First-generation and first-time international students are a key part of the overseas education segment. Those who are planning to study abroad but whose parents do not have a four-year college degree and students who are first in their families to go abroad for higher education fall in these categories.
Recent studies have suggested that they are at the forefront of the coming wave of global student mobility and their needs must be addressed.
At A Glance
- As per market estimates, almost 50% of students in higher education institutions in destinations such as the US, the UK, Canada and Australia are first generation students
- Data from OECD suggests in 2019, 6.1 million tertiary students worldwide travelled overseas for higher education, more than twice the number in 2007
- International tertiary students increased by 5.5% annually between 1998 and 2019 on average
Challenges For First Gen Students
With previous uncertainties and challenges of the post-pandemic era such as a decrease in enrolments and smaller budgets, universities are now reinventing ways to attract more students, which includes first-gen and first-time international students. According to the US-based Center For First Generation Student Success, with COVID-19 impacting the enrollment gains made by first-generation students, it is important to understand the barriers to studying abroad for such students. “Apprehensions of navigating a new country, especially in case of their family not having travelled earlier, use of financial resources, family concerns, students being unaware of how study abroad would affect them intellectually, culturally, and socially, are some of the challenges,” notes the Center.
Universities abroad are making efforts to address these issues at different levels. For instance, some universities in the US (which are also members of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators) work towards facilitating the onboarding and overall experience of first gen students as they pursue their higher education.
Universities in the UK too, are working towards making the transition smoother for first-time and first gen international students. The Higher Education Policy Institute had recommended in 2020 that universities adopt initiatives such as a first-year tuition fee waiver for such students, among other things.
Explaining the challenges faced by such students, Kashyap Matani, co-founder, Yocket, says, choosing the right program at a suitable university is most challenging with more than 3,000 international universities offering over 150,000 programs. “Most students would have heard of very few popular names like Harvard, Stanford or Oxford university - and not all get through these. When you’re exploring universities and all of them are new, it becomes very difficult to know which ones are better than the other,” he says.
Moreover, international universities don’t have a cut-off mark system like India. They consider the complete profile of a candidate. “So along with identifying the university, it’s also very hard to know which one you’ll be able to get into. Choice of program and university plays the most important part in deciding your future job and career. All these factors combined make it very challenging for first-time students,” he adds.
Growing Student Flows
As per the Organization For Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) data on internationalisation, global student mobility has been expanding regularly in the past two decades. In 2019, 6.1 million tertiary students worldwide travelled overseas for higher education, more than twice the number in 2007.
International tertiary students increased by 5.5% annually between 1998 and 2019 on average. “Despite OECD countries welcoming a majority of international students, the number of foreign students enrolled in non-OECD countries has been growing quicker. This has grown by 7% per year on average, compared to 4.9% for international students in OECD countries. In 2019, foreign students enrolled in non-OECD countries represented about 31% of the global pool of internationally mobile students, compared to 23% in 1998,” suggests data.
Besides India and China, a lot of first-generation international students also come from Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Mexico, and other nations.
The changing dynamics and demographics of international education, especially post pandemic, and the socio-economic opportunities for first time students will lead to more such students going abroad, say experts. “The number of students going abroad from India has been steadily increasing except for a dip due to the pandemic. Students from the burgeoning middle-income group have had many success stories when it comes to overseas education. The major aspects that attract first-time or first gen students abroad are quality of education, opportunity to gain international exposure and get a broader perspective, high-paying job opportunities and better lifestyle and careers,” says Matani.
What First-Time Students Must Know
The first step should be to shortlist your area of interest and the program you want to study. It is important to have one or at the most two programs in mind before starting to explore universities. Giving examples of tools used by his company, Matani says, “Tools like Yocket College Finder to find universities matching your profile are helpful. Using Yocket Connect to see the kind of profiles that have got admits in your choice of program, and Yocket Admit Predicto to check which other universities did these students apply to will help you figure out which university offers the right program curriculum that interests you and whether you’re likely to get in.”
With proactive measures and support services in place by universities and counsellors in major inbound and outbound destinations, first-generation and first-time university students can expect to have a smoother overseas education experience.