Education abroad is a goal that many of the most talented students and professionals in India share. As such, this goal is one that requires a large number of steps to achieve, and you have to make sure your grades are good, that your professional experience (internships and work) is strong, that you have a few recommenders in place, that you get help from experts on your essays and application, and that you keep deadlines for your carefully selected universities in mind.
With a lot of moving parts comes confusion. The steps listed above are simple if you come to someone who has extensive experience in guiding talented people through them, like we do at Jamboree. However, if you listen to the uninformed, you might end up with misconceptions about studying abroad that could adversely affect your application and admission processes.
Here is our list of the top myths about education abroad, along with the truth that refutes each myth. Read on to arm yourself with information!
Myth: Only the very rich can afford to study abroad
The biggest myth of all is that a degree abroad is always a huge investment that is always risky. Neither of these are true, for two simple reasons.
First, whatever the scale of investment in a degree from a top university abroad, the Return on Investment is larger than any other investment you can make in your education or career. For example, a graduate degree abroad can increase your short term earning potential by 30-50% per year, and multiply your career earnings by 1.25-1.5 times in the worst case. It is clear from these numbers that any investment in a degree will be paid back in a few years.
Second, multiple options exist to mitigate the scale of investment. Many degrees abroad give you an automatic tuition fee reduction if you are from India, given the exchange rate disadvantage. For example, at many top Business Schools, this process is as simple as filling out a form at the time of admission. In addition, scholarships are always available, at every top university globally. Multiple organizations affiliated with each campus offer these, and spending quality time on your scholarship applications can further cut your tuition expense, and even help with your living expenses in some cases. Finally, jobs on campus (at undergraduate level) and teaching assistant stipends (at graduate level) can give you income while you study, and help you further reduce your student debt. The student loans themselves are long term loans, and can be paid back over a long period, usually amounting to a decade or more.
All in all, you should not worry about the cost of your education abroad. If you work systematically to take advantage of the ecosystem designed to make it affordable, you will be just fine.
Myth: A degree from a top university abroad will not help you get ahead in the Indian workplace
A degree from a global highly ranked university is a career asset anywhere in the world, including in India. Indian employers do not usually discriminate against students who have studied abroad – in fact, in many high skill industries and high level jobs, this can be a positive asset, especially in the business field. This is not only an entry level phenomenon. Even in the medium term and long term, when being considered for promotions and greater levels of responsibility, a global degree is a way to strengthen one’s resume.
A degree from a top university abroad is the best move you can make for your career, regardless of geography of work.
Myth: The USA is the only possible destination for a student looking to study abroad
This is one of the larger misconceptions that we help students with. There are highly ranked universities all over the world that can kickstart your career. Depending on your profile and set of skills, one country might be better for you than another. If research is your focus, Europe has many universities and institutes that compare favourably with the best in the USA. Strong undergraduate degrees are numerous in the US, but the top undergrad colleges in Singapore, Japan and Australia also offer enviable career trajectories! In fact, if you qualify for the right scholarships, you might find a more cost effective seat in a geography other than the USA.
Before deciding on a university or a country to apply to, you should talk to career counsellors and experts about which geography fits your profile best. It is more important that you study in a highly ranked university somewhere rather than a university that might be ranked very low in the USA, because your career prospects will be brighter in the former case.
Myth: Only the top percentile of students can study abroad. Average performers have no hope
There are many components that make up an application abroad: academic performance is just one of them (it is important, but not all-important). You will have many opportunities in your application to make up for a blip in your grades – from explaining it in your essays to focusing on the other strengths in your profile to showing other aspects of academia where you have excelled, you should be able to catch up.
In addition, because you have a very wide range of universities to apply for in different geographies, you will be able to find a highly ranked university that fits your academic profile in some country. For example, the grade requirement in many schools in Australia and New Zealand is slightly lower than it is in top universities in the USA and in Singapore, for example. Detailed research will get you that precious admit email!
Myth: The curriculum abroad is very tough, and a student there will have to study all the time to keep up
Yes, the curriculum in top universities abroad is rigorous. Yes, there is a taxing series of assignments needed to complete the requirements for a typical course abroad. Yes, the lower number of courses in universities abroad means that you will have to go deeper in your understanding of each course.
However, spending time on the course and the assignment and tutorial material usually guarantees that you can perform well. In addition, the lower number of courses also means that you have fewer credits to study for. Most programs have a well planned system of study mapped out; if you follow it and distribute your preparation through the semester, you will definitely not have to study all the time to keep up. You will have plenty of time left over to spend on the extra-curricular opportunities available.
Myth: There is no help available on campuses abroad, and everyone is on their own
You might be very far from home at your chosen university abroad, but that does not mean you are alone! Every aspect of your life there will have assistance available. If you need academic help, options exist within the regular system, from tutorial sessions to office hours kept by professors and teaching assistants to help you answer every possible doubt you could have. If you are still struggling with some aspect of a course, the professors / grad assistants are usually very approachable; a single email sent to them will have them suggest a way for you to catch up.
Of course, problems outside the academic sphere might occur – but helplines on campus exist for pretty much every possible issue. Initial orientation sessions will tell you about how you can find help for all these issues, and regular information sessions and internal websites keep you up to date on contact info. You can rest assured that you will find timely and confidential help that will make sure you feel at home away from home!
Myth: Life in universities abroad is more about partying than about studying
It is a sign of competing misconceptions that some people wrongly claim that the pressure of studies is too high abroad, while others claim that studies are hardly important. Neither is true, of course: though individual students can choose to veer towards one or the other extreme, the vast majority of students live a balanced life, and ensure that they are able to devote enough time to their academic requirements, and to their lives outside the classroom. Growing as a person is all about giving enough weightage to both these aspects in the proportion they deserve.
Myth: Language issues can hamper your education in a university outside India
In the unlikely case that you face any language issues, you will be able to take advantage of a strong support system to get ahead quickly. Since most universities abroad, regardless of geography, have English as the primary medium of instruction, the vast majority of students from India do not face any problem in adjusting. Even if you do have an issue with following courses in English, global universities are very proactive in helping you. If informed ahead of time, they are usually able to organize a few weeks of classes ahead of the first semester, to bring you up to speed on the basics you will need to follow all the courses.
There is a minority of top universities worldwide which have many courses taught in a language other than English. However, this is true mostly at undergrad level for those few universities; graduate level courses are usually in English everywhere. For example, EPFL and ETH in Europe have a majority of undergrad courses taught in French and German respectively, but at Master’s level English is the dominant language of instruction. Both these universities, and other similar ones, make it very clear to prospective undergrad applicants that the language could be a barrier. In fact, to qualify for application to ETH, a candidate will also need to pass a test of basic German proficiency. Therefore, even if you do require a language other than English to follow classes, you will know well in advance, and there will be no sudden surprises.
Myth: Education abroad is all about the end semester exams, just as it would be in Indian schools
This is definitely not the case; a single all nighter will not carry you through a course. In the first place, your final grade is decided by many different components – many of which are assignments and in-semester quizzes, or collaborative projects. The final examination often has a weightage of less than 50% in deciding your grade. This continuous assessment means that you cannot afford to wait till the last moment before switching on your brain: if you do not spend sufficient time on a weekly basis on your homework and assignments, there is no way you can make up for a slow start by burning the midnight oil.
This definitely makes for a more sustainable mode of study by distributing work through the semester; it also ensures that you will retain more of the basics of each course long after the semester ends, as opposed to retaining it only for the day of the exam and forgetting all about it afterwards.
Myth: There are no ways to clear your doubts and misconceptions about university life outside India
The myths listed above are just the most common ones; in our experience at Jamboree, we have heard many more, and the confusion is real. A lot of students passively accept these, and do not fact check. In reality, there are many ways to make sure you sift through the myths and only believe the truth.
The first and easiest way is to come to an admissions expert, or to a consultant on education abroad, and to find out how things really are on the ground. For example, we can also connect you with seniors of yours in your target universities, and help you learn the actual facts from them; there is no one closer to the action. If you are looking to learn more about these programs, you can also easily connect online with student bodies and current students abroad, and ask them the questions you have. Increasingly, websites at these universities are putting Frequently Asked Questions online; you can trust this data, since it is checked many times before going up on an official website. Just put in the work and the time to check every claim and examine every potential myth, and you will never need to worry.
As you have read through each of the common myths above, and hopefully dispelled any confusions you might have had, it would have become clear to you that misconceptions can form a barrier to you getting the most from your undergraduate or graduate degree abroad. To make sure you always get the right information, and that you get it at the right time, join Jamboree today! Explore jamboreeindia.com to get started.