Journey towards a master’s degree- starting from the time you have decided till you have reached your dream city

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Studying abroad is never easy. But the most difficult part is making up your mind and just going for it. The process from the moment you decide and the moment when you land in a foreign city is the most difficult phase of your life and the immense satisfaction it when all your hard work pays of is truly enormous. I still remember when I was in college and there were campus interviews going on (during the end of my 7th semester), I was in a dilemma whether to go for a job or for a master’s degree. Each had its pros and cons and for many students it’s also a war between your inner feelings and requirements and your family. Well they have to invest on you and if like me you are from a middle class family from India then even 10000 Euros is worth a lot of fortune and most of the students have to go for loan after mortgaging their property or jewelries or whatever their family can afford.
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Making your mind up to go for a master’s education is never easy and you have to think a lot about many things. Stuffs like the study environment, life living and working alone, cooking, lifestyle abroad (especially for Asians, Africans the lifestyle is very different in Europe, Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) and America and vice-versa) and most important of all language and culture difference. So yes never an easy decision. In this article I will briefly try to explain the problems faced by students before they even begin their education abroad and I will briefly explain about the phase you have to follow or go through when leaving for higher education abroad.

When you have decided to go for abroad education the first biggest problem is money (unless you belong to a rich family and wipe your ass with money). 

Let me tell you exactly how much you might have to spend or save to finish your master’s degree just for tuition fee alone. The listed tuition fee is roughly for 2 years (for UK, Hong Kong and Ireland its 1 year and for Australia, Singapore, China and New Zealand its around 1.5 years to 2 years).For a masters degree in USA it can be as low as 30000 USD to 80000 USD. The range is based on what kind of degree you are pursuing (like engineering, science and medical sciences can be hell costly compared to something like arts or natural science etc), or where you are pursuing (like New York/California is hell costly compared to somewhere like Colorado or Michigan and this greatly influences your other expenses part since the rent changes drastically) or which university you are pursuing at (some universities charge very high tuition fess compared to other universities) or how many credit points you are taking (you are charged based on credit points so depends on your degree and the flexibility). Comparing this to Australia it pretty much boils down to similar figures. It can be as low as 40000 AUD to 70000 AUD. Again depends on similar criteria. New Zealand is comparatively cheaper and costs around 10000 to 20000 AUD less than Australia. Canada is comparatively much cheaper than these three and it’s around 20000 CAD to 30000 CAD. If you go to Europe than on top of the line is UK and IRELAND and they charge around 9000 GBP to 18000 GBP (and also remember here that the course is only for a year most of the time. Sometimes it’s also for 1.5 years). Ireland is somewhat similar and charges almost the similar tuition fee. Next in line come countries like Holland, Switzerland, France, and Sweden which charges around 12000 to 18000 Euros tuition fees. Some universities in France also have no tuition fees for some specific course. Next comes the league of countries like Germany, Austria, and Norway which charges usually no tuition fees. But in some universities in Germany tuition fee is also charged .Depends on the province usually. For example Bavaria charges tuition fee while Saxony doesn’t. If you want to study in Asia (China, Hong Kong and Singapore are the usual choices) then the tuition fee in Singapore is around 20000 SGD. Hong Kong charges around 12000 HKD. In china it’s around 20,000 RMB to 50,000 RMB. Japan is pretty costly both for living and education and the tuition fees are around 800,000 JPY to 1,200,000 JPY. I have estimated the tuition cost for most of the famous destinations for higher education. Bear in mind these costs and proceed.

Next I will tell you precisely when you should start preparing for your education abroad. in India, bachelor’s degrees are usually 8 semesters while in abroad specially in Germany or other European countries (except UK,IRELAND where it is usually 6 semesters or 3 years) the degree is usually 7 to 10 semesters (depends on students- sometimes they finish early and sometimes late). Usually you should start preparing for your masters degree application process before 1 year (that’s when your 7th semester commences). This is strictly a must if you are applying for masters in USA, CANADA and even in places like Japan. For example for master’s degrees starting in September in USA and Canada, most of the application deadlines are during January and February (very less number of universities have deadline in February and mostly in January). So better on the safer side you should have all the documents ready by December month of the previous year). For countries in Europe (excluding Netherlands and Sweden and few universities in France) most of the application deadlines are much later (like in Germany it’s usually during June/July but few universities even in Germany have earlier deadlines like during January, February). So to be on the safer side it’s better to keep everything ready by December even if the application deadline is much later. Maybe for Germany you can delay it by a month or two. But during this phase and time you should be clear where you want to go and study and also choose and aim some universities.
Next comes one of the most difficult battles of your life. That is convincing your parents, since they are going to spend money for your expenses. You have to convince them that this is one of the biggest step of your life and how it might change your life once and for all. Not everyone studying abroad becomes rich or has a better life though. So think carefully before approaching them and have a solid reason. Choose a proper destination, college and course which you are really interested at and which you think will help you in excelling. Based on your country, college and expenses get a loan or arrange for money.

Next few steps are pretty necessary and important. Applying for a passport. Many students don’t have a passport and it’s pretty necessary to get the passport first since you need this to register and appear for all the competitive examinations (including IELTS, TOFEL and GRE). Applying for a passport takes time and if you don’t have one you should apply for it by September month. It takes 1.5 months to get your passport in hardcopy. Since there are various steps, which includes getting a passport appointment, going for passport interview (it’s not an interview but they just would just check you and take your photo etc).

After you get your passport then you should choose a date for your IETLS and GRE. But of course you need to check whether your university really needs them. If you are native speaker then you don’t need IELTS. Also, if your bachelor’s degree was in English then sometimes the university exempts you from submitting the IELTS score. But this is true mostly for universities in UK, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Hong Kong. So if you are planning to study in one of the destinations then you should definitely contact the university and get a confirmation. GRE is mandatory for USA and some of the universities in Canada and Germany. Other than these universities nobody cares about GRE. But it’s an added plus anyway if you have a pretty good score in GRE. It’s obligatory to choose the universities you are going to apply before going for GRE exam since you can send your GRE score sheet to 5 universities free of charge as soon as you finish your GRE exam and also you get your result as soon as you finish your GRE exam. But you can also send the score later but this time you have to pay money to get your score card send to universities. Also for IELTS, for sending the score card the British council charges around 350 INR per university.

Next when you had started applying for passport you should also start applying for university transcripts. Because it takes time to get them from the university and also it’s pretty necessary when you start applying for the universities. Remember here that you don’t need transcripts when applying for Australian, UK, and universities in Ireland and also note that each Canadian and USA universities require 2 transcripts. And mostly students should apply to 5 universities. One university is always ambitious (something which they dream and it’s not easy to get), two universities they should apply are reachable but still unpredictable (something where students got acceptance in the past with similar profile but now at present its not predictable whether they will get admission due to competition), and final two universities which are reachable (where you have very high chance of acceptance). So you need 10 transcripts for applying to 5 universities. But apply for 12 transcripts in your bachelor’s university since you should always be prepared in case of any emergency. For Germany one transcript is enough but still it’s better to keep more just in case you make up your mind and want to apply somewhere else.

Next start getting letter of recommendation (LOR) from your universities and company (if you were working) and you also need two LORs for each university where ever you are going for your higher education. And prepare a statement of purpose (SOP) based on the course country and university where you are going to study. These two things play a vital role in getting an acceptance from any university so keep them in excellent detail. Try to get your LORs from someone important (like HODs or boss of your boss etc) since it increases its significance.
When you have all your documents including transcripts then you should take Xerox of them (as much as you can) and get them attested from a notary. This is pretty important step since in many universities (except USA and Canada) the notarized copies of your documents are enough.
Now start applying for universities using their online form. Here remember that if you are going for masters in Australia, New Zealand, UK, Ireland then it’s better that you approach a consultancy which doesn’t charge you anything. Since by doing this you save application fees and also postal fees for sending your documents. But if you are applying anywhere else I would recommend you not to approach any consultancy. They don’t do anything properly and you just end up wasting your time and good chunk of money. I am telling this because I was the victim of one of these counseling companies and I did not get any acceptance after spending a lot of money.
Applying to universities in Germany or any other European countries is very easy (walk in the park J ) and I have written a blog post in past regarding application procedure for Germany. It’s almost the same for France, Sweden, and Nederland. Also it’s better to attend education fairs where the universities from these countries are visiting in since they can apply for you directly in there, or at least help you in filling up the form.
Applying in Universities in USA and Canada is a bit tedious and requires proper understanding and reading of the online forms. Remember here that each forms costs 50 to 100 dollars so you should fill them a bit carefully. But nevertheless even these are not difficult and you should pretty much be able to fill them. Also you save the fees of the consultancy and can apply to more universities. Maybe in one of my future blog post I can cover the application procedure of USA and Canada and maybe give an example how to fill the forms with proper steps.

Send all the documents by courier including the printouts of your online application. There are student offers in DHL and FedEx where they charge less in case if you’re applying for higher education. Next phase is the most painful and you need patience during this time. Waiting for your acceptance. J Mostly for USA and Canadian universities you get your acceptance starting from March and till May. If you have not got your acceptance by the end of MAY then it either means you are rejected or something else is wrong. Better contact the university in-charge. For Germany it can be as late as august to get an acceptance.

Considering that you were successful and you got an acceptance. Start looking at the visa procedure and make sure you submit all the forms when applying for visa. For Germany you need to open a bank account. The visa procedure varies from country to country but make sure that you get a slot as soon as possible and before 2 to 3 months of your course commencement date. After your visa interview it takes 1 to 2 months to get your visa stamped onto your passport. Depends on the visa centre and number of applicants (sometimes in India Bangalore takes less time than Chennai or vice versa). 

It’s better to either book the flight ticket after you get your visa or book it in advance 2 months after your visa interview date. And check for the baggage allowance and dimensions of the baggage before booking a flight (some flights allow more baggage while some allow very less amount). Look at guidelines about stuff which you can keep in your carry on bag (no scissors or metal stuff allowed but I had them and nobody told me anything) and make sure to follow them or Not (in my case: P). Also don’t stuff a lot of things than necessary and keep check on the allowed weight limit. Don’t exceed more than 2 to 3 kilos than allowed weights. It’s risky and the airport staff might tell you to throw them away.

Shopping the right items is pretty important and make sure you have the proper and important stuff when you are leaving your country. I wrote a blog post regarding the things necessary and important when you are going for education abroad. Also keep copies of all your documents which you might need to show (in German airports sometimes they ask for acceptance letter to allow you to leave the airport once you reach Germany but you can make some excuse if you don’t have it) or need it when you are studying abroad. Make sure that you follow a checklist and unless and until everything is ticked don’t leave your country. J

This blog post was pretty long and I think the parts in the end are not important but for a complete beginner I think this might be pretty useful. Have a safe journey and best of luck!.

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