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USA: A Dream Deferred?

Globally we have been facing an unprecedented time in history with the outbreak of the Corona Virus. After many lockdown iterations in India – we have entered an “Un-lock” phase which is bringing about its own set of challenges. One of the industries reeling from the impact of this global pandemic is International Education; with travel restrictions imposed, Embassies and Consulates closed; many campuses globally and in the US are now opting for online delivery of the Fall 2020 intake. This has resulted in a lot of uncertainty and doubt regarding students’ plans to study abroad. Luckily, my current organization has been pro-active in evaluating the upcoming challenges and hence advised staff to work online in order to safely service students virtually and stay focussed on their applications for Fall 2020 intake and beyond.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a live tracker (currently of about 910 US institutions). According to the latest figures, about two-thirds plan to re-open in the Fall. We have witnessed a mix of optimistic and opportunistic decisions among US Universities. Where on the optimistic side, Ivies such as Harvard and Yale are yet to make a decision; some of the more conservative high-ranked universities are considering a hybrid model in order to equip future students with the best possible options.

Thus any student who has already applied for Fall 2020 has a few options:

  1. Take Fall 2020 classes online
  2. Defer intake to Spring or Fall 2021
  3. Attend physical classes in Fall (subject to getting a visa approval in time and assuming some institutions may/may not defer the start of the Fall intake)

So considering all the above options, the questions that tickle the belly are:

Should one take online classes? What are the benefits? Drawbacks? If one defers to a future intake, are they still eligible for work experience opportunities or will they miss out?

Understandably, as online classes are a newer medium for most students, they may be hesitant to enrol, may it be the fear of parents being uncomfortable with this scenario or the whole idea of overseas education being compromised.

The reality is the whole world has been forced into a “new normal” and many of us have been pushed into innovation, and to use technology and virtual platforms to move ahead in time.

What I may offer is that online learning (even in a blended way) is here to stay; and to some extent, all of us will have to adapt to this. While you may not get the exact feel of being on a campus – online learning does afford some advantages such as personalised group projects, more time to absorb the material as you will have the pace to yourself, one-on-one interactions with faculty and, of course, saving money!

Did you know that if you choose to take online classes for the first semester, from the luxury of your room/study, then you save almost half the cost of US Education in the form of rent, transport, living expenditures, etc.? Most universities are offering these online classes at a reduced cost for your convenience. So, you can still stay on track to complete your studies in time, and as a bonus save some money in the process.

In case you choose to defer to a later intake, US Universities are happy to assist you all the way. As they understand it is a student’s personal decision to make. Some universities are even waiving off standardized test (GMAT, GRE, SAT) requirements, so do check the Covid-19 Update section highlighted prominently on university websites for detailed information.

In case you are waiting for your standardised test/English Language test appointment dates, check with your test providers and keep yourself updated regarding online registrations or the latest available test dates.

Please do not panic and continue to focus on your planning and preparation to secure admissions. If you have received an admit, start ensuring all your documents for the visa are ready. This way as soon as visa appointments open up – you can be first in line.

US Universities and colleges do value their international students, so be rest assured they will work with you to ensure you get the best possible educational experience, virtually and in-person!


  • Dharma P Naik

    Dharma P. Naik has almost 20 years of professional experience in Higher Education, Student Affairs, Admissions, Non-Profits, Leadership Trainings and International Education in the US, Europe and South Asia. She currently oversees the strategy, training and growth of the US destination in South Asia for IDP Education India, Pvt Ltd. Dharma has a Master’s degree in Counselling and Personnel Services and a Graduate Certificate in Leadership Management from the University of Maryland, College Park, USA. She has worked at esteemed institutions like American University, University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Pennsylvania. IDP Education is a proud co-owner of IELTS and listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.

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