After having decided to study abroad, first of all, you should make a self-assessment of your knowledge, skills, academic qualification, aptitude, financial ,status, mid career dreams before you launch your efforts for securing admission in a foreign country. If your skills are moderate, it may be hard to secure admission in a top ranking institute or university. One practical method is trying to seek admission simultaneously in a number of institutions at different levels in ranking. There are means to find out the rankings of institutions. You may try some at the very top; but consider some others as well. Gathering information is vital in deciding the program and the institution.
Aspects of funding are important, since your parents may not be able to foot your bills. You will have to procure assistantship, tuition waiver, award, scholarships, grants, work-study, or loans. It would be possible to find part-time jobs to meet your expenses overseas. It is a good idea to plan your studies at least 15 months before the commencement of the program. If you try to search seriously for financial help only after securing admission, you may not succeed. Of course, there would be questions on your sources for funding even before admission is granted. Universities would normally award fellowships only to the very brilliant. But many can secure teaching assignments with assistantships that would help to meet all campus expenses.
The requirements for eligibility will have to be fulfilled. You may have to show evidence of your competence through scores in tests such as TOEFL, IELTS, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, SAT and DAT. The application process would take quite a long time.
IDENTIFICATION OF THE UNIVERSITY AND THE PROGRAM
Certainly, you have a program in mind that suits your ambition. But that is not the end of your dream program. Analyse the stature of the university. If possible, do get in touch with those who have graduated in the discipline from the university, and gather further details. Try to check the result of evaluation of the programs. For many of these, you may use reliable websites. A word of caution on websites is relevant. Do not blindly trust whatever you find on the Internet. There could be fabulous claims. There could be hidden elements of fees. You should cross-check such claims using other references either on the net or through other sources. The home pages of prestigious institutions can generally be trusted.
Of course. if you are looking for admission in top class universities, like those in the In' League, you need not bother about the quality of education. The eight reputed universities that come under the Ivy League are Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale. The following are some of the factors to be considered while identifying your program and centre of study.
• Reputation of the university
• Availability of the programs (discipline, levels such as Master's and Ph D)
• Transfer credit (at what level would you be placed on the strength of your qualification)
• Eligibility requirements like scores in GRE or GMAT
• Duration of the program • Time of commencement of the program
• Language of instruction; need for special language training if you have in mind countries such as japan, Germany, or Russia
• Cost of the program (tuition, administrative fees, bed and board, travel, excursions and visits)
• Availability of scholarships, grants, federal work-study, or loans
• Accommodation (family, home stay, students' apartment, shared dormitory);
• Distance from University campus and availability of transport
• Location of the university (big city or small town, facilities, safety)
An excellent guide for university/college search is the website www.petersons.com. It gives information on all kinds of US universities. You can search for the centres of study after feeding factors such as subject of study, level of study, facilities, fees, etc. onto the site. Once you have an overall idea of the institutions of interest, you should go to their home pages and get specific details, including the names and e-mail ids of professors whom you have to contact. It may be noted that the fees in private universities would usually be much higher than those in State Universities. The names of the universities may be carefully read to get a general idea of the classification. You will see names like Alabama State University, and Colorado State University.
ADDRESSING THE PROFESSOR
Your letter to the professor should clearly and lucidly state the following.
• School/college/institute/university from which you stand graduated
• Academic qualification: subject/class/score/grade point average/special achievement, if any
• Subject of interest for further study; reason for selection of subject
• Your present work and its background (institution, teacher, supervisor)
• Reason for selection of the institution for higher study
• Reason for selection of the professor
• Enquiry regarding the chances for your selection and possibility for scholarship/assistance Your letter should have a ring of sincerity and an earnest desire for opportunity.
PARTS OF THE APPLICATION PACKAGE
Your application package has to be complete and flawless. The format, if prescribed, should be followed diligently. The application fee has to be remitted in the mode suggested by the university/institution. If there is a waiver, the related document should be enclosed. The certificates/mark sheets in proof of your academic attainments and date of birth, statement of purpose, letters or recommendation, and financial statement/related bank documents, as set down, are the essential components of the package.
If the institution from which you graduated is not well known or if it is a deemed to be university, you should add documents to convince its status to the concerned foreign university. Also, if you graduated through the distance education mode, there should be no room for doubt on its acceptability. There are instances of Indian universities changing their names. In such cases,
documents from the concerned authorities of the university should be obtained to clarify the position. If the university that is mentioned in your .certificate does not exist at the time of your application, it can lead to suspicions on its authenticity. If your qualification is from a foreign university, the acceptability of that university has to be ensured beforehand.
You have to put a covering letter indicating the contents. It should tell what program and which session (fall/summer) you are applying for. List the enclosures — application forms, application fees, financial statement, two copies of statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, copies of the relevant certificates, transcripts, score reports of GRE, TOEFL, GMAT, etc. The letter should be brief and should look professional. The language should show that you are making a request; but not kneeling down in supplication. The first impression is vital.
Do not send any original documents except the bank draft. Send signed/ attested copies only. You may have to make arrangements for the direct delivery of your GRE/TOEFL scores by the testing authority to the University. For the purpose of preliminary processing, universities would consider photocopies of the score sheets. However, you will have to see that additional score reports reach the University before the final admission. Write a line asking the University to inform whether any additional information has to be furnished. Send the application sufficiently in advance; your application should not get pushed back during the last-minute rush in the University.
The financial statement mentioned above is a document that tells how you propose to meet the expenses for the study. The funds available with you may be indicated. However, if you are expecting assistance from the University or some other body, do not hesitate to mention this candidly. There is no harm in stating that your present financial position does not permit higher studies in the University without external assistance in the form of scholarship/ assistantship. You will have to make follow-up action by reminding the Professor about the need for financial assistance.