Applying to other countries as a backup for overseas education

Applying to other countries as a backup for overseas education

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

Students who have applied for the August term to US universities are anxiously biting their nails waiting for universities to respond to their applications. Once you get your fancy admission letter in hand you still need to get your US visa before you pack your bags and head for the airport. Even though statistics from the US consulate elucidate the fact that student visas are not that difficult to obtain, you may be better off by not placing all your eggs in one basket. If you have applied to US universities for admissions, consider applying to the UK, Canada, Australia or Singapore as a second choice. This will ensure that IF you are denied a student visa, you still can attend a university in other countries.

“I have applied for admission to US universities for the fall semester. I have already 
received a couple of admission letters from universities and am confident that I will get my US student visa. However, I am taking no risks and hence am applying to the UK as a backup. The UK universities have no application fees and hence the cost of applying is cheaper as well,” states Pratik Shah, a contender for
admissions overseas. 

For graduate students, studying in Canada is a good option. Canadian universities such as McGill University and University of Toronto have world renowned programmes in business, engineering, and other fields. Some of the Canadian schools are still accepting applications for the fall (August) term. The fees in Canadian universities vary from $10000 USD to about $35000 USD (which are lower than US universities). The education system in Canada is very similar to the United States and most Bachelor’s degree programmes in Canada are of four years duration and the Master’s degree programmes are of two years duration.

While studying, you are allowed to work for 20 hours per week on campus only. Canada is deemed relatively safer than most places in the world and you have a wide range of places and universities to choose from.

Top Universities in Canada

University of Waterloo

University of British Columbia

University of Toronto

York University

McGill University

University of Western Ontario


“Canada's universities and colleges are world-renowned for their high standards, safe campuses, and educational excellence. They are at the forefront of the information technology revolution and ensure that their students are equipped for the 21st century. A degree from a Canadian university is considered equivalent to an American degree. Many U.S. companies actively recruit on Canadian campus, and many students with a Canadian undergraduate degree are enrolled in top graduate programs throughout the U.S.,” states the Canadian Embassy in Washington D.C.

The UK for the past few years has been vying Indian students with scholarships and work permits. The UK education system is very similar to ours and students can earn most Bachelor’s degrees in three years. Master’s degrees and MBAs, however, are of one year duration (in most cases). An average tuition fee in a UK university is about $20000 USD per annum. If you stay in an expensive city like London, your living costs are bound to be high. With the current Rupee-Pound exchange rate, the UK may seem like an expensive proposition, but keeping in mind the duration of the programme, the UK may not be that expensive after all. 

While studying in the UK you can work 20 hours a week, even outside your campus. After completing your degree you will have to apply for a work permit to work in the UK. Unlike the US and Canada, you are not given work experience on your student visa itself. With recent changes to the UK immigration policy, working in the UK after you complete your education may not be that difficult.

Top UK universities

London Business School

London School of Economics

University of Warwick

Oxford University

Cambridge University

City University London

Imperial College


Australia boasts to be third largest English speaking destination for international students (the US and UK being the first two). The Australian education system is similar to ours and students can complete Bachelor’s degrees in three years and Master’s degrees in usually two years. The tuition fees of Australian universities vary from USD $10000 to USD $30000 per annum (some universities may charge higher fees). You can work for 20 hours per week on campus while studying in an Australian institution. Even though you do not get permission for a year of work after you graduate, you can apply to work in Australia through the skilled migration programme.

“Australia is an internationally recognised source of high quality education as well as research excellence. Our universities, vocational education and training colleges and schools are world-class. And Australia is a world leader in English language courses for international students. Australian Government legislation requires quality assurance agencies and codes of conduct to be in place so that international students in Australia and their parents enjoy a level of service and financial protection that is unrivalled. Multicultural Australia is a safe, friendly, sophisticated, and harmonious society in which students can learn and travel in an English speaking country. Australia also offers excellent value for money and a high standard of living,” states the Australian Government website.

Top Australian Universities

University of Sydney

University of Melbourne

Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

Australian National University

University of Adelaide

University of New South Wales


Factors you should consider when selecting a backup university

Course – the university should offer a ‘strong’ course in your field of interest

Location – the university should be in a safe and comfortable location for international students

Costs – you should be able to afford the cost of education in the university you are applying to

Job prospects after graduation – if you are looking for a job after graduation, the university should be located in a country where international students are allowed to work after graduation


Singapore, which is now becoming increasingly popular, is another country to consider 
for your higher education. The National University Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) are two of Singapore’s leading universities. An average  MBA tuition cost in Singapore is approximately S$35,000 per year and the programme can be completed in about 2 years.

Not all students believe in applying to ‘backup’ universities in different countries. “I have applied to the top universities in the US for an MBA programme. If I don’t get admission to the universities or have problems getting my student visa, I will not go abroad for my education. I am happy with my job here and hence will only go to the top universities of America and will not settle for anything less,” states Kamal Agarwal (name changed), an MBA aspirant.

Applying to colleges in different countries gives you a wider range of institutes to 
eventually choose from. However, you should not apply to a college just for the sake of studying overseas, but in fact, should choose a college based on the course you want to study and your goals after graduation.

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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