The number of Indian students going abroad has been increasing steadily over the past decade.
The reasons are not far to seek:
- Better education infrastructure
- Updated curricula and knowledgeable faculty
- Possibility of a job after graduation
- Chance of permanent residency visa
Students and their parents are willing to go to any lengths to fulfill their dream.
The next stage is quite predictable.
They are in the clutches of nefarious education consultants who do not offer the guidance that is anticipated.
What are the pitfalls of employing study abroad consultants? We analyze why the best education consultants are not what you need to go abroad.
Who are study-abroad consultants?
The process of going abroad has three separate phases:
- The first is getting admission to a foreign university
- The second is arranging for the funds
- The third is receiving the proper visa
Each of these can be split into several smaller tasks.
In short, it is a complicated procedure with several moving parts.
Most students don’t know much about the institution where they want to pursue a degree course.
They have a vague idea that they want to go to the US and study Master’s at a good university. But ask most aspiring graduates if they have a few in mind and they would be stumped. Ask them why not a university in Canada and they would have no reply.
There is an even greater lack of knowledge about funds. Numbers get thrown around—it costs ₹40 lakhs to complete a Master’s in physics at Berkeley.
It is normal for parents to get worried and seek “professional” help from study abroad consultants. This is where things start to go wrong.
The consultants promise to help with admission, funds, and visa. In India, there is a middleman for everything under the sun. Foreign education is no different. In fact, it provides rich pickings.
If, in return, they offered correct and unbiased information, it would probably have been worth it. But that is too much to ask for.
Unlike the developed world, where one needs a license to practice almost any profession, the unchecked proliferation of fake agencies and consultants is a cause for concern.
SelectRight helps you avoid shady consultants. It is a platform that offers unbiased information and helps students make an informed choice.
Why you must avoid study abroad consultants?
Let’s examine the facts. Before you sign up with an agency, you need to know more. Know what to avoid and look for.
We shed light on the pitfalls of employing educational consultants for going abroad.
Lack of information about the institution
You would expect that a top-notch education consultant would have all possible information at their fingertips.
If you, as a parent, are willing to spend ₹50 lakhs for your child’s dream, you need to know the alternatives.
At the very least, you would like to know about the top ten institutions in the USA and five more in UK and Canada.
- What are the requirements for admission?
- What is the acceptance rate?
- TOEFL/IELTS score and SAT/GRE score required
- What are the courses they offer?
- What are the specializations?
- Scope of on-campus jobs and assistantship
- Availability of accommodation on and off campus
- How many international students study there?
But the replies you receive from study abroad consultants would be surprisingly vague. The reason being none of these agencies have first-hand interaction with any institution. That would not be a problem except that they pretend that they have.
All they are doing actually is reading a brochure someone mailed them.
Question to ask—How many students have you sent to these institutions in the past five years and can any of them be available to speak with?
Lack of information about the cost
Going abroad for studies is expensive. Most universities have scholarships and bursaries for international students, but it is limited. Often such financial aid would cover no more than 20% of the expense.
There is another factor at play. Financial aid might be available after the student begins education.
During the process of admission, proof of funds has to be shown, though all of it might never be needed.
You need an educational consultant to give you facts and figures that are reasonably accurate. There might be a slight cost overrun, but not much.
In real life, all that you would get is a ballpark figure. A vague sentence “somewhere between ₹40 and 60 lakhs”.
And also a subtle hint that if you are not willing to cough it up, many are waiting to do so.
Going abroad to study cannot mean uncertainty. For most middle-class folks, the difference between ₹40 and 60 lakhs is quite considerable.
SelectRight, on the other hand, gives accurate and firsthand knowledge.
Question to ask—Can we have an estimate that is accurate to within 10% of the cost of tuition and board?
Concealing own interest
This is the worst possible offense. Yet it happens all the time.
All foreign universities are not esteemed. They lack students, which means they lack income.
These institutions have a tie-up with education consultants from not only India but also the rest of South Asia—Bangladesh, Pakistan, etc.
They send students and get a fat commission.
The student gets easy admission to a foreign university with minimum effort. Low scores on SAT/GRE and TOEFL are overlooked.
The university earns from tutoring a foreign student at an inflated tuition fee.
Yet at the end of the day, when it comes to the job market, the degree has little or no incremental value over one in India at a fraction of the cost.
Sadly, education and noble pursuit of wisdom has been turned into this charade, but it is true.
Question to ask—Why are you recommending one university over others?
They are expensive
The last point, but not least. Education consultants would charge a hefty fee for their services.
The fee for guidance and facilitation can be upwards of a lakh.
That is indeed a lot for a suggestion about which university to study at and a few basic facts about the visa process that can be obtained using Google.
What a student has to remember is that his ability and acumen are the reasons he is going abroad. Once he knows this fact well, there is no longer any need to pay a vast agency fee. The acumen he showed to ace his exams are enough to help him fill up the visa and scholarship forms.
Question to ask—Is it a flat fee or does it vary with the school where the student gains admission?
Common education consultant scams
- They offer admission to universities that are not recognized. Ensure that the university has the seal of approval from the department of education.
- Never visit any agency that guarantees you admission or a visa. No one can guarantee admission to a good institution. The visa process is lengthy, and no one can claim to have an inside track.
- Find out if the course you are admitted to has accreditation. In India, all courses are certified by bodies such as UGC and AICTE. The same for every developed nation.
- Ask the institution through email and later video call (if possible) your queries about accreditation, tuition cost, and boarding expenses.
- Do not hesitate to ask questions about the school and the overseas education consultant on Quora and Reddit.
Find a trusted partner
The education consulting business has grown substantially. Naturally, it has invited unsavory characters who want to make a quick buck at your expense.
Nothing is easier than dangling a dream and making money.
Choose a trusted education consultant.
What to look for?
- Transparency—An authentic overseas education consultant would be equally open regardless if you want to study in US, UK, or Australia and have no preferences. In other words, they have no axe to grind.
- Complete data security and confidentiality—Data about your family income, and your test scores are private and should remain so. At no time should it be used for marketing or to reach out to you with offers.
- Customer support—They must have trained personnel available during working hours. Any attempt to avoid questions must be suspect. If you hear that your contact person is “in a meeting” more than twice, make new plans.
- Expert pool—Experts don’t depend on brochures. They have worked for years sending many students abroad. Input from them is indispensable.
- Visa guidance—You might need help with filling up the visa form quickly and correctly. The F-1 form runs into several pages. If you are confused, the education consultant should have no trouble providing an answer.
- No inflated promises—This is the biggest one to watch out for. A genuine study abroad consultant would never make you a promise. Consider it a red flag and make a hasty exit.
The SelectRight Advantage
SelectRight can help you make an informed choice. They can help you choose from 10,000 MBA, STEM, and CS courses worldwide.
You will have access to mentors who make your journey smooth. They are ex-students of these institutions and can help you with every query.
Get help with the application, scholarship essay, and every aspect of admission.