Gaining an international education is a good idea for various reasons. As noted in our previous blog post, and as mentioned in a recent study by the British Council, research has consistently shown that students who undertake a period of overseas study are more likely to achieve higher grades, gain relevant and timely employment and earn higher salaries. However, prospective international students have to overcome a wide range of hurdles before they reach their goal of getting accepted to a suitable university program abroad.
Applying to a university program abroad is not easyIndeed, applying to a university program abroad is a daunting task, that requires not only good grades, but also skillful and strategic decision-making, such as targeting schools and programs, preparing an effective application package, planning course load, securing funding, preparing for arrival and adjusting to a new culture and language.
According to a recent study there is a growing drive and ambition among UK and US students to study abroad. However, only 24% of UK students in the study felt they had sufficient information to make an informed decision about studying abroad, 30% felt they had to work hard to find the information they needed and 24% felt they did not have enough information to make an informed decision. Similarly, just 22% of US students felt they had sufficient information to make an informed decision about studying overseas.
According to another study, 33% of international students studying in Canada reported that communicating and receiving information about the institution they wished to apply to was a problem or a major problem, 25% reported that getting course credits from their home institution acknowledged was somewhat of a problem, 30% reported difficulties in obtaining a study permit, and 20% had problems arranging an interview with an immigration officer to obtain a study permit. Similar results have been found in multiple studies.
To sum it up, applying to universities abroad is similar to jumping of a cliff and hope for the best.
Educational agents: not the answer to the problem
Based on these disturbing statistics, there seems that at the moment there are no services that can adequately help prospective international students and their families in the international education process.
It is becoming increasingly common for prospective international students to get help from professional agents when applying to universities abroad. These agents are often paid by universities. However, students have reported difficulties using agents, such as agents trying to steer the applicant away from schools that have complex admissions requirements, charging exorbitant fees but providing little more than advice, or pushing schools that the applicant was not happy with.
Universities on their hand have reported problems using agents. Forged documentation is rife; one study found that 20% of Australian student visa applications made via agents include forged documents. Universities also feel that agents often lack the knowledge of relevant higher education programs, and often have language and cultural barriers. The outcome is often that universities recruit international students that are not well prepared or do not fit the school, and universities are often compelled to spend additional resources to help international student graduate successfully.
So while there may not be any current solutions, I encourage all of you out there that have or are in the process of applying to universities abroad to share your experiences by answering the following question: what was the best advice you ever got in your international education process?
And please share this post with your friends who also have international education application experiences, maybe they also have a good advice to share. Together we can begin to solve the current problem of a lack of advisory services for people seeking to get into a university program abroad.