If you want to go to college but also want to see the world, getting an undergraduate degree abroad could be the perfect option for you. This is a great way to combine your love of travel with your desire to get a good education.
But where do you even begin? Here’s what to do several months or even a few years before you apply to the schools you’re considering attending for an undergraduate degree abroad.
1. Decide Where To Apply
The first thing you’ll need to do is select the countries and universities you want to apply to. Think about why you want to get your undergraduate degree abroad. Is there a specific school you want to get a degree from, or is there a particular country you want to spend an extended period of time in?
Once you start to narrow down your search, make sure the schools you’re looking at offer the type of program you want. Look at the expected length of time to earn your degree as well as the requirements for that specific program.
Many universities abroad have shortened degree programs i.e. three years instead of four. This is because they focus on the actual courses required for the degree beginning in the first year of study, unlike American universities where the first year is often devoted to core classes in a variety of disciplines.
If you’re still undecided when it comes to your major, make sure you find programs that offer more flexibility and range of studies.
2. Find Out About Travel Requirements
If you don’t have a passport yet, now is the time to get one. The process can take months unless you pay extra fees, so it’s good to have one before you apply to schools.
Then, find out how to get a visa to the countries where the schools you’re applying to are located. Student visa processing times vary from one country to another, ranging from about two weeks to four months, so plan ahead.
3. Calculate Your Expenses
Many students are nervous about the decision to get an undergraduate degree abroad because they assume it will be expensive or that they don’t have access to the financial aid they have in the US. But this isn’t always the case.
If you’re worried about paying for college, you can always focus on choosing a school with a tuition on the lower end of the spectrum, just as you can in the US. In fact, some students find they pay less to get an undergraduate degree abroad than they would in this country, which is often part of why they leave the US for their education.
In addition, some countries are working hard to appeal to students from the US and other areas, so they now offer financial incentives. For example, schools in Germany don’t charge tuition at all, and others make sure to offer scholarships and grants to attract new students.
Once you figure out how to pay tuition, make sure you factor in travel and living expenses. Be aware that many universities abroad, especially those in Europe, don’t always offer on campus living, so you may have to find a apartment. Find out if you will be allowed to work as you complete your undergraduate degree abroad, as student visas often come with restrictions.
4. Familiarize Yourself with the Application Process
Once you’ve decided on the countries and universities that you are interested in, start looking at their application process.
Even if you’re not applying until next year, you should familiarize yourself with the application of each overseas school you’re considering. This way, you’ll avoid any last-minute scrambling your senior year.
Find out which classes and tests you need to have taken, what kinds of grades and test scores are expected, and whether you have to submit an essay and personal references. Also look into any other supplemental information that may be required such as student resumes or portfolios.
If you know ahead of time what you’re expected to submit, you can rest easy knowing you’ve taken the necessary classes and tests before you even start filling out the application itself.
5. Learn the Language
While many universities abroad offer courses in English as an incentive to prospective international students, it’s still a good idea to get a grasp on the country’s native language. After all, you want to explore the country you’ll be living in for the next 3-5 years and you’ll have a pretty limited experience if you can’t communicate.
Start learning at least the basics of the language now so you feel comfortable when you move there. Of course, language learning will be easier once you settle in and immerse yourself in it, so don’t be worried if you’re not fluent the minute you arrive!
And don’t forget to confirm whether you can submit your application materials in English or not. If the schools your applying to require applications be submitted in a language other than English, you’ll need to get your academic documents translated.