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Applying for college abroad in the midst of a pandemic

“You want to do your degree where?”

To all the parents out there, if you're anything like my parents, you might have given your child a hard time when he/she first brought up the idea of doing a degree abroad.

Or maybe it was your idea (in which case, good on you!).

Oxford University

But back when I did my Master's abroad, there was no such thing as Covid-19.

Nowadays, there are so many questions up in the air about what college in the U.S. is going to look like this Fall, next Spring and even a year from now.

However, one thing is for sure—the U.S. is currently by far the hardest hit in the entire world.

The New York Times shares concerns for college towns like Athens, Ohio (home to my undergraduate alma mater, Ohio University), usually lined with students out and about on the red bricks of Court Street, now likely to become a ghost town.

While we can’t change the way the country has managed it, the way some citizens have approached it and the way colleges in the U.S. will adapt to it, we can change what we’re going to do about it in our own lives and the lives of our children.

At this point, it seems that the closest thing to having a ‘normal college experience’ may just be a college experience abroad.

The situation abroad

Let's face it; other countries, albeit having smaller populations, were much more effective in ridding the virus. Countries like Scotland and New Zealand have all but rid the virus for now.

In fact, back in June, in my last few weeks working in recruitment for UNSW Sydney before I started College Apps Abroad, I had never been busier with enquiries for Fall 2020 (their Term 3) and Spring 2021 (their Term 1).

Families whose children were juniors in high school—even those who already had children in college—were contacting me to find out how their kids could apply and/or transfer to UNSW because they had seen how well Australia managed the virus, and they didn’t want to pay $50,000+ for their kids to study online.

To date, more than 100 lawsuits have been filed against U.S. institutions by college students seeking refunds saying that "this kind of academic experience isn't what they bargained for."

Questions do, however, still remain for those looking to study abroad—such as: Will the borders open? Can I get a student visa? Can I still live in the dorms? How will social distancing work in classrooms? What are the sanitary protocols? Do I have to quarantine?

In places like Ireland and the UK, students can travel this fall, although a 14-day self-quarantine does apply.

What they're doing to help

Universities elsewhere are putting measures in place to be more flexible and supportive.

Macquarie University in Australia, for example, has announced it has gone test optional—fantastic news considering testing is generally the only/most important element considered in admissions overseas.

Vesalius College in Belgium extended admissions and scholarship application deadlines and began accepting the Duolingo English Test.

And IE University in Spain created a 5-million Euro Resilience Scholarship for incoming 2020-21 students in addition to adapting its facilities in the safest way possible.

IE University covid plan

So for the class of 2021 -- even students already at university -- maybe applying for or transferring to a college abroad is not such a crazy idea after all.


Interested in applying for college abroad?

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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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