Facing The Challenge: Studying Abroad In Times Of COVID 19

6 min read

Covid-19 is the topic of conversation no matter where you turn. Newspapers, television, the internet, and even telephone conversations are presided over by this omnipresent disease. From homeopathic cures to conspiracy theories about biological weaponry, we’ve probably heard it all. But the thread that binds together everything related to coronavirus is uncertainty. This disease has turned us all into a world of Jon Snows. The only thing we know for sure, is that we know nothing. Given the whirlwind of speculation, the all-important college question has become more confusing than ever before. Students at every stage of the application process are going to be impacted and I’m going to try to address the problems faced by each category.

For Those Whose Plans of Studying Abroad are in Jeopardy:

This disease is going to have longer term financial repercussions, to the extent that studying abroad will no longer be possible for some. It’s heartbreaking, but not the end of the road. For those who fall under this category, and were dreaming of exploring their interests through the US’s unique liberal arts curriculum, India now has answers in the form of Ashoka, FLAME, KREA and Symbiosis Liberal Arts etc. These are great alternatives for students who want the breadth of knowledge that this kind of curriculum offers. For those who were looking to study abroad in a specialised school, taking advantage of India’s differentiated streams and then going abroad for your postgraduate studies is a great option. A third option is to adjust your expectations and apply to universities that offer financial aid or merit scholarships you will be eligible for. Scholarshipportal and edupass.org are excellent resources to navigate the international student scholarship landscape.

For Those Applying in the Next Two Years

While college admissions have never been completely transparent, the admission process and timeline for the next two years is going to be even more unpredictable. With SATs, ACTs and school exams getting derailed and no solution in sight yet, the comparison criteria among students have reduced drastically. Many colleges have made standardised tests optional for the upcoming year but that still doesn’t answer the question of how the students are going to be compared with such little data. The importance of individual, independent effort towards the area of interest will matter even more than it used to, as will essays and available high school grades. I know it seems unfair and it probably even is, but to put yourself in their shoes, even colleges are taken aback by this situation. This just means that using this lockdown period to work on yourself becomes even more imperative, if not for the sake of self-satisfaction, then at least for the tangible goal of a college acceptance.

For Those With Acceptances or Conditional Offers for This Year

I’m sure we all felt a pang of envy every time we heard someone got into a top tier school, but now these same students are in the stickiest situation. For unconditional offer holders, the dilemma is whether or not to accept their acceptances. Virtual classrooms will probably be the reality of this year’s freshman class initially. This remote experience, of course, is not even remotely similar. Along with that, you have to take into consideration the tuition fees for receiving the opportunity of only dipping your toes instead of the deep-sea dive you’d been dreaming about all those long nights of editing your essays. If you are feeling unhappy about starting your college experience this way, get in touch with your university’s admissions team sooner rather than later. Request them to allow you a deferral until at least the next semester before too many people do. For those who received conditional offers or applied to countries like Singapore where acceptance itself is largely based on the all-important board exam results, stress levels must be skyrocketing. It’s completely understandable, and I wish I had a better answer but to wait it out. The colleges HAVE to adapt to this new normal and will not hang you out to dry. In this case, you are not unique since pretty much everyone is in the same situation. Definitely try to stay in touch with admissions officers though, and look out for updates on university websites.

There are still many resources for you to get a feel of different colleges no matter which category of students you fall under. Many colleges have started to offer virtual tours of their campuses to compensate for missed college visits. Many have set up groups online where you can meet and interact with current students virtually, to get a better sense of the community and day-to-day life. Unigo is a student opinion-based forum, which can be helpful for understanding the real pros and cons of the university. Another platform is Collegeweeklive, which has live video chats with admissions officers and students for you to ask your questions. Coursera is an excellent resource to take a class at a university you’re considering. It will give you an insight into the professors and how courses as well as assignments are structured. Please use these resources, and now that you’re at home with nowhere to go and no friends to meet, you have no excuses left not to!

These are definitely confusing times, there’s no denying that. Even as someone professionally in the field of college applications, I have to agree that the situation is unprecedented. The best advice I can give you is to not take any decisions in panic-mode. Where you go to college will have an even longer term impact on your development than Covid-19 will have on the world. Colleges will never force you to travel to their campuses until they’re sure it’s safe to do so. It may be wise though, to apply domestically as a back-up option because at the end of the day, you and your family need to feel comfortable about your safety. If you are going to apply in the next year or so, don’t stop your preparations. The best you can do is try to be a step ahead. The colleges are definitely working on practical solutions as well, and answers will be forthcoming. The world as we know it is not the same, so everyone is going to need a little time to adapt.

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