Collecting transcripts, writing essays, taking tests- all of this goes on simultaneously while you are applying for your education abroad. It can get very irritating and stressful if you do not manage your time appropriately and plan your journey realistically and keep all the formalities in mind.
Following the right steps creates an ease and will help you meet the study abroad application deadline in a smooth manner. It is a time consuming process that requires you to give your best so open your notes app and make all the mental notes that you need while reading this article.
Researching universities and programs
In order to stay on the timeline, you must be aware of all the application deadlines you need to meet and the documents to collect before that. Don’t just scramble around online and stress out about every program out there. There should be a long and proper thought process before you narrow down your choices to either two or three programs and then give your best to get into these applications.
To invest your energy in the right place, you need to think about three factors:
- Which discipline interests you the most?
- Which country would be the most financially suitable and best for long term residence?
- Which university is most affordable with the greatest return on investment?
When you ask yourself these questions while browsing through all the programs, you can get a fair idea of what subject you want to focus on and which university and country will be the most viable option for you. This involves discussions with parents, mentors and counsellors. The most popular options are the UK, US, Australia, Canada and Germany.
Selecting the institute is very burdensome because the university rankings can confuse you and make you forget about what you really want to do and where you can go to study with the best teachers and facilities. You will require an in-depth discussion with a mentor to clear your mind about this.
Gathering necessary documents
Generally, the documents you will require for any international education program will be as follows:
- Completed application form
- Academic transcripts (please check if they require attestation or notarization from any educational or government body)
- Aptitude tests (SAT, GRE, GMAT)
- English language proficiency standardised tests (for eg. TOEFL, IELTS etc)
- Statement of Purpose or any other admission essay
- Reference or recommendation letters
- Proof of employment (in case your study abroad application for postgraduate requires it)
This might seem like a short list at first glance but compiling them in one place is quite time-consuming. Recommendation letters need to be written by your teachers or employers and they need time to write it so keep that in mind when informing them. For your English proficiency test and aptitude tests, you will need a proper preparation plan or a tutor (remember to register for the test so the results can be provided before the deadline). Investing the right amount of time in drafting and editing your statement of purpose is also important as it requires revisions and proofreading before submission.
Submitting the application
Every university has a different process of submitting the documents and mostly requires an online submission. The scanned copies of important documents are uploaded to the central admission system of the country’s government or the university’s own website. Once you have completed all the sections of the online university application form, you can submit it. For different countries, there are different third party websites for this process:
- Germany’s DAAD website
- Common App for the US
- UCAS for the UK
Applying for a student visa
Depending on the country you are applying to and the university you are going to, you have to first confirm the category of the visa you will be applying for. Then look up on the embassy website or the country’s immigration service website the specific documents required for the process. This also requires some preparation so it is better to have these documents prepared beforehand because you need the visa in time to join the classes when the semester starts. This is a general list of documents you will require to submit:
- Acceptance letter from the university
- Passport that is valid for at least six months
- Passport pictures
- Completed visa application form
- Bank statements or other documents of financial proof
- Identity documents
- Academic records
- Required health insurance
When you get your acceptance letter, you should make a visa appointment at the embassy of the country in your city and pay the visa processing fee. Depending on their mode of accepting the documents, you should send them the documents either by email, in person or courier service.
Preparing for arrival and enrollment
Before flying to the destination, it is important to get a pre-departure briefing from a study abroad counsellor as you can not anticipate what you will require as soon as you land in a new country. These formalities also include all the things a new student is required to do at the university.
- Keep copies of your travel itinerary and important identification documents should be scanned and saved online and also sent to your parents
- Have some local currency in your wallet
- If there are any immunizations or vaccinations proof required, keep those in hand as well
- The contact number and address of your accommodation should be kept with you
- Pack your clothes according to the country’s weather
- When you arrive, get your transport card to move around
- Get your student identification card and hostel card
- Figure out how you are required to enrol in the courses for the semester (it is usually online on the management system)
- There is another element that is often not anticipated- homesickness and cultural shock. Seeing a completely new culture is a lot of information for your brain so it needs some time for cultural adjustment
Ongoing immigration requirements during studies
In order to maintain your student visa and stay in the country legally, you need to be aware of the university’s and immigration body’s requirements of the host country. Here are the requirements for the most common countries that students apply to for higher education:
- Keep at least 12 courses per semester to fulfil the full-credit load
- Do not break any national laws or university’s code of conduct
- Passport should stay valid during your stay
- Keep your university updated about any residence change during your stay
- Always keep copies of visa documents with you
- Maintain attendance requirements for the university
- Keep the immigration office informed about any switches in the program or institute you are studying at
- If there is any repetition of course required, you will need to reapply for the visa
- Contact information should be updated if there any changes
- Your courses progress should be satisfactory
- Maintaining the minimum attendance is very important
- Update your university about any changes in your address
- Have the ability to support yourself financially during your stay
- Don’t break any laws regarding the conditions under which you can work during your studies
Applying for graduation or extending your stay
If you are planning to stay for a longer period after your studies are complete, the methods to do that differ in different countries. It is important to plan this at least a year before you are graduating so that you can take the easiest path for the visa application to lead you towards permanent residence. Almost every country gives a grace period of some weeks before ending your student visa so do not worry about that. Remember to check the processing time of these visa types so that you can have it in time before your graduation grace period ends.
- Optional practical training (OPT) can give you an extension of 12 months on your visa
- Transfer your student visa to H1-B status by having a job that is related to your field. This will give you up to six years of stay in the country
- Shifting your student visa to a Graduate visa will give you two more years of stay in the UK after graduation. Visit this page for more information. This will let your work and look for work
- If you want to study further, you can not get the Graduate visa to do that. You will be eligible for another type of visa
- The temporary graduate visa lets you stay for another 2 to 4 years in Australia and find work in your relevant field
- If you have graduated from a university in a regional area, you can apply for the Second Post-Study Work stream. Find out more here
- If you are planning to study further, you need to get accepted in a postgraduate program and apply for the student visa (subclass 500)
- If you are between the age of 18 and 30, you can get a work holiday visa that can let you stay in Australia for 12 months
- You can also get a tourist visa if you wish to stay for a few more months