The dream to study in a foreign university may seem distant when it comes to paying a hefty tuition fee and the cost of living abroad. For some, this obstacle can be the end of their dream, but if you plan your moves carefully, it can very well be the beginning of good times.
Students who wish to go abroad for higher studies should look for scholarships and student loan schemes way in advance. “Having enough funding to pay for tuition fees and living expenses is essential, not just to satisfy visa requirements but also for the peace of mind. All applicants should investigate scholarship options, other sources of funding, and start the process as early as possible,” says Julie Rolls, University College London (UCL) International Office, UK.
“The university is usually the best place to get information on institution specific financial aid,” says Harmeet Pental, Regional Director–South Asia, IDP Education, a well-known international student placement service. Most of the universities offer some sort of scholarship for international students and the information is easily available on each university’s website.
Be sure to apply to as many scholarship schemes as possible. You can choose from merit-based, need-based, career-specific or student-specific scholarships depending on what you are looking for. The criteria for each scholarship may change with the country, university and even the course you apply to, so be sure of what the scholarship eligibility criteria is and whether it matches your requirements or not.
Besides that, be ready to beat the competition to stay ahead. “Scholarships are very competitive in nature. Hence, every applicant needs to highlight his exceptional achievements to stand out from a pool of talent. Avoid the common mistake of applying too late or sending your application in piece meals,” says Pental.
He adds that a student who is applying for a scholarship at masters or PhD level should highlight any dissertations, seminars or papers he may have contributed to. Students who wish to seek financial aid should get in touch with the university’s faculty or the funding body well in advance. Students opting for graduate studies abroad find it easier to find a scholarship compared to those looking for grants at the undergraduate level.
Apart from the universities, there are a number of other places where a student can look for financial support. Begin with searching for information in newspapers, magazines and the internet for valuable pointers. “Places to start include your own Ministry of Education… and many universities will provide links to known funding bodies from their scholarship pages or international pages,” says Rolls. For detailed information, students can also visit websites such as www.iefa.org (for International Financial Aid And Scholarship Search), www.fulbright.co.uk (for Awards and Advice for US-UK Exchange), www.studycanada.ca (for Canadian Education), www.studyinaustralia.gov.au and (for those interested in studying in Australia), www.britishcouncil.org (for students from the UK), www.campusfrance.org (for students interested in studying in France), www.idp.com (for Australia, UK, USA and Canada) and so on.
Students should also look for part-time work options as an international student, provided their visa permits it. Students can work at a local bakery or food joint or even work as a research assistant at the university to earn some extra money. "Part-time appointments as a Graduate Student Tutor or Student Researcher are for selected students who wish to gain research and teaching experience," says Professor Thiam Soon Tan, Vice Provost (Education), National University of Singapore.
Though part-time work is a possibility, it should not be something students should blindly bank on. “There are no guarantees that you will find a suitable part-time job and therefore you shouldn’t depend on this anticipated income. You also need to be sure that the part-time work won’t interfere with your studies,” says Rolls.
All prospective international students are advised to budget and plan their expenses beforehand, remaining prepared for any exigencies. Careful planning and budgeting are the “keys to success” according to Rolls. “We encourage students to use tools like the International Student Calculator. It gives you an idea of the kind of day-to-day living costs you will incur and therefore how much to budget,” she says. Some handy tips include making realistic estimates of how much you will be spending on basics such as food, travel, accommodation, entertainment and so on. Students can also ask universities if they are required to pay the entire fee before the course begins or whether you can spread the cost by paying in instalments.