Although the process of applying to a university can vary for each university and country, the general pattern of the applications is almost the same. If you are feeling stuck and can not start the process due to your lack of knowledge, this guide can help you get to the first step of the ladder and start collecting the necessary documents before missing the deadlines. By now, you must have an estimate of what you need for your higher education and which countries you are gravitating towards so what you really need is some sort of realistic direction to start making your efforts towards getting admission.
Identifying your study abroad goals and choosing a program
This is the research phase of your journey. Get as much knowledge as you can about your options to avoid any regrets later on and make an informed decision about the next few years of your life. Sometimes this lack of direction and inclination towards following the current trends can force you to switch careers later on. The purpose of browsing all the different universities and study abroad programs is to see which course would be best for your career and which country would give the cultural exposure you need to change your perspectives and learn.
It can be quite exciting to see all those dreams that could be a reality but you have to hold your horses and slowly record all the data you are receiving until you can shortlist some options with confidence. The best way to record all this information for yourself and to show your counsellor is to record it all in a spreadsheet so that you can document your thought process. This research is also important because you have to know the deadlines in order to start the application process at least 6 to 8 months before the deadline.
Choose the discipline
From the broad list of fields listed below, which one interests you the most? This has to be honestly answered- which discipline sparks your interest so much that you would not mind investing your mental energy into finding out the intricate details of that subject. University education demands students to be thoroughly invested in the subject they are specialising in and the coursework will make you prove that so make your decision carefully
- Business- Accounting, Finance, Management, Marketing
- Humanities- Creative Writing, History, Languages, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Performing Arts, Theater, Theology, Visual Arts
- Natural Sciences- Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Geology, Physics, Space Science
- Formal Sciences- Computer Science, Mathematics
- Applied Sciences- Agriculture, Architecture, Business, Education, Engineering & Technology, Environmental Studies, Forestry, Journalism, Law, Library Science, Medicine, Public Administration, Social Work
- Social Sciences- Anthropology, Archaeology, Economics, Education, Geography, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology
Choose the country
When choosing a country, it is wise to consider the cultural shock that you might experience (are you comfortable living in a liberal country? What kind of standard of living are you used to?). Besides this, you have to consider the following factors when ranking the countries you want to apply to:
- Ease of getting student visa (remember to check whether the country accepts your nationality)
- Language barriers
- Accommodation costs
- Acceptance towards foreigners
- Job opportunities and immigration policy after completing education
Choosing the universities
Try to choose at least three universities and keep one of these options as backup (the one which has a high acceptance rate and the admission requirements are much lower than your educational achievements). You can look at the university’s rankings but do not just check one university ranking resource’s criteria- all these resources have different criterias. Visiting the university’s website and seeing what they actually offer can help you get a clearer picture. Alumnus and current students of the university can also give you honest opinions about the culture and academic aspects of the university. Don’t hesitate to find them on social media or discussion forums like Reddit.
Gathering the required documentation for your application
Go through the admission requirement of your program and make a list of the required documents. The most commonly documents that you will need are as follows:
- All previous academic transcripts (either scanned images or attested copies in physical form)
- Passport and ID
- Letters of recommendation
- Statement of Purpose
Meeting eligibility and language proficiency requirements
In order to fulfil the eligibility criteria for the universities of your choice, you must have come across some admission test and language proficiency proofs. If you already have the scores from these tests, check if the test is still valid and you can use the score. Otherwise, you need to apply for the test and start studying as soon as possible. Don’t worry, the studying process only seems difficult but if you have discipline and practice, you can achieve the score you need. The admission tests you might come across are as follows:
Give your best in these tests because your score might also be needed for applying to scholarships.
Applying for financial aid and scholarships
This is the part that discourages most students from even starting the application process. They look at the tuition fee and give up, even if they fulfil the admission criteria and love the career prospects of the university. Even if you can not secure a scholarship, there are always student loan options that you can explore. Discussing these options with an experienced counsellor can be extremely useful if you want to deal with these fears head-on and map out a way to figure out the finances. Scholarships are offered to students with exceptional academic results or research work, underrepresented genders and groups and financial barriers.
In order to apply for the financial aid and scholarship, you need to look at the specific university’s website, online portals and databases for the upcoming scholarships.
When you have found the right scholarship, record this in your spreadsheet and note down the deadline and documents requirements. The application process for the scholarship goes parallel with your admission application so keep the following things ready:
- Acceptance letter from the university
- Completed application form
- Personal essay (if you want to get it checked before submitting, book a session with our mentors)
- Proof of academic, athletic or artistic abilities
- Proof of low income
- Letters of recommendation
Submitting your application and meeting deadlines
As there are multiple universities to apply to, all with different deadlines and study abroad programs, it can be pretty difficult to manage it all with your daily responsibilities as well. You can use some help here and get honest input from someone who has already helped students apply abroad. Here are some tips to meet the requirements before the deadline:
- Don’t completely neglect an application just because its deadline is the farthest. Work on these simultaneously
- Give your teachers or employers enough time to write the recommendation letters
- Every university needs a different kind of admission essay so make sure you are working on each essay accordingly
- Join a study group or hire a tutor for your test preparation so that you can balance the preparation time with the application compilation process
Obtaining a visa and making travel arrangements
This process initiates after getting the confirmed acceptance letter from the university but the date of joining the university is crucial and visa process takes some time so it is suggested that you keep as many of the following things ready as you can:
- Passport that will be valid for the next 6 months
- Passport pictures (check the exact requirements)
- Visa application form
- Proof of admission
- Proof of financial ability
- Visa fee
- Civil documents like birth certificate, NIC, marriage certificate, CV, etc.
- Health insurance plan
- University records (if you are applying for postgraduate studies)
Confirm with the university exactly what kind of visa (usually it’s non-immigrant or study visa) you will be requiring and book an appointment with the embassy in your country. Depending on their mode of acceptance, you will be sending the documents by mail, online or in person.
After getting the visa, you have to think about your booking the flight and accommodation options. It is easy to find the most economical option for the light online but it is advised that you should keep the money ready for the flight beforehand. Depending on the country and university you are going to, you will need to choose one of the following options (and if you can not immediately arrange it, have a B and B or hotel booked or a friend’s place, till you can find a permanent place to stay):
- University hostels or dormitory
- Shared apartments
Preparing for pre-departure tasks and cultural adaptation
It’s not a small recreation so you have to think about what you will be needing in the coming months and have the provisions for yourself. These are some pre departure preparations you should make:
- Make copies of all your personal identification documents and keep them in different bags
- Send copies of travel itinerary and passport to your family
- Have an emergency contact in your wallet
- Keep some local currency of the country you are going to
- Inform your bank that you are leaving the country and give Power of Attorney for financial matters to parents before you leave
- Proof of vaccinations and other immunizations should be kept
- Have the address and contact number of your accommodation at the host country in your phone
- Pack according to the weather in the country you are going to
- Learn some basic words and phrases in order to get around the city
- Obtain your transportation cards, student cards, hostel cards, etc upon arrival
You might experience some cultural shock when you reach- the food, language, temperament of the people- as everything will be different and you will feel lost. But remember that you are adaptable and can retain your composure while absorbing new information. Make a support system slowly and you will blend in fine!
Ensuring health and safety while abroad
As you are new in the country and do not have family there, it is essential to have health and safety insurance to avoid paying huge bills in case of any accidents, health checkups or medical emergencies. Student health insurance or the minimum coverage of the policy is usually suggested by the host university and attached with the acceptance of offer letter. Explore your options and get the right one. This insurance will provide you a 24/7 contact number that you can reach out to for a number of medical expenses.