Quite often students are studying English because they want to study abroad. EFL Teachers then find themselves in the position of trying to answer questions about which schools to apply to, what is a good way to credits for English instruction, what to study, where, etc.. Although this article is written from the point of view of the student themselves, an EFL teacher could certainly find the information contained in it quite useful for those often difficult questions!
Education Agent or Direct Enrolment? A Guide for Taiwanese Students wanting to Study Abroad – By Steve Sutherland.
Steve Sutherland has been an education agent in Taiwan for four years (World Class Education – www.worldclassed.com.tw ) and manages a ‘Study Abroad’ industry forum called www.agentschat.com for Education Agents from around the world.
Booking a course of study abroad is a big decision involving a lot of time and expense so you really want to make sure that you are making the right decisions.
One of the first decisions that you will have to make is whether to use the consulting services of an education agent or whether to enroll directly with a school yourself.
This article sets out some things to consider.
Am I able to enroll with the school directly?
If you have a school in mind you can look on their website and contact them to find out how to enroll. Some students don’t feel confident enough with their language ability to do this so prefer to have the assistance of a local who can speak their language.
You need to know that the registrar at the school is willing to take the time to give you information and answer your questions?
While some schools are happy to accept direct enrolments some are likely to direct you to an agent in your country to handle your enrolment anyway.
Price. Won’t an education consultant cost more?
These days with the internet giving students direct access to information on thousands of schools around the world it may seem that it would make sense to go ‘direct’ to the supplier (the school) and cut out the middleman (the agent) to ensure the best price.
Some schools now have information in a variety of languages on their websites and employ foreign language speaking staff and so booking directly with them would seem to be a good idea for students that are prepared to do their own research.
However just like in the travel industry (airlines and hotels) it is unlikely that you will end up saving much money by booking directly with the supplier (the school) and you may end up creating unnecessary stress for yourself.
Agents have contracts to represent schools and receive a commission from a school for enrolling a student with them. Most schools appreciate that a large percentage of their enrolments come through agents and they won’t do anything to jeopardize their reputation with education agents. The commission is set aside for education agents only and if any school were to start giving discounts for direct enrolments they would quickly have a bad name among agents.
One problem for schools is students talking among one another. If some students find out that they have paid more than others then resentment of school management is stirred up, instead of the positive environment that schools need to create to keep students happy.
So generally it is in the interests of the school that direct enrollments are priced the same as agency enrolments.
Most schools prefer that agents don’t offer students unauthorized discounts (sharing their commission with the student) however some agencies do this (such as my agency), sometimes giving some of their commission back to students in the form of refunds, discounts, free gifts or scholarships. So booking through some agents could be cheaper then booking direct.
It is likely that you will end up paying a similar amount in tuition fees if you enroll through an agent or if you enroll with the school directly. If seasonal discounts and promotions are offered to students booking directly then they are usually offered to agents as well.
If you have a school in mind it doesn’t hurt to make enquiries and to compare the price of both options. If the program price is similar if booked through an agency or direct through the school you may as well use the agent for the convenience and service that they offer. If the agent is charging excessive consulting fees then you may consider trying to book directly yourself.
The big advantage of using an education agent in your own country is that you can meet with them face to face. You can get a much better understanding of the school and your intended course of study by having a meeting with an expert. Agents have usually had meetings with school representatives, have a lot of school information on file and may even have visited the schools that they represent. An agents business is consulting and they should spend a fair amount of time to give you information not only on the school but every other aspect of planning your trip as well.
Agents have information on many institutions, courses of study and countries around the world. An agent could save you countless hours of research time on the internet by suggesting options suited to your requirements.
If you have a school in mind and contact them directly then the registrar will probably be happy to advise you over the phone and via email but the communication may not be as clear as with a ‘face to face’ meeting with an agent.
It is becoming more common for students to seek information from an agent and then try to enroll themselves directly into the institution that the agent recommended. Some agents now charge a deposit before they will start the consulting process. Schools will often still honor the agents commission if they find out that a direct enrolment has come to their school as a result of an agent consulting that student.
Visas and travel arrangements
Education agents will usually apply for your student visa for you. They will also usually assist with other aspects of planning your trip such as booking flights and giving you useful information on traveling and your destination.
Schools are not able to give you much assistance with your visa application (apart from providing some of the necessary documents) and travel arrangements. It’s much easier for the agent to handle these things in your home country before departure.
Getting a student visa for some countries is quite simple and it would be easy to do your own application. However visa applications for some countries can be quite a difficult process and you really need the assistance and expertise that an agent can offer.
Overall I would suggest that for most students using an Education Agency is a better option then booking direct for the convenience that agencies offer students at usually little or no extra cost.
If you do decide to use the services of an Education Agent then please read my other article – ‘Advice on Choosing an Education Agency – A Guide for Taiwanese Students wanting to Study Abroad’
Good luck planning your ‘Study Abroad’ experience!
Copyright – Steve Sutherland 2007.
Disclaimer: This blog received no money or other benefitss for posting this article.