Here are nine reasons why you should consider going to college in Europe:
1. You’ll find it more affordable.
Since 1985, US college costs have surged by about 500 percent, and tuition and fees continue to rise. By comparison, European colleges are much more affordable.
According to the College Board, the average tuition rates in the US for 2014-15 are $9,139 for in-state tuition at a public university, $22,958 for out-of-state tuition at a public university and $31,231 for a private university, In continental Europe, the average cost of a bachelor’s program in English is just $7,291.
Many students are also able to finish in just three or three-and-a-half years, cutting tuition costs even further. And public universities in Germany, Norway, and Finland are tuition free–even for students who are not residents of the European Union.
Even if you factor in the cost of travel, studying at a European college is at a minimum comparable to an affordable American college program—and often cheaper.
2. You have more than 1,500 options.
Many American students don’t speak a foreign language proficiently enough to study at a college that teaches in it. But that doesn’t matter.
Even in non-anglophone countries in Europe, there are full-degree college programs taught in English. These countries are very welcoming to international students, especially Americans, who want to study there.
In fact, there are more than 300 European colleges and universities offering more than 1,500 programs in English.
3. You’ll gain a competitive edge over your peers.
Students who studied abroad stand out from the crowd when seeking jobs after college. The very act of leaving their comfort zone to make a fresh start in a new place builds skills and confidence that will be carried throughout a student’s life. Silicon Valley billionaire investor, Chris Sacca, describes international study experience as a critical differentiating characteristic among candidates. According to former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, “The Jack Welch of the future cannot be like me. I spent my entire career in the United States. The next head of [General Electric] will be somebody who spent time in Bombay, in Hong Kong, in Buenos Aires.”
According to The Erasmus Impact Study, internationally mobile students are half as likely to experience long-term unemployment compared with those who have not studied or trained abroad and five years after graduation their unemployment rate is 23 percent lower.
4. You avoid the US admissions rat race.
The college admissions process in the US has become a race to the bottom as students compete with their peers for a single spot in a liberal arts college, convinced by parents and guidance counselors that their survival rests on playing a musical instrument or varsity sport.
Many smart kids don’t do well on standardized tests. This doesn’t limit them as much when looking outside of the US, as many colleges in Europe do not require standardized tests. Many countries see entry into universities as a right, rather than a privilege, so admission standards are not as stringent.
5. You might be eligible for financial aid.
American students may be able to receive US federal loans, though typically not Pell grants, to study at an international college. The Department of Education has a list of international schools participating in its student loan program. Some European universities also provide grants and/or scholarships for foreign students.
6. You can spend your weekends exploring the world.
Travel opportunities abound when attending school outside the US. For example, Lille, a city in northern France with multiple universities, is close to major cities such as Brussels, London, and Paris via high-speed rail. Air travel, especially with the rise of affordable airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet, and Transavia, can be comparable in price to rail travel, so many more destinations open up for short-term travel.
7. You can earn a bachelor’s degree in just three years.
According to a study published by Complete College America, over 80 percent of students at US public universities do not to complete all the necessary courses to graduate in four years. According to the same report, every additional year averages $22,826 in tuition costs and expenses. In contrast, many bachelor’s degree programs in Europe are completed between three or three-and-a-half-years.
8. You can be an active participant in the learning process.
In Europe, the educational experience is rich and students are expected to engage and even encouraged to debate and disagree with the professor. The goal is to help solve problems and enhance critical thinking skills as opposed to regurgitating the material. Further, many universities use modules or block scheduling, so the number of courses you are taking are limited in number with more intensive study over a shorter period of time, focusing entirely on one class before moving to the next.
9. You can gain fluent language skills.
While a foreign language isn’t necessary to start or even complete many degree programs in Europe, students have a wonderful opportunity to really learn a language while they’re there, one which they are immersed in. Many colleges offer free language courses for international students where you can practice through daily interactions in town with native speakers and with other students. True fluency is gained outside the classroom.