Application Process for Study Abroad

Application Process for Study Abroad

Written by Overseas Education Consultant and Study Abroad Career Counsellor in Mumbai, Karan Gupta

Studying abroad can be a life changing experience. The application process, however, can be daunting and confusing. You should ideally start your application process one year ahead of when you want to go and study. You will then have ample time to finish the entrance tests required by the universities. The selection process of universities is based on several criteria and the final choice of university depends on the comfort level of the student applying. Each country generally has its own ranking system which lists the top universities in each faculty. Rankings are just one of the criteria you should use in determining whether or not you want to apply to a particular university. Instead rely on information from alumni and current students. Remember, no matter which country you are applying to you must adhere to their rules and regulations and carefully follow all the application instructions.

USA and Canada

The US is still the top choice for most students. Even after dwindling economic scenarios, the US saw an increase in Indian students of over 15%. More than 60% of all students applying overseas from India apply to the US.

The US offers a wide variety of subjects also giving you the options of choosing majors and minors from different faculties. For instance, if you are majoring in business you can also get the opportunity to minor in music or any other subject you are interested in. However, before you start applying is it imperative to do research on the potential universities you are considering. Each school is different and it is important finding the school where you will fit in and feel comfortable.

Once you have a concrete list in hand the next step is getting all the documentation ready. The process begins with collecting transcripts and recommendations from the schools and colleges in which you are studying or have graduated from. Then collect two to three references from the faculty that has taught you. Once you have managed to acquire these documents, you have completed more than half the required paperwork. The next step is filling out the applications and writing the essays the universities require. Depending on the programme you are applying for, you will have to send the SAT, GMAT or GRE scores. The TOEFL scores have to also be sent to all universities irrespective of the field you are applying in.

Along with your application, you must show evidence of sufficient funds to cover expenses at the university. Once all these documents are ready, compile your application and you are now ready to mail out your applications. DHL offers students special discounts and your application packets will reach the universities in 48 hours and so it makes sense to send your application packets by DHL.


The application process for Canada is pretty much the same as the US. The only difference is that Canadian universities do not ask for any entrance tests except the English language test or TOEFL. If, however, you are applying for an MBA, you will need to take the GMAT for admission to the top Canadian universities.


The good news is that the UK application process is the simplest of all developed countries. After you have been through the mind-boggling process of applying to US universities you will find the UK application child’s play. Undergraduate students or students applying for Bachelors degrees, only need to fill out one UCAS or Universities and Colleges Admission Service form. This form can be completed by paper or online and you can send the form to a maximum of six universities. Besides the general information, the form also asks for a short personal statement and one recommendation letter from any professor.

The postgraduate application is similar but you have to fill separate applications for each university. With two reference letters, a personal statement and transcripts of the degree college you are ready to apply.

Singapore and Australia

Indian undergraduate students applying to Singapore are not required to take the SAT I for all courses. However, to better your chances of admission the SAT I and II can be sent along with your application. The TOEFL is again, required from all international students. Applicants will even undergo an interview before they are finally offered admission. Graduate students for MBA programmes will be required to take the GMAT. Some universities in Singapore like NUS only accept online application forms. Paper forms are not accepted.

Like the UK, undergraduate applicants to Singapore must submit their final examination results before the admission is confirmed. The application process for Austrian universities is rather simple. Identify the universities you want to apply to and research the universities carefully. Make sure you are applying to accredited universities and meet the minimum admission criteria. While most Australian universities do not require standardized exams like the GRE, SAT and GMAT, some top MBA programmes require the GMAT for admission. Also, students should take the IELTS exam and not the TOEFL.

New Zealand

New Zealand has 8 state funded universities in the whole country. For admissions to the Bachelor’s, Master’s and MBA programmes students need the IELTS only. Having a SAT, GRE and GMAT score respectively may not enhance your profile. Some programmes may accept the TOEFL in lieu of the IELTS. The University of Auckland, University of Waikato, and Massey University are some of the well known universities in New Zealand.

Europe – Spain, France & Germany

Most students consider Spain and France for graduate business education only. At the MBA level, Spanish business schools teach in English and welcome international students. Some of the top universities in Spain are IE Business School, IESE Business School and ESADE. In France, INSEAD and HEC are some of the well known business schools. These business schools are very popular with international students and hundreds of students from India apply for an MBA and other business programmes at these universities. In Switzerland students apply mainly for the hotel management programmes at schools like Le Roches Bluche although there are business schools such as IMD which are also famous. Admissions for the business courses will be available with the GMAT exam.

Statement of Purpose

The SOP is your chance to talk directly to the admission committee. Through the statement of purpose you can discuss with the admission committee any flaw in your application. You can explain low grades, family issues and other personal problems. Keep in mind, that while you explain circumstances to the admission committee, it should not look like you are making excuses for your grades. It is imperative that you take responsibility for your actions.

Most students get harried with just the thought that they have to write an essay. Universities are not looking for flowery language or great writing skills (unless of course, you are applying for a major in English or Writing) but instead are looking for students with clear and concise thoughts and students who precisely know the reasons why they are applying to a particular university and major. If your university does not provide a word limit, try to restrict your SOP to about a 1000 words. This is not a Mumbai University exam paper, where the more you write, the better your grades will be.

Do’s and Don’ts of an SOP

  • Be honest, clear and concise
  • Don’t keep repeating the same information
  • Don’t send an SOP with obvious grammar and spelling mistakes
  • Don’t just state information. Analyze it.
  • Don’t use words that you don’t know the meaning of. Use language that you are comfortable with.
  • Don’t whine or moan in your SOP. Universities want optimistic students and not students who sound like ‘father of doom’
  • Check and recheck your SOP to make sure that you discussed all the salient points in your application.
  • Don’t ever plagiarize information from the Internet or books. If you submit work that is not your own, you can be sure that you will be denied admissions.

Recommendation letters

Recommendation letters are letters from employers, teachers or project guides. Try to get recommendation letters from people who know you well and who have had ample opportunity to interact with you. Avoid letters of recommendation from people in high positions who have not worked with or taught you. For instance a letter from the Head of Department of your college who has not taught you has less importance than a letter from a professor who has taught you for two years. If the university has its own recommendation letter format, use it in addition to a general letter of recommendation.






No matter which country you apply to, make sure to carefully prepare your application materials. When your application is ready add a cover letter and send your application to the address stated on the application form. Make sure that everything in your application is well explained and keep a copy of your application for your records. Remember, your college application should convey who you are and what things are important to you. Make each university application with great care and adhere to university rules.

Karan Gupta is the leading international education and career consultant in Mumbai, India. Since 1999, he has given career counselling and has helped thousands of students with study abroad and get admission and visas to universities and colleges in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Singapore and EU and also helps them get scholarships, loans and financial aid. In addition to aptitude tests and career counselling, his firm also provides training and coaching for the GMAT, GRE, SAT, ACT, TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE exams. Karan Gupta is the best study abroad career counsellor, consultant and career guidance expert in Mumbai.

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