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Study Abroad Plans : FAQ’s Answered by Expert | Galvanize Test Prep

Study Abroad Plans : FAQ's Answered by Expert | Galvanize Test Prep

A Short Version of this article is published in "Hindu"

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With the coronavirus pandemic upending nearly everything, Indian students find themselves asking the daunting question of whether or not to pursue an education abroad at all in these uncertain times. We asked experts at Galvanize Test Prep & Global Education to respond to some popular questions raised by stressed out students and concerned parents.

1. Should students apply to the Spring or Fall semesters in 2021 - or should they wait it out?

Our advice to students and parents is to do the smart thing: apply to universities and retain the option to defer your admits. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush. So don’t take yourself out of the game just yet. 

Faced with a challenging job market at home in India, upskilling their skills at quality universities abroad is a great option for students, as they can improve their employability while riding out the recession. A recent Goldman Sachs report predicts that the Indian economy will slow down to a multi-decade low of 1.6% in the FY 2020-2021. While it is true that most world economies are taking a hit, the USA, Canada, Germany, and the UK have announced record economic stimulus packages that will likely lead to faster re-bounds. Therefore Fall 2021 aspirants are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the time that graduate school offers to improve their professional skills and ride out a bad economy. And by the time they graduate in Summer 2023, they would have armed themselves with excellent credentials, positioning themselves as attractive candidates for recruitment as global economies begin to take off once more. 

Moreover, any pandemic will eventually have to subside. On one hand, scientists around the world are racing to produce a safe and effective vaccine and pharmaceutical companies are gearing up for mass production by next year. At the same time, several studies are reporting herd immunity levels reached in various cities. Thus there is good reason to believe that the pandemic will be under control by Fall 2021, if not earlier. So there is nothing to lose by applying to universities and seeing what admits you’re able to land. The decision to attend or not can always be taken later.

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2. If they already have admission for say Fall 2020 or Spring 2021, to when should they defer?

Due to the uncertainty around lifting of restrictions for travel, visa and issuance and on-campus classes, we generally recommend students consider enrolling in Fall 2021. However, the decision has to be taken on a case-by-case basis, as the regulations vary from one country to another. For example, while it is possible for Indian students to apply for UK visas, Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation has restricted international travel to chartered repartrion flights as of date. 

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3. If deferring admission to a later intake, what is the best way to use the time till admission? A local degree, a job, what else?

Online courses are definitely a good option, but choose courses that have opportunities for projects and assignments, as opposed to solely information-based learning. Meaningful internships where students work on projects that add value to their profile is also a great option. Typically, most students do a summer internship while doing their MS abroad, hence prior internships in India will help them during their future internship search as an international graduate student. Moreover, an appreciative Letter of Recommendation from your internship manager will be an asset when the time comes to apply to universities abroad.

If you are already employed, take on more challenging projects at work in terms of technical skills or leadership, in addition to upskilling yourself by doing impactful online courses. 

On the whole, students can find opportunities to creatively learn and apply skills on projects either independently or in conjunction with other students, or even faculty members. The key here is to pursue opportunities without fear of failing, since failure is a stepping stone to learning. 

4. Are universities offering discounts or reductions in tuition fees?

Some universities like Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, University of North Texas, and the University of Colorado-Denver offer discounts for taking online courses. The percentage of discounts varies significantly between institutions. Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago provided a 70% reduction in tuition fee for taking a semester online. Northeastern University offered a summer scholarship 4-credit course free of cost to students who will start their program in Spring 2021. Carnegie Mellon University made similar credit offers to their students. While each university has their own tuition policy, it is best to contact an appropriate university admissions official to identify the specifics of their offer of admission.

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5. Should students plan to study abroad at all?

To advance one’s career and equip oneself for the jobs of the 21st century, it is recommended that students gain global exposure by going abroad to study. Universities abroad not only teach students state-of-the-art curriculum, but the education system ensures that students gain and practice these skills throughout the semester. Moreover, the assessments and exams test conceptual understanding, and not theoretical recall. Many courses also require that students do hands-on projects wherein they apply concepts taught in class to real world scenarios that overlap with industry requirements. Campus recruitment and career fairs are also a key feature in most universities. Thus, by ensuring that students pick up cutting-edge skills throughout their years of study, universities abroad provide by and large the best platform for today’s generation to launch their career.

For example, at Galvanize, we have many students who want to advance their aspirations in the popular field of Data Science. With increasing demand across industries from healthcare to e-commerce, and average starting salaries of $100,000 in the US, an MS in Data Science at a good university abroad can significantly accelerate a student’s career trajectory. An MS degree abroad in Data Science provides students with increased skill sets in applying advanced statistics and computer science techniques to tackling real-world problems. Many students may not have that level of exposure and access to relevant job opportunities after an undergraduate degree in India. While numerous online courses are available to fill the gap, the recognition of a globally recognized degree will garner better career opportunities.  

6. Is there a viable alternative to the USA? What are the new emerging study-abroad destinations Indian students can consider?

Until recently, the USA was an Indian student’s top-choice for applying to MS/Phd degrees, due to the large number of quality American universities, brand value of the degree and job opportunities (especially in STEM). While the US continues to remain a popular choice, students are increasingly applying to other countries like Canada, Germany, UK, and Australia. The underlying reasons for this shift are largely due to the recent media news around stricter work visa and immigration restrictions in the US. More friendly work visa and immigration policies in other countries have resulted in increased applications to universities in these countries.

For example, in late 2019, the UK extended the post-study work permit from 4 months to 2 years, and their Indian consulates are now open and are processing student visa requests. Canada has thrown open the doors to permanent residency for immigrants who satisfy their merit-based immigration requirements. Germany has many universities that offer 100% free tuition for graduate students, even international ones. Despite these factors, we expect that the US will continue to attract a large number of STEM students as we expect the need for STEM to increase there in the post Covid-19 era. Therefore, students who are keen on getting an American education but want to “hedge their risks” are advised to apply to multiple countries so they have a “backup option”. Popular combinations are US and Canada, US and UK, US and Germany, etc.

About the Author

Pavitra Srinivasan | Founder Galvanize Test Prep

Earning one’s academic degree abroad is truly a life-transforming experience. There are significant personal, academic, and of course career benefits to studying abroad. However, while many are aware of what it takes to do a Master/PhD/MBA abroad, few Indians have an understanding of pursuing undergraduate studies overseas

In this article, Pavithra Srinivasan, Stanford alumna and founder of Galvanize Test Prep & Global Admissions Counselling, sheds light on this increasingly popular trend that parents, students and teachers are curious about.

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