  • Search for other sources on the internet to give you country specific rankings for the program you want to pursue.
3. Research funding resources
  • Learn about study abroad scholarship programs. Check http://www.scholars4dev.com/ for more details on various study abroad scholarships.
  • Many universities in US offer funding aid. It could be partial or full depending on number of factors. Some would cover only tuition and you may have to work part time to cover your living expenses. If you are a star candidate, you may get a full scholarship as well. However, there are cases when you may get only an admit and you will have to cover the entire tuition cost yourself. Make sure you have researched enough and figured out your options or else you will be denied visa if you do not have sufficient funding proof.
  • While undergraduate degrees in Germany are free in most regions, tuition fees of international masters programs taught in English will vary depending on the university and the course in the range of 650- 2,500 a semester. International students can find funding from the German Academic Exchange Service (the DAAD) as well as various national bodies such as the Max Planck Institute and International bodies. Universities also grant funding aid to international students.
  • Similarly Australian, UK, France and other European universities may offer partial or full funding aid.
  • You can also avail student loan for foreign education. Most of the banks offer up to 20 Lac for foreign education. Repayments will start after 6 months to 1 year of course completion or after you get a job, depending on the rules of the concerned bank.
4. Visa Information:
  • In order to study in the US, you will need to get an F-1 non-immigrant visa. For more details, refer http://chennai.usconsulate.gov/students-f-and-m.html
  • For visa and immigration details, for Germany, check http://vfs-germany.co.in/
  • Check on the internet for student visa requirements for the particular country you are interested in.
II. Pre- requirements Once you finalize your program and country, the next step is starting to prepare yourself for applying. The pre-requirements usually include (but check for exact and all requirements for your specific program with the university you are applying to)
  1. Valid passport to apply GRE
  2. Standardized testing Scores** (Undergraduate -- SAT; Graduate studies -- GRE, GMAT)- Check your program or university for required tests! For eg., students seeking to do Medical studies need to take USMLE and not GMAT. For Law students, it's the LSAT which is considered.
  3. TOEFL or IELTS Score -- for English language skill
  4. Specific requirements like German Language certificate for students applying for Germany
  5. Transcripts of your previous or current program.
***Some Other Exams for Foreign Studies: ACT, AP Tests, DAT, LSAT, MCAT, OET, PTE , PSAT/NMSQT, USMLE, TOEIC. Study Abroad Requirements Study Abroad Requirements III. Supporting documents required while applying After you have valid scores of GRE OR GMAT, IELTS OR TOEFL, shortlist the universities that you want to apply and start preparing supporting documents. 1. SOP or the Statement Of purpose -- Your SOP should answer "What is your purpose of applying in <the program you are applying to> in <the university you are applying to> ". SOP is an opportunity to convince the admissions committee why they should select you over other hundreds of candidates who many have applied to that program. Here is a simple format of a SOP:
  • In the first paragraph, explain your background and motivations that have guided you in your academic pursuits.
  • Next focus on your professional goals and why the particular field of stud is interesting to you and what has influenced you to choose that field. You could also mention your future plans after completing your degree.
  • Next address why would you like to study in that particular graduate school
  • Finally, how you can contribute to the program and the university.
  • In the SOP you are required to prove that you are academically inclined and prepared for the study program. You can include references to your projects, seminars or presentation (if any).
  • There are many forums that help you to fine tune your SOP. One such forum is http://forum.thegradcafe.com/forum/73-statement-of-purpose-personal-history-diversity/
2. LoR -- Letter of Recommendation: You need to submit two or three LoRs to every university. LoR can either be sent to the university as hard copy in a sealed envelope or can be filled online through a personal link by people who are recommending you. You can get LOR from your professors or Manager/colleague at work. For applying to an MBA program, two LORs from work and one from school are good. For an MS OR Doctoral program, you should get two recommendations from your professors/school faculty. 3. Transcript -- A transcript is the official record issued by your university that lists all of the classes taken by you while in attendance there and the grades you earned in each class. 4. School leaving certificate 5. Resume IV. How to apply online
  1. Visit official website of the program.
  2. Learn about the application requirements, process and deadlines.
  3. Read the instructions carefully.
  4. Ensure that the relevant required supporting documents (CV, SOP.) in pdf format are ready to upload.
  5. Complete and submit the online application form.
  6. Upload the required supporting documents.
  7. Print out the filled application and sign
  8. Send the duly signed application form along with other documents like, LOR, covering letter, transcript to the given address.
V. Tips to increase your chance of getting admission in your college of choice (Graduate Programs)
  • Start preparing early. Take standardized tests as soon as possible. GRE, GMAT scores are valid for five years and TOEFL scores are valid for two years after your test date. IELTS results are valid for three years.
  • Start building up your profile (a portfolio of research work/ papers/ projects on the field you want to specialize in) from the year before you have to send your application.
  • Get your passport ready before hand as passport is mandatory for applying for most standardized tests.
  • Choose 4-10 universities for applying
  • Read the specific requirements and deadline for sending the application.
Once you have all your documents and research (about programs, universities and existing students) ready, try to apply as soon as possible. The deadlines may be much later, but you could get an edge over the admission and aid. Best of Luck in your studying abroad pursuit!  


Share your thoughts with the community or ask a question

Simran 11/10/2013

Great article! was a really really helpful read :) its definitely going to help me a lot!

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