If you are someone who is thinking about applying abroad for higher education then stay with me as I give you a rundown of how to prepare yourself for the same and what to expect in the entire process. If I have any fellow final year students with me right now who are considering applying for their MA for the September session, well my friend you better start the grind now because this is a long and hectic route to take. But hopefully, you will get a better understanding of what to expect and not be overwhelmed.
Usually, it is considered a good time while you’re in your 2nd year of college to start looking into the course you want to do your masters in. The boon and bane of foreign universities are that most of them offer a wide range of courses. For example, if you are thinking of doing MA in Literature, you do get the opportunity to specialize in a certain module of your own choice, be it Victorian era or Contemporary writings. It is good to do your research beforehand, go through the coursework and all of the details given on the web page to get a better understanding of what the MA would help you specialize in. Once you find a course of your liking, the second part of the research is to find the best universities that offer your course. While it is preferred to go into a well-known university by most people, what should be more important is the standard of teaching and staff of your specific course. Some of the universities which may not be too well known could have the best rankings for some specific course they offer.
So, the keyword is research. It takes hours and a lot of hard work to go over every college/course/country until you find the one that is checking all your professional and personal needs. This is why it is a good thing to start your search a bit early on. Once you have your course and college of choice ready, the next step is to have backup colleges (6-8 is a good number). It usually is hard to know which country to apply to as almost all of them have their own pros and cons. With your research, you will be able to find out which country suits your preferences and conditions.
Before starting the application process, there are certain documents that you will need to have in hand to complete your application in one go. The most important things you need are an English Proficiency test result as well as a Personal Statement or a Statement of Purpose. In countries where the first language is English, you will have to take a Language test like IELTS or TOEFL. If you go to a country where English is not the first language but the course you want to study is taught in English, it would still be a good thing if you take classes to learn the local language as it would be easier for you to be involved with other students and locals then.
Another important thing that the admission office looks at is your Personal Statement or Statement of Purpose (the latter being more formal). It gives the university insight into who you are as an individual and what your aspirations are from their university and for your future. As a student who has completed most of their education in India, it is unnatural for us to write 500 words to talk about ourselves and the reason why this specific course is something you want to pursue. We have always been told that our future belongs to our marks, the biggest pro of applying abroad is that more than your marks, the colleges are more interested in you as an individual and to find out what makes you a perfect fit for their college.
Needless to say, these 500-700 words are one of the most important aspects of your college applications. It is the place where you can flex all your hobbies and internships (pro tip - do as many internships/classes in areas that reflect your interest in the course you’re applying for). Be honest and avoid plagiarism because trust me these people are smart so it is best to write your essay on your own. Get a couple of friends who will go over it and keep editing your drafts until you’re completely confident with it. It would also be a good thing if you get one of your professors to go over it and help edit it more if needed. If you’re applying to multiple colleges, it would be a smart choice if you edit each SOP or PS according to the college. There are chances that the admissions office can tell that the SOP/PS you turned in is a copy of the one you gave to another college. So, go over the official page of the college and go through all the modules and the details about the teaching staff of the course. Try to incorporate this in your statement as it would appear that you have done detailed research of the college. Do you know what this shows my friends? Enthusiasm. That’s what they’re looking for so deliver that.
Another thing you will need is Letters of Recommendation. This can be from your college professors or from the places where you interned. These LORs would give a professional’s point of view of your character which would help the admissions office to see if you are matching the traits they’re looking for in their students. It would be smart then if you start making good relations with your professors (start with switching on your cams during online class, they love it!). The number of LORs varies from universities and countries but to be on the safer side, keep at least 2 LORs ready at hand (pro tip start asking for these LORs pretty early on because professors are usually busy and will take quite some time before sending it to you).
Other necessities you need to have in hand are passport copies, high school, and college transcripts, and keep in hand your CV as well. Once you have all these at hand you can make your account on the university domain and start filling out your applications. Most master’s applications don’t have a deadline but they stop accepting applications once their seats are full. So, start sending in your applications at least 8-9 months before so that you get an early response. Universities usually get back to you within 4 weeks so it will give you enough time to make decisions about your next steps pretty early on then.
I know all of this sounds a bit scary and trust me it is a daunting experience but you need to have confidence in yourself and make smart decisions. Start with a cool head and try to keep your calm with the process. As long as you are meeting the universities’ entry requirements and write a solid SOP/PS, you have a good chance of getting into the college of your choice. At the end of the day, have faith that life has a plan for you but it will only work if you are ready to commit yourself to it and work hard to achieve your dreams.