Graduate vs Undergraduate - When Should I Go Abroad For My Studies?
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Graduate vs Undergraduate - When Should I Go Abroad For My Studies?

  • Written by UnivAdmitHelp
  • Category: Insights & Information
  • Published on 19 Jun 2019

When should I go abroad – Undergrad vs. Master’s studies?

We often get this question from anxious parents and students alike – when is it a good time to go abroad for further studies? Is it good to pursue an undergraduate degree? Or is it better to go and study at Master’s level? The answer, while straightforward, has interesting nuances that need to be accounted for. We shall explore them in some detail as under.

Finances: Often, the most important consideration. Most students prefer a Master’s over an Undergraduate course when thinking of overseas education purely from a financial perspective. A four-year program at an undergraduate level can cost up to 200,000 $ with fewer chances of any financial support. A Master’s on the other hand can cost a fraction of that – often as little as 50,000 $ and can offer rich opportunities for paid TAship (Teaching Assistant) and RAship (Research Assistant) along with other financial aid packages. No wonder that graduate admission applications outnumber undergrad admission application by a factor of 3:1. (Please note that we are not talking about MBA programs here). There are a few caveats though. Many great universities offer need-blind scholarships to all its students. Places like MIT, for instance can finance up to 100% of your tuition and in fact over 90% of students there do receive some kind of financial aid. Other good universities also allow you to reduce your expenses to the tune of 40-50% through various aid mechanisms and need-based scholarships. Often the successful recipients of financial aid are persistent individuals who are able to convincingly demonstrate their financial need through the first semester/ year of their education. All of this holds true for tier-1 universities and does not apply in entirety for lower rung universities. So, the bottom-line is simple enough – getting in a top-rung university is difficult. Once inside, usually you are able to find your way through.

Anxiety: Mostly driven by over-concerned parents, many students choose to forego options to study at an undergraduate level despite wanting to do so. I have seen many parents come to me with the request that I look for great universities which are not very far from their hometown. Though a valid point, it loses its relevance in the international context. In our opinion, it hardly makes any difference whether the child goes to Singapore or to Hong Kong or to the USA. The child shall be on his/ her own and lead a fairly independent life. Irrespective of whether she is in Singapore or in the USA, she would be similarly accessible (or not) to you. Also, there is an important aspect of letting go – a child does not truly grow up until she leaves her home and starts living on her own. A college environment is the next best environment to your home in terms of safety and security. Giving the opportunity to a child to explore and to become an adult is an important consideration, and our generic advice is to not wait until Master’s to deem it appropriate whether the child is ready or not.

Other options:You need to compare your options with various other domestic opportunities that you are able to generate. A lot of students, for instance, compare going abroad for studies against possible admissions at IITs. (Or medicine, or top-notch colleges of Delhi University, or local domestic colleges like Mount Carmel Bangalore, University of Mumbai, etc.) In general, it seems that options are numerous and more competitive at undergraduate level. At Master’s level it also seems that students do not have very many interesting education pathways to pursue. Most people end up preparing for PGDMs at IIMs though a few go to places like IISc, Delhi College of Economics, etc.

Educational Objective: The quality of education at top institutes outside India is phenomenal. In the words of many of their alumni, it is ‘life changing.’ My own experience of studying at MIT and Harvard testifies to this. An undergraduate study is foundational and offers you much more liberty in terms of picking multiple minors and majors. In many ways, it makes you the person that you could be. Masters’ on the other hand can be specialized and often people choose a discipline in which they have been already initiated. While both Masters’ and undergraduate studies are phenomenal, usually an undergraduate study has a far greater impact on you. Further, given that it might be a first major experience away from home, you also cultivate deeper relationships and, in a true sense, become part of the educational and societal fabric of the place that you would go to.

Job options: Truth be told, India is the fastest growing large economy in the world. These days as many as 70-80% of graduates come back home after studying at top universities. This is not because they do not have options in the place they went to. But rather, because they find more interesting opportunities at home which offer them reasonable pay and a better lifestyle. In the country (outside your home base) where you study, your employability is many notches higher if you are an undergraduate student as well. First and foremost, your options go up, you can potentially either take up a job or pursue further studies. And second, your ability to be immersed in a particular ecosystem and the law of the land help you more as an undergraduate student in a particular place. As an example, some countries like Canada offer you the opportunity to work for an equivalent time that you have spent studying. Choosing overseas education at an undergraduate level is a clear winner in such a case.

Job opportunities when studying abroad

However, the final decision is unique to you and should only be specific to your situation. So long as you study at an educational institute that allows you to push the envelope of your performance and helps you learn better, you shall be good. Either ways, do not settle for a tier-2 education. Gun for the top institutes and customize your decision for undergraduate or graduate studies based on the conditions that are true for you.

 

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