May 08, 2018
Their bags are packed, first semester classes scheduled, and they’ve promised to make good choices. As a parent, saying goodbye to your child as they head off to college is always difficult, but it’s even harder knowing they’ll be an ocean away.
Low tuition costs, the opportunity to travel, and new life experiences are all attractive features that encourage students to acquire their degree abroad. While there are some definite advantages in doing so, students need to think deeply about all aspects of going abroad before committing.
A Helping Hand
Students should consider reaching out to members of their network of influence for support. Teachers, coaches, counselors, and family friends may all be able to provide a student with useful connections, advice from relevant experience, or in the very least a few words of encouragement throughout their journey.
Navigating the college admissions process in the US is difficult for enough for students and their parents. Understanding the foreign schooling space can be even more overwhelming. Enlisting the help of a college admissions coach or tutor - someone who specializes in the college admission process and can help students with school selection and requirements, completing applications, etc. - will allow everyone to have a little more peace of mind by providing insight, clarity, and support along the way.
Topics to Cover
There are several topics that tutors can go over with students and their parents to give them a better understanding of whether going to college abroad is right for them.
The low tuition cost for international schools (especially in comparison to the US) is often the leading reason that students consider going abroad in the first place. While the average 4-year college in 2014 cost over $42,000, some international schools offer degrees for just a fraction of that cost, peaking the interest of those looking to save.
Though tuition can be lower, the additional costs of going abroad can’t be overlooked. Students will need to budget for living expenses like housing, food, transportation, airfare, and a student visa if needed. Utilizing tools like cost of living calculators can be helpful in determining what students should realistically expect to spend.
Students will also need to consider how they’ll cover their living expenses. Some countries don’t allow students to work while abroad, meaning they’ll need to rely on savings and their parents. If the plan is to use credit cards, parents will either need to cosign for their child under 21 or validate them as an authorized user on their own. Parents can also consider wiring money to their child, but should account for additional fees to do so.
Studying abroad isn’t a one-size fits all journey. Students need to decide what type of school they’re interested in, for example, an American branch or a local school that is more deeply immersed in the country’s culture. Teaching style and evaluation methods differ across countries as well. Professors abroad may expect students to maintain higher levels of independence, and stricter grading systems can mean the possibility of lower grades. Students that are considering obtaining their degree abroad will also need to be confident in their career path, as many colleges require that students choose a major before attending without the possibility of switching.
Adjusting to a New Country
Though an adjustment period is likely regardless of where a student decides to attend college, it will likely be more difficult abroad. They’ll be away from their friends and family in a foreign place and likely won’t know anyone locally to lean on. Even if the student has visited the country before, they may still experience culture shock if faced with a new diet, customs, and language.
Above all else, students need to think critically about what they hope to get out of their experience abroad and how relevant it will be when they return the US.
They may have a specific career goal in mind, but ensuring that their experience and degree will be useful in the US is vital. Some degrees, like international business, will translate well in the US while others, like medical related degrees that have specific requirements like residency placement and licenses, will not. Students must research their desired degree beforehand to determine if acquiring it abroad will be helpful in pursuing their career.
Additionally, students should consider what their international degree means for future employment. While some employers may be impressed, others may be more interested in relevant experience. Students might also miss out on the opportunity to make connections in the US through professors, career fairs, and extra curricular activities.
The Right Decision
If a student, their family, and their tutor agree that attaining a degree abroad is the right decision, tutors can then help their students go through the application process, get in touch with international counselors, and prepare for them for the adjustment. And if going to an international school isn’t the right choice for a student, tutors can still help them find their right path within the US. Studying abroad for a semester or two may be a more feasible option for some students, giving them experience with a bit more flexibility.
When it comes to making decisions about college, stress is inevitable. Having a strong support system made up of people who deeply care for the student, can think about the situation objectively, and help them evaluate the pros and cons is vital to ensure that the student makes the right choice for their future.