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Coronavirus impacts overseas undergrad plans, PG courses remain unaffected

Among undergraduate programs, overseas applicants are also mulling change of destinations from Asian, European and American colleges to relatively lesser impacted regions

Vinay Umarji & Samreen Ahmad  |  Ahmedabad 

coronavirus
Passengers wear suits and face masks to protect against the coronavirus as they arrive at the Hong Kong airport. Photo: AP/PTI

The impact of on applications has been a mixed bag so far. While applications for overseas undergraduate programs have fallen by 40-50 per cent, there has been no impact among those applying for post graduate programs, especially MBA.

Among undergraduate programs, overseas applicants are also mulling change of destinations from Asian, European and American colleges to relatively lesser impacted regions to Caribbean and African colleges.

For instance, consulting firm ESS Global has seen a 50 per cent fall in walk-in enquiries from candidates looking to study abroad or whom the firm has been counselling across its office worldwide. On the other hand, in terms of those applying for undergraduate medical programs, there has been a shift in choice of destination from Spain to Caribbean islands, says ESS Global director Rohit Sethi.

"In the last one week or so, we have seen a drastic fall in walk-ins. Apart from impact on enquiries, the outbreak has led to students change destination. For instance, while so far Spain was a popular destination for medical programs among students, they are now looking at Caribbean islands which offer same course at same fees. On the other hand, physical students are choosing Australia over Spain," says Sethi.

With February-March witnessing the third and last round of applications, most of the admission process has been over. However, with the rupee depreciating further, overseas applicants have seen a 4-5 per cent impact in their fees which tends to get paid around this time of the year.

"On one hand if the outbreak and lockdowns prolong, the joining dates which is usually August-September could move to November-December this year. In addition, the rupee depreciation has meant that an average two year fees of $100,000 which used to cost Rs 72 lakhs in February now costs Rs 75 lakhs. And since, February-March tends to be the time when most of the fee payments and loan disbursals take place, this could affect students' or their parents' finances," says Arun Jagannathan, Founder and CEO of prominent service provider, CrackVerbal.

Unlike undergraduate students where parents are usually committed to funding 3-4 years of overseas education, Jagannathan believes the rupee depreciation may have more impact on post-graduate students who are now exploring domestic programs as well.

However, when it comes to international MBA programs, the scenario is slightly different.

MBA admission consultant firm Admit Square has not seen any impact among post graduate students, says founder and senior consultant Prashant Tibrewal. "Some of the international MBA schools have announced online welcome weekend and may even do first month of studies online. However, students are worried that they didn't really pay for an online program and so it doesn't end up becoming an online MBA for whole tenure. Moreover, some of the candidates had to quit their jobs to join these international MBA programs," he says.

Among MBA applicants, most of them have completed the process for good B-schools including Ivy League in February and hence, there are no immediate decline in applications. "For international MBA programs, March is usually the third or last round of applications where very few students apply so that may have declined a bit. But some did change their minds in terms of destinations where those looking to apply for Hong Kong, Singapore and Chinese B-schools would rather apply to safer European or American schools or apply next year if they are keen on studying in Asia," Tibrewal adds.

Education and career advisory firm ReachIvy.com that assists students get admission in colleges like MIT, Columbia, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, London School of Economics, and University of Michigan has also not seen any downside impact on its business due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

"Our entire operation runs on the cloud and student sessions are in any case done on Skype or on a call, hence it is business as usual at ReachIvy.com. In fact, we are getting more session requests from students across the world as they are at home and want to make the most of their time and work on their future goals. Any students applying now aren’t panicking as they start college only in September 2020 or January 2021," said Vibha Kagzi, CEO of ReachIvy.com.

Meanwhile, other overseas education providers like Yocket have stepped forward to provide free consulting to impacted candidates. "We have seen panic among students looking to study abroad. Many of the students were in the middle of their applications for the Fall 2020 season which would start in Sept 2020. If the students aren't able to complete their process they would end up wasting a year. We don't want that to happen. Even if the term starts online or a bit late, they would need to be prepared. We want to be sure that students don't waste this time in panic," said Sumeet Jain, Co-founder, Yocket.

Having registered over 350,000 students, tied-up with 100+ international universities (US, Canada, UK & Hong Kong), the Mumbai based edtech startup is providing services including GRE to shortlisting to VISA applications to a soft landing and also helping candidates with loans, forex and accommodation.

The company has also conducted a survey with the students where it has found that 69.9 per cent who have initiated the process want to go ahead with preparation and wanted to get funds ready while around 19.48 per cent students said it is too early to decide, with nine per cent wishing to defer admissions and one per cent wanting to go ahead with studies in India.

First Published: Mon, March 23 2020. 20:31 IST