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Student Life | Study Abroad | July 2012

Getting A College Education Abroad: What You Should Know

By Purvi S. Mody | For

Question: I am going to be a senior in high school next year and am contemplating looking at colleges in Europe. My family travels a ton, so I thought it might be interesting to experience education abroad. I just don’t know how to go about this. What do schools look for? How is the process different?

Answer: What a really great question! Before you dive into international college admissions though, ask yourself: how serious am I about pursuing an education abroad? When the time comes to pack your bags and go, are you going to feel comfortable needing a passport to head to college?

Courtesy of Abroad101

While that is a question you may not have the answer to at this moment, consider it seriously over the next several months. Since it seems like you just started contemplating the move overseas, I would strongly recommend you also apply to universities in the U.S. as well and perhaps even consider colleges in Canada. Just like with any college you plan to apply to, you need to do your research thoroughly. While the general application process, might seem similar to the U.S. application process, (essays, recommendations, test scores, etc), the nuances are important.

University structure:

In the U.S., you generally apply to a specific university. Once admitted, you can move around within the university as you choose a major. There are certainly exceptions, especially if you are applying to specific programs like engineering, art or business. Many international schools, however, are broken down into multiple colleges. You apply specifically to a given college. That college may determine your academic degree, campus, housing, and extracurricular opportunities or obligations. Chances are, you will not be able to float from one program to another. Look closely at each school’s structure. Figure out the programs you are most interested in, and best suited for, so your application is as strong as possible.

Application process:

Colleges abroad do not follow the U.S. high school calendar. Don’t expect that you can wait until our December to apply to schools in other countries. In fact, some programs will have deadlines as early as October 1, which means that you really need to make some decisions quickly. Also, some programs will have preliminary and secondary applications, meaning that once you submit the first part of your application you should expect an additional application with extra required essays or recommendations. If you know this in advance, you can plan accordingly. Also, think about interviews. Most foreign schools that require interviews will offer these via Skype or phone. Consider the time difference when scheduling these sessions.

Courtesy of Abroad101

Academics and testing:

Many international schools are familiar with the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. Many American students, however, do not have this option available at their schools. If you have a standard U. S. curriculum, will the school consider your honors, accelerated, or Advanced Placement courses? You may need to take additional tests to prove mastery in particular subjects. Will the program require SAT, SAT Subject Tests, or AP results as part of the admissions process? If you are applying for a program in a country whose primary language is not English, will you need to prove your fluency? While your transcript will certainly be required, if you need to provide explanations, you should prepare those in advance. The school may also ask you get your transcript evaluated by a third party, whose role is to translate foreign transcripts. This is not as often required for schools in Europe, but you should check nonetheless.

The thought of living abroad for college must be so exciting! In order to make that vision a possibility, do your research and make sure that you understand every detail in the process. You don’t want a technicality to keep you from your dream. Good luck!

Purvi S. Mody is co-owner of Insight Education, an educational consulting firm that helps students throughout the country and internationally to achieve their educational goals.

Ask Purvi S. Mody a College Admissions Question on StudentAdvisor.