Thinking of Higher Studies? Here’s some Intel!

It has been a very little time since Vijini and I started our higher studies in Australia. Our choice of university was Australian National University or in short ANU. At the time of my writing, it is ranked (overall) 49th in Times University Ranking. Beyond the mere rank of the university, there were many other considerations for both of us during the university selection. Moreover, there are few more things that one might think before, during and after application for a studentship to pursue higher studies. So we decided to share our experiences, as one might someday find this useful. On that note, seeking information from friends overseas might not be the best option due to various commitments. So here’s some heads up. It’s not hard! 😉 

Where to Study

This is a critical decision for anyone who would want to study after graduation. Few of our key criteria in selecting the country were; 

  • Research and Funding: We were interested in Bioinformatics research. Australia seemed to be a country that focuses on genetic research (treating cancer) and research on related areas. In almost all the cases Ph.D. research is funded with cover for Tuition fee, Living expenses (Stipend) and certain allowance of professional development (conference attendance and lab equipment)
  • Living Conditions: Stipend can cover all expenses without us having to stress about covering work hours to compensate rent and other expenses
  • Course Duration: Usually most Australian Ph.D. studies take 3 to 4 years in time. Also, we did not require to undertake an M.Sc. as we did a honours degree with a significant research component. After all, neither of us wanted to hammer our selves for 5+ years studying further.
  • Entry Requirements: Australia – Either IELTS (overall band of 6+ for ANU, Engineering) or TOEFL. The USA and some other destinations – GRE (please read individual university requirements)

Finding a supervisor

It is always the first step to find a prolific staff member to supervise you. When we were looking for supervisors we looked for Monash University, ANU and the University of Melbourne. It is always easy to find a supervisor if you know, what might be your area of interest (as this is something very hard to define at once). First things first! Visit the university website or rather google “supervisors at Monash/ANU/Unimelb” or any university you might like. You might find the following links useful.

Approaching a Supervisor

This is one of the most difficult and confusing things that you might have to do before you start studies. To make things easier, let us narrow down this step as follows.

The initial point of contact is most of the times (if not always) through an email. Make sure your email makes a good impression! Here’s a sample! 😉

Dear Prof. NAME

I am Anuradha Wickramarachchi, from University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. I completed my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering last December and I am looking forward for suitable opportunities to follow a Ph.D. I am interested in doing my higher studies in RESEARCH AREA and I came across your profile as a prolific researcher in the field of RESEARCH AREA.

I have read about your research work in the field of RESEARCH AREA. EXTEND THIS EXPRESSING YOUR AREA OF INTEREST BY MENTIONING SOME OF YOUR POTENTIAL SUPERVISORS INTERESTING WORK. I would like to inquire whether you would like to supervise a project on RESEARCH AREA or a related field or have ideas for a project that you would like to have a Ph.D. student working on.

ADD A SMALL SENTENCE MENTIONING YOUR FINAL YEAR HONOURS PROJECT, ONE OR TWO KEY PUBLICATIONS, AND YOUR CURRENT STATUS

MENTION YOUR ACADEMIC STANDING (GPA/RANK) SO THAT YOU SEEM TO BE COMPETENT AND SOME OF YOUR MAJOR ACHIEVEMENTS

My resume and academic transcript are attached for further reference. 

I appreciate your valuable time. Looking forward to a favorable reply.

I have left my links to resume and transcript as it is; to make it easy for the reader. However, you might note that my transcript is not complete (not official). Because it doesn’t have to be. As long as you can expose an original copy in a later date you are okay to show your current status as it is. The resume should be in academic style and make sure it is plain and easy to read for a busy person. Make everything SHORT but SWEET!

The rest of this article is about VISA and moving to Australia. We thought we shall share this part as it is also confusing at the beginning. If you aren’t into Aussie studied, skip this. All the best. 🙂

Sydney Opera House

VISA Application Process

In order to apply for a VISA, you must obtain the OSHC (Overseas Student Healthcare Cover or Insurance) and the E-COE (Electronic Contract of Enrolment). E-COE is issued once you pass the Ph.D. selection process. OSHC may or may not be covered by your scholarship. If not you will have to arrange it on your own or through university with some payment. You can pay on Allianz or some other provider suggested by the university. It is always easy to arrange it with the university as they conduct all the necessary administration work. Anyhow, payment is easy to carry out and you can pay online. It was a little over A$ 4,000 (July 2018) for the entire period of study for me, still worth paying as your scholarship would be over A$ 100,000!

VISA subclass was 500 for students postgraduate category (July 2018). You can always find that information here. In Sri Lanka, the VISA application process is handled by VFS Global. For student VISA, it is mandatory to have health clearance, which is not that hard. Once you submit your VISA application, you can book an appointment online for the health checkup. The entire VISA application process can be done on your own like we did! You DO NOT have to pay for agencies. Just follow the instructions in the websites and provide the right information.

Finding Accommodation

Finding accommodation was the hardest thing once you arrive. First few things that you might consider to make this easy is; get a car for around A$ 2000 (August 2018) or buy a MyWay (Australian Capital Territory) / Opal (New South Wales) / MyKi (Victoria) card to travel in buses. However, use AirBnB to stay until you find a long-term place! Maybe for a week or two. After you come and have a good rest, start looking on GumTree. It is very likely you would find a place here. However, there are real estate sites listing places, but you have a better chance with GumTree from a private landlord. It is quite expensive in Australia! But if you manage your expenses and use your money wisely, it would be a good and comfortable living.

We really hope this will make a change in your perspective of going abroad to do your postgraduate studies. We wish everyone the best of luck! Feel free to comment asking anything that’s not clear. Before I conclude let me know you of the possible expenses/charges that may raise. Don’t get into scams and bogus agencies who would charge money in vain. 

Possible Expenses

  • VISA fee – collected only by official Australian immigration website
  • Health check fee – collected on the premise (or on making the appointment) of health checkup institution
  • Insurance cost (Sometimes covered by scholarship) – Only paid to official OSHC provider or University.

IMPORTANT: There will not be any other expense or a requirement to approach an Agency!

Share with your friends who need this info! Cheers! 🙂

2 thoughts on “Thinking of Higher Studies? Here’s some Intel!

    1. That actually depend on the university and the supervisor. First thing to do would reveal your academic standing. They he/she will propose what can be done and probably suggest a workaround. Sometimes you might be asked to do an M.Sc. if you don’t have a high GPA. You might even get a scholarship for that. Anyhow, you can do a M.Sc. if you like until you reach an intake. Usually Sri Lankan graduation dates leave students with nearly 1 year before they come across an international intake in a foreign university.

      Hope this helps. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

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