Growing numbers of South African parents are looking at international education opportunities for their children, but this does not come cheap.
While some parents are no strangers to putting aside money for schooling, with top private schools costing over R250 000 per year, the leap to an R800 000 annual price tag for tuition and living costs at the likes of Harvard is sizeable.
“While the cost of studying abroad is high, the return on investment is much higher. Just as top schools carry prestige and sway for employment in South Africa, so too do globally top-ranked universities. The average starting salary for a Harvard graduate is around R70 000 per month,” says Crimson Education’s Duncan Parsons.
Established in 2013 by then-high schoolers Jamie Beaton and South African-born Sharndre Kushor, Crimson Education has grown into a multi-million-dollar company, with offices in over 17 cities worldwide. It specialises in building candidacy and supporting high schoolers through the application processes for the top 50 universities in the United States, as well as the Russell Group in the United Kingdom.
According to Parsons, South Africans are underrepresented at these universities – not through a lack of ability, but rather due to unfamiliarity with application processes and a limited knowledge of how to access financial aid.
“These universities have a lot of resources and are willing to offer aid to those candidates that qualify but acing an entrance essay and applying for financial aid requires an understanding of the system and working well ahead of deadlines,” says Parsons.
While universities in the UK, such as Oxford, are slightly cheaper than their US counterparts, costing between R400 000 and R525 000 per year, they rarely offer financial aid at an undergraduate level; “In the USA, students often get a significant amount towards their fees – 57% of MIT undergraduates receive need-based scholarships, with each award amounting to an average of R500 000,” says Parsons.
Another factor that puts the US ahead as an international study destination is that students are allowed to extend their student visa to work in the country for up to three years after graduation, during which they can apply for longer-term work visas.
“This enables graduates to make the most of the global business networks they are exposed to, before bringing that experience back home,” says Parsons.
“The key determinant in a successful application is demonstrating well-rounded interests and experiences. It’s not just a matter of writing an essay and sending it in – overseas universities are looking for the full package.
Having the right guidance is a real game-changer for getting into the best programme,” says Parsons.