Foreign Universities have been beckoning you for long and you are raring to pack your bags to explore a distant land. And, of course, what could be better than doing that while pursuing your education? It is important, however, to understand what your dream university is looking for to make sure you fit the bill and smoothen out the rough edges, if any, well in time.
In order to know exactly the demands of foreign universities, we talked to some to get a clearer picture. Since universities are diverse in their size, charter, strategy etc., their criteria of evaluation varies, but most look for the following.Interest and adaptability
First, the institutions want their prospective students to be genuinely interested in the host countries and continents. “There should be a strong interest in Europe and France, though knowing the French language is not a must,” says Isabelle Barth, Dean of the reputed Grand Ecole MBA Programme at University of Strasbourg, France. A corollary of the desired interest in countries or continents is an understanding that some courses are often shaped by local conditions. In Monaco, a small city state at the French Riviera, for example, local industries like finance, luxury goods and services and global management are often the favoured areas of study for foreign students.
Says Sophie de Lorenzo, Director, Careers & Corporate Relations, International University of Monaco: “There is growing number of applicants from India for Master’s in Luxury Goods and Services, Master’s in Luxury Retail Management, as well as the Master’s in Private Banking and International Wealth Management, representing the skills currently in demand in India.”
Foreign universities also have an eye for students who they believe will be able to fit in with their value system and culture. “An open mind and the curiosity and determination to immerse themselves in a foreign culture is essential,” says Sophie. Curiosity and global outlook are also valued by Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth (New Hampshire), according to Christie St. John, Senior Associate Admissions Director at the prestigious Ivy League institution of the United States. “Open-mindedness and motivation to spend two years abroad in an international environment is a very desirable quality,” says Prof. Barth.
Grades and work experience
Now for a basic thing: grades do matter! “Strong academics (GMAT and undergraduate grades) is one of our key criteria for evaluating prospective students,” says Christie of Tuck School of Business. “Universities evaluate past transcripts and standard entrance test results to judge a student’s academic capability,” concurs Swaraj Nandan, Director, KIC UnivAssist, an education exchange facilitating interaction between North American universities and Indian students. The partner institutions of KIC UnivAssist include University of Cincinnati, Indiana University, Purdue University Indianapolis, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, University of Northern Iowa and University of Kentucky.
While Tuck School of Business clearly defines 3-5 years of work experience as a prerequisite for its management course, Prof. Barth of University of Strasbourg puts it a bit more mildly: “Some work experience would definitely be helpful.”
In addition, universities look for a well rounded individual who can be an asset to the student community. This is usually judged through the level of their participation in extracurricular activities, which can be an important means to showcase some qualities like leadership and initiative which are in high demand by foreign universities in general.
Another prerequisite is the student’s ability to communicate well in the local language, both in terms of understanding the course and sharing their views. “Though Indian students usually do not face problems with written and spoken English as compared to students from few other Asian countries, it is still essential to make sure that the basics are covered,” says Swaraj of KIC UnivAssist.
A study abroad personal essay to be written by a candidate and submitted along with application is another known way of ensuring that the students’ objectives are a good fit with the course that they wish to do.
International universities continue to offer scholarships for graduate studies and undergraduate studies. These scholarships vary significantly in amount and format; some may be a flat amount every year while others may be conditional on a minimum grade achieved in the first year and tenable in subsequent years.
At the University of Strasbourg, for example, scholarships are not offered since foreign students can benefit from all services offered to French students enrolled in public universities unlike when foreign students choose private business schools in France. “Tuition fees (€7,500 annually) for our Master’s programme is remarkably low compared to those offered by schools from private sector in France,” says Prof. Barth.
Tuck, on the other hand, has a ‘need-blind’ admissions policy, which means admissions are offered to the most qualified candidates without regard to their financial circumstances, ability or nationality. From the university’s International Loan Programme, “A student may borrow the amount of tuition only per year, depending on their current financial status,” says Christie St. John. “While this might mitigate the cost of the MBA programme, applicants are expected to take responsibility for other financial aspects of earning an MBA. And applicants must complete the relevant form to be considered for scholarships,” he adds.
Keep you eyes open
Once students identify their target foreign universities, they should reach out to international admissions departments to inquire about scholarships offered and deadlines for submitting applications. Students should also take advantage of visits by admission officials to interact and learn more about the institutions.
Since conditions at a university can change frequently and without notice, it is important for you to do your homework well!
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