Indian students comprise some of the biggest populations in overseas universities. With so many Indian students from all backgrounds travelling abroad to study every year, there is a special case to be made for Indian minority students to study abroad.
My conversation with an Admissions Officer from an Ivy League University revealed how universities evaluate students based solely on their strengths, and have no prejudices whatsoever against minorities. “We are socially agnostic and do not make admission decisions based on the socio-economic status of the applicant…We are always on the lookout for strong candidates that are a right fit for the school and programme, regardless of race, colour, gender, religion, disability, etc.” This attitude levels the playing field for minority students.
Here are my top 5 reasons why more minority students should study abroad:
Universities outside of India tend to be a melting pot of different cultures. Top classrooms boast students from over 100 countries across the globe, and also include students from a broad range of backgrounds, including renowned musicians, prominent actors, Olympic winners, and members of the armed forces. Minority students interact and learn from individuals from all walks of life, and experience how their own varied background also provides valued viewpoints to the classroom. This diversity and exposure allows them to embrace their individuality, rather than shun it as a stigma.
Increasing the under-represented minority base in foreign college programmes also has a direct and positive impact in the classroom. For the cohort, learning in a diverse setting teaches you how to think outside the box, and exposes you to a wide range of ideas and points of view. Minority students, due to their distinct upbringing, provide varied perspectives and solutions to a problem. The cultural diversity provides for great learning, as each discussion, exercise or activity on campus exposes students to multiple viewpoints and teaches them to respect an alternate point of view. Growing minority representation in the programme will add to everyone’s educational experience.
India provides a number of scholarships, financial aid, and loan options specifically targeting minority candidates, hoping to ease some of the barriers to entry they may be facing. For example, there is the Padho Pardesh interest subsidy scheme launched by the Central Government. Under this scheme, students who belong to a minority community are eligible for 100 % interest subsidy on an education loan.
In 2015, the Government of Telangana introduced the “Overseas Study Scheme for Minorities” for the benefit of the students belonging to the minority community. Financial Assistance will be sanctioned to 500 minority students/graduates per year to pursue Post Graduate/Doctoral studies abroad as per the guidelines.
Diversity has a positive impact on the workplace as it increases competitiveness of corporations in the global market. Employers value students who can think critically and also have an international perspective. For minority students looking to return to India, their education abroad places them at an advantage in the domestic job market. For example, students will have a strong professional network available in almost every corner of the world, which can significantly distinguish them from their peer group. The connections made during college years have the potential of being their life-long friends, as well as future business partners, co-founders, investors, clients, vendors, mentors, and so much more.
Colleges abroad look at strong grades and test results, but they are also seek an attribute, skill, or experience that sets a student apart from the others. A student who represents cultural diversity will have that advantage.
The colleges will keep the context of a student’s school and background in mind when evaluating them. Thus, the admissions team will favour stories that highlight adversity or positive growth despite challenges. However, it’s important to note that they do not compromise on their admission requirements. Regardless of minority status, you still need to crack the rigorous admission process and demonstrate why you are the best fit for the school and the programme.
Pave the Path
A number of Indian graduates from universities abroad have returned home and utilized their education and experiences. They have made the most of the opportunities in India and left an indelible mark in their field of choice.
When studying abroad, interactions with a broad range of individuals provides minority students with a different perspective on their status. You come to the realization that the world is flat, and your background does not need to provide any hindrance. As a minority student, you can share your perspective and learning with your community, and help pave the path forward.
Education is the ultimate social equalizer; it provides students with the means and platform to explore options and succeed in any arena. A degree from a top college abroad can instantaneously offset any societal inequalities as long as one is determined. There, only you can impose ‘minor’ limits on yourself.
About the author: Vibha Kagzi is the Founder and Chief Education Officer at ReachIvy.com.
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