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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Now that you have taken admission to your desired program in a top university, it is time to decide on your accommodation before you fly off to study abroad. Student halls, living out and staying at home options abound and each one of these has their pros and cons.

Living on your own

You could play music as loudly as you want, keep your own hours, for you’ve left the chaperones and curfews back home with your overly protective parents. You would be forgiven for living it up king size for the first time until the novelty wears off. The first sign of independence becoming a drag are the realisations that – the dustbins do not empty themselves, drainage plugs do not self-unclog, and the fridge does not self-replicate delicious take-out food, which becomes obvious within the first month itself.

The state of affairs, with the rent being foremost

It’s true that many houses are let to students because they have clear flaws that would be intolerable to older tenants with jobs. These include, but not exclusively, leaking ceilings, running water that fluctuates in temperature, exposed wiring, nightmare neighbours and the list goes on. However, these houses should also mean that you get a better deal on rent and you must negotiate.

Check what amenities are paid for and the extras you need to shell out for

For those leaving home for the first time, halls can be a pleasant halfway house between full independence and the strict rules imposed by parents. Advantages include reliable broadband and kitchens that must comply with basic health-and-safety standards. If the apartment has a heater system that’s included in the rent, then weigh the slightly higher rent with compensation for a warm cosy nest to return to on wintry days, without the penury inducing bills. But if you do end up living out, it is crucial to keep an inviolable emergency fund, of at least three hundred dollars. Furnished or unfurnished, the laundry does not do itself so ensure that the complex has a laundromat on site or you would have to lug it to the nearest one either by car or walk. Also, be certain that there is a food place in walking distance so you can either make your own coffee or get take out. You don’t want to be stuck at home with no grounds and the nearest bistro charges 3 dollars for delivery. The caffeine goes a long way when deadlines loom.

Pick your neighbours carefully

Chances are that this will be the first time you get to choose who you live with. There are various things to bear in mind when choosing your housemates. Also, under no circumstances should you agree to live with anyone until the second term, or better still the second year. Shared habits and preferences are great where you have equally good standards in hygiene, but if both are untidy and unhygienic, it would be an unhealthy environment to live in. In other words, pick someone who you would relate to without ‘twinning’ on all parameters. Also, rooming with the roommate from Hell means picking up after him/her, while also shelling out his rent so it would be nice to ascertain gently their source of income (legal) so you know the deal squarely.

The distance between university and your home, with the nearest transit stop being a mile away

Running late on a class is a no for sure, imagine sprinting a mile like an athlete and then making it to Science 101 with a sweaty shirt and grimy face. Be certain that your apartment has easy access to all the transit stops. Find out the bus route of your university’s transit system and see if you could get a deal on an apartment in the area. Shelling out a couple of extra dollars is way better than losing out on a perfect 4 pointer, just cause you came late for the last minute extra credit quiz.

Keeping it legal, always.

Lastly, be sure to ink all agreements in the name of all roommates for equal deposits and rent liabilities, let the apartment manager know that they need to include all the utilities/amenities in the main body and list them out, fine-print won’t cut it. Also, just to be certain, ensure you have your seniors in college or the University Housing section give the rental agreement a once over and enquire whether it needs to be stamped, notarised or registered with the county office. Also, make sure that you clearly mention the due date for the rent and the absolute last date for utilities to be paid up. Few realise that delayed or non-payment of the same has an impact on the credit score, which is also reported to the university.

With this comprehensive check list in hand, you are empowered to finally explore your independence as a young varsity student.

Applying to a university abroad, especially to the United States can be a daunting task. Every year, over 800, 000 graduate applications are received on an average for seats in the American universities, mostly covering STEM disciplines, pure sciences, and the humanities. Given that the United States is a global education destination for international graduates, globally; there is intense competition among the best of students as well as students with unique distinctions and contributions in their profile. Malala Yousafzai gained an admit to the prestigious Oxford university, as much for her excellence in her ‘O’ levels, as for being the ‘torchbearer of gender parity’ for Afghan women and other people, across the globe.

Academic profile

It is a well-known fact that students, who have consistently excelled in their academic curriculum also stand a better chance to gain admits to the choicest universities abroad and in the United States. However, it would be unfair to say that schools in the U.S only want great scholars as students. In fact, there is much emphasis on excellence as an all-rounder, be it sports, music, art,

An academic profile is not limited to only the grades and scholastic performance of a student. It also speaks of the integration of the student as a vibrant and active member of the student body as a member of the college as well as a member/citizen of the civic body, citizenry etc.

This can well be demonstrated through volunteer work in NGO’s, student forums, citizen bodies etc. which amply demonstrates the independence and individual nature of the student, which is given equal weightage with the academic prowess of the student, while evaluating the application. One must ensure that when building their profile, students should pay due attention to these aspects of the application process in order to ensure a good admit. As a matter of fact, at Collegepond, we see many students with excellent overall profiles gaining acceptance to the crème de la crème universities like Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon, University of California, Berkeley, GeorgiaTech, Vanderbilt University, University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University, Virginia Tech etc. To know more on how to build your profile and gain admission to the best universities in the U.S, click here and fix a free counseling session at the nearest Collegepond office.

Credentials

Another important aspect which plays a key role in evaluating a student application is the student’s self- affirmation of his eligibility for admittance to the program, which is called the Statement of Purpose (SOP). This is read in tandem with the Letters of Recommendation (LOR) by eminent persons like professors, eminent persons in the field of science, art, culture etc., which vouchsafe the student’s profile, contributions etc.  so that he can impress the committee about the suitability of the student for the proposed program. Failure to do so or dissonance between the student’s profile and the credentials offered could well result in a limited acceptance of the application or even, a unanimous rejection. These third-party credentials play a vital role in underlining the candidature of the student and attesting the veracity of the student’s own recommendation letter or SOP.

Cultural Diversity factor

Most US universities use the “holistic review” process while evaluating college applications. This means admissions officer’s place emphasis on the applicant as a whole person, not just his or her academic achievements, so soft factors may be given just as much consideration as the empirical data present in hard factors. As has already been mentioned, the university considers its campus to provide an overall interaction which has a multi-leveled impact in terms of enrichment through stellar cultural, social, scholastic interactions that serve to educate holistically, beyond the standard education paradigm in most countries. It is for this reason that the universities in the United States offer well over twice the number of programs, in myriad disciplines, as compared to any other single country, across the globe. In fact, the American education system is uniquely built to offer a concierge service in terms of education where students learn only what they would be interested in, thereby offering course flexibility as well as diversity in the curriculum.

Admissions officers want to get to know students and admit those applicants who they think will excel at the institution and make a positive impact on the campus community. The holistic review approach benefits applicants who may have not had the best academic marks, but can contribute to the college community in other ways.

For further information on how Collegepond can help you gain admission to the University of your dreams, visit any of our nearest offices across India, for a free counseling session.

The advent of the Information Age at the start of the millennium has seen the West become a hub for technology, with a focus on developing acute capabilities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). This jumpstart has given the West an edge that other countries are yet to catch up with, naturally leading to advanced education systems and pedagogy in various universities.

Another reason is the quality of research and peer review that lends credibility to the development work carried out in universities, through funding from strategic think-tanks as well as government. Also, a student with a degree from an accredited foreign university fares better, in terms of remuneration, corporate placement, work skills and has been historically known to have better employability values; as the university education in the West, focuses on the practical application of theories. At the end of the day, a degree must be monetised with excellent returns.

Every admission cycle, there’s an inevitable rush for students to gain admits to the university programs of their choice. The business of profile building resumes, Letters of Recommendation, Statement of Purpose, all carefully collated and sent with each application as per the university mandate. If the time for sowing is the application season, then quick on the heels, comes the harvest; a multiplicity of admits for the students who have diligently cast his/her net wide, to seek entry into the best programs in their chosen discipline. Jubilation aside, a student is faced with the most important choice of all – which admit will be his/her ticket to his or her dream job.

When deciding between multiple admits, one must keep the following in mind –

  • The type of program offered based on curriculum design – Whether research or class-based – does it lead to the development of an employable skill set, which will be covered by a potential employer.
  • The Brand name of the university – Checking the student reviews of the university, is a great way to gauge the ground reality, on-campus, be it professors, classes, facilities etc.
  • Recall value with the alumni network – to gain entry in distinguished companies, it always helps to build rapport with the top person, especially if he is an alumnus of the school you graduated from.
  • Internship and Full-time Job Opportunities: Every university website has this information put up and accessible by prospective students. One can avail a list of companies visiting the university’s career fairs and also a list of companies which have hired students from the concerned university.
  • The research projects and laboratory facilities: If there are good research projects on, it means the department has sufficient amount of funding. One will have the opportunity to get hands-on research experience, gauge and enhance one’s ability to apply your knowledge practically and also earn you a research assistantship.
  • Scholarships on offer – If the university has given a scholarship/tuition waiver with the promise of more to come, then that university must be on top of one’s pile. Remember, if they are hospitable and willing to work with you, you have it made.
  • Weather, amenities – Aside from weather that you can handle, a student ought to factor in their ability to find grocery, indigenous foods as per the home country, as per the comfort.
  • The living conditions of the city/township of the University – It is important to check the crime rate, hate crimes, immigrant shoot-outs etc., to ensure that you are going to a place which will support your safety.

Once you have factored in the above, in the order stated, you would be in a better position to pick the admit of your choice. The fact is your educational experience will be with you for life, not only as a life experience but also, it makes you a part of a larger group of people who will share your allegiance to your alma mater. These people would be authorities in their own right, in verticals ranging from business to politics and the fact that you would share a single trait/commonality with them, depending on your choice of university, is enough to give a student pause for consideration in making the right selection.

Having said so, a happy freshman year to you!

The UK is a hub for pursuing higher education and is renowned for its high standards of academic excellence. Students in the United Kingdom are encouraged to develop themselves to the best of their potential as well as enjoy a social life.   The UK is known all over the world for its history of warmth and welcomes to international students. Last year alone, Britain had over 1.5 million full-time undergraduate students in higher education, which also included over 104,000 international students.

For student visa in the UK, the visa requirements and general immigration criteria are handled by UK Visas and Immigration.  If you are over 18 years of age and are planning on studying a short course in the UK, you may be eligible for the short-term study visa. The short-term study visa is valid for up to six months for most of the short courses, which can be extended for a stay of up to 11 months for a course that is in the English language. If you are planning on studying a longer course, you will have to make sure that the institution that you have chosen comes under the Tier 4 Student Visa category.

Visa can be applied three months before the course begins. The average visa processing time should be checked for your country so that you have plenty of time.

Student visas for the UK are awarded on a points-based system. To meet all the UK student visa requirements, you will need to provide:

  • Passport details
  • A recent photograph
  • Provide proof of an unconditional offer to you on a course that is offered by a licensed Tier 4 Sponsor and evidenced by a ‘Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies’ (CAS) form from the institution providing your course (worth 30 points)
  • Provide proof of adequate English language skills that can be demonstrated by passing one of the secure English language tests (SELT). If you belong to an English-speaking country such as the United States or if you have completed a qualification that is equivalent to a UK degree in an English-speaking country, you will not need to provide any SELT results.
  • Proof of your financial support throughout your stay in the UK (worth 10 points)

Bank statements or a letter from your financial sponsor can be presented as financial proof, which proves that you can cover your tuition fees, your accommodation and living costs. You have to prove that you have £1,015 (~US$1,230) per month for living costs if you are studying in the UK, outside of London and if you are studying in London then your living costs £1,265 (~US$1,540) a month.

You need to present documents that show your academic qualifications. You might also need to attend an interview or a biometric test, which typically includes a digital scan of your fingerprints. Besides this, you may have to take certain vaccinations or undertake a tuberculosis test, depending on which country you belong to or you are currently living in.

If you are 16 or 17 years of age and are applying for the Tier 4 (General) student visa, it is necessary for you to have a written consent from your parents/guardians stating that you can live and travel independently.

You can apply online for the Tier 4 (General) Student visa. You also have the option to apply up to three months before your course commences.

As of now, the fee for the Tier 4 (General) student visa is said to be £328 (~US$400), with an additional fee of £328 per person if there are any dependents. You will also be needed to pay a healthcare surcharge of £150 per year (~US$180) in order to access the National Health Service (NHS) for the duration of your stay.

The Short Term Study Visa costs £89 (~US$110) for the six-month option and £170 (~US$210) for the 11-month visa.

On entering the UK, a UK Border Agency officer will be putting a stamp on your passport that states the period of your stay in the UK. For example, if the duration of your course is 12 months or more, you will be permitted to stay for the entire duration of your course along with an additional four months, but you will not be allowed to extend your stay beyond this period.

Moreover, before your arrival in the UK, you have to make sure that you are fully immunized, remembering to pack your immunization record in your hand luggage in case you are asked to show it to the Border Agency officer at your UK port of entry. You must also make sure that you are carrying the documents that are related to your studies (including your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies or CAS number), a proof of your finances and a proof of your accommodation.

Furthermore, you may also be required to register with the police within the first seven days of your arrival in the country depending on where you come from.

All students coming from EU, EEA and Swiss are allowed to work while studying in the UK, although students coming from Croatia might need to gain authorization. Students that belong to publically funded higher education institutions on Tier 4 student visas are permitted to work for up to 20 hours per week during the time their term is going on and can work full-time during Christmas and Easter breaks (unless you are 16 or 17 years of age, in which case the maximum is 10 hours per week during your term time).

Contact our expert counsellors at Collegepond Counsellors Pvt. Ltd. for a more comprehensive information on applying for a UK student visa.

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