Applying to a foreign university is no easy feat. With everyone offering their piece of advice, there are a zillion thoughts that cross a student’s mind when thinking of studying abroad. It’s not very easy to take such a decision alone, says Sofia Calombaris, a Greek student in the US. Talking about her own dilemmas and fears while applying to a foreign university, Calombaris says, “It was so confusing with advice pouring in from all quarters. At times, I would be so frustrated that I almost gave up on my plan to pursue a degree abroad. Thankfully, I didn’t give in and decided to trust my own judgement on this.” In this article Sofia shares a few tips for aspiring students to make the best of the opportunity.
I am a Greek student pursuing a law degree in the US. Being the first in the family to pursue law, that too abroad, was a lot of pressure. When I started out, it faced a lot of difficulties as there was no one to guide me. So, here are a few things I learnt during my journey.
1. Make A Budget – For Personal Expense, University Expenses
While I was prepared to handle university expenses, I had barely any money to cover my personal expenses. My calculations were completely off, so much so that I had to ask my parents to send me more. If you’re ready to go off to college or university, it is important to ensure you have enough funds to cover your expenses during your time at the university. It is very important to set a budget as it helps you sail through without having to worry about financial assistance.
Firstly, define what exactly you need as a budget. Jot down the fixed expenses first. Here, the course fees will be at the top, followed by rent and books. Check if tuition fees are to be paid at the start of the course, or per term. Once you have carefully noted the fee structure, set a budget for your monthly expenses which will include your rent, books, groceries and travel. Find out if you can purchase second-hand books as this is a great way to save some extra bucks. Next, and very important, is to set a weekly budget for outings. Be realistic about it – there is no need to pretend that you won’t spend cash while socialising with your classmates.
2. Don’t Depend Entirely On Scholarships Or Aid
Managing money, especially when you are by yourself, can be trickier than it seems, trust me, I speak from experience. Students who excel in high school often think that scholarships will be enough to foot the expenditure. However, this is not always the case. My initial months were a complete disaster.
Thankfully, I got in touch with a school advisor who helped me with a job as a research assistant in my department. It not only assisted me financially but also helped me with hands-on training. Having a clear chart of your expenses also helps a lot.
Although scholarships will help you pay the college fees, it should not be the only financial support you should depend on. It is very important for students to look for a combination of different types of financial aid from a variety of sources; including grants, student employment and student loans in order to keep financial troubles at bay while pursuing your dreams.
3. Start Your Application Process Well Before The Deadline
Trust me, you don’t want a last-minute scramble with your applications. Once you have narrowed down the colleges you want to apply to, it is best to submit the application far ahead of the deadline. This helps in saving one from the last-minute glitches and problems with online submissions. It is best to set deadlines for completing essays, collecting recommendations and filling out forms in order to ensure that all the formalities are completed well before the last date. Submitting an application early gives students the advantage of confirming that materials have been received by the deadline.
4. Inform Your Counsellor, Teachers Or Employer Before Starting On Your Application
Teachers bring with them the pedagogic knowledge and help students explore the opportunities open to them and make purposeful steps towards their future. It is often necessary to speak to a career counsellor if you are not sure of the course and/or are having difficulties in filling up the application form. Also, since they are experts, they can offer potential insights that can make your application stronger and can help you secure a seat in a college of your choice.
5. Don’t Shy Away From Consulting Study Abroad Organisations Or Facebook Groups
Totally regret not doing this! Would have made my life so much easier. But it’s not too late for you. Most of these consulting organisations have professionals who are skilled at helping students get into the desired universities. They also guide students in selecting the best universities based on their score and career preferences. Also, there are dedicated Facebook groups that offer support to students/professionals looking to pursue a course abroad. Instead of getting muddled with the application process, it is best to seek help in order to have a clear idea before starting out.
Also Read: 5 Ways To Make Friends While Studying Abroad
6. Work On Your Essays – They Really Do Matter
Essays are a great way to help the admission representative get to know you. Since your application, your essay is the first interaction a university will have with you, it is, therefore, very important to put forth a strong case. It is very important to keep enough time in hand to write a perfect essay before the stated deadline.
7. It’s Okay To Take A Gap Year
I always knew I wanted to study law, but a lot of students aren’t, and that’s completely okay. Getting into your dream college, filling in admission forms, all this can be quite daunting. If you are not sure of what you want to pursue, it is always better to take a year off to gain a better perspective. In this time, you can enrol yourself for an internship and gain some insight before enrolling in a course.
8. Whether The University Specialises In Your Desired Course Or Major
Once you have decided on the course you want to pursue, it is necessary to ensure that the school you are applying to specialises in your desired course or major. A major is a specific subject area that a student wants to specialise in. This will not only help you in completing your major, but will also help you secure your future. Don’t just go for the college name, but also look for the specialisations and base your decisions on the same.
To sum it up, be invested in the entire process. Don’t just pick a university/course because your family recommends it. Consider your own aptitude and interests before zeroing in on a course or university.