Is Your Student Considering Getting Their College Degree Overseas?

More and more college students are studying abroad every year. During the 2017-2018 academic year 341,751 students studied abroad for a portion of the year. The fastest growing segment of students studying abroad is made up of those participating in short-term study abroad.

But perhaps your student is not interested in a short-term or even a semester study abroad experience. Another option is that of earning your entire bachelor’s degree overseas. The number of students who complete their entire degree program in another country is approximately 72% higher than it was 20 years ago.  If your student is considering an overseas degree, they may be in good company.

Why consider fully attending college abroad?

Although it may be difficult to think about your student being so far away, attending college abroad may make sense for some students.

Many schools in other countries are highly regarded and ranked. If you examine worldwide college rankings, many schools abroad rank higher than many U.S. schools.

There are many options. Beyond the States, an international study website has identified 1,761 programs taught in English at over 300 colleges around the world. And tuition is often much lower at these institutions than in the United States.

Finally, if your student is interested in any career that has a global aspect such as business or international relations, the experience of learning about other cultures first-hand may prove invaluable.

What are the advantages of earning a degree overseas?

There are many reasons why students might consider completing their college education abroad. For a student who is independent and confident, this option can be just the right thing.

  • Tuition is often considerably lower than that in the United States. In fact, in some countries, tuition may be entirely free or nominal. Your student earning their degree abroad may graduate with little or no debt.
  • In addition to lower tuition, many schools grant merit financial aid. In some cases it is also possible to apply U.S. Federal Financial Aid to tuition overseas.
  • Many schools abroad have much less complex and stringent admission requirements. This, of course, depends on the country and the institution, but it is almost certainly less consuming than much of the process in the United States.
  • Your student will see the world from a new and different perspective while living abroad. From lifestyle to politics to international relations, immersing yourself in another culture and viewing life from a non-U.S. vantage point can be eye-opening.
  • Your student will have the opportunity to travel to other countries and participate in unique experiences.
  • Earning your degree from a school abroad can be a unique advantage on a resume.
  • Your student will potentially have a fun, new adventure.

Are there disadvantages to consider?

Like any college or program, it is important to consider the downsides as well as the advantages. Be sure that you and your student look at all of the factors.

  • It may take much more work and research to find just the right program for your student. There are many factors to consider and it may be more difficult to piece everything together.
  • There will inevitably be more paperwork and potential red tape involved. Your student will need to begin early to make sure they have an up-to-date passport and that they get all health forms and the appropriate visas.
  • Although many overseas colleges and universities provide exceptional educational value, there is less name recognition for many of these schools in the United States. If this is important to your student, it is something to consider.
  • There may be a more limited number of majors available at some institutions and possibly less flexibility with changing majors. Your student should research fields of study carefully.
  • At many institutions, students apply to a program or major at the time that they apply to the institution. Your student may need to be very certain about what they want to study even before they apply and there may be less opportunity to explore interests.
  • Students studying abroad will need to be relatively independent and able to fend for themselves. Many institutions provide fewer services and individual guidance. Students may be more on their own.
  • The academic system is likely to be significantly different than in the U.S. Policies regarding class attendance, grading, general education requirements, exams and the nature of studying independently may work well for some students, but not all.
  • Schools may provide fewer opportunities for extracurricular activities such as sports, interest clubs, fraternities or sororities.
  • Your student needs to be prepared for a very different lifestyle – and remember that they may be surrounded by people whose first language is not English. Although many programs are taught in English, the general population may speak another language.
  • Your student will also need to consider the time and cost of returning home for visits or holidays.

What should you think about?

If your student is considering this option, it is important to have several discussions as a family and to gather as much information as possible.

  • Start the process as early as possible. There is much research to do and the process can be lengthy. Your student may need to provide a passport as part of the admission process, so begin with that.
  • Be sure to confirm that the program your student is considering is taught in English or that your student is fluent in the local language.
  • If your student has learning differences or a physical challenge, be sure to check on possible accommodations. At some schools the options may be fewer.
  • Be sure to check on the school’s accreditation. This is especially important if your student is considering a graduate degree. Accrediting agencies may be different in each country, so this may also take extra research.
  • Don’t close the door to standard options closer to home. Consider applying to colleges in the United States as well “just in case.”
  • Be sure to check on the cost of living in the country your student is considering. Although tuition may be significantly lower, living expenses may be much higher. (This is true, for instance in Norway.)

The lists of advantages and of disadvantages for earning a degree overseas are long and there is a lot to think about. Obviously, this can be just the right decision for some students and a terrible move for others. Work to help your student decide what may be best for them.

It’s a different path. It’s a big world! Be open to the adventure!

Here are a couple of websites that may be helpful as you get started. College Parent Central has not connections with these sites and we do not endorse them. They are provided for informational purposes only.

Institute of International Education

Beyond the States

Bachelors Portal

Related articles:

Understanding Why Your Son or Daughter Wants to Study Abroad

Helping Your College Student Prepare to Study Abroad

What Parents Can Do to Support Their College Student Studying Abroad

Helping Your College Study Abroad Student Stay Safe


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