Earning one’s academic degree abroad is truly a life-transforming experience. There are significant personal, academic and career benefits to studying abroad. However, while many are aware of what it takes to do a Master’s degree, PhD or MBA abroad, few Indians have a good understanding of pursuing undergraduate studies overseas.
In this article, Stanford alumna Pavithra Srinivasan, Founder of Galvanize Test Prep, sheds light on this increasingly popular trend that parents, students and teachers are curious about.
1.Should students consider doing an undergraduate degree abroad?
The answer is a resounding YES! An undergraduate degree from a good university abroad gives students access to quality education systems with practical and customizable curriculums.
The resources available to students, as well as prospects for innovation and research, far surpass those available to students in India.
These give students who study abroad a definite edge over their peers, making them attractive candidates in the competitive job market.
While most Indian universities emphasize rote learning universities abroad impart application-oriented learning, universities abroad are also equipped with state-of-the-art technology and extensive research facilities that allow students to undertake groundbreaking research to further their academic and professional growth.
Another significant benefit of studying abroad is the potential career opportunities. Not only does an overseas education increase job prospects back home, but it also makes you a more attractive candidate for international employers.
Remuneration from international employers is also substantially higher. For example, starting salaries for Computer Science grads is around US $95,000 (72 Lakhs Per Annum) at top American firms, while even MNCs recruiting in India, offer considerably lesser pay, with a starting salary of around Rs.7-10 Lakhs Per Annum.
2. Is the application process complex? What are some of the main challenges to navigate during this process?
Applying to undergraduate studies abroad is quite different from applying to college in India. Universities abroad look at a candidate’s overall profile and not just their school grades.
Good universities look at the candidate holistically and consider various aspects like:
- High school grades and rank in school or class
- Standardized test scores (e.g. exams such as the SAT or ACT)
- English proficiency scores (e.g. tests such as the TOEFL or IELTS)
- Extra-curricular activities (e.g. sports, music, arts) not merely as hobbies but with excellence and passion evidenced by sustained achievements and titles won.
- Competitions that they may have qualified for (example Math or Physics Olympiads)
- Internships or summer programs that they may have participated in
- Recommendation letters that outline the student’s strengths with examples
- Well-written essays that outline the student’s passion, abilities and why the student is a great candidate for that particular school
- AP (Advanced Placement) courses that indicate how well the student can take a college level workload
Building a good applicant portfolio for applying to universities abroad for undergraduate studies takes work. Hence, we at Galvanize recommend that students start planning for college as early as from 8th or 9th grade.
3. What is the cost of undergraduate education abroad? Is the ROI worth it?
The cost of undergraduate education abroad can cost anywhere between Rs.75 lakhs to 2 crores depending on the country, the location within the country, and the university itself. For example, in the US, the costs can vary from state to state.
In terms of the return on investment, one needs to look at the long-term ROI from the degree in terms of opportunities that it can create over a lifetime for the student. For career success over the long run, both soft skills as well as depth in one’s area of expertise matter.
Moreover, in today’s age of globalization, exposure to different cultures and the ability to work with diverse teams matters.
A student is exposed to all of the above during the course of an undergraduate degree abroad. Also, most good universities abroad have a great alumni network globally that students can continue to leverage.
As a general rule of thumb, STEM fields, especially Computer Science, Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, etc. have a great ROI due to high starting salaries and shortage of skill sets.
However, we recommend parents to not just choose a field based on the ROI but based on their child’s interests and aptitude.
For non-STEM fields, a degree from a good university abroad can open up great opportunities in one’s home country or even in other countries with a large international workforce such as Singapore, Canada or Australia.
4. What are some popular destinations for undergraduate studies abroad?
The US is obviously a popular destination due to the large number of quality universities and programs available for students. It is also the world’s largest economy, and the nation with the greatest number of opportunities available in emerging areas like Robotics, AI, Data Science and Healthcare.
Canada has also become a popular location among Indian students in more recent years due to friendlier immigration policies. The same holds true of Australia.
The UK has always been a popular choice among Indian students for undergraduate studies. Recent modifications allowing international students to stay on longer post graduation have also made it more popular in recent times. The one caveat is the impact of Brexit on the UK economy.
European countries, such as France, Spain, Ireland, and the Netherlands have also started becoming increasingly attractive in recent years. Germany is very tempting due to its zero-tuition fee for college students.
Singapore is also an attractive destination for Indian students, owing to its relatively high quality and low cost of education, geographical proximity to India, and large international workforce.
Here are more details about popular study abroad destinations.
5. How should I manage my plans for undergraduate study abroad with the current Covid-19 situation?
If you are planning for a program in 2021, don’t hold off on your applications. Apply to universities and ascertain your prospects. With work underway on vaccines, and travel and visa restrictions likely be lifted over the coming months and quarters, the decision to attend or not can be taken later.
If you already have admission to a program in Spring or Fall 2021, we suggest you evaluate the situation closer to your program date and decide if you want to attend classes online, in person, or defer your admission.
For those wondering whether they should study abroad at all in the current situation, our answer is a resounding yes.
Universities abroad follow a state-of-the-art curriculum, and their education system ensures that students gain and practice these skills throughout the semester. They thus tend to provide the best platform for today’s generation to launch their careers.
Here are more details if you want to study abroad during Covid-19.
– Article by Pavithra Srinivasan, Stanford University graduate and Founder of Galvanize Test Prep.
Read: 3 countries students are choosing for studying abroad after Covid-19
Read: 91% Indian students want to continue studying abroad even in Covid-19 lockdown: Here’s why
Read: 3 study abroad destinations for engineering students other than US and UK