When is the Right Time to Start Planning Higher Education Abroad?

By Neha Kumari Updated On - Jun 25, 2021 12:12 PM

If studying in a foreign university is part of your future plans, then it is important to know the right time to start planning and preparing for it. From filling the application form, taking subject tests, English language tests to letter of recommendation, here's how you go about planning all of it.

While studying abroad could be a life-altering experience, it is undoubtedly shaped by the way you plan it. The question here is ‘when and how to start creating the perfect study abroad plan?’

What you may already know is that higher education from a foreign university is a time-taking process but what you are not told is when to actually go for it. It is important to have a well-thought-out plan whenever you decide to study abroad. There is no scope for delay in the application process for admission to a bachelor’s programme, be it in the US, UK, Canada, or any other country. 

The time taken to apply for admission in foreign universities varies from one country to another. Each country has its own set of admission criteria and defined time constraints for application and admission. Following guidelines will help you find the right time to apply for admission to a foreign university.

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To-Do List for Your Study Abroad Aspirations

In order to ensure a successful admission process to your dream university, you must ensure that you have completed the necessary steps within the given timeline and ensure all the steps have been completed correctly. Given below is the To-Do list to start your study abroad experience.

  1. Researching, Deciding and Planning: The first step to a new chapter in anyone's life is making the decision. This is one step you should not delay till the last moment. Education and study abroad experts suggest researching, deciding and planning when you reach class 9. This will give you enough time to focus on your studies, improve them if need be, research about the different universities and programmes available and what they offer, along with other factorsa and come to a decision regarding the same.
  2. Qualification and Standardised Tests: One of the important requirements for admissions to a university abroad are the standardised and qualification test scores. Tests such as IELTS, TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc are a few that you may be required to attempt. However, go through the admission requirements of the college you wish to enrol in and prepare for these tests. You can attempt these tests a year before submitting you applications to the university.
  3. Academic Record: An important factor as to why you should start researching and deciding where you wish to study for your college or university as early as Class 9, is so that you can maintain a good or even an excellent academic record. Admissions committee at universities and colleges abroad look at your academic record and consider you for admissions as well as scholarship opportunities, which can help reduce the financial burden of accessing international education.
  4. Seek Guidance: While deciding and choosing the college or university, or even to understand the international education system, a good practice is to ask experts or those who have already gone through the process themselves. This will better prepare you to tackle any obstruction or issues that you may face during your preparation to study abroad.
  5. Correctly and Completely fill the Application Form: It is crucial to provide correct and complete information when applying to a university or college. Any mistakes here may be an expensive ordeal for you as an applicant, even to the extent that you may not be allowed to apply to the university again, if you are found tampering with information.
  6. Scholarships and Financial Aids: Look out for and apply for any scholarships or financial aids that the university or college offers to international students. Many Universities and Colleges abroad offer numerous scholarship opportunities every year, which can help reduce the financial burden that you may face while pursuing international education.

Also Read:  10 Mistakes You Should Avoid Making on Tests like GMAT and GRE

When to Start Planning for Study Abroad?

The step-by-step process to help you understand how to go about your study abroad plan has been given below:

Decide As Early as Possible
The right time for a candidate to ensure that they want to complete their bachelor’s degree programme from an abroad university is as early as in the Class 9th Grade. 

It is the most appropriate time for candidates to understand the education system of foreign countries and also land the ideal university offering your choice of programme. You must set up your goals by the time you are promoted to 10th standard. 

Start Planning 

Once the decision is made to study abroad, students must explore the eligibility criteria, the list of entrance exams and other important information and documents required for admission in selected colleges and/or universities. 

Students can start seeking advice from the study abroad career counsellors for authentic and appropriate information. 

During this period, students can start preparing for a strong resume, letter of recommendation, essays and other documents required to apply for admission in foreign universities. They must also start working on their academic record as soon as possible. This will help students have a better chance at grabbing a seat at one of the prestigious universities in the world.  

Start Preparing for Test(s)

In order to take admission in the bachelor’s degree programme in a foreign university, it is mandatory for you to take entrance exams such as the SATs, GMAT or GRE and English language tests including IELTS and TOEFL. While SATs allow you to take admission to an undergraduate programme, GRE and GMAT help in your postgraduate aspirations. It should be noted that an SAT score may or may not be a mandatory requirement. Therefore, check admission requirements of the college or university you wish to enrol in.

The difficulty level of the SAT and English language test is considered easy for someone who has a strong understanding of basic concepts of the language and English grammar. For them, a six months strategic preparation, prior to the test would be sufficient to appear in the test and score good marks. Tap the following link to check for SAT Preparation Tips:

How to Prepare for the SAT Test? 

When to Take the SAT Test? 

Candidates who seek admission to a Bachelor’s degree programme at any foreign university must appear in the SAT entrance exam. It is the most popular entrance exam that is acceptable for admission in almost all universities in countries like the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Singapore and Germany

The right time to take the SAT entrance exam would be when you are in the 11th standard. This will give students enough time to appear in the exam, in case the marks obtained in the first attempt is not satisfactory.

The SAT is conducted throughout the year. Candidates can choose the month, date and time according to their convenience to appear for SAT. The College Board conducts the SAT in online mode at various locations across India. Click on the link given below to learn more about the test:

SAT Test

When to Take the English Language Test? 

Just like the SAT, English language tests like IELTS and TOEFL are conducted throughout the year. The candidate can appear for the tests in Class 11th or even before that. Those who appear early in the test will have sufficient time to reappear in the entrance test and improve their scores if required. 

Click on the following links to check details of IELTS and TOEFL Entrance Exam:

TOEFL Entrance Exam

IELTS Entrance Exam 

Study Abroad Plan for Admission in Undergraduate Course

As discussed earlier, a student must start planning for studying abroad in Class 9th. The succeeding three years i.e Class 9th, 10th and 11th are the crucial times in the life of a student to take admission in a good foreign university for higher education . It is the time period during which students must focus on various aspects to be recognised as the perfect candidate to study abroad. Read on to have a clear understanding of timeline to prepare for admission in foreign universities:

Class 9th Onwards 

Students who are looking forward to complete their bachelor's degree programme from a foreign university must start focusing on the following points as early as 3 to 4 years prior to admission: 

Improve their Grades: The previous years academic qualification is the first thing which is considered for admissions in a foreign university. With excellent grades in academics, students' chances of getting admission is quite high. Students with outstanding performance in academics are also considered for scholarships offered by most universities to international students.

Engage in Extracurricular Activities: Students must engage themselves in extracurricular activities to develop their overall personality. Also, it will be an add- on in the CV while applying for admission. One can participate in sports and games, olympiads, state and national level competitions etc. 

Identify the Area of Interest: There are various fields of studies and degree programmes offered by foreign universities and countries. Choosing the right degree programmes at an undergraduate level is an important decision of life to determine the career in future.

It is highly recommended that students discover their interests based on their skills and abilities at an early age and then choose the right course in the college. When it comes to studies, it is better to go with the interest than trends. 

Class 11th 

By the time a student reaches Class 11th, He/ She must be sure of their decision to study abroad.It is the time when students to consider the following points for plans to study abroad: 

Start Researching About the Countries and Universities: Class 11th is the right time for students to start researching about different countries, universities and courses offered to international students. Analyse the education system, cost of study, lifestyle, living expenses and international students exposure, best courses to study abroad etc. 

Take Test: Start preparing and taking tests required for admissions in undergraduate courses like SAT/ ACT and English Language Tests IELTS/ TOEFL. One must take the test early so that there is enough time to retake the test till a good score is achieved.

Class 12th

Class 12th is the time by when the student must start applying at the universities for admissions. Usually, the institutes start accepting applications 12 months to 8 months prior to the commencement of the academic session. One must consider the following points while applying for admissions:

Shortlist the Courses:  The applicant must shortlist the programmes and courses offered to international students at the desired university and analyse its curriculum, duration and future benefits.One must also confirm if the course is internationally recognised or not, the course allows students to apply for a work permit in future or not, duration, fast track facilities etc.

The shortlisting must be done in the initial phase of Class 12th academic session. Also, check the eligibility for scholarships and the application process. 

Prepare Documents: There are various documents that a student will need to apply in a foreign university. It includes transcripts of Class 10th and 12th, Statement of Purpose (SOP) or Essay, Letter of Recommendation and Test Scores. Additional documents like financial documents, passports etc. can be submitted after the admission has been confirmed. 

One of the documents for which students will require extra time and attention is the Statement of Purpose (SOP) or the essay. It is the document through which the student must convince the admission officer about his/ her willingness to join a specific course of study at the university. Students must start writing the SOP at least 6 to 8 months before the application deadline dates . Also, they must contact their references for a Letter of Recommendation and provide them relevant forms to be filled and submitted.

Other academic documents must be properly arranged and scanned properly to be submitted with the application. Students must keep the scorecards of tests ready to be uploaded with the application.

Apply at the University  (August to December)

August to December months of the preceding year of academics is the most important period for students planning to study abroad. It is the time period during which the applications are accepted by foreign universities. Once the basic documents are prepared, one must apply at the desired universities before the deadline. 

They must submit the application at the earliest possible and wait for the result. Pending documents like Class 12th results, scores etc. must be submitted as per the notification.

Accept the Offer: Once the admission of a student is confirmed, he/she will be notified by the university through emails. The students must ensure to accept the offer and also pay the initial tuition fee (if required) to confirm admission.

Apply for Visa

Once the final admission is confirmed, the student must apply for Visas and starts preparing for travel. They must ensure to arrange all documents that will be required for travel. One must also confirm if any health insurance is needed to visit a country and accordingly apply and buy it before travel. 

Also, students must make sure to make arrangements for accommodation either on-campus or off-campus before visiting the country.

Also Read: Things Nobody Tells You About Going from India to Study in the US

Study Abroad Plan for Admission to a Master’s Course

Applying for a master’s degree programme to foreign universities comes with an advantage. Unlike Bachelor’s programmes, you don't have to worry about a delay in applications. You can apply for a graduate programme whenever you want. While some prefer pursuing a Master’s degree programme soon after the completion of their bachelor’s studies, others go for it after a few years of experience in the professional world. 

The two most popular Master’s degrees taken up by Indian students are MS and MBA. The entrance exams required for admission to these courses are GRE and GMAT simultaneously. Apart from this, you would also have to qualify English language tests like IELTS or TOEFL.

It is highly recommended for candidates to prepare at least 18 to 24 months before the desired time of admission to a master’s degree abroad. 

Click the following links to check details of the GRE and GMAT tests:

GRE Test 

GMAT Test 

Need Help choosing the Right Course to Study Abroad ?

Apart from the entrance tests for both Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes at a foreign university, you would also be asked to submit recommendations from former teachers/professors along with a personal statement describing why you want to take up a given course.

Still have doubts about the right time to plan your higher studies abroad? Write to us at abroad@collegedekho.com and let us guide you through your admission process to foreign universities. 

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