Rahul Singh, a bright student, focussed only on his grades throughout high school. He did well and obtained excellent grades in classes 10, 11, and 12. Aditi Gupta, on the other hand, adopted a more balanced approach and worked on her grades as well as extracurricular activities. Aditi also achieved good grades in high school, though slightly less than Rahul. Additionally, she also appeared for the SAT, created an art portfolio, wrote a research paper and devoted time to community service.
Both Rahul and Aditi received admits from similar universities. However, Aditi was also offered a substantial scholarship by two colleges. While Aditi went abroad to study at her dream university; Rahul’s overseas education dream was curtailed due to monetary restrictions.
So, what went wrong in Rahul’s case? The answer is a lack of planning and guidance. Studying in a foreign country, whether it’s the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, Singapore or Europe, can be a costly affair unless you have availed some scholarship, grants, assistantship, or student loans. There are several options available, and universities and government organisations are often willing to help students achieve their career goals. However, students need proper planning and research to identify suitable universities and scholarship options.
Don’t wait till you get an admission letter. If studying abroad is your primary goal, then start planning as soon as you enter grade 9. Prepare a table comparing the universities you wish to apply to, based on different criteria like fees, scholarships available, financial aid offered, living expenses, part-time job/internship opportunities and so on.
Here are top five resources you should consider if you are contemplating how to finance your studies:
- Scholarships: There are generally three types of scholarships offered by top global universities — merit-based scholarships, need-based scholarships, and research-based scholarships. Merit-based scholarships are given to meritorious students with outstanding academic and extracurricular achievements. Although rare, universities sometimes extend ‘full-ride’ scholarships to excellent candidates with spectacular profiles and grades. Need-based scholarships are reserved for students who belong to economically weaker status. To avail of this scholarship, students need to submit their financial documents, bank statements, and salary slips. Research-based scholarships are offered to students who are highly interested in pursuing a research project alongside their studies. Students must demonstrate a genuine interest in research and maintain high academic standards.
- Student loans: Balancing your finances and spending responsibly goes hand in hand. Have a discussion with your parents about the costs involved. Some amounts can be taken as a loan from banks or student loan organisations. Some universities also provide substantial support in the form of institutional financial aid wherein they allow students to pay the tuition in instalments.
- On-campus/part-time jobs: International students are allowed to work part-time on campus for a certain number of hours. Although not very significant, this income can help you pay your rent, phone bills, food and other living expenses.
- Assistantships: Connect with university faculty members and professors for teaching (TA) or research assistant (RA) positions under them. You will need to showcase in-depth knowledge in that particular subject to help the professor with tasks like correcting the assignments, setting up the experiments, supervising the exams, and sometimes even conducting the lectures. TA/RA-ship are generally offered to graduate students and only to the brightest in the class; nonetheless, it is a paid position and can help you cover a substantial portion of your expense.
- Internships (OPT/CPT): There is a provision on student visas where students are allowed to work full-time during their summer and winter breaks as well as upon graduation. Stipends received during a full-time internship can reduce your financial burden considerably. Moreover, the professional experience gained can also help you land your dream job.
Keeping options open
Check out different geographies before finalising the destination. German universities are less expensive compared to the UK or the US universities. However, you need to know the local language. Likewise, studying medicine at Ohio State University (a public university) might be a pocket-friendly option compared to the University of Southern California (a private university).
Affordability of tuition fees and living expenses depend on the country, location, and type of university you are applying for. Therefore, research thoroughly.
Admission officers are looking for all-rounder students who can contribute meaningfully to their student community and beyond. Therefore, it’s important to participate in extracurricular activities, write research papers, do community service, be a part of school council, play a sport, and pursue your passions beyond academics.
Appear for competitive and standardized exams. Students, who wish to study abroad, should take suitable exams such as AP, SAT, GRE, and GMAT, several months before the application cycle starts. In the case of SAT and GMAT, this provides an opportunity for a second attempt if required. An excellent score serves two purposes — helps with admission to a top university and also helps achieve meaningful scholarship.
Essays and letters of recommendation play a crucial role in getting financial support. Start working on your documents five to six months in advance; write compelling and powerful admission essays and statement of purpose.
Admission counsellors are experts with extensive experience and knowledge about overseas education. Consult with them before you start preparing for your admission journey. School or private counsellors can greatly assist you in short-listing the most affordable options based on your educational, familial, and financial preferences.
In conclusion, leave no stone unturned to achieve the maximum possible scholarships and financial aid and make your foreign education dream come true.