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Is studying abroad worth the cost?

Here are tips to help you measure the return on your investment Kavita Singh reports

education Updated: Feb 04, 2011 22:53 IST
Kavita Singh

Some of the most common questions I am asked about studying abroad revolve around cost. Is it worth it? Can I make enough money to cover the high costs?
How would you figure out if you could justify the cost of studying abroad? After making sure you can afford to go abroad, you need to try and calculate your return on investment (ROI) to see if it is worth it.

But how do you calculate your ROI? First, estimate your investment. This will include the cost of tuition, living expenses, travel expenses, any salary forgone, any interest on loans minus any scholarships or financial incentives offered. Create at least two possible scenarios — one where you get a job immediately after graduating and another where you have to wait for several months. In the second scenario, your costs could increase by as much as 5 per cent.

Calculating your return is much harder to do and it requires thorough research. You need to try and estimate your starting salary as well as your future earning potential. For the universities you are considering, ask questions such as:
. What are the average starting salaries and placement statistics for the types of jobs I am looking for?
. What are the average starting salaries and placement statistics in ‘boom’ years vs ‘recession’ years? Calculate you ROI under an optimistic scenario and a pessimistic scenario to ensure that you can justify the costs even if the economy goes south.
. Dig deep and understand what the starting salaries and placement statistics are for international students versus domestic students. Are there any differences? Why? Is it harder for international students to get jobs in a specific industry? To what extent do salaries and placement statistics for international students change in ‘boom’ vs ‘recession’ years?
. What are alumni doing five years, 10 years, 15 years after graduation?
. What are the average increases in salaries that alumni experience over five years, 10 years, 15 years? Look at the jobs/industries you are considering, not just broad averages.
. If you consider returning to India at some point, understand what your earning potential will be in your country. What have been the experiences of alumni who have returned?
. If you are considering going to a lower-tier university mainly because it costs less, then determine to what extent your ‘return’ will be affected. Make sure the type of companies you want to work with come to the campus. Find out how big the alumni base is, how active it is and whether there are alumni in the type of jobs and industries you are interested in. Alumni connections can be critical to help you land jobs that are not advertised.

And where can you get all this information?
. University websites
. University admissions office
. University careers office
. Current students
.Alumni abroad: Ask the admissions office to put you in touch with some alumni.
.Alumni in India: If there is an alumni chapter near you, contact them.

It’s not only about the numbers, though. Going to Columbia Business School was one of the best experiences of my life — I lived in New York and made friends from all over the world. Think about how valuable these intangible things are and factor them into your decision.

Kavita Singh is an MBA of Columbia Business School and holds a BA (Hons) degree from Oxford University. She has over 13 years of experience of working in the US and India and is the CEO of FutureWorks Consulting, www.futureworks.co.in, an admissions consulting firms

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