BITS and Pieces

Get global. Get ahead.

A guide to studying abroad

There was a time when I was 5 and life was all about books, toys, unicorns and cotton candies. Back then I felt like I could be anything and anyone I wanted to be, the best version of myself. I can’t imagine what I’d give to feel as carefree, hopeful and capable again. And then one day I woke up and I was 18. I was scared about what I am going to do in life and what if I fail and a lot of unanswered ‘what ifs’. Do I sound ungrateful? Perhaps, but yes, the process of getting ‘here’ was exhausting.

Exhausting, but positively exhilarating because I will be pursuing my BA in Journalism, something that I always wanted to do, in London – the city of dreams, my dreams! And that too without burning a hole in my parents’ pockets. Exciting, isn’t it? But hey, it’s no rocket science. An aspiration and dedicated hard work is all you need to live your dream and go pursue that amazing programme that you’ve always been looking up online. So here I am, a student just like you, decoding a few ‘Things to know and do’ if you plan to study abroad. So hop on!

Are you sure you want to go abroad?

Affirmative? Then ask yourself why. Where? When? And most importantly, how? Finding answers to these is not necessarily easy. But research is the answer to everything. Find out what programme makes you tick and all the universities that offer that programme. A simple Google search is the best way to get started. Talk to people, write emails and basically do whatever it takes to achieve clarity of thought.

Things to do before you apply

Now that you’re sure that you really do want to study abroad for all the right reasons, you need to go over a few things.

1) Speak to an Overseas Education Consultant.

This is the safest bet but if you are confident enough about the information that you have amassed, you will do just fine all by yourself. I sought the help of a Consultant and I can assure you that all the major cities have many helpful avenues.

2) Look out for all the various scholarships that the universities of your choice offer.

Because let’s face it, studying abroad is expensive! Especially in a city like London. Make sure that you look for scholarships for International students, because most European universities have different scholarships and schemes for native and EU students.

3) Be clear about the admission schedule well in advance.

Your consultant will help you with all these things but check and recheck the dates of submission online. Write to the universities in case of doubt. Don’t hesitate; it can cost you dearly. I had applied in August 2014 for the programme that is to start in September 2015.

4) Get cracking at your SOP

SOP (Statement of Purpose) is one of the most important documents during your admission process. Your SOP is basically what sets you apart from the million other aspiring students who will be applying to your university and for that coveted scholarship. Start thinking of what makes you deserve the admission and the scholarship.

5) Look out for the next session of the TOEFL/IELTS

These English language proficiency tests form an important part of your application. Make sure you prepare well for these tests because all your scores will matter while getting a scholarship.

6) Do not lose focus

Yes, getting your SOP right is important but work hard on your scores too.

How to apply

If I have to talk specifically about the United Kingdom, all Undergrad admissions need to go through The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) which is a centralised admission portal for almost all British universities. You can apply to 5 universities in the same application. You need to attack copies of your SOP, 10th and 12th grade mark sheets, IELTS/TOEFEL scores and a letter of recommendation. Guidelines for the same are easily available on the websites of all universities and this is where your Consultant can help too.

Deserving international students are approached by the universities with a scholarship offer in most cases. At other times, online applications forms need to be filled out by students and sent to the respective university only after they hold an admission offer from that university.

I filled out the online application form that had about ten 500-word long essays to be written. I compiled my certificates and also got 2 letters of recommendation. I attached a CV, though it isn’t mandatory; didn’t want to leave any stone unturned. The university got back to me after a good 3 months with my 100% scholarship offer.

In a nutshell

– Consult an Overseas Education counsellor.

– Give your IELTS or TOFEL well in advance.

– Prepare your CV in a way desirable to your profession.

– Do ample research about your course, the country and the lifestyle.

– Consider all your options and make sure you haven’t left out any vital piece of information.

– Start your application well in advance.

– Promptly reply to all the emails and write emails as and when necessary.

– Don’t just concentrate on your scores, make your CV commendable too. However, scores are still important.

– Write a strong SOP. Do not pretend to be someone else. They know when you are plagiarising or lying to them.

– Calculate your tuition fee and living costs and make sure you can meet them in case you don’t get a scholarship.

– Organize your funds according to the Visa requirements.

– Book your accommodation and travel in advance and pack light and be resourceful.

Plan ahead and be diligent. You should do just fine 🙂

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Rituja Ravikiran Rao Social, chirpy and amicable by nature, talkative is Rituja’s middle name. TEDx Speaker at the age of 17 and a hard core debater by nature, she has almost never lost a single debate. Having worked as a Freelancer at TOI and as a content writer at various creative agencies, she is now going to pursue journalism and wants to be what she describes a ‘Media Mogul’. When she is not speaking or writing, you’ll find her reading or better, eating. A list-o-maniac, she is all about making plans and then being spontaneous anyway.