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How to salvage your dream of studying abroad in these times ?

A lot of planning goes before one goes abroad for studies. Academic year usually begins in the month of September (Fall 2020 and so on) for many universities abroad. But this time, because of the outbreak of COVID-19, admissions processes have been thrown off-gear.

A lot of planning goes before one goes abroad for studies. The academic year usually begins in the month of September (Fall 2020 and so on) for many universities abroad. 

At least a year in advance, the student starts researching universities and their courses. Then, preparation begins for standardized tests like GMAT, GRE or SAT. The resultant score gives a fair idea of where they stand and accordingly applications are made to various universities.  

But this time, because of the outbreak of COVID-19, admissions processes have been thrown off-gear. 

Students aiming to study abroad should, therefore, do the following:

1. Check financial footing 

Evaluate the financial position of the guarantor for your education loan. Many have lost their jobs to the pandemic, while salary cuts are rampant. Check if your guarantors (usually the parents) are still on a strong financial footing. As far as possible, work towards getting more financial aid and scholarships from universities without dipping into their retirement savings. 

2. Actual Outlay

Studying abroad can typically cost Rs 50 lakh or more depending on the duration of the course and the location. A sharp depreciation of rupee against the concerned foreign currency could mean shelling out more. In the last three months, the rupee has depreciated by about six per cent against the dollar and euro, while appreciating slightly against the UK pound. Effectively, it would mean paying Rs 3 lakh more for a Rs 50 lakh course in the US or Europe. So, check the impact of currency movements on your actual spends as well as your household budget.

3. What’s the ROI?

The world economy is going through one of its worst phases with favoured study destinations of US, UK, Australia, Canada, Italy and Spain being impacted by the virus. This, in turn, means the employment scenario in the region once you finish your studies will be less than ideal. 

Moreover, with campuses remaining closed, it’s likely that some part of your course will be conducted online. Does it make sense to spend big money to only attend online classes – albeit in reputed universities? 

Also, if you plan to come back to India, will a local job pay you enough to repay a loan taken in foreign currency? Don’t forget the first-year salary rule. You shouldn’t take out more in student loan than that you expect to make from your first year on the job. 

4. Reach out

Reach out to universities to check their admission process. Many are waiving application fees, while some B-schools are doing away with GMAT scores altogether in their admission process and relying instead on strong qualitative educational backgrounds.

Also, check the eligibility in the light of the likely delay in the award of local degrees and high school certificates. It’s likely that universities might delay the course by a semester or provisionally grant you admission subject to clearing the mandatory exams in the future. 

If you have already got an admission letter from the university, enquire about any modifications in the light of the visa restrictions for foreign students. Also update yourself about the cancellation and refund process, while checking with your bank for applicable charges in the event of cancellation of the education loan.

Also, check the eligibility in the light of the likely delay in the award of local degrees and high school certificates. It’s likely that universities might delay the course by a semester or provisionally grant you admission subject to clearing the mandatory exams in the future. 

5. Consider Plan B

If you are moving to COVID-19 affected countries, check if it is safe to immigrate and what’s the on-campus hygiene standard. Having adequate medical insurance will mitigate financial risk while studying abroad.

Also, possibly, consider deferring or altering your study plans. Some countries have already cancelled visas without further notice. Some universities might be willing to take you next year. Alternatively, you can explore studying in safer countries.

If you are postponing your study plan, make the best use of the available time by taking up relevant online courses or a job. If you are yet to pass eligibility tests, focus your energies there. 

Takeaway

The changing economic landscape across the globe has, in turn, changed the financial prospects of studying abroad. Evaluate your options carefully before you move.

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