With over 3000 colleges to choose from in the United States alone and so many universities almost like the metro stations in London, it can be a daunting task to decide on where to study, leave alone study in India or abroad! Here are some popular concerns voiced by parents caught up in this dilemma. I have spent some of my best years at the Lady Shri Ram College (LSR) and so personally, nothing against the way we do things here. However, over the last fourteen years, I have researched and helped thousands of students to make sense of their college journey and some very distinct features of international education have emerged.
Do not be surprised if you find that your yoga teacher is also a photographer and a computer science major. The world has become multi-disciplinary in approach. We as individuals also enjoy variety, not just in life but also in the exploration of subjects and majors that we choose. This is a given in the case of most international universities, especially in the U.S. How often do we hear of a student of Journalism and Communication also learning coding? Or a mechanical engineering student exploring Economics or Theatre? Parents and students must assess their learning style and passion for one or many subjects before deciding on their choice of country, course. It is also the focus on application-based learning that draws the decision to choose one university over the other.
There are certain subjects and courses however, at the undergrad level, where Indian universities score much higher than the international varsities - this is both in terms of contextual preparation and economics - Medicine, Law, Social Work and even some pure disciplines such as Political Science and Philosophy.
There is a lot of talk around studying abroad being expensive. It is expensive. Less expensive than an average Indian wedding more expensive than most Indian universities but very close to what one spends for a decent masters program at an IIMs. It is also beyond reach for those who fail to plan their college journey and rely solely on international agents to ‘get them into’ college. Good financial planning for college whether a Harvard or any other, must begin in grade IX for undergrad and right from first year college for post graduation. Yes, that is the best to time to consult an unbiased counselor to plan your road map.
Did you know that there are more than a hundred independent scholarships that most Indian students can apply to? Moreover, universities internationally are also offer merit or need-based scholarships that make it possible. “Thanks to being away from home, my child has learnt money management skills and takes decisions on her own. She even works at the university library and makes a weekly stipend that she’s been saving,” says a mother whose daughter studies abroad. This is also true of students studying at outstation destinations, however, a very small percentage of students work while they study in India. Whether study in India or abroad, parents must endeavour to use the experience to make students self-reliant and financially independent.
Recently, at Starbucks, I got talking to a young lad engrossed with his laptop. It turned out that he was a fashion-merchandising student interning with an Italian company. He had big plans to share.
It is common to come across highly motivated students, wanting to ‘change the world.’ Globalisation is not just a concept that these students study in Geography; it is their everyday reality. Internships, co-work opportunities and opportunities to expose themselves to diverse settings just help them to develop better context and become contributing citizens of the world.
The purpose of studying in India or overseas must be enhancing communication and presentation skills, learning to multi-task and developing survival skills. Sounds more like Man Vs Wild? What is an education if not a preparation to face the world? I wish most parents allowed their children to struggle it out in and after college, but unfortunately, many believe in fulfilling every demand the child may have and this stops the child from developing the muscles to face real-world challenges.
It is imperative to check on exposure to extracurricular activities and a recognisable focus on professional and personal development at the university selected.
Few parents would want to send an 18-year-old to a far off country and a different culture. Moreover, the child may feel home sick. Emotional stability and a preparation for what is to follow in the months and years to come are very important. Moreover, it is often great if you have family or some kind of support system at the destination of study. It only helps.
The decision to study abroad does not necessarily imply that the education system is bad in India. Opportunities are there in India as well as abroad. However, it is not right to believe that it is easier to get admissions overseas – it is not easy to get into your dream college in India or abroad and it needs meticulous planning and perseverance.