Is It a Good Idea to Study Overseas?
Some secondary school students show an interest in studying overseas. Parents may wonder whether overseas study is a good option at this time. This blog examines in brief, the advantages and pitfalls, the issues to consider, as well as the complexities of the application and acceptance processes. I will confine my blog to overseas study in the UK and USA, as these are the most popular study destinations. That said, many fabulous options exist in Europe and Canada.
I am currently located in the UK, which is where I grew up and studied through to the graduate level. I, therefore, have a good career network in the UK. I’m also conversant with the GCSE and A’ Level study options in senior secondary school.
I applied through UCAS for university places, so I am familiar with this process from first-hand experience. I have also guided students, more recently, in my work. These student clients have been UK citizens living in Australia, who know that they are returning to the UK to study. But I have also supported non-UK citizen student clients, in applying to UK universities. This may be due to a desire to study at a particular reputable tertiary institution, such as Oxford or Cambridge Universities, commonly referred to in combination as Oxbridge.
Just as some Australian universities excel in certain subjects, so too are some UK universities highly regarded for certain courses. Notably, Imperial College, London excels in science and engineering. This is just one example of many. Other very reputable universities are dotted around the UK. I am able to support students in exploring what destination is best for their interests and strengths.
Besides the broad connections and experience I have gained, I have assisted students who have sought out specialist courses at performing arts colleges. This has been in the UK context as well as for targeted specialist colleges in Canada and the USA. The UK is a very popular location to study drama and acting, as there is so much work in the UK and lots of creatives working in the performing arts industry. In addition some of the world’s best training happens in the UK.
In the UK it is commonly the practice to apply for a Foundation Course in performance, before then moving on to higher-level study, as needed. There are both private and government-funded institutions, therefore there is quite a lot of checking to do as regards fees and application processes. As with courses in Australia, some course applications are handled centrally. Others you apply directly to the institution. UK universities also have reputations for particular study options. One example is Imperial College, London, which has a really strong reputation for Science broadly, but also in specialist areas such as Medicine and Engineering.
Another popular destination for higher education overseas study is the USA. The USA colleges that are well known are the big college campuses such as Penn State, University of Chicago, UCLA, Yale and Harvard. These are very expensive colleges, which even for USA citizens are costly to send their children to. The typical American high school graduate might attend college in-state, which is more affordable. Going ‘inter-state’, outside of your home state of, say, Texas, is a large investment for families. This is also the case for international applicants as there are very few scholarships. Even if an international applicant does receive a merit scholarship, for example, it may only be sufficient to cover accommodation costs. Beware also, as with a student visa an international student studying in the USA has no health benefits. Nor can the student gain employment while studying.
USA Athletic Scholarships
There is an opportunity for international student applicants to gain entry into USA colleges, should they be competing at a high level in sports. This is another specialist area that I have been closely involved with in terms of applications. This is a long-drawn-out application process, as athletes need to provide a video recording of themselves performing their specialism. These will be sent to coaches at the colleges in question, which are the ones offering the appropriate sporting scholarships. Athletic scholarships can be very generous, so it is an attractive option for sports persons.
Specialist Overseas Study Applications – Medicine
Medical degrees are another target study area. It may be a good idea for you or your child to consider applying to study medicine overseas because there are very few undergraduate medical degrees in Australia. For medicine, as for other previously mentioned specialist courses, the process is specific and requires a few steps. There is a requirement to sit additional testing, typically through UCAT, or BMAT (in the UK, for some universities), in addition to submitting your grades from local exams. As with other specialist training, it serves you well to look at comparisons between institutions. Medicine is a particular example.
Start Overseas Applications Early
My broad advice, if you or your child has aspirations to study abroad, in whatever context or nation-state, is to start early. The application process can take months. This is especially true if the applicant does not have citizenship and does not live in the location in question. As an international applicant, they will be required to apply in a different way, as distinct from a domestic, or local applicant.
Those study outcomes will need to be assessed in the country to which you are applying. This is referred to as Conversion. Most countries understand and do their own conversions of grades coming from overseas student applicants. However, you will most likely be required to submit certificates of completion and graduation and in some cases, there may even be a request for school reports from as far back in your school years as year 9 or 10.
International students will apply using a different course code and will be subject to different fee structures than domestic candidates. This is very important, as international fees can be very expensive. That said, there are some countries that have very different funding arrangements. In some countries, students have, in the past, been able to access low-cost or even free higher education courses. Please do not assume anything with respect to international course fees. As with the Australian context, things change all the time and so nothing that happened for a friend three years ago, say, is necessarily guaranteed for future overseas applicants.
Many students, whether they choose to study in-state, interstate, or overseas, may have to look into student accommodation. Australian students in rural and regional areas will often need to move into urban centres if they wish to complete a higher education course. Not all of us are lucky enough to have a family member in the big cities. So it is not just overseas applicants who are having to complete an additional application process, that of on-campus, or other residences. Bear in mind this additional process.
Some university colleges require student applicants to ‘attend’ interviews – luckily we now are accustomed to the virtual interview process. Bear in mind also, that with respect to university colleges, they vary in what they offer. Also, privately owned, independent halls of residence are popping up everywhere as well. These do not sit on the site of or are affiliated with any particular institution. Shop around and seek the best option for you.
Application Deadlines & Course Commencements
The last note I’ll add, regarding studying overseas, is that the academic year runs differently in the northern hemisphere. So if a northern hemisphere university is your preference for overseas study, do pay attention to the academic calendar in the location in question.
This will mean that an Australian student, who completes their final year of senior secondary study (year 12) in November, cannot commence a course in Europe, the United States of America, Canada or the United Kingdom, in the same year as they have graduated. This adds another layer of complexity, as you or your child will then need to look at their options for the period between completing high school and commencing overseas study in the northern hemisphere.
A list of useful Web-links for overseas study applications
Sporting Scholarships at USA Colleges
Additional Testing Requirements for USA colleges (SAT)
Seeking the best, most prestigious, universities worldwide for the particular study area
For Undergraduate Applications: UCAT UK
For Graduate Applications: GAMSAT UK
Finally, I can say from experience, that overseas study opportunities are wonderful for young adults. The adventure they embark upon, the friendships they make and the character-building that comes from travel and studying overseas is amazing. We as parents will miss our young ones when they fly the nest, but they grow into very capable individuals when they strike out alone and immerse themselves in different cultural contexts. The connections they make open doors and they know that the world is theirs to explore. It is a very special gift to allow them to seek other shores.
Contact us to discuss the overseas study options for students. We can help support the exploration process and coach your child through all of the necessary steps.
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