A guide to International Education

Over the fifteen years, I have spent in the International Education sector I have come to learn the role information plays in people’s lives. I have seen people make excellent choices when they had all the help and resources and I have seen people make the worst choices when they lacked the access to information and support. I believe education is an area where we cannot afford to make such mistakes. It is such an integral part of our lives we should not leave it to lady luck or last minute calls.

While education is one of the most important facets of life it is equally important to remember that education is not purely limited to academic learning. It involves learning to grasp and understand the world around us through exposure to different cultures, interaction with people from different walks of life and gaining the maximum out of every experience. Studying abroad provides you with the opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and experience the world at large. It helps bring down barriers and prejudices from both ends of the spectrum giving rise to better understanding between people from different backgrounds.

It is our endeavour that through this column we make access to international education a reality for all and offer the best possible advice and information to people to make an informed decision in the never-ending maze of the college search and application process.

This weekly column targets not only students and parents but everyone who is interested in international education.  We shall cover diverse topics ranging from the country of study, choice of programs, the cost of education, work prospects, visa issues, application process, the importance of rankings , availability of scholarships and most importantly how do Universities select students. We shall talk about public universities vs. private colleges, liberal arts colleges, community colleges and other options available to the student.

A question frequently asked is the difference between the UK and the USA for higher studies and if the answer is the US then follows the next question; Why study in the US? The decision depends entirely on personal circumstances of the individual and what may be right for me need not be suitable for you. So do listen to what your friends and others have to say but eventually decide on what suits you best.

Both countries have excellent institutions and an ethos for education and there is no surprise that all world rankings will normally have the top five places shared between them. In absolute terms, the USA has the largest number of international students but it still forms less than 4% of the total student population. The international student community is more significant in the UK and most Universities are extremely well geared to accommodate the diverse demands of international students.

Top US universities are extremely competitive and take a holistic view of the student. In addition to their academic scores, international students are normally required to sit for SAT/GMAT etc.  It is important to understand that academic scores and SAT results from only a portion of the application and due importance is laid on extracurricular activities, community service and the essay.  A bachelor’s degree requires four years but you do not need to declare your major until the end of the sophomore year. This works very well for young students who tend to be undecided on their future careers. The diversity of courses offered is unparalleled and you could simultaneously be reading Khalil Gibran and studying quantum physics.

A bachelor’s degree in England takes only three years and four in Scotland. In the UK the major you decide on is what all focus will be from the beginning. There is no flexibility in changing mid way. Applications are done through a centralised system called UCAS and generally only a few majors require additional external exams. Top-ranked UK universities like Oxford and Cambridge also conduct interviews which truly test the mettle of the student. While tuition fees in the USA range from the US $ 5,000 to the US $ 35,000 per annum in the UK it tends to be around Stg. 9,000-15,000/- per annum for regular courses. Do not discount the importance of factors like distance, weather, and support of family in making the final decision…

But I reckon the choice between Boston and Cambridge will depend on which airport is open!

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