How will Covid crisis affect Indian students going to the US?

Johns Hopkins University

Covid travel bans don’t seem to have dampened enthusiasm for their favorite study destination.

Covid-19 pandemic sweeping the world may have upended the education sector with countries like the US and UK banning travel from India, hit by a devastating second wave.

But it does not seem to have dampened Indian students’ enthusiasm to study in the US though new travel restrictions have forced many students to look at online education as an option.

“As of March 1 this year, Indian students applied to 9% more colleges in the US, according to data from Common Application,” notes Adarsh Khandelwal, co founder, Collegify, a Delhi based College consulting firm for Study abroad.

“That means increased competition for the coveted Ivy League colleges and other top institutes as well.”

Delhi based Amol Kumar a student preparing for studying abroad got acceptances from Columbia, Wisconsin, Illinois, Waterloo, Georgia Tech, UCSD, Maryland, and Upenn. He believes his GRE score of 340 played a significant role in his acceptances.

READ: Students, academics exempt from US travel ban from India (May 3, 2021)

But hundreds of students with F1 visa stuck in India amid an uncertain Covid situation and the new ban on travel to the US, wonder how the pandemic will affect their preparation for studying abroad.

“Students preparing to study abroad now need to also understand the changes occurring in exam patterns,” says Khandelwal. “You need clarity and perseverance to cope with such challenges. Like SAT patterns or studying math.”

Once it is proven that quality degrees can be taught online successfully, this will raise bigger questions for the future of student finance, he says.

More students may consider traditional courses – known for higher fees – versus fully online options or short courses, which may prove more cost-effective.

Khandelwal says that the methodology of Indian students prepping to study abroad may also need a bit of overhaul with things moving online.

READ: US restricts travel from India; H-1B, L1 holders most affected (April 30, 2021)

For instance, students from South Korea and Singapore first work through a dependable online diagnostic test followed by self-study and 2-3 weeks of self-driven problem solving. Only after this initial familiarization with the tests do they look for test preparation programs.

By this time they already have a nascent understanding of which test they want to go for (ACT or SAT? GRE or GMAT? Which AP tests?) and the work required for each test (Math or Verbal etc.).

On the other hand, for Indian students the approach is usually one size fits all, says Khandelwal. Students rarely explore test structure and options on their own before looking out for tutoring. In fact, once tutoring has started, the student tends to play no active role in the process.

This is, however, a mistake, he says. The student learns to depend on the tutor without developing the ability to analyze and monitor her own performance. This often spells trouble on test day.

READ: Indian Americans concerned about travel to Covid hit India (April 26, 2021)

Mock tests or diagnostic tests are just as crucial for tests such as the ACT and the SAT, says Khandelwal.

Siddhant, who has recently received a Fulbright scholarship and will pursue computer science at NYU, explained his journey to an SAT Score of 1550.

“Mock tests are really important to benchmark your performance. But it’s crucial to analyze where you are going wrong.” he says.

Siddhanth credits his SAT success to structured practice, 15 mock tests, hours of test and practice review, helped along by the detailed analytics.

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