Home Interview Life Beyond CAT: A wide-ranging guide on Study Abroad at this point in year

Life Beyond CAT: A wide-ranging guide on Study Abroad at this point in year

23 min read

 “MBA programs at foreign schools offer incredible platform to network as many as 30 to 40% of your classmates may represent up to 35 to 40 countries.”  

The Indian study abroad market is growing exponentially. One significant barometer is the increase in the number of international schools offering IB, Cambridge board and other international degrees that serve as feeder programs to send Indian students to top schools abroad. Every year over 300,000 Indian students go to study abroad each year. Of these about 77% are post-graduates and the rest 23% undergraduates. USA remains the top destination with 44.3% share followed by Australia 16.7%. About 6.1% go to UK. If we talk in terms of degree split, it is : 75.7% (Master’s), 9.3% (UG), Other Postgraduate (15.0%).

vibhaCurriculum magazine discussed study abroad choices and preparations with Vibha Kagzi, Founder & Chief Education Officer of Mumbai-based ReachIvy, one of country’s topmost consultancies in study abroad services.


What are some of the study abroad opportunities available to students in India, which they can apply considering at this point of year?

Study abroad is a broad term, as it encompasses study at international schools and colleges from high school, all the way to graduate degrees such as PhDs and Executive Education. The opportunities students can consider at this point of the year include: Undergraduate Degrees, Masters, MBA, PhD, Executive Education.
Some programs offer a variety of deadlines to choose from to ensure flexibility for students, whereas others provide only 1 or 2, additionally some stipulate no deadline and allow applications until the program is full.
At this stage, final application deadlines for most colleges and universities have still not passed, thus students can apply to all programs above.  A vast majority of advantageous deadlines fall in early January 2017. Students  who have the appropriate college stipulated requirements can apply.
A word of caution, deciding when to apply to Universities is an important decision. Most colleges offer multiple admissions rounds and varying admissions policies (Early Decision/ Regular Decision/ Rolling deadlines etc). Applying early can be beneficial to you, but only if you have thought through your college options carefully and you have all the requirements in place.

CAT for MBA admissions is round the corner, obviously, a lot will miss the bus of qualifying, so what do you suggest to those who are very keen in pursing MBA but due to limited seats or otherwise can’t pursue the program here in India?
For students looking to gain admission to an MBA program abroad – they can still apply.
1)     Immediately study and take the GMAT
2)     Target Round 2 applications for which deadlines are January 2017
Pursuing an MBA at a University abroad is a popular path sought after by many, as there are several benefits. Let me focus on my top 3:
1)     Diverse Faculty and Student Body – On campus, you will be engaging with students from around the world. MBA programs at foreign schools are particularly diverse, where as many as 30 to 40 percent of students are international, and represent up to 35 to 40 countries. Faculty at these schools also tends to be more international. The multi-cultural environment will teach you how to think outside the box, expose you to different ideas and points of view, increase your ability to adapt, and will also significantly shape your leadership style.  In addition to the breadth of experience that will inform your learning within the classroom, interactions with friends and classmates from all walks of life, outside the classroom will provide you with a truly global outlook.
2)     A More Experienced Cohort – MBA programs abroad generally stipulate a minimum of 2 years of work experience with the average being 3 to 5 years. This leads to a stronger quality of peer-to-peer learning in a classroom setting.
3)     Opportunity to network – Business schools provide an incredible platform for you to network with not only your classmates, but also professors, other students on campus and alumni.  These connections you make have the potential of being your life long friends, future business partners, co-founders, investors, mentors, and so much more.
An MBA may not be the right stepping-stone for everyone.  It’s important you spend time to reflect, undertake a complete assessment and identify specifically why the MBA is for you.  When it’s a right fit, it can provide you with the relevant skill set and advancement you need to take your career to the next level.

A lot of students and parents want to learn about how the study aboard process unfolds. Can you educate our readers on various aspects of the process like at what stage they need to plan and how to go about it etc.
Navigating through the study abroad process can be confusing as each country has its own requirements, which vary based on the degree program you are applying for.  Universities abroad tend to have a holistic approach where they evaluate students on a number of levels that goes beyond their college or school grades. The personal qualities that schools are looking for vary according to the mission and values of these respective programs, but in general they look for high academic accomplishment, leadership ability, extra-curricular and community impact, humility and an ability to thrive in diverse situations.
Thus we strongly recommend students start 3-4 years prior to application to allow enough time to thoroughly explore the options and build the appropriate profile.  In general a complete application includes:

The application form
Application fees
Standardized test scores
English proficiency exam results
Essays and/or Statement of Purpose
Letter(s) of Recommendation
Additional degree specific documents e.g. Porfolio

Can you also add some counsel on various tests like English for language that are per-requisite for seeking admission abroad.
The TOEFL (Test of English as a foreign language) and the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) are two popular choices of English proficiency tests, and are accepted by most universities.  Most colleges require international students to have completed one, with the grade requirements and preference (if any) clearly stated on the website, as part of the admission process. Some colleges may waive this requirement if certain prerequisites are met.
Both evaluate how well you can combine your listening, reading, writing and speaking skills. TOEFL is administered by the Educational Testing Service, a non-profit US based organization, and conducts its test according to US English. IELTS is administered jointly by the British Council, the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations and IDP Education Australia, and conducts its test in UK English.
The differences between the two are not significant, but the spelling variations or accent differences could pose a problem for some students.  Browse through the guides for both, before deciding which one to take.  Test results are valid for 2 years and you can retake the exam as many times as you like.Mumbai tour. Ned Brown/Harvard Multimedia Producer & Editor

A number of non-English speaking countries like Germany, France, Spain, Russia, Japan, China etc are also important destinations of higher education, what would be a general kind of advice on these places? 
The first step a student needs to take is to determine why they are looking to study at that particular destination.  For example, are they looking to enroll in a specialized degree program or do they wish to be close family or increase fluency in a particular language?  What objectives are they looking to meet and does this geographical location fulfill them?  Once they have determined the right geography, I would advise students to:
Be aware of visa policies and restrictions – both as a student and if you are looking for employment post graduation.
Probe into the financial aid options that not only the university offers to international students but also government initiated aid as well.
Research job opportunities and if they match the role / sector / industry / geography you are vying for. If you are looking to find a job in investment banking in New York, will the college career service be able to help you with that?  What types of companies are recruiting at the college and for what types of opportunities?

 What are some of the common problems of that our students face while deciding on study abroad options?
Three of the most common issues students faces whilst deciding their study abroad options are:
Major / Degree Selection.  With so many options available to students there can be confusion on what subject, degree or program to pursue.  For example, at an undergraduate level, a student may need help identifying should they apply for an Economics or Business major.  Or a prospective MBA student may be debating between the different types of MBA programs (full time, part time, online, executive).

Eligibility Requirements  Even after having identified their subject choice, students are still unsure of the eligibility criteria.  What standardized tests do they need to take and what’s a good score? Do they have the appropriate years of work experience?

College Selection.  Finding the right colleges to apply to is an overwhelming process. This is one of the most critical life decisions a student makes but at the same time, there is a smorgasbord of options, a wide range of factors that you need to consider, and an even larger array of online and community sources that will give you conflicting advice.

 Lastly, tell us how ReachIvy caters to this segment both online and offline and what are future plans?
In the formative years of the business, we started as an entirely face-to-face counseling service offering in-person interaction between students and counselors. We were positioned as a premium advisory based in South Mumbai, servicing clients mainly across Mumbai and the occasional student who flew to Mumbai to meet our counselors in person.
Over time we realized that companies are leveraging technology to reach out to a wider audience. We then decided to disrupt the traditional counseling space and move to an entirely virtual business model. Overnight, we were able to connect with students globally. Students in tier 2 and tier 3 cities in India also began approaching us, since they were not privy to such high quality services locally. We had to invest significantly in boosting our technology and stream lining our processes to ensure the transition was successful. In hindsight, it was the smartest decision we made in our entrepreneurial journey.
A relatively recent trend we noticed is the advent of content-based platforms where students can access free resources and then pay only for specific personalized services. In essence, we see massive digitization and democratization of content.
Capitalizing on this trend, in addition to a range of Study Abroad and Career Compass services, we have built a powerhouse of Free Online Resources. In spite of a plethora of content available online, there is still a significant gap in the quality and organization of online content. We have curated over 1000 video tutorials, guides and articles on the platform, which users can download for free. We are also constantly adding more tools, thus expanding our content library and allowing more students to access our knowledge bank. This pull-driven marketing strategy brings students who want to consume high quality content to our website eventually converting some of them as paid clients for the personalized services.
Our expansion will be entirely online; we do not intend to grow in the traditional brick and mortar model. We intend to become India’s primary platform for premium education and career related advice and content and build a ‘student-centric’ business. Towards this effort, we will continue to design, develop and structure relevant information for students by tapping into global experts on a variety of subjects. Additionally, we will build strategic partnerships with leading global educational institutions and ancillary businesses to bring their services to our students and share their knowledge resources on our portal. We will also continue to develop a slew of online resources and tools for students to benefit from.

Some Important Tips


  • Don’t base your decision on rankings alone; this is only one point of reference.  Instead find your fit.  Make sure you can answer, “Why do I wish to pursue this specific course?  Does it provide me the platform to meet my goals and aspirations?”

  • Streamline your social medial presence. Information that you share in the digital universe gets recorded and captured permanently. If used well, these platforms are an excellent tool to impress the admissions committee.  Clean up your current social media presence and utilize social media platforms like LinkedIn to be an extension of your college applications.

  • Be aware of the financial costs associated with your study abroad endeavors.  When living away from home, not only do you need to look at tuition fees but also living costs from rent, transportation to insurance. Remember to take all these additional components into account when compiling your costs to avoid any adverse situations once you have started your program.

  • Do your own homework about the institution and the program.  Scour the college website including the core curriculum. Connect directly with students, alumni, faculty and administrations rather than relying on external resources which may be biased or not applicable to your situation.

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