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A Master's Degree From An International Varsity - What To Expect? Where To Go?

A Master's Degree From An International Varsity - What To Expect? Where To Go?
Image credit: Jannis Tobias Werner / Shutterstock.com

In India, a few decades ago the norm was to look for a job after graduation, preferably in the public sector and grind at the job till retirement, working towards timely promotions and increments. With the rise of the IT sector combined with lucrative private sector job offerings, today’s professionals have a very different outlook about their career goals. Globalization has inspired successful individuals to have bigger dreams and the means to realize them are also within their grasp.

An ever increasing number of young successful professionals today are looking beyond our borders for higher education. While a number of countries are tightening their visa policies, it will not dissuade candidates who have the confidence and the profile to get through to the top universities around the world.

A master’s degree isn’t a prerequisite for landing a great job, but it is essential for growth in any industry. If it is a top ranking international university, the growth factor is enormous. For someone who has been born and brought up in India, going abroad for a master’s degree might seem alluring and scary at the same time. The individual has to face great cultural as well as financial impacts. No-one will ever tell you that a world-class master’s education is cheap or that an admit to an Ivy league college is easy to get. So it boils down to three very important questions - how badly do you want what you want? what are your chances of getting into your dream institution? are you prepared to take the risk?

Choosing The Course

Being motivated enough to bring about a massive change in your life is probably the first step to actualizing your dream of a master’s abroad. While a large number of Indians go abroad to pursue an MBA, an equally large number also travel to the US for a master’s in various engineering disciplines. There are also applicants who want to pursue a master’s in social sciences or humanities for which there are very limited opportunities in India. You should ideally begin with research into the top ranking colleges around the world which offer programs that interest you. Top ranking program lists are available on the internet for all possible disciplines. Aiming at a program which is in the ‘top 50 worldwide’ is recommended for engineering and management programs. For higher studies in more specialised fields looking into colleges which are in ‘top 20 worldwide’ would be a better idea.

The Right Geography

Understanding where you would want to be studying is also an important factor. Many countries/institutes will ask you to be comfortable with the local language while others will have a compulsory language course included in the curriculum.

For those of you who are not eager on learning a new language US, Canada, Australia and other English speaking countries would be ideal for you. You could also choose a particular geography based on the course fees and living expenses. Germany, for example, has a lot of world-class universities which charge zero to minimal tuition fees. Learning german might seem a better choice for many when compared to spending 30 lakhs extra!

However one also needs to keep in mind that the large sum invested in the international master’s needs to be recovered within a few years of the completion of the course. The job prospects and the reputation of the institute and its alumni play an important role here. After spending close to a crore on a management program in the US, it might not be feasible to return to India immediately after, as even the best jobs in the country would not allow one to recover the money at a fast enough rate.

An applicant who is spending anything upwards of 25 lakhs would generally want to continue working in the foreign country after the completion of the course in order to get a higher pay. So applicants need to look closely at the work regulations in the country they are applying to. Applicants who wish to return to the country anytime in the future should also pay attention to the validity and legitimacy of the degree in India.

After a comprehensive research, you will probably feel humbled by the institution and the quality of students that get selected. At this point, you might be skeptical about your chances of actually getting an admit. Do not let your doubts affect your determination. Instead, buckle up and find ways to improve your current profile in order to match up to the institution's standards. Summer Internships, diverse extracurriculars, and voluntary work are things that make your profile more appealing. Shortlisting the colleges you would want to apply to will also give you some idea about the expenses you will incur during your course period.

Managing Finances

The challenges of managing the finances to support your education (tuition fees) and living expenses during the course are very often the reason why people choose a particular college. It is by no means a small amount. Even in countries such as Germany where no tuition fees need to be paid the cost of living itself is a substantial sum (6-10 l.p.a). In the US, a top MBA program can cost anything between 6o lakhs to 1 Cr which is beyond the means of most middle-class families.

The cost for an engineering master’s also ranges between 25 lakhs to 50 lakhs for the tuition alone. The best way to alleviate this cost is of course scholarships. Candidates have a better chance of bagging a scholarship if they apply during the fall intake which generally takes place around August- September. Education loans are also easily available for top international school admits. There are also some peer-to-peer financing organisations which specialise in financing students from developing countries with admits to the top 5o programs around the world at interest rates which are much lower than national and international banks. These organisations have a fixed budget each year and look closely at the candidate profile before approval, however, they do not ask for any collateral.

The Way Forward

If you have shortlisted some colleges which seem just right for you, you should have also come to terms with the finances involved and have a workaround in your mind.

The step forward is preparing for the GRE/GMAT and the application process. A well-crafted application along with an exceptional GMAT/GRE score is definitely what you should be looking at. Prepare well for the exam and dig deep into practice questions. Taking professional help for your applications is highly recommended. The path leading up to a top international program is no bed of roses, but if you are motivated and ambitious in life be assured that it is the best way forward.