UK degrees are more intensive and shorter than in either Canada or the US
Sep 09: Applying to colleges abroad may probably be one of the most nerve-racking time in a student's life, yet, when one is finally "there", it seems that all that anxiety was actually uncalled for.
Yet, however stupid or uncalled for, you would realize about 10 years after finishing high school that all that anxiety teaches you some very important lessons differing from individual to individual.
It is an extremely important phase in anybody's life. You'll be hearing this for at least the next couple of years till you actually get into college. It is highly unlikely that you can avoid it. If you are about to enter A-Levels or are already in the middle of your A-Levels, it is best that you are fully prepared to begin the process.
Trust me, the college counselors at your respective schools are going to get very irritated if you are not even sure of what you want to do with your life. Particularly if you want to apply to the UK, you should already be sure (as sure as you can be sure about the fact that you are alive and kicking!) about the course you will study at any UK university. This is because the UK degrees are more intensive and shorter than in either Canada or the US. The former have titles like BA English Literature or Bachelors in Actuarial Sciences. You cannot choose modules from another department until your university allows this or you have applied for joint honours in, say, BA English Literature and Film Studies or Bachelors in Business Studies and French/German.
In Canada and USA, you would be admitted to a Bachelor of Arts, Science, or Commerce programme (however, the exact course title varies widely from university to university) with a wide choice of modules. You would also be expected to choose a subject in which you would like to do a Major subject. Many students do a Minor subject as well. Most of you would find that this matches to a certain extent the current general system of teaching in the reputed Pakistani universities today.
On the other hand, those wanting to go for postgraduate studies tend to be better off than us who are going for their undergraduate studies. This is mainly because there are more scholarships available for Masters, M.Phil, and PhDs. However, as I am fresh out of high school, I am unable to say much about postgraduate studies. Nonetheless, I hope this article helps all those who want to go abroad for higher studies.
So to get to the point, there are some very essential tips for applying to colleges and universities abroad. Following are the usual important tips that your college counselors will be drumming into your head.
Start as early as you can. (I say this too! It REALLY helps!) This is a very important tip because there are a million nitty-gritty things that need to be taken care of as you go through the entire process. Therefore, you will need all the time in the world to research and discuss your options with your parents and other elders, narrowing down your list of possible colleges, registering for any tests that you may have to give and most importantly the finances.
Involve both of your parents at each and every step. Discuss everything with then like for instance what college you want to go to, what you want to study, possible career choices, all financial matters. The most important thing that you must discuss with your parents is the availability of funds that they will have to show to the visa officers and also for the consequent paying of all your education and living costs at a foreign university. You should also be sure if your parents will let you go abroad to study at a particular place because you have a relative or a close family friend living there. Trust me, it is extremely helpful to involve your parents in this. Plus, they will provide you with constant moral and emotional support throughout the process, which you will need greatly during this process.
Decide what exactly your priorities are. You should know the university rankings, course content and quality, availability of university financial aid, the area's living costs, and location. And you should know much they matter for you and your parents. Students who want to go to UK for their undergraduate studies must also check if the A-Level grades required by the universities are even achievable for you or not.
I also learned many things from my own experience which I would like to share with you here:
Settle for the good; don't go gaga over the best. If you are applying for an undergraduate degree, then it is safer to apply to universities that are slightly lower in ranking. That is because those universities tend to be cheaper, offer more/better scholarships, and in the UK, have lower grade requirements so you can easily get into a good university. I have seen people get depressed because they were rejected by Warwick, Harvard, Waterloo, Toronto, Cambridge, Oxford and other such places. So, I would recommend that you guys stick to the lesser known universities for your undergraduate studies.
Afterwards, the world is entirely yours. You can go to any top-ranking university in the world for your postgraduate studies because more scholarships are offered for postgraduate studies. However, it also depends on your individual priorities as well so you must keep in mind all of these things when filling in your Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), Ontario University's Application Centre (OUAC) or any other university application forms.
Choose what appeals to you. It is you who is going to university, not your parents or anybody else. It is you who will be spending three-five years in a completely new environs and new society.
Some people tend to follow what their parents and other grownups have told them. Some even get convinced by their peers to apply to a certain university, not checking to see whether that university suits them or not. It is highly important that one chooses the course, the university, and the area according to one's taste and financial conditions. If you decide to study and live in an expensive city like London, you must be sure that your parents will have enough money to help you bear your living costs. If you want to study in a small university town, that is also entirely your own choice. Nonetheless, it may be your own choice, but you should be one hundred per cent sure of your own priorities, tastes and temperament and take them into account throughout this grueling process.
Educational institutions usually do not provide counseling and guidance in student visa applications, as they are mainly concerned with the admissions only. Therefore, you must contact a certified, registered educational consultant who will help you with your visa applications once you have received a conditional or unconditional offer, depending on the location of your university.
They will provide you all the visa forms and related applications and you will have to provide proof of availability of funds, medical reports (usually it is just a chest X-ray or vaccination reports), and proof of travel and/or medical insurance.
Canadian and US universities commonly ask international students who do not hold either Canadian or US nationalities to pay for their medical insurance. Those who hold that country's citizenship usually do not have to pay for their medical insurance. More details can be requested from individual universities, depending upon your circumstances. In the UK, it is slightly easier because any international student entering the country to study a course which is longer than six months at a registered UK university is eligible to be treated under their National Health Service (NHS).
Do not get dejected if a university rejects your application. There is no time to be lost in feeling low and depressed because of a rejection. It is all a part of this process and you must be mentally prepared to accept a rejection. Just tell yourself that the rejection was probably because you were too good for the university. I did the same and it really helped me.
You must always have a backup plan in case you are unable to go abroad due to a variety of reasons, like you may not have made your offers in the UK or have not got a visa. In such a situation, you can decide to complete your graduation or Masters in a reputed Pakistani university, or take a year off and get a job, do an internship, tap into your hidden talents, engage in a new hobby or even restart with an old one.
These are just a few examples; there are loads of options available for those who are unable to go abroad for college after finishing high school or graduation. It is, however, very important that you do not lose hope and remain optimistic.
In the end, keep researching all possible options and discuss them with parents, elders, teachers and friends. All this discussion and research would definitely come to good use sooner or later.
Work hard, study hard, play hard and most of all, remain optimistic. It always helps and one day, you will realise that all that hard work, anxiety and like we, youngsters say, "khwaari", will be worth your time and effort. Good luck to you all in your endeavours. - By Soonha Abro (Dawn)Your Comments
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