I am sure if I were to tell you to seek help from an educational consultancy before leaving for abroad to study, you might bring to mind all kinds of negative ideas. Let me point out a few common prejudices—they have tie-ups with sub-standard universities, they charge a prohibitive fee and they do not care about the clients. But while these notions could hold true for a few, it is not the norm.
The decision to study abroad can be life-changing because the person who leaves is very different from the person who returns. And hence it is important that you have the right guidance while making that decision.
For many, who have relatives already settled abroad, moving countries might be easier. But it is not the case for everybody. A lot of students try the good old way – Google. But then they end up bombarded with suggestions, swayed by glitzy websites and often confused by the array of options in every aspect. This is where an educational consultancy can help.
But first, reflect on what you want. Remember, every student is different and unique. It does not matter what Sharmaji’s son is studying in the Arctic. Ask yourself what you like and what do you want to do after studies are over. Do you want to continue studying, do you want to settle down in the host country or would you prefer to return? Every question has a bearing on the consultancy you pick. Once you pick a subject and have answered all the myriad questions in your head, run a Google search on best universities across the world that offers that course to have a general idea of which universities offer the course you are looking for.
Picking a consultancy
An overseas educational consultancy’s job is to ‘know’. First, find out an experienced educational consultancy, which is reputed. If required, ask around for suggestions. Then zero-in on one keeping in mind:
- The fee they are charging
- The universities the consultancy can help you get admission to
- The number of services they are offering, such as training for TOEFL/GRE/ IELTS or visa interview.
How do you know your consultancy is good?
The first job of an OEC is to find a course tailored to your abilities. They will be able to tell you which country, course, university and student support system suits your needs. Perhaps, even counsel you to recognize your strengths and differentiate between whim and need.
Pros and Cons
Given the fluid socio-political conditions across the globe, OECs keep abreast will developments relating to education and students in the countries of their interest. So while you are free to pick a country or university of choice, the OEC can tell you the pros and cons of that institute or country. They can help you make a more informed decision when it comes to picking your college/university or country.
OECs can help you with the course details, such as length of the course, the kind of part-time jobs, which can be pursued, on-campus rules, whether the course involves vocational training, how is the study-life balance (you don’t want to spend all your time studying, do you?)
Depending on the university, course, and country they will be able to calculate the amount of money you need. Again, the entire search can be customized based on your wherewithal. There are some consultancies, which can help you with education loans. Most international universities would like to ensure that you have the funds to sustain yourself in the host country and in that case you have to produce bank details of the past three months. These small, but nonetheless significant, details can be taken care of by the consultancy.
There is always a chance of your visa getting rejected. This too can be averted by OECs. By ensuring that your paperwork is in place and a prior thorough understanding of causes of visa rejection they can provide protection and security right from taking admissions to visa approval.
Most international students will tell you that documents are of prime importance when you plan to study abroad. An OEC will not only know what papers you would need but also help you arrange for them.
When applying to international universities, a lot depends on your statement of purpose –why you want to study in that particular university. A good consultancy will be able to guide and help you write an honest SOP because SOPs do not easily translate into paeans to the university.
Again, a germane part of your dream to study abroad. While you might get admission to your dream college/university, all will come to nought if you fail your visa interview. OECs will help you prepare for them as they usually are aware of the kind of questions that are asked. In case your visa is rejected, they can then help you either reapply by addressing the shortfalls or come up with a Plan B (Believe me, it is their job).
OECs can also help you find accommodations abroad depending on your budget.
You can contact them after reaching the host country if you need further guidance or if you would like to know something in general about the course or university or even the country.
Most universities have scholarship programmes. Sometimes looking up scholarships can be very difficult because there is an array of government and private scholarships. An OEC can give you a comprehensive list of scholarships to pick from. Moreover, they can help you get a students’ loan or even find a sponsor.
A lot of things can go wrong while or after applying to universities or colleges abroad. It is always practical to have a back-up plan if your Plan A fails. Some of the scenarios include, what should you do if you lag behind in your courses? What if your enrolment is cancelled? What procedures do you need to follow if an emergency situation compels you to return home temporarily? What do you need to check and follow if you have missed a deadline, or if a visa renewal or course intake date is coming up? These are questions your OEC should be able to answer.
Most countries expect you to leave once your studies are done. But you can, of course, stay on temporarily or permanently by following the rules. The entire post-education scenario needs to be mapped before you leave home and an OEC will help you with the job options, the kind of visas available and make you aware of the support systems in place that you can turn to in order to protect your rights as a foreigner and a student.
So while your job is to decide what and where you want to study, you can easily leave the rest up to the OECs, because as I said, it is their job to know. You must do proper research before you approach an OEC because it can make a lot of difference. Moreover, there are two kinds of OECs, ones that you pay a fee to and another, which is free and get their fees from international universities. Depending on your finances, the extent of how much you want to depend on an OEC and what you want from an OEC, make a decision. Between you and I, you can also carry this list and ask the authorities if they can fulfil every responsibility mentioned here. Happy studying!