Study abroad: Students are applying to more varsities than before but at great financial & emotional cost

Rising costs and restrictive visa policies in traditional destinations are pushing students towards more affordable and accessible alternatives
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Around the world (Pic: EdexLive Desk)

As the global visa landscape grows increasingly uncertain, Indian students are adopting new strategies to secure their academic futures.

A recent survey by INTO University Partnerships reveals a significant shift in how these students approach international education.

The report shows that prospective Indian students are now applying to three or more universities abroad, driven by the need to increase their chances amidst the uncertainties of global visa policies.

The survey, which included over 1,240 education counsellors from 66 countries, including 213 from India, found that over 90% of Indian agents report an increase in students applying to more universities overall.

Remarkably, 14% of these agents noted that students applied to over 100 universities last year. This trend illustrates students' efforts to diversify their options and secure the best academic and financial outcomes.

"Due to the unpredictable nature of visa policies in traditional destinations, students are increasingly applying to multiple universities to ensure they have options. The demand for studying abroad has doubled post-pandemic, leading to a surge in applications to a diverse range of countries. This strategy helps students navigate the complexities of global education systems and secure their future. Students today face significant challenges due to lengthy visa processing times, the risk of rejections, and the constant changes in immigration policies,” said Subhakar Alapati, Founder Director of Global Tree Careers.

He added, “By applying to multiple countries, they are not just improving their chances of acceptance but also safeguarding against the emotional tolls associated with visa uncertainties. Furthermore, this approach allows them to compare various educational systems and make more informed decisions about their academic and career paths.”

Financial and emotional costs of increased applications

The financial burden of applying to numerous universities can be considerable. Application fees, consultancy charges, and other related expenses quickly add up, placing a significant strain on families.

Despite these costs, the demand for overseas education has surged post-pandemic, reflecting a heightened drive among students to secure spots at foreign institutions.

For many families, these expenses are viewed as a critical investment in their children's futures. The perceived benefits of an international education — better career prospects and broader opportunities — justify the financial sacrifices.

Consequently, there has been a notable increase in the number of students seeking guidance from education consultants to navigate the complex application processes.

Unpredictable global policies regarding student visas are a major concern for prospective international students.

Changes in visa regulations, fluctuating processing times, and stringent entry requirements have made the application process more daunting. These uncertainties force students to distribute their applications across multiple universities and countries, hoping to increase their chances of securing a visa and a place at a reputable institution.

The pressure to gain admission to an overseas university also affects students' mental health. Managing multiple applications, coupled with the fear of visa rejections, has led to increased anxiety and emotional strain. Students are often overwhelmed by the complex requirements and high stakes involved in the process.

Growing appeal of cost-effective destinations

Historically, the Big Four — Australia, Canada, the UK, and the USA — have been the primary destinations for international students. However, the survey indicates a rising interest in European destinations.

Agents from South Asia, including India, are increasingly recommending countries like Germany and Ireland. These destinations often offer lower tuition fees and competitive post-study work opportunities, making them attractive options for budget-conscious students seeking quality education and potential career prospects.

“The INTO University Partnerships survey highlights a strategic shift among Indian students who are now applying to multiple universities globally to secure the best educational opportunities. Traditionally, the US has been the top choice due to scholarships and placement opportunities, followed by the UK, Canada, and Australia. These countries have always been attractive due to favorable policies, remarkable infrastructure, and post-study work permits, leading students to consider multiple options to protect their investments,” said Abhijit Zaveri, Founder & Director, Career Mosaic.

Adapting to global education trends

The increasing cost of international education is a significant concern for students and parents alike. An overwhelming 90% of agents in India agree that affordability is a critical factor influencing study abroad decisions.

This trend indicates that students are looking to optimise their educational expenses' return on investment. Countries with lower tuition fees and living costs are becoming increasingly attractive, prompting students to explore alternatives beyond the traditional "Big Four."

Saurabh Arora, CEO and Founder of University Living, emphasises the impact of living costs on students' decisions.

"The cost of living and accommodation can significantly impact the overall affordability of education in different countries. For instance, studying in metropolitan hubs like London, New York, Paris, or Sydney often entails higher living expenses compared to other cities. These costs include housing, transportation, groceries, and so on, which collectively shape the student experience for the duration of their stay. Also, the type of accommodation chosen plays a crucial role in holistic planning and fund allocation. In addition to the on-campus accommodation options, students have many off-campus options to choose from that include Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSAs), HMOs, co-living, shared private apartments and more. Early planning and booking of accommodation can lead to significant savings to the tune of 30% on rentals. By prioritising these factors, student aspirants can make informed choices that enhance their educational journey, fostering an enriching and sustainable international study experience."

The landscape of international education for Indian students is undergoing significant transformation.

Rising costs and restrictive visa policies in traditional destinations are pushing students towards more affordable and accessible alternatives. This strategic adaptation reflects not only economic considerations but also a proactive approach to navigating global education opportunities.

By broadening their horizons and applying to a wider range of universities, Indian students are better positioned to achieve their academic and career aspirations in an ever-evolving global context.

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