5 Reasons to Attend Graduate School Abroad (+ Admissions Timeline)

After completing your undergraduate degree, you might feel like school is over and you need to get right into the working world. Or, you might be actively considering graduate school as an option to learn more and specialize in your field. 

This article is useful if:

  •  You’re someone who completed your undergraduate degree back home and are looking to pursue your graduate education abroad, or

  • You studied abroad as an undergraduate and plan to return abroad to pursue your graduate education

Today’s young adults are much better educated than their previous generations. The share of young adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher has steadily climbed since 1968: According to research by the Pew Research Center in 2019, an estimated 39% of Millennials (those ages 25 to 37) have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The recent trends in higher education indicate that, sooner or later, most people will try to get their advanced degree, either back home or abroad. 

If you’re interested in a graduate education and are looking for where to attend, consider putting studying abroad on the table. Research conducted by the Institute of International Education in 2017 indicated that studying abroad for a longer period of time has a high impact on increasing one’s chances for multiple employment offers and career advancement in the workforce. 

Let’s look at some reasons why. 

Why pursue your graduate education abroad?

1. To develop and expand international career opportunities

Pursuing a graduate degree enables you to strengthen your professional network. Depending on your program, you’ll have practicals, rotations, or internships in your country of study, all of which provides you the chance to network there. For example, the University of Bergen in Norway requires their Global Health master’s degree students to complete an internship in Norway for one semester, enabling their graduates to start building their professional networks while still in school. This can give you a head start on building your career or having a mentor who can support you in your professional journey. Your classes will also have guest faculty members and visiting lecturers from a broad range of disciplines who can teach you more about your field in a global context.

Additionally, compared to the relatively homogenous culture of U.S. higher education, your classmates will be from around the world. Your peers will expose you to very diverse global and political viewpoints. How much more dynamic will the moment be when discussing political systems in a class that contains students from Turkey, Austria, and the United States? The exposure gained from these situations will give you an advantage when working in an ever-growing global work environment.

2. To gain exposure to a new study environment, learning and teaching methods while gaining new perspectives from academics of different backgrounds

Every culture has a different take on what it means to get an education. Adapting to a different learning environment is an excellent experience to broaden your mind and break out of your comfort zone. What better way to broaden your knowledge than to gain ideas shaped by unique international perspectives you might have not considered or be exposed to? 

Plus, the best universities for you might not be located where you live. While abroad, you’ll get to study at institutions that have an excellent reputation and top-notch educational opportunities. For example, the opportunity to pursue your graduate education in a location that is well known as the leading global hub in your field of interest will enable you to have the chance to learn from renowned experts and guest speakers while maybe gaining some impressive work experience. These unique new viewpoints can provide a distinctive  educational experience that makes you competitive and marketable in the global job market.

3. To gain international work experience and boost your resume

In today’s highly competitive and globalized world, international work and study experience can help you get noticed in international job markets. That said, it can be challenging to secure work visas and employment abroad without being in the country or with minimal contact with the job sector abroad. Studying abroad as an international graduate student would offer you a path toward seeking employment opportunities in your host country upon graduation. 

Generally, as an international student, you are required  to apply for a student visa, and most student visas allow international students to stay after graduation to seek employment and work for a certain period of time. For example, international students can apply to live and work in the UK for up to two years after graduating with the Graduate Route visa. 

4. To develop your cultural awareness and sensitivity 

The decision to pursue your graduate education abroad is a big one; it means being open to new challenges and learning how to navigate a new culture by trial and error. You’ll likely develop a new sense of independence. When you’re abroad, a simple task like figuring out how to secure housing can be challenging compared to figuring it out back home. When you live in an unfamiliar community, you learn to develop your cultural understanding by adapting and learning more about the community you’re in. An in-depth knowledge of culturally specific characteristics of your host country can equip you with background knowledge and a better understanding of international politics, and socio-demographic and economic trends.

5. To enhance and improve your language and communication skills

Studying somewhere that speaks a different language from your home country can give you an added advantage when it comes to developing your language skills—making you that much more competitive in the job sector. If you opt for an English-taught degree in a non-English speaking country like France, Czech Republic, or Germany, you’ll have the option to learn a new language. If you’re preparing for an English-taught course, you’ll need to prove your English language proficiency. This process will help you strengthen your skills in English, helping to develop your English knowledge to an advanced level.

You’ve decided to go to graduate school abroad. What should you do next?

In most countries, the technical work when it comes to  applying to graduate school happens during the fall semester (August to December). Some schools might have a different intake period and deadlines. Before you begin working on your application timeline, make sure you check in with each of the institutions you plan on applying to, to see when you’ll be enrolling and when your application deadline is. That way, you can alter the timeline below to fit the deadline for the programs you’ll be applying to. That said, you’re expected to begin your research process much earlier. Graduate school applications take a lot of time, but when you work within the application timeline, you can ease the burden and stress of applying. 

You can also refer to this article, which guides you on how to develop a great university list when applying outside the U.S..

International Graduate School Admissions Timeline:

12 months out (December)

  • Create a spreadsheet for all the must-haves you’re looking for in an ideal graduate school program.

  • Do an outline search for all the graduate programs in your intended field of study.

  • Expand your spreadsheet as you go; add more criteria and refine your school list.

  • Identify any professors from specific programs you’d be interested in working with or learning from in your field of choice.

9 months out (March)

  • Determine whether any exams are required by your institution or program. You can also begin preparing for tests required as part of your application.

  • Check to see whether you meet the application requirement for the program you’ll be applying to.

  • Secure documentation like transcripts from your prior universities required by your graduate programs.

  • Explore the updated course curriculum for the programs of your choice to ensure your undergraduate education has prepared you for this course. If not, you can take some bridging courses back home before you begin your graduate course abroad.

6 months out (June)

  • Register for and take any specific exams required by your program. Most universities will ask you for some form of English proficiency test by default unless you completed your undergraduate studies in a country/program where English is the first language.

  • Start reaching out to your contacts to see who can be a potential recommender.

  • Begin your draft for your motivation letter. Generally, these letters are program-specific and designed to tell the universities more about your intentions to pursue a specific course at that particular university.

4 months out (August)

  • Prepare a shortlist for your graduate schools. After spending months researching different programs, you’ll have a good idea of programs that are the right fit for you. Having a shortlist would make it easier for you to go through the application cycle moving forward.

  • Remember that there’s no limit to how many graduate schools around the globe you can apply to. That said, certain universities will limit you to only applying to one or two programs. Keep in mind that you would need to craft each motivation letter specific to the program you’ve selected. Try to allocate time to ensure that you can produce quality applications that best represent your skills/talents/qualities.

  • Continue with thorough research before the application season so it’ll be easier for you to apply to more graduate schools.

  • Make sure you have all the documentation needed for the program you’ll be applying to. 

  • Prepare your undergraduate transcripts now. Request your transcripts from your undergraduate institution. You’ll need to check with admission officials at the graduate school you plan on applying to on how they’d like your prior transcripts to be delivered to them. (This requirement can vary depending on where you completed your undergraduate degree.)

  • Continue working on your motivation letter and try to complete it before you begin filing out your graduate application. 

2 months out (October)

  • Begin filling out your graduate school applications now. Try to set aside time every day to work on this. This way, you can regularly chip away at the application and avoid feeling rushed or overwhelmed. This may also help to prevent mistakes.

  • Revise the drafts of your motivation letters at this point. This way, you have all your components for each application complete as you go.

  • Follow up with your recommenders to see whether they have everything they need and are ready to submit their letters/forms.

  • Make sure your graduate schools have received your transcripts.

1 month out (November)

  • This is the final push. Fine-tune your applications. Go over each of the sections to be sure you’ve filled out all the answers accurately. Check for any mistakes when filling out your applications.

  • Have your final draft of your personal statements ready, and proofread them thoroughly. Try to get someone else to help you proofread them too. 

  • Work on submitting all your applications accordingly. Prepare your application fees and make sure you have the money to cover them all (a declined payment might cause you to miss a deadline).

  • Enjoy the unique sensation of accomplishment of finally sending everything in. Wait until you hear back from the universities, which will be around March/April of the following year.

This timeline is meant to provide you with guidance on how you can begin the graduate school research process and submit your application(s) ahead of the deadline(s). Different schools and programs can have different deadlines. Please make sure that you’re keeping track of all of them in your spreadsheet. 

This timeline can also give you the chance to be ready to submit your graduate school application before your deadlines. The extra time you have before your deadline will be useful if you need to follow up on your materials or resubmit anything if something goes wrong. The ultimate goal is to get you prepared and to avoid making mistakes ahead of time so you can focus on preparing for your graduate school plan once you hear back from your schools of choice.

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