10 Key Steps to Prepare to Study Abroad

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Studying in a foreign country opens up a whole new world with immense possibilities. It not only provides you with globally recognized credentials but helps broaden your outlook of the world, providing an exciting opportunity to shape your life in a new country.

Canada is now a country of choice for many international students, especially for those coming from India. One of the best globally recognized education systems is an immigrant-friendly country with a simple student visa processing system. It has lower tuition fees than most developed countries, high standards but a low cost of living, and offers a simple immigration pathway.

Country decided, what are the other steps you should take? Transitioning from high school to a university in your familiar world is stressful enough. Studying abroad can be even more stressful. 

It requires a massive commitment of time, effort and finances. It can become overwhelming. However, there is nothing you can’t beat by preparing yourself well.  

Here’s is a list of 10 things to do to make your dream come true.

1. Start Atleast One Year Prior to Year of Study

Start your preparation the moment you decide to study abroad. Give yourself at least a year to prepare. You may have to do some pre-requisite courses or competitive exams and have to gather documents. So heads up, there. Don’t wait till the last minute.

2. Read Up, Begin Your Research

Identify the top 5 destination countries for Indian students and dig deep about education and life in those countries. What qualifies them to be on the preferred countries list? What are the popular programs these countries are known for? How is their education system? Do they fit into your plan?

Canada has been steadily climbing up in the most favoured global destinations for international students, especially Indians. It is a highly multi-cultural country, and it is easy to assimilate into Canadian life. It has a globally recognized education system.

Yet, the tuition fees as well the cost of living are lower compared to other developed countries. Its policies are favourable to international students. Canada allows international students to work outside the campus, unlike in the US, where students have to find work within the campus. It has a simple process to obtain a post-graduation work permit. The work experience thus gained gets bonus points in the immigration application system.

3. Talk To Student Counsellors and Teachers

Talk to student counsellors and teachers in your high school or the current college to get ideas. By their profession, student counsellors will be abreast of the education system in other countries and in a position to provide correct information to one of their students. Because they know you, they will be able to suggest the best options for you.

4. Identify Study Abroad Agent And Work With Them

The chances are that your school may have tie-ups with foreign universities and study abroad agents. These days many universities rank high on different criteria, and it is not often easy to get a view of all that they have to offer from your research. Your research has given you information about your options, which you can discuss with an agent. An international education agent will help you look at the entire foreign education spectrum holistically. An agent will be well equipped to guide you about the study pathway, programs you can take, best countries to study your chosen program, talk about the education system in those countries, the fee structure, alternate programs available and much more.

5. Shortlist Programs

At this stage, you should prepare a list of the top 3 programs that you want to pursue. Prepare a list of areas that you are interested in. You can check a professional networking forum such as LinkedIn to see what and where the alumni of these programs are working. Read about the kind of work they do. Understand if there is a good job opportunity for that program. If not, how about considering a related program?

Explore what the websites suggest as “related programs” or “what others are exploring or studying.” This tells you about related programs that are available to you.

6. Select Schools (Universities / Colleges)

The first thing to do is to ascertain its status as a Designated Learning Institution. The second is to compare their ratings, the program’s duration and the tuition fee, pre-requisites, language requirements, program structure, and school location. The Canadian education system is very flexible and provides several options for study. Is the school flexible enough to allow you to switch a course or change your program if need be?  Check out the alumni page to see where they are working and what they are saying about their schools’ experience. 

This is also the place and time to determine if you need GRE or Gmat scores and start working towards that.

7. Talk To International Student Counsellors In Schools Abroad

Seek guidance from international student counsellors

Tap international student counsellors in the universities to get more information about admission requirements and re-verify the information you have gathered so far from your research and your current school counsellor or the study abroad agent.

Not only can they answer all your questions, but often, if they do not have the answers, they will direct you to the source where you might be able to find the answer.

They will also help you explore your scholarships and student loans that may be available to you. The best part is that they can link you up with current students so you can get more information about the program and the life on campus.

8. Language Proficiency And Other Certificates

In Canada, all students should demonstrate English language proficiency if you are applying for a school in any province other than Quebec. Universities and colleges in Quebec require applicants to prove French language proficiency. This is the time to explore the dates for your IELTS for English language proficiency certificate, other exams to demonstrate French language proficiency and other competitive exam test dates.

9. Secure Finance

Start with exploring if you are eligible for any scholarships, either in your country or in Canada. Tap the foreign embassies in your country, which would be able to provide information. Also, explore scholarships instituted by the government and large corporates. Simultaneously, start your conversations with the bank to understand the process of obtaining a study loan.

10. Application Process And Deadlines

This is the final step. You can start sending out your applications, without having to wait for an application window to open, once you have all your documents ready. That’s because, in Canada, there is no one application process, or deadline and the program start dates. Though generally,  new academic sessions begin in September, there may be some intakes in January too.

Most provinces have a central portal where you can apply for all universities or colleges in that province. Depending on the program you have chosen, some schools may ask you to apply directly. Some of them may have a rolling admission process, where they consider applications as they come in.

Now, look forward to that “Congratulations…. “ email and start planning your journey.

Best of luck!