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?
So, how can you figure out if you can justify the cost of studying abroad? After making sure you can afford to go abroad, you need to try to calculate your return on investment (ROI) to see if it is worth it.
So,what do you need to do to 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. Be sure to create at least 2 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%.
Calculating your return is much harder to do and requires you to do your research thoroughly. You need to try to 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?. Don’t just look at overall averages.
- 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 vs. domestic students. Are there 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 5 years, 10 years, 15 years after graduation?What are the average salaries increases alumni experience over 5 years, 10 years, 15 years? Look at the jobs/industries you are considering, not just broad averages.
- If you are considering coming back to India at some point, understand what your earning potential will be in India? What have retuning alumni experienced
- 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 campus. Find out how big the alumni base is, how active is it 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 or don’t come to campus.
And where can you get all this information?
o University Websites
o University Admissions Office
o University Careers Office
o Current students
o Alumni Abroad: You can ask the Admissions Office to put you in touch with some alumni.
o 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 got to live in New York and made lifelong friends from all over the world. Think about how valuable these intangible things are to you and factor them in when you are making your decision.
Kavita Singh is an MBA graduate of Columbia Business School and holds a BA (Hons) from Oxford University. She has over 13 years of experience working in the U.S. and India and is the CEO of FutureWorks Consulting an admissions consulting firm.