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10 signs your child may be better suited for college abroad

With more than 5,000 colleges across the U.S. alone, there is no shortage of options—one of the many reasons why families find the college admissions process extremely challenging and overwhelming.

But if your high school junior or senior still hasn’t found the college yet, have you considered looking beyond our borders?

Nowadays, more and more students are choosing to apply for college abroad in places such as the UK, Ireland, Australia and beyond.

And here are 10 signs college abroad may be the best fit for your child, too.

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They’re (mostly) set on what they want to study—or at least what they don’t

In overseas education systems, students tend to start specializing in their subjects of interest at a much earlier age, so by the time they reach university level, they are ready to delve deeper into their fields from the first year.

Because of this, “general education” requirements don’t exist, which means if your teen knows they don’t like math, they may never have to do another math class again (as long as they don’t choose a math-related degree, of course).

This also means there may be less flexibility in changing majors, however, but certain countries and institutions do have more flexibility than others.

They have an interest in travel (obviously)

Maybe you’ve traveled internationally as a family, or maybe your child has been doing language classes and traveling virtually already.

Either way, there will be so many opportunities for weekend trips or travel during university breaks, either flying solo or with fellow classmates and student clubs.

In places like Europe, it’s easy to find cheap flights or book a train and be in another country in hours or less.

Academic travel, field trips and paid internships are also prevalent; Franklin University in Switzerland, for example, offers two weeks of academic travel per semester to various locations around the world, already included in the tuition.

There is simply nothing like getting to know a place and its local culture from the viewpoint of a student versus just passing through as a tourist.

They like to take control of their own learning

In general, students studying at overseas universities are treated as adults.

This means they won’t have their hands held, and there likely won’t be weekly pop quizzes or even homework.

What there will be: between two and four assessments per semester in the form of presentations, papers or exams.

While it may seem that they’re in class less and have more time and freedom, they’ll have to know how to manage their time properly and keep up with the readings themselves so they don’t fall too far behind.

Learning is also focused more on developing research and critical thinking skills and less on recitation and memorization.

They are independent and adventurous

All universities have academic support centres, free counselling and international student services, but your teen would need to be comfortable and confident enough to know how, when and where to ask for help—both in their studies and in their personal lives.

They have a natural curiosity about other cultures

Doing an entire bachelor’s program overseas is not the same as a study abroad semester in college, in which the chances are high that all the American students will end up staying in their same American group the whole time.

On the contrary, in a full-degree program abroad, your child would be fully engaged in an immersive experience, gaining the cultural competency that is so key to success in the workplace these days.

They want a high-quality education at the fraction of the cost

Student debt has reached more than $1 trillion in the U.S., and graduates are drowning in it more than ever.

But there are so many high-quality universities overseas that offer entire degrees for the same cost of one semester of tuition here.

Better yet, lectures overseas are generally given by the researchers and experts themselves and not by Teaching Assistants, or TA’s; your child will learn from the best.

They want to get out into the workplace quicker

Most degrees overseas can be completed in just three years, and when they return to the U.S., their international degree—along with so many soft skills developed—will instantly leave them shining against the local competition who doesn’t know what it’s like to step outside their comfort zones for one minute, let alone several years.

They’re not that into binge drinking

Sure, the drinking age overseas is generally 18, and there are pubs on campus, but surprisingly, there isn’t the same wild drinking culture.

Sometimes students just like to have a wine at dinner, which is how many are brought up—unlike in the U.S.

And with most universities having more than 100 student clubs or societies, there is truly something for everyone; not everyone feels the pressure to drink.

Maybe the best news yet? There are no fraternities or sororities—the culprits of most of the alcohol-related issues on U.S. college campuses.

They aren’t too keen on having a roommate

This thing about sharing a dorm room with a total stranger? Very rare overseas!

And more importantly during these Covid-19 times, housing overseas is already effectively social-distanced.

Students will have their own private rooms and may or may not share a bathroom as well.

They have dual citizenship with another country

Depending on the country, having dual citizenship may mean potentially reduced tuition fees in that respective country, and there would also be no need to apply for a student visa.

So, college abroad it is?

If any of the above sounds like your child, it’s worth taking a glimpse into what types of programs are available overseas, the tuition fees and financial aid available, the student experience and graduate outcomes.

A college education is probably the biggest investment a family will make after buying a house, and it is a decision that should not be taken lightly -- or locally for that matter.


Interested in applying for college or grad school overseas?

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G'day! My name is Sara, and I'm the founder of College Apps Abroad and a Certified Educational Planner (CEP), one of only 40 CEP's in California and 300 worldwide. I have more than 10 years of experience working in international recruitment and admissions, and I've studied and lived overseas myself in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Brazil for almost a decade. I've also worked for some of the world's top institutions, including The University of Edinburgh, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and The University of Western Australia (UWA)!

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