As the pandemic continues, let’s take a look at how it’s affecting student visas and scholarships for students looking to study outside their home countries.

by KC Raj – Career Counselor, KCR Consultants

The pandemic has been a nightmare for everyone, including (and maybe especially) international students. Did COVID-19 destroy your study abroad plans? Don’t worry, because you’re not alone. Several countries—including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada—have put restrictions on student visas and aren’t allowing people in from other countries, and many other nations have suspended outgoing international flights. As a result, many students who wished to study abroad have postponed their foreign education plans for the time being.

According to a Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) survey, nearly one-third of international university applicants have suffered because of the pandemic. Interestingly, the primary reason for a delay in admission isn’t the fear of traveling to a foreign country during COVID-19. Instead, almost 33% of students surveyed said that their studies had been postponed due to delays in visa applications and processing. As a prospective international university student, should you be worried about this? The answer is no—but let us tell you why.

How COVID-19 has affected international education plans

International students haven’t abandoned their idea of studying abroad. Even during a pandemic, these students were persistent with their applications to their dream colleges. For example, Indian applicants to US universities dropped only 4% in fall 2020. And despite the extreme situation, 61% of students in the previously mentioned survey are still optimistic that they might be able to start their international studies in 2021. There’s still hope that visa applications will be processed soon, with the US Department of State currently working on a backlog of visa applicants waiting for an interview. International students are looking forward to joining their colleges very soon with recent vaccine rollouts and travel restriction lifts. But if there’s been a delay in your visa application and you’re unable to attend classes physically, don’t let it get you down. There are thousands of others like you who are waiting to go abroad, and many universities are conducting online classes to ensure students don’t miss out on their studies. 

Related: How COVID–19 Is Affecting International Students 

How international scholarships have been impacted

A lot of people around the world have lost their livelihoods due to the pandemic, which has resulted in a financial crisis for hundreds of thousands. Studying at a foreign university during the pandemic and paying a large amount of fees is likely even more challenging than ever before. Many universities had no other option but to commence online classes, and many students—both domestic and international—feel that paying hefty tuition fees for online classes just isn’t worth it. Furthermore, plenty of students who opted for online instruction are still unclear about their status, and they’re wondering whether scholarships will be available for their online classes or not. The good news is universities have extended their support to international students who are unable to come to campus due to visa delays, and a lot of universities are providing fee waivers to international students even for online-only classes. Let’s look at what other measures countries are adopting to provide financial aid to international students.

United Kingdom

Have you heard about the prestigious Chevening Scholarships for studying in the United Kingdom? Did you apply for one? The UK government is trying its best to continue the Chevening Award and making sure that deserving students aren’t impacted because of COVID-19. Due to lockdown and travel restrictions, the UK government has arranged for online or telephonic interviews with Chevening scholarship applicants. In addition, many UK universities are providing tuition fee loans and financial aid to students who are willing to attend online classes.

Australia

If you’ve been accepted to an Australian university, you may not have to pay your whole tuition fee. Latrobe University offers several waivers for students to receive up to 30% off the entire tuition fee. Deakin University also announced monetary support worth $25 million (AUD) to international students. This fee waiver is also available to students who have opted for online classes. Be sure to check the websites of other Australian universities for similar announcements.

Germany

If you applied to a German university and received the DAAD scholarship but couldn’t join classes due to a visa delay, there’s good news for you too. The German government has allowed candidates to postpone the start date of their scholarship award. Also, you have the choice to transfer the DAAD scholarship to another country if you don’t want to study in Germany. However, you must consult the scholarship providers for this before making any major changes.

United States

American colleges and universities are also providing financial assistance to incoming international students. The University of Wisconsin­–Madison has created an Emergency Student Support Fund for all currently enrolled students who need financial aid due to the pandemic. The University is providing a UW–Madison Scholarship for Summer Study to prospective international students as well. And Harvard University has reduced the term-time work expectation from $1,750 to $0 for all the students who had received financial aid.

France

Like other countries, France has also extended support to international students. For example, French universities have increased scholarship amounts by 50% for Indian students. French universities will also provide these scholarships regardless of whether students attend online or on-campus classes in France or India. 

Related: Financial Tips for Disadvantaged International Students 

While you’re waiting on your visa application…

If an embassy hasn’t approved your visa application yet and you think you won’t get the scholarship you applied for, you may want to think again. It’s reassuring to see universities all over the world taking measures to support international students. Be sure to contact your university as soon as possible to inquire about any support that they’re offering. But remember: the pandemic isn’t in anyone’s control. It’s impacted everyone somehow, so there’s no point in fretting over your application status. You need to be patient, stay informed, and remember that there’s always a silver lining. You can make the best use of this waiting period by working on yourself and being productive, regardless of whether you’re taking online classes or not. Here are a few ideas:

Keep your mind sharp

While your visa application is delayed, use this time to research more about your university and the major you’ve applied for. You could also read, write research papers, and learn new skills that will help you during your courses.

Pursue a hobby

Pursue a hobby or passion to help keep yourself productive. This will also keep you entertained and prepared to become an active member of your future university campus. You could even use your hobbies to find more scholarship opportunities to ease the financial stress of your international education.

Take up different courses

Many universities are offering free online courses on platforms like Coursera. You can also study these in addition to your own university’s online classes. Anything that supplements your education is only going to benefit you in the long run by leading to better grades, improved skills, and a brighter future. 

Related: Free Courses for Students to Take During the Pandemic 

If you’re planning to postpone your foreign education plans due to visa delays, you may want to approach a study abroad consultant before making a decision. You can also seek advice from study abroad consultants if you’re planning to apply to foreign universities after the pandemic or need insight into the current international study and visa application situation. But don’t be anxious if your visa application has been delayed. Soon you’ll be able to attend your college in person and achieve your educational goals, wherever they may take you!

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