Why We Don’t List UK Schools

766px-london_big_ben_phone_boxOur original reason for not listing UK schools was our focus on non anglophone countries. In these countries, it is often more difficult to figure out what programs are in English, if any other language skills are required and other such details. Our focus was to make the options in continental Europe easier to find and understand for US students. I had also heard from many administrators that UK students made up a large part of their English conducted program student body, due to problems with the systems in the UK.

We have had a number of families inquire as to whether we would list UK schools in the future. I really thought hard about it and spent some time researching the idea. Though we don’t have an official mission statement, our passion at Beyond the States is to provide American families with solutions to the problems we face in the US, be it the cost, expectations for admissions, undergraduate experience, or employment issues after graduation.  Below are the reasons I think that UK schools don’t fit with our focus and why we won’t be listing them.

Costs as Much as the US

According to a recent HSBC report, the average tuition in the UK for international students is $19,291. Clearly, this cost is on par with the US. Outside of Switzerland (whose average tuition is artificially high due to the large number of programs conducted by American universities), this is significantly higher than any other country in Europe which charge just $7,245 on average. Further, the UK’s three year residency requirement prevents students who have an EU passport but have spent high school in the US from receiving the lower EU tuition rates.

Similar Admissions Process

One of my issues with the US admissions process is that students are set up to never achieve enough. If they have perfect SAT scores, another applicant might as well, so they need to then have more AP classes. Someone else has perfect SATs and higher AP’s, so students seek to impress through an additional area as well. The admissions process has often appropriately been compared to a treadmill or a rat race. UK admissions decisions are made in similar ways through a point system in which things like AP courses receive more points than others-very similar to the flawed process we have in place in the US. I really like the focus many schools in continental Europe have on the “fit” of the student to the program and program to student. The administrators I have spoken with emphasize that applicants should personalize their motivation letter to the school and program they are applying to as opposed to using the same letter for each school. This is not possible (and thus not emphasized) in UK programs. Applicants use a common application and cannot send different essays to the different schools they apply to.

Fewer Post College Opportunities Due to Brexit

The UK used to have a very generous post study visa residency period for international students. Graduates were allowed up to two years to find a job. They have recently reduced the period to just four months after graduation. If a student hasn’t found a job in the UK after four months, they’re required to leave the country. The EU adopted new regulations that provide graduates with a minimum of nine months post study visa and allow students to work a minimum of 15 hours per week while they are students. Further, the impact of Brexit will take the next two years to unfold, which means that there will be international students in the midst of their study when they find out if/how they will be impacted. I think waiting to see the impact is a better idea.

eur_eng_mapLanguage is Less of a Barrier than You Think

Language is often the reason American students first think of the UK when considering studying in Europe, but English is widely spoken in continental Europe. Our database contains the English proficiency of each country, as surveyed by EF Education First. I’ll also note my own experiences with it on my school visits. I was blown away by the amount of English spoken in many of the countries I have visited – not just when people were talking to me but in the conversations I overheard on the trains, in the markets and around the schools. The UK is a fascinating place and I understand the appeal. Many programs we have listed require or allow for a semester abroad. Perhaps that would be a better way to get the gain the benefits of continental Europe’s superior education system while being exposed to life in the UK?

 

Your High School May Not Want You to Know About College in Europe

Two years ago, we had no idea that college in Europe was a possibility for our kids.  This knowledge has absolutely changed our lives (outside from the creation of Beyond the States).  I no longer worry about how we will pay for college; Sam, age 15, is able to limit the number of AP courses he takes and focus on areas of interest for him; and I’m really excited about the prospects.  One of the reasons we started Beyond the States was to let other parents and students know about these options. Even if you don’t end up going the European route, it’s nice to know that you have looked at your alternatives and are making a choice based on the needs, strengths, preferences of your family and your student.
As a parent, I would hope that my  kids would get exposure to the various alternatives through high school.  I know that counselors are often over- worked and would not expect them to seek all this information out on their own, but I would hope that if they had the opportunity to present kids with options in a way that is free and within a structure they already use, that they would.  Sadly, this is not always the case.
We are spending some time this fall visiting high schools and doing free information nights.  High schools have different ways to accommodate visits about colleges and we have been enthusiatically welcomed by about 60% of the schools we have contacted.  What blows me away is the response from the other 40%!  Some have legitimate district-wide policies that prevent a visit, because we are not a non-profit. Ironically, private US universities do have non profit status-interestingcollege perspective on that here.  What I find even more crazy are the schools that have told us some variation of “We don’t think our students would be interested in that…”  Really?  None of your 1,500 students will struggle with tuition in the US?  None are interested in limiting their number of AP courses?  None would love the opportunity to explore Europe?  I find the acceptance of the status quo baffling.  Few would say that there aren’t issues with US higher education (cost, admissions processes, quality of undergraduate experience).  Most would agree that at least one of them is a legitimate issue. So why aren’t they letting their students know that there are options that provide solutions?
Ok, I’m done with my rant now and will get off my soapbox.  The reason I’m telling you this is so that you can help us spread the word.  We have a lot of opportunities for parents and students to receive free information.  We have blogs, Facebook posts, webinars, school visits, and parent information nights.  More information about all of these is below.  If you live in an area we are visiting and your school isn’t listed, let your counselor know.  They can contact me directly and I’ll be happy to schedule it.  If you or your teen attends one of the schools listed, check Naviance or shoot me an email and I’ll let you know when I’ll be there.  I’d love to meet you! If you know students or parents who might be interested in one of our local events, please share this information. (If you’re not in one of these areas, don’t despair! Just sign up for one of our webinars.)  images-13

Chicago

Chicago is my hometown and I miss it tremendously!  Though visiting in the fall always makes me want to move back, I have two upcoming visits.  This week I am in town for just a few days making visits to Oak Park-River Forest High School, St. Ignatius College Prep, and participating in the college fair at the British International School.  I’ll be back mid October (to see Hamilton!) and visit more schools.  We’re already on the schedule for Lincoln Park High School and Trinity School and have more availability this week.  I’ll be scheduling an information night for this week as well.  Details should be on our website next week.

Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill

This is where we live, so we have two parent nights schedule in this area.  We will be in Chapel Hill the evening of October 5th and Raleigh on October 6th.  One of the students we helped (Jared, Part 1) is a Chapel Hill High School graduate and is now studying in Europe with a tuition of under $1,000 a year!

DC Area

I have two trips planned here (one the end of September and the other the 1st week of November) so that I can visit Montgomery County schools as well as those in Northern Virginia.  School visits are already scheduled at Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Walter Johnson High School, Winston Churchill High School, and George Mason High School. We have evening information sessions scheduled in Bethesda, MD on 9/28, Germantown, MD on 9/29 and Falls Church, VA on 10/30. You can sign up for one of these sessions here.

Richmond

I’ll be at Maggie Walker Governor’s School on October 14th.

Webinars

Webinar-640x360-290x250Our next webinar is on Sunday the 18th at 1:30 pm.  I’ll be covering the program choices in Europe as well as the academic differences.  On October 9th our webinar will go over the various admissions processes and requirements and on November 13th I will present on student life and housing.
All of the information sessions and webinars are free, but do require registration.  We are still scheduling visits, so be sure to let us know if you live in one of the above areas and would like us to visit your school.

 

New Memberships Are Here!

college-aheadWe’ve spent a good amount of time thinking about the best way to serve our members. We realize that people have different needs ways of interacting with our content. We feel strongly about serving multiple groups within our community. We know some are self-starters or are just beginning their investigation. We also realize that once you decide to go to college in Europe, there are many things to work out. We’ve seen clients benefit from a “higher touch” level of service as they get closer to leaving. We’ve also used information gathered from how our current members are using our services, so that there is something for everyone. You can find the details about what each package includes as well as pricing on our membership page, but I want to take a little time to discuss some of the highlights as well as to give our suggestions on how to use the different packages.

The first thing I want to note is that each package (except Independent Study) includes a customized list of “good fit” programs.  When you join at the Honor Roll level and higher, you will receive a questionnaire that asks about interests, qualifications, personality, preferences and such. Based on this information, I provide you with a short list of programs I think you should check out.  How many programs depends on how specific your requirements are. Since the database has more than 1,500 options, this can help answer the questions “Where do I start”?

Additionally, two of our packages also include a number of professional service hours.  Note that this is not broken down into a number of sessions because it is completely personalized to your needs and situation.  Some members benefit most from several short calls.  Some benefit more from email contact.  Others prefer to use the time for me to dig deeper to find answers to more specific information than is found on our database. When you join, you identify what you would like to use the services to achieve and we customize the service hours to best meet those needs.

Membership Levels

The Independent Study level is great for people who are just starting their research.  Perhaps you have kids who are in 9th grade or younger and just want to get an idea of what is out there. It’s also suitable for students and families who are highly motivated and comfortable with unfamiliar processes. If you’re completely new to this idea, you may want to take advantage of our 6 month option (link). Like all our memberships, this renews unless you cancel it. In addition to database access, Independent Study members can join our Monthly Q&A calls to get answers to questions that come up.  Of course, you always have the option of starting here and upgrading to a higher level, if you need more personalized guidance.

The Honor Roll is a step up from Independent Study and provides a good starting point for students and their families with the addition of the list of good fit programs. As mentioned above, the Honor Roll level includes a list of good fit schools along with the one year of database access and the monthly Q&A calls.

The Salutatorian level is my favorite. Along with the year of database access, monthly Q&A calls, and the customized list of good fit programs, it includes 3 hours of personalized services.  The Honor Roll level is great for students who want to be able to process.  This level enables students to receive answers about their individual situations, get feedback about the schools they are considering, develop a plan for the admissions and receive assistance with the application/motivation letter. Like the other levels, additional hours can be purchased on an as needed basis.

Timing of Memberships

I would suggest doing the Independent Study level during the freshman year to get an idea of what is out there and whether or not you want to keep your options open for the countries that require American students to have some advanced qualifications (like a certain number of AP courses). Sophomore year I would advise the Honor Roll level, as it’s a good tigraduationme to have a bit more structured way to consider the choices and process. Depending on the students motivation and independence, I would suggest the Honor Roll or Salutatorian Level for junior year.  Some students just want a starting place, others need a system for the year that they can put in place with tweaks and check-ins as the year goes on.

From time to time we hear from people who are older than the traditional student age asking if they college in Europe is a possibility for them. The answer is “Yes”.  Some schools even have student residences that accommodate families. You may have a few more hoops to jump through related to getting visas, but it’s definitely possible. Once you determine the schools you are interested in, you can look at the visa information for those particular countries.

We’re excited to bring these levels that simplify the choices and provide an option for everyone.  We are committed to providing value to our members and think our new packages reflect that commitment. We look forward to working with you!

Podcast: Why Pursue Higher Education in Europe?

In the spring of 2015, Jenn Viemont happened on a Facebook post about a US student who was attending college for free in Germany. Little did she know that article would start her on a journey to build a database of the thousands of English-taught bachelors and masters programs in continental Europe. In this episode, Jenn Viemont talks about why her kids will opt out of US higher education and go to college in Europe instead. She provides an overview of the benefits around this which include affordable tuition, transparent admissions requirements, employability, and the life changing experiences offered by living abroad.

Resources

Beyond the States website

About Jenn Viemont

CNN Money: Americans Are Moving to Europe for Free College Degrees 

Chapel Hill, NC, USA

Free College in Germany

529 Plan

Colleges That Change Lives

Nine Reasons to Attend College in Europe

English-Taught Masters Programs in Europe 2013 Update

Next Episode How international students can earn an entire degree, including travel costs, for the cost of a single year of tuition at many US schools

Why I Started Beyond the States

Like many parents, I worry about my kids, Sam & Ellie.  Development milestones and “listening ears” (or the lack thereof) were common concerns for me when they were little.  As they got older, the concerns turned more towards academic and social growth.

Struggles with Sam

The early middle school years were particularly worrisome and stressful with my son, Sam. Trying to convince him to use his planner to help him remember his assigned homework was useless.  Getting him to organize the work he did do, so that he wouldn’t forget to turn it in, was a huge struggle.  There was no persuading him to show his work on math tests or math homework. Though he only received partial credit without showing work (even with a correct answer), he would not submit to what he thought was such a ridiculous policy.

Then, there were the little things he tried to get away with at home.  He thought that moving the dog leash would trick me into thinking that he walked the dog.  Though he would cave every time I called his bluff, he’d try the same strategy again and again. There was the time I went to get his laundry basket from his room.  One of our dogs began sniffing around his bed which led me to look under his bed and found all this.

IMG_2170

Why?  I don’t prevent him from snacking, but I do have a no food upstairs rule (mostly because I am incredibly terrified of getting mice in our house). He could just as easily had those same food items downstairs-or at least thrown away the evidence!

I admit that on more than one occasion, after an encounter with his surly morning attitude, I was the crazy mom in pjs on the porch yelling

If you think you have electronics when you come home from school, you have another thing coming!

I could go on and on and on with examples, but if you have had a middle schooler (or have been one) you probably know what I’m talking about!

Wine helped me through these years and time and maturity has done wonders for Sam. He finished middle school with straight A’s, was thriving academically and socially, and found interests he was passionate about. “Ahh…now I can relax”, I thought (choosing to forget that my daughter was about to enter those same dreaded middle school years). I let myself enjoy that for a bit but then I realized, four years comes in the blink of an eye and I would have college to worry about soon!

College Concerns

My professional interactions with college and high school students and personal encounters with other parents have left me disheartened about many aspects of the American higher education system. The frenzied rat race is out of control these days for both teens and their parents.  Teens are sleep-deprived, anxious, and burned out by resume building and the pressure to achieve more and more-all in the name of getting into “a good college”. Time to relax and discover one’s own interests are scarce.  When they do get to college, they are faced with social issues on campus including binge drinking, and the rape culture that is reported on many campuses. When they do graduate, many are unprepared for employment or independence. So many are returning home after graduating (I’ve seen numbers from 45-65%) that the term “boomerang kids” has been coined.  And I haven’t even touched on the concerns around skyrocketing tuition yet…

Even though we have saved some for college throughout the years and are fairly comfortable financially, the thought of the price of college for two children is a major stressor.  We have a reputable state school in our back yard that would be affordable at $8,568 for tuition, but would not be a good fit for Sam at all. With a 29% acceptance rate it would be a long shot, even if it were a good fit.  Though the average private university tuition in the country is reported to be $32,000, most of the schools I have heard about and looked at are closer to a jaw dropping $50K a year.  Crazy! Many parents and students are going into crippling debt for college tuition, yet a recent study showed that only 38% of recent college graduates felt that their education was worth and cost. With all these concerns in mind, I was quick to click on an article that appeared in my Facebook feed about free college in Germany.

Now, I have to tell you that I love a project and I love to plan. When we go on trips, I cross reference different sites and sources to make sure we are eating great meals, seeing great sights.  I use Google Maps to arrange the meals, sights and activities in a way that is most efficient.  Am I a bit obsessive?  Probably, but I can tell you where to get an incredible meal in many cities worldwide!  Anyhow, after reading the article on college in Germany, I thought looking into the feasibility of international college options would be a fun weekend project.  I had no idea how this topic would suck me in!

What I Found Down the Rabbit Hole…

I thought that learning about European colleges with bachelor’s degrees taught in English would be a quick project. I didn’t anticipate that, in non-Anglophone countries, there would be over 300 schools offering well over 1,000 bachelor’s programs taught in English.  Of course, I didn’t get to that number over a single weekend.

Initially, I did find many interesting programs which were incredibly affordable.  Some of the top universities in Europe were even free! Most are under $10,000 a year (the average tuition across all programs is $7,267). To put that cost in perspective, according to the College Board, the average annual tuition cost for an in-state, public university for 2014-2015 was $9,139. Go to an out-of-state public university and you’ll pay $22,958. For private universities, you’re looking at $31,231 on average.

Another key driver of cost is length of program. Most bachelor’s degree programs in Europe take just 3-3.5 years to complete.  In the US, the trend is going in the opposite direction with over 60% of students taking longer than 4 years to complete a bachelor’s degree.

I also found many frustrations.  There’s really no single place that has all the current data for all English taught programs in Europe. The tools that are out there are incomplete, advertising vehicles for the schools, dated or simply incorrect. Many of the articles written about getting a college degree abroad contain errors as well. Further, the educational systems in the Europe vary from country to country.

I had so many questions: What was this “Bologna Process” I kept reading about?  What are Universities of Applied Sciences?  What are ECTS?  What is ESN? Which countries have the best educational systems? How important are rankings?  Will going to college in Europe affect my kids’ ability to go to graduate school or get a job? Why not just do a semester abroad? What are the benefits and disadvantages to getting a degree abroad? What about residency permits & visas?  I was so interested in this that I started to dig deeper and get the answers to these questions.

I saw a study that 46,500 American students were enrolled in academic degree programs in 14 countries in 2011/2013 (19,500 in bachelors programs). That is a very small percent of the 20 million American students who will go to college this year. I couldn’t figure out why more Americans aren’t pursuing this option. I now believe it’s due to a lack of awareness about the English taught options in Europe, in combination with the various obstacles exploring an unknown system presents.  That is when I decided to start Beyond the States.

I believe that this option can provide so many students with critical thinking skills, global experiences and greater job prospects. I want more students and families to know about this option.  I have gathered information on how the systems in the different countries work, have talked to students and college administrators, am visiting schools in Europe, and have compiled information on the all different bachelor’s degree programs that are offered entirely in English in Europe.  I will be releasing a searchable database in the coming months, but until then I will provide you with information through this blog.

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