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7May2014

Post-Bachelors Degree Plans

by Originally Published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

Finished Final year Bachelors, what to do now?

It is that time of year, when I hear from many students who are finishing their final year bachelors and planning for further studies abroad. Concerns of recent graduates range from ‘I am totally confused’ to ‘I know exactly where I want to study, but I do not know what steps to take.’ I have outlined some basic steps that students should take to understand what options are available.

  1. Attend info sessions and or fairs hosted by foreign universities. These sessions are excellent, free, low-risk avenues for getting answers to basic questions. The overview sessions cover general topics like application requirements, financial aid and visa procedures. After the overview sessions, representatives are available to answer questions specific to your situation. To find out about these fairs, visit the education section of consular websites, check advertisements in the education supplement of newspapers or check online with the fair organizers, such as thembatour.com (coming to India in Sept 2014) or topmba.com (visiting cities in India throughout May 2014).
  2. Join the mailing list of the education cell of the countries where you wish to study. If you are looking at the USA, you should definitely become a member of USIEF, which hosts information sessions, offers individual meetings and houses an array of resources on study in The United States. In addition many of these organizations are active on social media – if you ‘like’ them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter, you will get all the alerts and updates about study abroad in their country.
  3. If you are a little further along in the process and you already know what and where you would like to study, you can contact faculty directly at the University.  Faculty contact information is easily available from the department website. At the Master’s or Ph.D. level your interaction with faculty is an important part of your educational experience. Reaching out to build a rapport will help you make and impression on faculty members, and also allow you to decide whether the program, which looks great on paper, will satisify you on a personal level. This is especially important with research-based, post-graduate work and less so for profession programs (i.e. MBA, Law, etc.)
  4. Get a job. Often stressed-out students blindly follow an academic path into the Master’s level because they don’t know any better – or worse, because they are terrified of actually doing a job in their field of study. Students fear that even after 3-4 years of college, they still lack practical job skills and getting a Master’s degree will fill that gap. But actually, the only way to bridge the gap between knowledge and skills is to DO something, not acquire more knowledge through studies. For students who feel unqualified or confused, the best option is to work. I have seen that students who take jobs after graduation start to think outside the box, embrace new possibilities and discovers talents they never knew they had. Even if a job in public relations does nothing more than tell you that you never want to work in the field again, you have learned something about yourself. Isn’t it better that you did that job, rather than rushing into an MA in the subject, only to figure out the same thing 2 years and several thousand dollars later? Once you have spent time on a job, even if you do not like it, you will have been exposed to new professional possibilities by working with cross functional teams and interacting with a variety of service providers and skilled professionals. If your degree in economics led you to banking, after a few years you will be more informed to choose your further studies.  You might learn you want to pursue finance, strategy, entrepreneurship, teaching or something you never imagined before.

 

Whatever you decide to do after your Bachelor’s degree, remember, this is the beginning of your professional life, not the end. Treat this as a time of self-discovery and embrace some risk. The pay off can be big if it helps you discover what you really love. When you are older and have more responsibilities, you can make practical decisions. As long as you are not an emotional or financial burden to anyone, make educational and professional choices that will give you the most options and satisfaction over the long term.

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