Shocking facts and insights on the effect of COVID-19 on higher education
Stay Home and Stay safe - Prepare online for higher education

Students worldwide are facing uncertainty in the time of COVID-19. Amid travel restrictions, social distancing, cancellation of standardized test dates, and other socio-economic ramifications of the pandemic, students are increasingly concerned about their prospects for higher education attainment. Here are some things that students should know to stay on track towards their higher education goals.

First, the COVID-19 is a stress test across sectors, and the higher education institutions are actively adapting to the scenario to ensure continuity of their teaching and research mission. Second, this is an excellent opportunity for students to prepare for and adapt to the rigors of academic advancement. Third, when travel restrictions are lifted, universities will be eager to receive international students and will make available necessary conditions to allow students to be successful.

Important News!

What does this mean for Prospective International Students?

It is important for students to use this time to prepare for the future instead of dwell on the current scenario. While the current changes can be disturbing, in truth, university students only spend a few hours a day in lectures, using the remaining time to work on their own. Students need to focus on this and learn to prioritize their work. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the drastic changes enforced, but time management is key to being productive during these disruptive times.

Future students have several lessons to learn from this critical period: (1) learn to be a self-starter and carve out a success plan for yourself and slowly work towards achieving your goals, (2) university study requires a lot of independent study and research, so improve your secondary research and note-taking skills that will help you succeed at the university, (3) prepare for your standardized tests and plan your study abroad journey, and (4) monitor and anticipate trends in your industry as new opportunities will emerge at the end of this crisis.

How will this affect Standardized Tests?

Here are the latest updates as of April 10th:

  • The GRE and TOEFL iBT tests can now be taken from home! (Details below!)
  • British Council has cancelled all testing dates for the month of April.  However, their testing partner, IDP has announced a cancellation of all dates until April 14th (in India). Post that, we will have to wait and see if testing is resumed. Find updates from IELTS IDP India here. 
  • In the case of the SAT, Students who already registered for May, whose March test centers were closed, or who do not receive March scores because of any irregularities will receive refunds. College Board will provide future additional SAT testing opportunities for students as soon as possible in place of canceled administrations.

To learn more about your already scheduled test, reach out to your testing center (if applicable). To learn more about application deadlines and decision dates, reach out directly to university admissions departments (expect delayed responses).

Were your TOEFL or GRE tests cancelled? You can now take it from home!

Due to COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns that followed, the ETS and local test-centres had to cancel upcoming GRE and TOEFL exam dates. However, recently the Educational Testing Services (ETS), the makers of the test, announced that they are now letting certain students take the GRE general test AND TOEFL iBT at home!

As of April 7, 2020, the at-home GRE is available everywhere that the computer-delivered GRE is offered, with the exception of Mainland China and Iran. They are working to offer at home testing in Iran as soon as possible.

Similarly, the at-home TOEFL iBT is available everywhere that the computer-delivered TOEFL is offered, with the exception of Mainland China and Iran.

Will the test format remain the same?

Thankfully, YES. 

According to ETS, ‘The TOEFL iBT® Special Home Edition test is identical in content, format, on-screen experience and scoring to the TOEFL iBT test taken at a test center. It is monitored online by a trained human proctor from start to finish to maintain test security.’

Similarly, for the GRE, the test pattern remains the same and is monitored online by a trained human proctor from start to finish to maintain test security.

Will you be eligible to take the tests from home?

As long as you’re from one of the countries offering the test (and you’ve registered of course), you’re eligible. However, there are a few other requirements you will need to meet in order to be able to take the tests from home. 

To deliver both the GRE and the TOEFL at home, ETS has partnered with ProctorU, a company founded in 2008 that’s delivered millions of proctored online exams.

They’re trying to recreate to the best of their ability the testing testing environment in your home. The requirements are thus similar to what you’d expect at a test center with some additional ones for security/integrity purposes.

Among a number of other requirements, you need the following:

  1. Windows laptop or desktop. You will not be allowed to take the test on a tablet, mobile device or a Mac.
  2. Private space. Public spaces (e.g. a park or coffee shop) will disqualify you and no one else can be in the room.
  3. Desk or table and chair. Goes without saying you cannot take the test lying in bed. 
  4. Webcam. This is important – you’ll need to be able to move it around to show the proctor a 360-degree view of your room including your desk or table.
  5. Microphone and speaker. You need this to talk with the proctor. You can’t use anything that covers your ears – i.e. headphones or earbud.

A major difference between taking the GRE general test at home and at a testing center: you cannot use regular scratch paper. Instead, you’ll need to use a whiteboard with a dry erase marker OR paper with a transparent sheet protector and erasable marker in order to erase all notes in view of the proctor.

You can see a full list of requirements on the ETS site.

Other restrictions/ additional security measure include: 

  • No food or drink during the test and no accessories, such as tie clips, cufflinks, jewelry, headbands, etc.
  • They’ll be recording your face (via webcam) and your screen so they can see all actions, and there will be a live proctor.
  • You cannot communicate with anyone else.
  • You’ll need to use a handheld mirror or phone to show the proctor your screen.
  • You cannot use any unauthorized materials, including mobile devices, pre-written notes, or textbooks.
  • Any type of suspicious activity or movement could invalidate your test.

A major difference between taking the GRE general test at home and at a testing center: you cannot use regular scratch paper. Instead, you’ll need to use a whiteboard with a dry erase marker OR paper with a transparent sheet protector and erasable marker in order to erase all notes in view of the proctor.

You can see a full list of requirements on the ETS site.

Other restrictions/ additional security measure include: 

  • No food or drink during the test and no accessories, such as tie clips, cufflinks, jewelry, headbands, etc.
  • They’ll be recording your face (via webcam) and your screen so they can see all actions, and there will be a live proctor.
  • You cannot communicate with anyone else.
  • You’ll need to use a handheld mirror or phone to show the proctor your screen.
  • You cannot use any unauthorized materials, including mobile devices, pre-written notes, or textbooks.
  • Any type of suspicious activity or movement could invalidate your test.

Are you confused about how to prepare for the 2020-2021 admissions abroad during this time?

Talk to a Counselor!

What is Galvanize Test Prep doing to help during this time?

Galvanize Test Prep fully comprehends the gravity of the situation. We are committed to the safety of our employees and the future of our customers – both currently enrolled and those looking to enroll.

All of our courses – GRE, TOEFL, IELTS and SAT – are 100% online. Enrolled learners can continue to learn from the safety of their home! Our tutors will work from the safety of their home too, ensuring they can keep teaching you.

Rest assured, as long as the internet is a thing, we will continue teaching to those determined to learn.

How will the travel restrictions in place affect the admissions cycle?

Students should stay focused on their educational and career goals. While visa and travel restrictions are currently in place, they will eventually resume operation, and students need to be prepared for this journey. Make travel plans after more information becomes available on visa appointments, issuance, and cancelation of travel restrictions. This is an unprecedented crisis, but its end will pave the way for several new opportunities for professional growth. 

Rest assured, universities are taking all possible measures to protect their current and future students, and to provide them with a seamless learning experience. The goal of higher education institutions is the continuance of academic instruction and research on their campuses. Students could expect that universities will work towards fulfilling their mission despite these challenging times.

How are universities approaching Teaching and Research during these times?

The temporary cancellation of on-campus classes has ensured that educators maximize the use of technology. Universities are turning to digital media to preserve the learning experience. Online teaching and resources are ensuring that students do not miss lectures and can receive the material they need to keep up with the curriculum. As for research labs, while some may shut down or scale down, others have identified crews to perform the most essential functions, such as maintaining models or cultures. Research assistants are encouraged to use this time to focus on literature reviews, organizing data, and planning their analyses.

Worried how to start preparing for the study-abroad tests from home? Get a customized action plan!

Talk to a Counselor!

Is it Safe for International Students Currently On Campus?

The authorities are ensuring that the F-1 or J-1 visa status of international students on-campus will not be affected as long as students are pursuing their courses through the online medium of instruction and are maintaining the full course load. Though universities have taken measures to send most students off-campus, some students are staying on campus due to extenuating circumstances. In such cases, universities are taking precautions to keep campus members safe. Limits are placed on on-campus activity and interactions. For example, dining halls are requesting students to take their meals to go, so they could eat in the privacy of their accommodations since there are limitations on campus gatherings. Though this affects the vibrance of the entire academic community, campus-wide social distancing protocols are implemented for the safety of all concerned.

The uncertain nature of the rapidly developing coronavirus means that all students and educational institutions should prepare for a variety of scenarios, but it is likely that it will have little to no impact on this admissions cycle. Despite these unprecedented circumstances, we expect the future of college admissions to return to normal once the pandemic is contained.

“Will they stop issuing visas to International students after this?”

No – in fact, universities and governments are eager to see this through as education specifically for international students contributes significantly to their economy. International students are a valuable economic asset for most countries and their universities and economies depend on enough international student enrollments.

  1. In the US, throughout the 2018/2019 school year, these benefits from international students totaled $41 billion which is a significant contribution to the economy. The contribution of education for international students was almost as much as contribution from sectors like Pharmaceuticals and Telecommunications Equipment.
  2. In Canada, in 2018, International students in Canada contributed $21.6 billion to Canada’s GDP. Between 2014 and 2018, the number of international students increased by 64%
  3. Australia’s  international education sector contributes around $34 billion to the local economy
  4. International student’s education contributes around 20 billion pounds annually to the UK economy

So, as you can see from the just the above 4 examples, education for international students is a significant contributor to the economy of the above countries. They will be looking to get this sector back on track as soon as possible because of its contribution to each of their individual economies. Indian students are one of the largest communities of international students studying in each of these countries. So, we feel that they will not stop Indian students with valid admits to universities after this current short term crisis is over.

“Due to the Covid crisis, I expect that there will be a big dip in the economy that may last 1-2 years. So rather than apply in Fall 2021, isn’t it better to work now and apply an for MS later?”

Your concerns about the economy are valid but improving your skills in a down economy is one of the better options available to people – making them far more employable when the economy picks up.

It can usually be more hard to find a good job when the economy is down with just an undergraduate degree. The good jobs are far and few in a down economy. 

    1. Let us take the case of India – the economy was already slowing down in more traditional sectors like real estate, telecom etc before the Covid crisis. 
    2. Now, with the Covid crisis, you might see a graudal slowdown for the next 2 years in sectors like technology (IT, Start-ups). IT Services may slow down as the US and Europe will reduce their project spend, so this will hurt hiring at Indian IT companies as well as multinational captive centers.
    3.  Start-ups may see a slowdown in investor funding as a lot of the big investors are from the US, Europe and China and as their economies might be in trouble, they may not invest as much and so this will impact hiring.
    4. So finding a good job may not be as easy as you think

If you are looking at Fall 2021, this in fact a great time for you to apply for your MS and PhD. If you are applying for an MS starting in Fall 2021, then you have more than a year to just start the program !

Then, a typical MS program lasts for 2 years and so you have 3 years of time to build valuable and cutting edge skills that position you in the right place and right time for an economic rebound which will take a year or two maybe.

In prior economic downturns (dotcom bust of 2000/2001 and financial crisis 2008), a number of students positioned themselves for the job market rebound by using a downturn to attend graduate school (MS, MBA or Phd) and position them uniquely for the jobs available. 

The countries that will be first to rebound will most likely be some of the western countries (US, Canada, Germany, UK) as their governments have started to take aggressive measures already to stimulate the economy and will be announcing more measures soon. 

    1. Example – The US central bank (Federal Reserve) has already announced that it will offer unlimited stimulus to kick start the economy. This will probably result in the world’s largest economy rebounding the fastest
    2. The US FDA is fast tracking multiple clinical trials to evaluate potential cures  and vaccines for the virus. So, while the exact results will be known only after the trials are completed, researchers all around the world are working on this problem and there is optimism that there will be a better understanding on treating the virus sometime in the near future.
    3. A part of the way to control the virus is social distancing and the western countries are probably best equipped to implement that quickly. California and New York have already implemented strict measures around that.
    4. In Canada, Justin Trudeau, the Canadian PM has also announced measures to stimulate the economy and make sure that businesses do not suffer.

After an economic downturn for a year or two, there is also a lot of pent up demand that comes up in terms of people required for jobs and you want to be in the right place, at the right time and with the right employable skill sets.

So, would you not want to apply in Fall 2021 and be ready with a graduate degree? Be more employable and be present and ready to graduate in the economies which will probably recover the first!

Preparing early and applying for Fall 2021 is a small investment that you need to make to ensure that you are best placed with options to ride out an economic downturn. You can always defer your admit if you get a dream job before graduation, but you will not be able to apply if you miss the timelines and will miss a year. Dream jobs will be hard to come by in a year, but definitely more will be available by the time you graduate from a MS program.

So keep your options open and continue with your plans for MS or PhD abroad. Give yourself the option to position yourself uniquely in the largest economies that may rebound first.

“I am applying for Fall 2021 but my parents are saying that health is more important than studies and so don’t want me to enroll for coaching now.”

Benefits of starting your editing work now for your Fall 2021 application :

  • Your SOP’s, LOR’s, Essays (where applicable) are weighted very heavily by universities. All departments/professor will take a close look at the SOP/LOR when considering students for admits and scholarship. Sometimes a great SOP can explain and offset other weaknesses in your profile (low GPA or average GRE score). But working on a good SOP takes time. 
  • At this point, you have one thing that money cannot buy – time ! As colleges are closed, you can use this time to get started on your editing work which is the more difficult part of your application. Once colleges open, they will try to make up lost time and so it will become very hectic. Use the time available to make sure that  you put together a really strong case for your admission with your documentation.
  • Early applications matter ! A lot of students wait till the deadline to apply. However, applying early is an advantage for students. Universities in the US for example will admit students in early rolling admissions if they meet the specific university criterion. So make use of the advantage of early applications by starting on your editing work now. If you wait till you take your test scores, you may not be able to dedicate the time needed.
  • Scholarship deadlines start in early December for a lot of universities for Fall 2021. Getting a scholarship requires a lot of work on your SOP, LOR’s. So get started now to give yourself the best chance to get a scholarship.
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Your parents are absolutely right that health is more important. But you are not doing anything to affect your health by starting your preparation for Fall 2021.

You are just giving yourself the best options to choose from by continuing with your application plans and investing a little in your preparation now when you have time. It is always good to have options to choose from especially when the global economy is expected to do badly. Graduate school is a great option to have to get through a bad economy.

So how are you making sure that you are giving yourself the best options? 

  1. First of all, you are applying for Fall 2021 which is almost a year and a half away. By that time, countries should hopefully have the virus situation under control and defined methods to best treat the virus should be in place. We have the best minds from across the world working on the problem. Already, China seems to be getting back to normal after the quarantine. The US FDA is running a lot of clinical trials to determine the best course of treatment.
  2. Let us talk about safety – by enrolling with a company like Galvanize Test Prep, you get quality online education from the safety of your home. Our test prep is online with a high level of personalization built in. Our entire admission counselling process is also online and you get access to experienced counselors with degrees from really good foreign universities from the comfort of your home. We are currently working with students from 100+ locations in India and 40+ countries. Do not get left behind when you have the free time available to prepare from the safety of your home for a small investment.
  3. Getting good jobs in India on graduation is going to be tough as campus recruitment will be far lesser in an economic downturn. Industries like IT, tech startups, traditional industries will probably be hiring much lesser. One really good way to manage a bad economy is to go for your MS, MBA or PhD in a quality university abroad. Keep your options open – if you get a dream job and want to work, you can always defer your admit. If you don’t get a job and don’t have an admit to enroll for a MS or PhD, it may be more difficult for you to find a job with a gap on your resume post graduation. Upskill-ing with a graduate program is a great option to have to get through 2 years of a bad economy. BUT IF YOU DO NOT APPLY, YOU WILL NOT HAVE THAT OPTION.

“I am applying for Spring 2021 and am thinking of postponing my study abroad plan due to the Covid outbreak.”

This is what we are advising several students. Keep your options open. You have two options open :

  • Continue applying to Spring 2021 – You can do this and keep your options open. There is a good chance that the situation will be under control by end of the year. You can always decide to defer your application to Fall 2021 if you want after getting an admit as universities are being quite flexible with students in these challenging times.
  • Change your plan and apply to Fall 2021 now itself – If you want to be extra careful, change the plan and apply to Fall 2021 instead. Fall semester generally has more scholarship options than Spring semester.

Either ways, you should look at starting your preparation for test prep and admissions counselling right now to take advantage of the time available currently, early applications and give yourself the chance to get into better universities and scholarships.

Remember : Its all about keeping your options open  !

Are you confused about how to prepare for the 2020-2021 admissions abroad during this time?

Talk to a Counselor!

“I am applying for Fall 2021 but my GRE /TOEFL/IELTS date has been postpone. Why should I sign up for Admission Counselling now? I will wait till after I take the GRE.”

Test dates have been cancelled for the next couple of months due to the Covid outbreak. Some students feel that they would like to start their Admission Counselling services after they take the GRE. This may not be the correct approach as you have the opportunity to get a head start on your Spring or Fall 2021 application right now itself.

Your GRE scores are required only for shortlisting the universities that you want to apply to. A lot of the more involved work in Admission Counselling is the editing work – namely :

  1. Strengthening your profile
  2. Getting the story framework right for your SOP 
  3. Completion of your Master SOP
  4. Getting started on essays wherever applicable
  5. Working on your LOR strategy
  6. Completion of your 1 page resume 

How can Galvanize Test Prep help me during this time?

Galvanize Test Prep fully comprehends the gravity of the situation. We are committed to the safety of our employees and the future of our customers – both currently enrolled and those looking to enroll. We will continue to counsel any student looking to pursue their education abroad as we know all too well the value of a degree, even during times of economic uncertainty. Perhaps especially then.

All of our test prep courses – GRE, TOEFL, IELTS and SAT – and our admissions counseling services are conducted 100% online. Enrolled learners can continue to prepare for their futures from the safety of their home! Our academic and admission counseling teams will work from the safety of their home too, ensuring they can keep teaching you. Rest assured, as long as the internet is a thing and education is the gateway to success, we will continue helping those determined to learn.

Feel free to reach out to our counselors for more guidance or answers to any questions you might have now!

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