As Overseas Education is concerned, India rises as one of the top source countries for International Students. Knowledge obsolescence has sped up and so has the need to acquire lifelong education. Along with that, the rapid economic growth and expansion in India has prodded ambitious corporate majors to peg for better equipped employees and they want them younger too. It comes as no surprise then that students that were earlier willing to move only for a post graduate degree (Master’s and Doctoral) are today keen to seek graduation (Bachelor’s) overseas provided it gets them a plum job.
According to UNESCO, over 40 per cent of the internationally mobile students were from Asia, with China accounting for 16 per cent at 3, 94,659 (figures exclude Hong Kong) and India accounting for six per cent at 1, 39, 321 as the top two source countries.
MAKING THE BIG DECISION
It doesn’t take much to figure out if you want to pursue your education overseas. The experience in itself is exciting enough to lure most. However, the tougher part is what comes thereafter. Deciding ‘where to go’ as students invariably discover is infinitely tougher than deciding ‘whether to go’. In a world spoilt by choices, the task of zeroing in on the right country, university and most importantly, the right course can be a harrowing experience. Understandably so, since the implications of the decision are incredibly profound, a wrong decision could mean millions of rupees down the drain and the right one could set you sailing across the seven seas of success.
A common misconception among students is that there is a definite list of good and bad colleges that apply to everyone. They fail to see the fine distinction between what’s best and what’s best for them. Ideally, students should do an analysis of their own aptitude and expectations and then match them with what the college is offering. The importance of being properly informed, both about the destination college and your own aspirations, cannot be overstated. Here’s a simple strategy that would take you through the daunting task with relative ease.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT COURSE
Be it fashion, choreography, communication, law or pharmacy, there is sure to be a course to meet your calling it’s only a matter of looking at the right places to find out where. Selecting your college without taking a call on what course you want to do is like putting the cart before the horse, but few students acknowledge that.
The key to clear thinking is to know what course you want to pursue. For this, it is essential to have clear career goals as well as educational goals. Often, this is missing among students, as they are ambiguous about what they are really looking for. It is only when you have these two right that you can be precise in choosing what you want to study.
What makes this situation even worse in India is the general herd mentality that persists amongst parents and students alike. Most students don’t put much thought into what interests them but choose to go for subjects like MBA, engineering and medicine that are traditionally perceived to be subjects that offer ‘good career scope’. Further, they are alien to an eclectic educational system that exists in countries abroad and seldom utilize the option of combining a traditional degree with varying subject electives. Students also fail to make use of the many niche vocational courses that are available in foreign universities. However, now with an ever-increasing number of students opting for foreign education, there has been a dramatic rise in the various sources of information available as well as counselors who can help with these decisions.
Students fresh out of school are often the most confused about the direction they want their career to take and consulting professionals at this crucial stage is indeed desirable. In such cases, they should speak to counselors and not make a hasty decision. Counselors speak to students about their likes, dislikes and interests and tell them what careers they are suited for. Counselors get students to discuss their aspirations and match them with their skill sets to give them a realistic evaluation of their career options. Counselors suggest to students that they should visualize where they want to be 15 years from now and then advise them on the options they have to get there.
Another commonly used measure is the aptitude tests that counselors ask students to take. Based on the results, they provide an analysis about the abilities of students and the career path that is best suited for them.
CHOOSING YOUR COLLEGE
Students should always substantiate advice with their own independent research to be on the safe side.Once students know what area interests them, the next step is to shortlist courses that meet their needs. All recognized foreign colleges have a web presence and course details are listed on the websites. After this process, students are able to decide what career interests them and shortlist universities that meet their educational needs. However, this is just the first rung in the ladder and the cumbersome task of analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of these institutes has to be taken up hereafter to gauge which one is best suited.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT COLLEGE
When deciding on a college, the oldest and most common debate continues to be brand versus course. Students often forego their choice of subject in order to get into a ‘branded’ institution because they feel it enhances their job opportunity and looks good on their resume.
Parents, more than their children, get stuck on the name and repute of their college. They are simply not open to experimental courses and new institutions. There is near consensus amongst counselors that this kind of thinking can prove to be detrimental to the career interests of students. The important question to ask is whether an employer looks at you or your institution while recruiting. Harvard graduates are recruited because they have the skills to get into Harvard, not because they have a degree with the college’s name on it. So it is important to hone your skills and not worry about the college reputation. Thus, the ranking of individual universities should not become the guiding light for students.
There are many different criteria, which can be used for evaluating colleges. Students need to look at two main areas when they do their comparative assessment of colleges. The first and the more important of the two is the academic strength of the university and the extent to which it meets the student’s requirements. This basically includes the availability of a suitable course, the departmental ranking vis-à-vis other universities and infrastructural provisions.
Each university has departments for which it is known and those which aren’t as prominent. One wouldn’t study literature at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology just as one wouldn’t look at Oxford for a degree in fashion. Also, it is important to take a detailed look at the course content – this is given on the college website – to see if it interests you. Aside from the academic reputation of the college, students should look at the availability of the infrastructure like labs, computers and research facilities, which they require for their education.
Second, students should assess whether a college meets their personal requirements. Students can refine their search for the right institution by checking for basic criteria like geographical location, international student community, social and financial support networks and social clubs
Since studying abroad is as much about the education as it is about the experience, recreational needs should not be discounted in their importance. Entertainment, as a part of education, is very significant. It is a part of the learning process. When in college, students don’t just learn, they also live and so that factor needs to be accommodated. Aside from the recreational activities, students also need to look at the cost of living, accommodation options, sports, and alumni experience
CHOOSING THE RIGHT COUNTRY
Counselors often argue that deciding on the course is the first rung in the ladder to overseas education. However, the fact remains that many students are guided by the opportunities that different countries provide. For this reason, students prefer a US or UK based education because of the work options available post course completion. There are a host of other factors that can also be looked into.
Unlike popular perceptions, students tend to look at the practical aspects rather than the educational ones when they decide on the destination country. For example, factors such as the presence of relatives and friends in close proximity, cost of living proximity to India, cultural norms, travel costs and migration possibilities and the ease of getting visa.
Besides the practical aspects, the cost incurred by the student is the biggest consideration. The US is undoubtedly a premier educational destination with the costs of studying there having come down because of the appreciation of the rupee against the dollar. Further, there are several American colleges where costs are relatively low. Another factor is ‘familiarity.’ This could be translated in terms of presence of relatives or a large presence of Indian students as is the case in countries like US and UK that are traditional favorites for Indians. From Students choose to study abroad for the cultural experience that moulds their future. These are years one doesn’t forget so it’s important to make sure they are fun. For this reason, places like New Zealand and Australia find their takers among students who value adventure sports and scenic locations.
This entire process, of making the big decision, may seem cumbersome factors to consider and so many choices to make. But there is a lot of help available from consultants and counselors. Making this choice is not so mammoth a task anymore.