By Sean Nyhan
So you’ve narrowed down your list to a handful of colleges. You’ve got your safety schools and your reach schools. You have your affordable options, and those that might require work-study or a generous scholarship. But, wait! Uncle Lester just reminded you that other countries have accredited schools. You could study in Dublin, Barcelona, London, Buenos Aires! Don’t freak out. Your college list isn’t in jeopardy, but you might just want to take a peek across the border, maybe even across the pond.
According to the Institute for International Education (IIE), more than 46,000 US students pursued a college degree abroad in 2013, the last year of available data. Students in the US apply to foreign postsecondary institutions for a variety of reasons, including monetary considerations. Did you know that tuition overseas can actually be cheaper than it is in the US? Enrolling at a college in an exotic location for less money than you’d pay at home might seem too good to be true, and (unfortunately) sometimes it is.
Remember: Tuition isn’t the only financial consideration you’ll have to make. Room and board may cost more abroad, and you’ll have to account for travel expenses. In addition, there are visas, phone plans, and general cost of living to consider.
You’ll also have to contend with an admission process and application timeline that could look nothing like the one used by most US colleges.
“Some of the biggest challenges are understanding the ways in which the university system and the application process work in each country,” says Anne Richardson, director of academic advising and college counseling at the American School in London.
While applying outside the borders of your home country may seem like a bridge too far, know that you can use the same search techniques you would when applying domestically. You might just need to put in a few more hours.
And in the long-run, pursuing a degree abroad could save you time. Many undergraduate degrees in Europe can be obtained in under four years. And there are other perks. Postsecondary institutions abroad are getting more creative with their tactics to attract more US students. In France, for instance, students get support finding housing and health care. Canada allows international students to work off campus and extend the length of their stay by working in-country after they graduate. Other available resources might include: help with visas, airport pick-ups, and banking support. Some countries, like the United Kingdom, have designated resources to serve international students.
“As part of good research, it is important to investigate each institution’s international program and in-country resources and ask good questions about their services,” Richardson says.
Get started on your international college search by flipping through NACAC’s Guide to International University Admission. The booklet provides overviews of popular study destinations and even includes information about situations in which students can use US federal financial aid to help cover the costs of their education abroad.