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Study Abroad Timeline: When to Apply to European Colleges

The planning process to pursue American colleges is pretty well known, but we get a lot of questions about the study abroad timeline as a direct student in Europe. To be clear, we don’t consider college in Europe as study abroad since the students are in Europe for the duration of their studies, but many newcomers to the topic see the term as synonymous, so we are including it here. While it is possible to start at any point throughout the process, here is what we suggest from a planning perspective. Interested in graduate school? We have suggestions for that too at the end of the post!

Freshman and Sophomore Year

I recently had a roundtable discussion with several of our members who are studying in Europe. Many of them of them said that they wish they had a more robust study abroad timeline earlier in high school!  They all said that this would have helped with course planning, allowing them to pursue electives (related or unrelated to their area of study), spread out the APs, and to not stress about US admissions requirements.

Many parents think freshman year is too young to start. I agree that it is too young to choose a specific program and school, but it is not too young to start considering the idea or and options around college in Europe. This could start with an exploration of our free resources-like our free webinars (one for students, one for parents), blog posts, and podcast episodes. You can also find more in-depth information in College Beyond the States: European Schools that Will Change Your Life without Breaking the Bank. This book was published a few years ago and there have been some changes to details around admissions and such.  You can purchase the physical copy through Amazon and check our blog for details, or purchase the ebook through our site and you will get an email detailing the changes.

Spending some time digging into this information will help you all decide whether college in Europe is something you want to pursue or not. Many families join Beyond the States during this time, either for a few months or taking advantage of the savings offered by our lifetime membership option. Joining at this stage of the game can serve many purposes:

  • You can confirm that there are enough options of interest. You might find that there are enough appealing options that you won’t need to participate in the US admission process.
  • You can check whether the types of programs and countries that appeal to you have extra admissions requirements (AP and sometimes SAT) which will allow you to plan your courses accordingly.
  • You can plan deliberate ways to explore academic interests and explore how they might relate to potential areas of study. The How to Choose A Major course is another good option that helps with this!

This is also a great time to explore whether you have any possibility of dual citizenship. Dual citizenship allows the student to pay substantially decreased tuition costs in all the countries we have listed.

How great are the savings? The cost for an international student to attend the Liberal Arts and Sciences program at University College Groningen in the Netherlands is 12,850 EUR while for EU/EAA students the cost is 4,300 EUR, so the savings are massive!

If a student’s parent holds an EU passport, this is already part of the discussion. It is less well known that citizenship can passed down from the grandparents as well in some European countries such as Spain, Italy, Ireland, Germany, and others. The topic of immigration law is beyond the scope of the Beyond the States project, so you’ll have to research the topic on your own. Here’s a link to an article get you started on your researching path.

Junior Year Timeline

This is the part of the study abroad timeline that most families and students find Beyond the States. The goal this year is to identify the specific programs and schools that you are interested in, are within your budget, and match your qualifications.  This is a deeper dive than what occurred during the freshman and sophomore years and should include an exploration of individual needs and preferences around location, teaching approach, curriculum, university specific criteria, and more.

Most schools now offer virtual tours and online workshops throughout the year, particularly since Covid-19 put a temporary halt on international travel. While a number of our members started at universities without visiting ahead of time (even before Covid-19), junior year is a great time for visits, if possible. University visits are much different in Europe, and frequent/regularly occurring tours aren’t prevalent. Visits can still be useful and it’s often possible to meet with the school and potentially current students. Many schools offer in person events at specific times during the year as well. I suggest doing visits after the initial list is narrowed down a bit. It’s important to note that the feel of many places in the summer is quite different than when students are present. Thanksgiving is an ideal time, since you could spend a full week in  Europe and only miss two days of school.

There are several resources we offer to help with this stage.  Junior year is the prime time for our On Your Mark Masterclass, which is offered in the summer, fall, and spring each year. This is a six week class that takes students through the process of choosing an area of study and identifying the schools and programs that best fit their individual needs. The other benefit is the community it builds with other students who are pursuing these options!  If the class doesn’t fit your schedule or budget, you can choose the self paced Choosing A University Course. Many families opt for our best selling Best Fit List during junior year. This is a service in which BTS founder, Jenn Viemont, personally hand picks a list of 3-5 programs that meet the students individual needs. These services are available with or without membership, but the ongoing member resources are incredibly valuable at this stage.  We have a group of student ambassadors (BTS members already studying in Europe) who answer member questions in our students-only facebook group and parents who have navigated these options who provide incredible support and information in our members only facebook group.  Membership also includes access to monthly answers from Jenn through Office Hours recordings, as well as webinars, discounts, monthly highlighted programs, searchable database access, and more! The annual membership is perfect for juniors, as it provides two months free as well as credits to be used for BTS services. If there are other students in the home who may pursue the options (whether younger or older for grad school) the lifetime membership can provide tremendous savings as well!

Senior Year (or later)

We’re nearing the end of the study abroad timeline and it’s application time!  Many schools have rolling admission periods that start as early as October.  Some have admissions periods that don’t begin until later in the year.  Because of the transparent admissions procedures, most of the students we work with apply to just 1-3 programs. There just isn’t a need for any more than that!  The beginning of the year will require narrowing down the list, determining an application timeline and working on motivation letters.  Issues pertaining to immigration/residency permits and housing don’t begin until after you are accepted, usually in late spring.

Don’t worry if you are just learning about these options in senior year! Though you do need to hit the ground running, we have many resources to help.  Our fall  On Your Mark Masterclass sessions is often full of seniors just starting their pursuit. A few weeks after that class ends, we offer our annual Get Set Masterclass, which walks students through the application process.  We also offer a limited number of Crunch Time Packages for seniors in the fall and again in the spring, which includes a best fit list, an hour long consultation with Jenn to discuss the admissions plan, an admissions timeline with calendar, motivation letter review, and two email check ins to make sure the student is on track. Most of these services can be purchased separately as well.

What About a Study Abroad Timeline for Graduate School?

The biggest obstacle American students have when pursuing graduate school in Europe is that most require that applicants have a related major. This is generally defined as a set number of credits achieved in the study areas that the university defines as “related”. There are also sometimes requirements for research related classes. For these reason, the ideal time to start exploring is when you still have time to register for and take these required courses. Starting before the second semester of your junior year gives you ample time to plan accordingly.  In fact, even if you are continuing in the same field of study, this is the ideal plan to start since there are a number of master’s degree programs with international student deadlines as early as January. Our master’s degree membership at this level includes monthly webinars that help students navigate the Europe specific considerations, monthly office hours with Jenn, as well as the searchable database.. Due to the  massive number of options for master’s degree program, a Best Fit List is a great way to jump start the process! If there are younger siblings who might consider studying in Europe, the lifetime membership can be a great choice since it includes access to our bachelor’s and master’s degree resources and databases.

Remember-exploring the options does not have to mean that you are committed to them! The research will allow you to make an informed decision about where you study, be it in the US, Europe, or elsewhere in the world. Bottom line is that though there are certainly ideal times to start the process, it’s not too early or too late no matter what stage you are in!

 

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Is Free Tuition the Most Affordable Option?

We sometimes get emails from students who say that they want to find information about universities with free tuition, but that they can’t afford to pay for our services. The concern I have is that these students have a misconception about what it will actually cost to study and live in Europe.

The Beyond the States database contains over 75 English-taught bachelor’s degree programs and 857 English-taught master’s degree programs that charge zero tuition for international students. These programs are mainly in Norway, Iceland, and Germany. But “free tuition” does not actually mean cost free.

The first thing students need to consider is proof of means, which is  more properly described as “proof of means of subsistence”. Essentially, this is the minimum amount of income a student will need to live as a student. This is an amount set by the individual country’s government as part of the immigration process. Students who aren’t EU citizens need to provide proof that they have the  full amount for the year during the immigration process.  

Norway is one of the countries that offers international students free tuition at their public universities.  It truly is a remarkably beautiful place. During our visit there in 2016, we really enjoyed everything that was on offer. One thing that became immediately apparent was the high cost of living. According to Expatistan, Oslo, Norway’s capital, is slightly more expensive than Los Angeles (after New York and San Francisco, LA is the 3rd most expensive city in the US). 

An international student in Norway will pay no tuition, but they will pay more than 10,000 euros a year on housing, food, transportation, and leisure expenses (and that is on a VERY tight budget).  In fact, proof of means in Norway is 10800 euros which often allows for a very modest lifestyle. Estonia has many similarities to the Nordic countries, and students do pay an average of 3168 euros per year in tuition. However, the living costs are so much lower that EVEN WITH TUITION, they end up paying almost 2000 euros less per year. Of course, because cost of living is so much lower, the amount of money you need for proof of means is also easier to swallow at 4500 euros per year.

Families and students are frequently drawn to the “free college in Germany” idea. Of course, the admissions requirements often create obstacles for students.  The cost of living in Germany can be quite reasonable. Berlin is on the more expensive side at just 28% less expensive than LA.   However, it would still be a mistake to focus solely on Germany.

Let’s compare Germany to the Czech Republic.  Proof of means in Germany is 10236 euros and is 3600 euros in the Czech Republic.  Depending on the source, Berlin is anywhere from 32%49% more expensive than Prague. Even using the lower cost difference, a student in the Czech Republic would have 41 bachelor’s and 98 master’s options in which they would pay the same for living AND tuition as they would pay for living expenses alone in Germany.

While these aren’t all necessarily dramatic differences, we are comparing your overall expenses including tuition. The fact that you can pay less overall while paying a few thousand euros a year in tuition is precisely the reason not to confine your search to only those with free tuition. For a student who has a tight budget, those savings can mean a lot and/or open up a lot of options that are comparable in cost.

Let’s go back to the student who has a very tight budget and doesn’t think they can afford to work with Beyond the States. We have a self paced course called Choosing A University in Europe.  This course walks students through the process of choosing a European university (for bachelor’s)*that fits their criteria and includes 30 days of database access.  Membership is not required for the course, which costs $75.  Without taking this course, a budget minded student might confine their search to free tuition and not know that they need to come up with over 10000 euros for proof of means. They might apply in Norway, not knowing that you need a certain number of AP courses.  They might not be aware of one of my favorite universities in the Czech Republic which has a Environmental Studies program for under 1000 euros per year.

The knowledge gained after making this one time payment will save you endless hours and minimize the risk of making costly mistakes. It also has the potential to save you thousands of dollars. Of course, if you are comparing to US prices, the savings potential is mind-blowing!  

We would love to help you find life-changing opportunities within your budget! Use coupon code “affordable” through March 7th to save 20% on the Choosing A University Course or your first month of bachelor’s or master’s membership.

***Our master’s membership includes webinars that walk students through the same process.

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German College Update

german college building I love it when I learn something new about universities in Europe from a member!  I was on our live member Q&A call on Sunday when a member asked about something she saw on the German college site (daad.de/en) about APs.  When we last wrote about this country, Germany did not consider APs as recently as just a few months ago, so I told her that I would look into it and get back to her.

I have very exciting news to report about this! First, though, let me give you a little bit of backstory.  Students often come to me asking about German college. Some students are interested in the culture, after taking some German in school. Others are excited by the tuition (which is free to international students at most public universities). German colleges used to require that American students submit SAT scores to apply but, a couple of years ago they stopped accepting these scores. That meant that American applicants needed either an IB diploma, 2 years of college credits (with a number of course requirements), or a full Associate’s degree. For many students, German college was off the table.

It’s now a feasible option again, though still quite difficult. The first requirement pertains to the courses the student takes in high school. Most of these are pretty much aligned with the college track graduation requirements in the US. These requirements include 4 years of English (honors for one), 2 years of a foreign language, 3 years of social studies,  2-3 years of math (Algebra II or Trig and Precalc), and 2-3 in Science (2 courses in either math or science, 3 in the other).  This is all doable.

In addition, students need to have 4 AP scores of 3+. These scores make students eligible to apply only for specific subjects. There are two different combinations of specific scores needed. Students who want to apply to programs related to Humanities, Social Sciences, Law, and Economics need scores of 3+ in:

  • English
  • Foreign language (French, Spanish, Latin, or German)
  • Math or natural science (Calc, Bio, Chem, or both Physics C tests
  • Additional score in European History, American History, Computer Science or Macro+Micro Economics

Students who want to apply for programs around Math, Science, and Technology need scores of 3+ in:

  • Math (specifically Calc)
  • Natural Science (Bio, Chem, or both Physics C tests)
  • Language (French, Latin, German, Spanish or English Lit or Lang/Comp)
  • Additional score in European History, American History, Computer Science or Macro+Micro Economics

In order to keep all the options open, a student could take five APs that include Calc, Bio or Chem, English, Foreign Language, and one of the additional tests noted.

I don’t often recommend German universities. In addition to the fact that they were impossible for most American students to apply to for the last few years, I also found that many of them had a rigid and old school approach to education. It’s often (not always) very lecture oriented and not as interactive as many of the students I work with are looking for. There are some indications that this might be changing, or at least that are some new options with a different approach. The Global Environmental and Sustainability Studies program at Leuphana University, for instance,  certainly points in that direction. I recently wrote chose this to profile in a Beyond the States Program of the Month. These are generally accessible only to members, but in celebration of the good news around German admissions, I’m sharing it here as well!

There are affordable and high quality options in other countries as well! In fact, of the 1900+ programs in continental Europe, only about 350 have the AP requirements.  It’s a great time to start exploring since there are a few days left to take advantage of our FREE 5 COURSE BUNDLE!    This offer is good through 11/21/20, so act now to take advantage of the knowledge AND savings!

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Ellie’s Prep for European Admissions

I just finished reading Jeffrey Selingo’s new book “Who Gets in and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions”. I’m sure I’ll be doing a post in the future about what I’ve learned as it’s a fascinating read! Some of the most disturbing chapters are those that describe what he heard when he sat in on admissions sessions at different universities, when the admissions counselors decide whether a student would be admitted or denied. There was the student who applied to Emory with strong grades and a rigorous curriculum but the admissions counselors felt he was “lackluster”. They were also concerned that the candidate stated an interest in neuroscience, but they didn’t see any examples of this in his file. They voted to deny, but he was moved back to the admit pile later in the season because he is a legacy and child of an employee. This account disturbs me on so many levels! Not only are the reasons they voted to deny him crazy to me, but the reason he was admitted bothers me just as much…

The book also talks about the importance of “demonstrated interest” in US admissions and how some schools assign as much or more weight to this as they do recommendations, essays, class rank, and activities. Of course, this is an easy criteria to game, as demonstrated by the mom who opened all the emails Tulane sent her son when he was away for the summer. Guess what? He got accepted (but chose to go elsewhere).

Can I just tell you how glad I am that my kids haven’t had to participate in such a flawed process? As I’ve said before, the transparent admissions process in Europe has affected our families’ lives as much as the savings. I want my kids to work hard but to do so in ways that are meaningful to their lives, learnings, and goals-not the way dictated by a rigged system.

As I discussed a few weeks ago, my 16 year old daughter Ellie will be applying to schools in Europe. The straightforward process has given Ellie the freedom to choose the majority of her courses around her interest areas, without worrying about what colleges will think of her selections. She knows the specific courses that are required by different programs, and she is taking those, but our focus has been around exposing her to academic courses in her interest areas. Having an idea of how her interest areas translate into academic subjects will help her have a better idea of what she wants to study.

Our admissions strategy has been to keep as many options open as possible. In Europe, the admissions requirements are defined. The goal of is to meet their requirements, not to be better than all the other applicants in a number of different categories. Though there are exceptions (we’re talking about an entire continent after all) applicants’ achievements are usually compared to the set admissions requirements. If anything else is assessed, it is generally about the fit of student to the program and program to the student.

Non-selective admissions is difficult thing to wrap our brains around when we are used to the American process. It’s especially when we have bought into the belief that selectivity is correlated with quality. I’ve discussed this more in depth in different posts over the year, as well as this podcast interview with an administrator from the University of Groningen (which happens to be a top 100 globally ranked university that also uses this type of admissions). I really encourage you to listen as it will help you challenge any of your perspectives that don’t apply when applying to universities in Europe.

Ok, back to the strategy. We knew that, in order to keep the majority of her options open, Ellie would need an IB diploma or four AP scores of 3+ . Many of the schools with these requirements only require three scores, but we were shooting to keep them all open. I really want to stress that the majority of the programs in Europe DON’T have these “extra” requirements. In fact, only about 350 of 1900+ options do. That said, since we knew this was the route Ellie would take from the beginning, it was easy enough to plan accordingly. We did this knowing that she might not need the scores or IB diploma where she ends up applying and attending.

Ellie started at a new school this year, when we moved to Portugal, and it is one that offers the IB diploma program. Though I think very highly of this curriculum, we decided to stick with the AP route. Ellie took two AP courses and tests her sophomore year so she’s already halfway through the requirements. Her school doesn’t offer APs, so she is taking her final two online this year. Her school has given her independent study blocks during those times so she’s able to still do the work during school hours. The great thing is that she is still taking IB classes. As a non-IB student, the requirements and assessment will be a bit different but she is still getting the content. I feel like it’s the best of both worlds! Further, since she will have all four of her scores before senior year, any acceptances will not be conditional on a score she gets after graduating.

I want to note that students can still apply if they are taking their APs during their senior year, in fact our son Sam went this route. That said, if they don’t get the required AP score, they won’t be able to attend. I advise students to also accept an offer from a school that doesn’t require the APs when they will be waiting on a score after graduating so they aren’t stuck with no plan if something happens with the AP score they are hoping for.

I mentioned that Ellie has her eye on a few Dutch university colleges. These programs are selective, which means that not only does she have to meet extra criteria (usually a math requirement, sometimes an extra AP score), but admissions is not a sure thing even if she meets the criteria. One of the university college programs she is interested in accepts an AP Stats score for the math requirement. Another one requires AP Calc which is just not going to happen…However, this program does allow a SAT or ACT score to sub for the math requirement. Ellie will take the PSAT this fall through school, after which we will determine which of the two tests she will take in the spring. Again, since we know the score she needs to sub for the math requirement, it won’t be a matter of arbitrarily deciding whether or not she needs to take it multiple time.

After Ellie decides on whether or not she wants to study business, sustainability, or something else, she will then determine where she wants to apply. We will hopefully be able to visit some schools in the spring. If not, she will participate in the online recruitment events this year and we will visit in early fall. When she makes her list, it will include a “sure thing” program, which is like a safety school. Here’s the thing-a sure thing program can also be the first choice! If she were applying to almost any other program at University of Groningen or Erasmus University Rotterdam (these are where the university colleges she is interested area), it would be a sure thing since those are non-selective programs. Again-repeat after me-selectivity does not correlate with quality, reputation, or prestige!

Ellie has identified a few programs for business that would be sure things (which may also end up being her first choice), but she hasn’t found one yet for her other interests. Her main list right now is University College Fyslan (for sustainability and multidisciplinary programs), Erasmus University College (where she would decide her major the second year from a large number of topics that interest her), NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences (for Creative Business) and Toulouse Business School (also for business). We’re waiting until spring when she has a better idea of her direction to work on other non-business programs, since it might be moot.

*** Some of the schools mentioned were profiled in College Beyond the States: European Schools That Will Change Your Life Without Breaking the Bank. The book can be purchased on Amazon, or you can buy the ebook here for a discounted price. If you do purchase through amazon, be sure to check the blog about a few changes that have occurred since the book was published. This comes in an email when purchasing the ebook through out site.*******

Ellie isn’t doing any extracurriculars during the school year that are structured in a way that would impress US admissions officers. Most of the extracurriculars at her school aren’t running right now, due to covid, but I’m not sure if she would join even if they were. She’s talked about eventually doing something with the yearbook, if possible, but it will be up to her. She’s the type of kid who pursues her interests in less structured ways which doesn’t affect the admissions process at all! I really do hope you listen to the podcast I mentioned. We talk about things that do and don’t matter in the European admissions process. Extracurriculars just don’t matter.

Ellie is spending her junior year exploring her academic interests, taking AP and IB courses, adjusting to life in a new country (with covid factors as well…), learning a new language, taking care of her dog, making new friends, maintaining friendships from the US, watching “old” teen shows from the 2000’s with me, and relaxing when needed. I think all of these things have value, but a US admissions officer would not. The fact that we can live our lives according to our values AND Ellie can still access a top notch education that will prepare her for the future, expose her to more of the world, and provide life changing experiences is really a game-changer in my book!

Interested in learning more? Even if you are a senior (or already graduated), it’s not too late to explore your possibilities! If you are serious about pursuing these options for 2021, I suggest the Best Fit List, in which I personally hand pick 3-5 programs that meet the student’s interests, goals, qualifications, and budget. Act now and receive one month free membership with your purchase of a best fit list. There is no long term commitment to membership, simply cancel within the membership portal 7 days before your next billing date and you will not be charged again!

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No Limits

“I want to study in France.”

“I read College Beyond the States and found the school I’m going to apply to!”

“I don’t need the help of BTS, the internet has everything I need for free!”

Watch the video to find out why I think all of these approaches are limiting when considering college in Europe.

SUMMER MASTERCLASS?

I’ve had a lot of emails inquiring about the next On Your Mark Masterclass. This is a live course I offer twice a year.  Students learn about the what they need to consider when looking for a university (many of these are specific to Europe) and are then guided through the process I personally use when creating best fit lists for students. At the end of the course, they have a short list of 3-5 programs that best fit their interests, preferences, budget, goals, and qualifications. This is a six week class that involves video lessons (at least students are used to these now!), assignments, 3 group calls (Sunday afternoons) with myself and the other students, and personal feedback from me on 3 different assignments.  

I will be setting the date for fall soon, but given that many summer plans have been cancelled, I’m thinking of offering it in summer too (if there is enough interest). If you would consider signing up for a summer masterclass, please shoot us an email at members@beyondthestates.com

Here’s the link for Masterclass information.

 

 

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Looking Ahead and Planning Accordingly

As you may know, my daughter Ellie is a sophomore and has been attending a virtual high school this year.  We knew we would be moving during the school year and decided that this would be easier than trying to find a school where she could start mid year. Instead, she will start at an international school in the fall. This virtual year also allowed her to travel with me a lot, which has been incredible for both of us!

One thing I’ve learned through her online school experience is how much time in a regular school day at a brick and mortar school must be spent on non academic matters. That’s not to stay that many of those things aren’t of value, but Ellie is able to complete her classes and assignments each day in MUCH less than  a traditional 7 hour school day!  And this is with two AP classes!

With so many schools shut down right now, you might be seeing the same. Perhaps you live in a state that is enforcing more strict shelter at home measures.  We’re living that right now in Portugal and it makes excessive free time a little less enjoyable…

It’s often hard to plan for the future when we are in the midst of a crisis-the focus is more about getting through each day. The problem is that this strategy leaves us unprepared when things are stabilized. Though we may need to be more flexible with our plans, we still need to anticipate the future and work towards goals.

I’m working on a few personal goals during this time. The first is working on learning Portuguese.  Languages don’t come easily to me, but I’m making myself work on this daily and am looking forward to the days when I will actually be communicating with people in places other than grocery stores!  I’m also working on my flexibility.  I seriously can’t even touch my toes an as I’m getting older this is causing a lot of aches and pains.  I’ve alway struggled to find the motivation to stretch. I get bored and-because I lack flexibility- it’s not comfortable. I bit the bullet and signed up for an online class that walks me through what I need to do for 15 minutes a day to double my flexibility in a month.  I’ve also thrown a fun project in there too!  I ordered a bottle of wine from each region in Portugal to learn about the differences and my preferences.  While I have to make sure that language learning and stretching are on my list each day, this is one goal I remember to work on regularly! In a time of such uncertainty, it actually feels really good to be working towards something!

Though it’s hard to imagine right now, at some point the worst of this health crisis will be behind us.  I imagine/hope that things will be relatively normal by fall of 2020 (though we may have a new definition of normal).  By fall of 2021 or 2022, when some of your kids will be starting university, this will be well in the past-hopefully due to a vaccine!  Unfortunately, for many of us, the economic impact of the social distancing measures are hitting hard and affecting college savings.

How about some good news? Each year, after the database updates are complete, we update our numbers for the average tuition of the English-taught bachelors degree programs in continental Europe. Get this-there are 1953 English-taught bachelor’s degree programs in Europe and the average tuition is just $7390 per year-and remember-most of these just take 3 years to complete!

When you start looking at the country level, it’s even more astounding.

  • Czech Republic-home of a few of my favorite schools in Brno and Prague-with an average of $4675 per year!
  • Norway-one of the happiest places in the world according to studies-at an average of $930 per year!
  • Estonia-which I think is a hidden gem for students-with an average of $5420 per year!

Sweden, and Denmark have the highest averages, each at about $13,400.  I love that $13,400 is considered the high side, as opposed to $30-50,000!

So what do we know?

Our kids have extra time right now.

At some point in the future, we will not be confined to our houses.

Money may be tight and our investments may have suffered losses.

You are getting this email because at some point in time you expressed interest in college in Europe, by opting in to our email list. This is a fantastic time to explore these options more in depth! Because of the financial issues facing many of us right now, I know that committing to a monthly membership fee  can feel like a no-go.  I’d like to tell you about some stand alone options we have, as well as some special offers around these services.

Over the years, I’ve developed a number of courses to help students and families navigate the options in Europe.

Our best selling course,  Choosing A University in Europe, walks you though the process of finding the right school. It actually is the process I use when I’m working on best fit lists for student! The course helps you determine the criteria to search including budget, admissions, field of study, location specific criteria, and more! It includes 30 days of database access so you can conduct your own search using the criteria you decide on through the activities included with each lesson.

Though Choosing a University is the best starting point, we have other courses to help you navigate the other aspects of exploring college in Europe. We have one that provides information abut the admissions process,  another that helps you determine what area of study is best for you, one that talks about business schools in Europe and another that talks about the options in the Netherlands (since they have the largest number of English-taught options with a wide variety of disciplines represented, including liberal arts).

Right now, I’m offering 50% all of these courses, which means most are just $25. Both parents and students can benefit from these courses and they are completely self paced so finish as quickly or slowly as you like! We also offer an option for If you would like personalized support through the process too.

My son, Sam, is with us in Portugal right now. His Dutch university, like most, has cancelled face to face classes for the rest of the semester.  Lectures are recorded and tutorials (which are the smaller seminars) are done through Skype calls. Like most of the students I’ve worked with, he is eager to get back to his life in the Hague!  His  tuition is on the higher side of the European tuition range, at $11,350 per year. Despite that, overall we are paying about $200,000 than we would at a comparable US private university and even about $40,000 less than we would for instate tuition at one of the flagship state school in North Carolina, where we were residents.

 

So $25 to….

… take action towards preparing for when the virus is behind us.

… learn about high quality educational experiences.

….avoid student loans, second mortgages, and using retirement savings for tuition.

…provide life changing experiences for our kids.

… pursue opportunities that will give them a competitive edge in the workplace when they graduate.

Sound good?

If any of these benefits appeal to you, then follow the link to sign up for the courses!

Discount expires on June 15th

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Changes to College in Germany

college in GermanyAs some of you may know, Germany has changed their admission requirements, and it’s now much more difficult for American students to apply.  Until this year, in order to be eligible to apply for college in Germany, American students needed either an IB diploma or a regular high school diploma with:

  • a 3.0 GPA,
  • a number of specified courses and
  • a minimum of either 1,360 on the SAT or 28 on the ACT.

For students not meeting these requirements, a number of college credits were required.

Well, all that has changed. Germany is no longer accepting SAT or ACT scores.  If you have an IB diploma with 3-4 HL classes, certain required classes, and no more than one exam score of 3 or lower then you are still eligible to apply.  What about the rest of us though?  If you are graduating with a regular high school diploma, you will have to fulfill one of the below requirements before applying:

  • 2 years of full time college credits (these cannot be completed at a community college or liberal arts school).
  • A full Associate’s Degree

With 4) AP scores of 3+ in English, foreign language, math or natural science and one other area, you can apply for humanities, social sciences, economics and emergency home solutions programs only.

With 4) AP scores of 3+ in math, natural science, language, and one additional subject, you can apply for programs in math, technology, and natural sciences.

A German Foundation Year program

Unless you want to spend 6 years of full time study on your bachelor’s, the foundation year is your best bet (called studienkolleg).  Here are my concerns with these programs though:

Public studienkolleges are taught only in German. There are private studienkolleg programs, but there is a fee involved. One of the programs costs a whopping 17,500 euros for the year!  This includes housing, but is in a part of Germany where housing is not so expensive. Another one, in Berlin, is 11,000 euros per year. This does not include housing, and housing in Berlin is not cheap or easy to find.
Most of the private studienkollegs are connected to a particular university.  In many cases, it won’t qualify you for admissions to other German universities.  Further, not every German university has a connected private/English-taught foundation year program.
Many students participating in the programs are there to improve their English proficiency, in order to meet admission requirements. My concern is whether this would slow down the instruction and pace of learning in other classes.

So, what are your options if you really want to study in Germany?
The first thing you want to do is to identify the reasons that studying in this one particular country is so important to you, and identify alternatives, based on those reasons.

Maybe it’s because you have enjoyed learning the language and would like the opportunity to use and develop those skills at college in Germany.  If that’s the case, you could consider  other countries that have German as their sole official language (Austria) or their co-official language (Switzerland and Belgium).

Perhaps the culture is what appeals to you about college in Germany. If so, I suggest looking at schools that are very close to the border, allowing for easy day trips. Prague is just over an hour and a half to Dresden by train. Salzburg is under two hours to Munich. Nijmegen is just 30 minutes to Kleve. Maastricht is under 90 minutes to Cologne. Szczecin in Poland is less than two hours to Berlin.  These are all close enough that you can still experience German culture on a fairly regular basis.

Of course, many people are attracted to the free tuition offered by college in Germany at most of the public universities!  The other major consideration is that the requirement for college credits or the foundation year no longer make accessing these programs as affordable, when you factor in those costs.  For instance, if you attend the studienkolleg program in Aachen, you could attend Rhine Waal University of Applied Science.  Tuition here is free, but students pay an enrollment fee of 270 EUR per semester.  At the completion of the 4.5 years (3.5 years for the bachelors+ 1 year for the foundation year), your total will be 19,390 euros (not including housing, of course, for the other 3.5 years). Any 3 year program less than 6,463 euros per year would cost less  than this and any 4 year program under 4,847 euros per year-not to mention that you begin to generate income sooner.  There are around 800 programs in our database-outside of college in Germany- that fall in this range.

college in germanyIf there is a particular German university you are dying to attend or a city you feel you must live in, then there are opportunities to do so for at least one semester of your studies at another European university.  This is possible through either bilateral agreements the school has as well as the Erasmus program, which allows you to spend up to a year at another school or in an internship.  We have a blog that explains that option as well as a podcast interviewing the International Board of Erasmus Student Network.  It’s a super exciting option!

More than anything, I encourage students to keep an open mind when considering their options in Europe.  Yes, I know there are amazing places that you already know about, like college in Germany. I know there are places that you’ve always dreamed of going, but there are even more amazing places that you might not have considered or even be aware of.  Our Best Fit List helps students and families identify programs in places they might not have otherwise considered.  I create a personalized list of programs that are a good fit for the student’s personality, preferences, interests, qualifications, and budgets. Sign up for a Best Fit list today!

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Sam’s (Mostly) Low Stress Junior Year

Ahh…..the end of the school year.  Sam is completing his junior year of high school and Ellie is finishing 8th grade. It’s hard to believe that it was this time three years ago that I learned about the possibilities for college in Europe.  Man, I can only imagine how different the last three years of our lives would have been (as well as the next four) if we didn’t know about these alternatives.

Many of you know that I believe that the benefits provided by the transparent admissions processes in Europe have as much of an impact on our lives as the incredible amounts of money we will save.  I’ve been hearing all sorts of stories about students who are “perfect applicants” not getting into their top choice schools, which also creates stress among the kids in Sam’s grade. Our year has been pretty relaxed (at least as it pertains to college admissions).

Before Sam knew exactly where in Europe he wanted to study, we knew that in order to keep his options totally open he would need four AP scores of 3+*.  It would not help him any if he had ten AP scores of five, he just needed the three or four scores to make his US high school diploma the equivalent of the diploma needed to attend universities in Italy, Norway, Denmark, and the research universities in the Netherlands  Though the vast majority or schools in Europe do not require AP courses, our game plan was to plan his high school courses to keep as many options open as possible.  Sam took one AP course last year, he is taking two this year, and he is registered for two his senior year.  He has found this workload to be reasonable, and he has registered for the fifth AP course next year in case he does not get a 3 or higher on one of the tests he will take this month.

By the summer before junior year, Sam had zeroed in on what he wanted to study, so we came up with a list of programs that would be a good fit for him (a service we also offer to members). Of the possibilities, one stood out far ahead of the others. Sam has a huge interest in the Middle East and Arabic.  Because he hasn’t had to spend his high school years playing the US admissions game, he has been able to cultivate this interest on his own. Leiden University, in the Netherlands, has an International Studies program that allows students to choose a region and related language to specialize in their second year. Given that the Middle East/Arabic was an option (of eight regions and 22 languages), Sam preferred this program over the other more general International Relations programs we were looking at.

Sam has traveled with me a good bit in Europe and has been to the Netherlands before.  Since he has had this exposure and knew he liked enjoyed the country, he didn’t feel the need to visit more than one school. We signed up for the Experience Day at Leiden (which conveniently fell over Thanksgiving break) and decided that if he felt differently afterwards we could plan another trip to visit more schools. I’ll tell you, that is a trip I would have been on board for since another school he was considering is in the South of France!  Sam was incredibly excited after the Experience Day-about what he would learn, the types of kids who would be his classmates, where he would live, and more! No French Riviera for me this year…

Most of the orchid maids programs at Leiden-and in the Netherlands as a whole, have a completely transparent and non-competitive admissions policy.  If you have the qualifications that are defined, then you are in. Period.  Leiden requires a 3.5 GPA and 3 AP scores of 3+.  Sam’s GPA is in good shape and he’s on track for the AP scores. They open their rolling admissions period in October.  Sam will apply then and have his admissions decision before Thanksgiving.  If he has his AP scores, there is no question as to whether or not he will get in, so he doesn’t need to apply to  a number of universities.  His first choice school is also his safety school!  I’d like to caution you against thinking that this admissions process is indicative of a lower educational quality.  It is not.  Universities in the Netherlands are extremely reputable worldwide.  They have a different philosophy to access to higher education and students have to prove that they have what it takes to succeed the first year of study, passing a preset number of courses or they are not allowed to return the second year.

Later this month, I will share  a few examples of choices we have been able to make to opt out of the problems with the US path to college admissions.  Spoiler alert-opting out feels great!!

*As of October 2018, Leiden now requires US students to have three AP scores of 4+, with four scores of 4+ for the university college.

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College in Europe: The Escape Plan From The Madness of US Admissions Process

I just read that there are over now almost 40 schools in the US that charge more than $65,000 per year.  SIXTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS PER YEAR!  That is absolutely mind blowing to me. What is just as shocking to me is the cut throat admission process which is actively hurting our kids. A recent Psychology Today article notes that it is this aspect of the high school experience that is creating a mental health crisis on campus.

I’ve talked recently about what I’ve learned about the crazy US admissions process. I’m not even living this and thinking about it stresses me out! Why don’t more people opt out of this costly, stressful, and arbitrary system? I think it’s because many don’t know that there actually is a better way! Let me tell you about how things can be different.  When we founded Beyond the States, our son Sam, knew that he was interested in studying in Europe. Going into his freshman year, he knew some countries required US students to have either an IB diploma or up to (but no more than) four AP scores of 3+.  He decided to take the four AP courses throughout sophomore, junior, and senior year in order to keep all his options in Europe open. Though I have issues with APs, spreading the four courses out over three years seems very doable.

Sam knows that he is interested in studying the Middle East, specifically the various conflicts in the region.  One school in the Netherlands has two programs he is interested in; an International Studies program and a Security Studies program. The International Studies program allows him to choose a regional focus area from their offering of seven, one of which is the Middle East. This focus is chosen after the first semester of study. Students study the history, economy, culture, and language of their chosen region, along with general courses on international economics, politics, and globalization.  During the third year, students can do an internship or do a semester abroad in their region of study. The final semester is spent in a practice course, which teaches them to apply the knowledge from the program through case studies with international organizations. A thesis is also completed in the final semester.

Students in the Security Studies program “learn to analyse contemporary security and safety issues and devise strategic solutions”. The first year introduces students to the threats and the vulnerabilities through looking at Syria and Iraq as well as the threat of natural disasters that affect infrastructure like Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant.  The second year, students learn more about strategies for protection by studying the challenges of terrorism and counterterrorism, cyber threats and risk management, as well as war and peace building. The third year student can specialize through a minor, study abroad, or do an internship.  The third year ends with an integrated project and thesis.

Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? Both of these programs are at Leiden University, in the Netherlands, which is ranked in the top 100 schools globally. As you may know, I’m not that interested in rankings. I only mention it because once I tell you about what the admission process looks like, you might make the incorrect assumption that it’s not a good school.

At many English College in Europe, including Leiden, the focus is on the fit between the student and program as opposed to the “holistic” process in the States.  Neither of these programs has an enrollment cap, which means that if an applicant applies by the deadline and meets the admission requirements, then he is admitted. The Netherlands is one of those countries that have an AP requirement for their research universities.  Sam should be able to meet that requirement.  He will need two reference letters, one of which is academic.  These are not shielded in secrecy like they are here. He uploads them to the school himself. That way if, by chance, one of the recommendations is not as strong as he would like he can either talk to that teacher or ask someone else to write one for him. He will also need to write motivation letters-a separate one for each other programs he applies to more info about water damage restoration in riverside ca.  These do not have to reveal any emotional revelations or talk about any trials and tribulations he encountered through his life. He will just need to write about his interests and future goals as they pertain to the program and speak to why he is interested in the particular program, specific school, and specific city and country.  Given that he has spent his high school years exploring his interests (the Middle East is one of them along with -full disclosure- playing video games), this should not be particularly challenging.

So, not only does Sam not have to pad his resume with all sorts of activities and accomplishments in areas that don’t interest him, he also doesn’t have to take ACT or SAT prep course as the scores are not used in the admission decision. Further, Leiden uses rolling admissions which begin in October each year, so Sam will be able to apply in October and receive a decision 6 weeks later – well before Christmas!  Just like the acceptance offers in the US, this will be a provisional offer which requires him to graduate high school and obtain a 3+ on his final AP.   Ready for the kicker?  Each of these programs only takes 3 years to complete and cost just around $12,000 a year -and that’s on the high end of tuition in Europe! What a breath of fresh this all is!

Would you like to learn more about how and why we made our plan to send Sam to Europe for college? Would you like to see the thousands of affordable, English conducted options? If so, then check out our membership options. Members of Beyond the States gain access to our database of over 1,700 English-taught bachelor’s programs. Graduate members have access to 5,329 English-taught master’s programs.

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Four Tips to Navigate European College Admissions

European college admissions My 16-year-old son, Sam, recently came home from school and said he needed my assistance choosing his courses for next year. I was intrigued, given that most of my advice is unsolicited and met with resistance, and also because he wanted to talk before he even made his giant bowl of ramen or cereal for his after school snack. It seems that the counselor spoke to his class about the college admissions process and course registration for next year and Sam had fallen victim to some of the fear mongering.  He began asking me if he should take certain classes (that he had no interest in) because they would look good on his applications. Since he will be completing the European college admissions process, his path will be different.

European college admissions If Sam were applying to schools in the US, these would be valid concerns. I recently read “Crazy U: One Dad’s Crash Course in Getting His Kid into College” by Andrew Ferguson, which chronicles his family’s experiences as his son applies to college.  Let me tell you, this is an enjoyable and readable book, particularly if you know that you are not going to have to jump through these hoops. Instead of stressing out about the upcoming process, I was able to read it feeling grateful that we would bypass these struggles. He learned that the typical college admissions counselor spends an average of just five minutes reading each application. With so many highly qualified applicants, admissions counselors often have to look for reasons not to admit an applicant, whether it’s that the applicant doesn’t have enough AP classes, their class ranking is not high enough, their SATs/ACTs are mediocre, there aren’t enough extracurricular activities (with leadership roles preferably), or their summers aren’t filled with sufficient enrichment. But wait! Too many extracurriculars may indicate that the applicant lacks focus. Also, the applicant shouldn’t focus on just one type of extracurricular or it might look he doesn’t have a diversity of interest. The list of reasons not to admit an applicant goes on and on…I can’t even imagine how I would cope if we had to navigate that system. I was able to confidently reassure Sam that his experience would be very different. You see, European college admissions decisions are based on the amount of space in the program, whether or not the applicant has the requirements needed to succeed in the program, and whether or not the program and applicant are a “good fit”. Some programs at very reputable and highly ranked schools are non-selective. These programs don’t have an enrollment cap so, if you meet the objective admissions requirements (be that GPA, a set number of AP test scores, etc.), you’re in.  Is this the “holistic” approach taken by US schools?  No, but it’s certainly less subjective and more transparent. Not only is the holistic approach highly subjective, but it also has led to the highly competitive admissions process.  This competition is not just at the Ivies and their counterparts. Even schools that many haven’t heard of, like College of the Ozarks in Missouri,  Jarvis Christian College in Texas and Rust College in Mississippi accept less than 16%! It is virtually impossible to excel in every category colleges are looking at so students (or their parents) almost always feel inadequate and vulnerable to rejection.Here’s the advice I have given Sam about how to prepare for European college admissions process:

1. Be aware of admissions requirements of different countries have and plan accordingly.  

There are a few countries that require American students to have either an IB diploma of a certain number of AP scores of 3+. Sam knew that he was interested in one of these countries last year, so he is spreading out the 4 AP courses he will need through his sophomore, junior, and senior year and will not take more than two in a single year.  He’s not interested in Germany, which has requirements that pertain to GPA, SAT scores, and courses were taken, so we aren’t focusing too much on the SATs. One of the programs Sam likes has a math requirement which can be met through an AP or a SAT/ACT score. Math is not Sam’s strongest subject, so he would rather not take an AP math.  We will see how he does on the ACT and then if it’s not high enough, we will determine whether he is close enough to raise the math score through some self-study (or a tutor) or not.

2. Follow your interests as opposed to padding your resume

After assessing whether an applicant meets the admissions requirements (which are the indicator of whether or not there are the needed skills/knowledge to succeed in the program) the other thing schools in Europe look at is whether or not the student is a good fit for the program and the program is a good fit for the student. Fit is usually evaluated through a motivation letter. Sam is interested in international relations and area studies, particularly pertaining to the Middle East.  Arabic was only offered for one year at his high school, which he took, and then has continued with self-study.  After the counselor visit, he was concerned about Arabic only showing on his transcript for one year. I assured him that this is something he could address in his motivation letter.  If you are applying to a program that is a good fit, not only in terms of subject matter but also in terms of city and country, you will be able to speak to it in your motivation letter. Choosing to apply to schools in Europe is not the status quo, so you likely have reasons behind it.  Talk about that in the motivation letter. Talk about why that particular city or country interests you whether it’s the history of the area, different outdoor activities it offers that are aligned with your past interests and activities, your own heritage, etc.  Relating these interests to your future goals will be of much greater interest to these programs than an endless list of clubs you were involved in.
And let me mention for a minute how much I prefer this to the essay requirement in the US.  Ferguson talked about the US college essay questions that force emotional catharsis on the applicants with intrusive questions.  His son, like most 17-18-year-old boys I know, struggled greatly with this. Further, how does being in touch with one’s emotional side and willingly expressing innermost thoughts to strangers relate to future success in college?

3. Take Statistics!

European college admissions I know many kids who take the calculus route because they think it looks better to colleges.  Most schools in Europe aren’t looking at your course selection, except those courses that pertain to their admissions requirements. They don’t care if you took earth science over chemistry (unless it’s a requirement of their program). Certainly, there are fields of study for which calculus would be more valuable.  For students studying business or social sciences, I highly recommend taking statistics.  It is often a required course for the first year and is less of a struggle with a little background.

4. Don’t get caught up in the admissions stress around you

I recently spoke with a father whose son is particularly interested in a school that requires 4 AP scores.  The father noted that since they don’t know if he will have the required scores needed for European college admissions until late in his senior year, they will also be applying to American schools as backup.  He wasn’t happy about this due to the cost and admissions process here.  I assured him that there were other programs at schools without the AP requirements that would also be a good fit and encouraged him to explore some of the options. As a matter of a fact, most of the programs in Europe don’t have the AP requirements.  With over 1,700 English conducted options throughout continental Europe, there really is something for everyone’s interests, strengths, and qualifications.

Sam is not planning on applying to any schools in the US.  Of course, now that we know about these affordable high-quality options it would be hard to justify the expense of US schools.  Just as important, though, Sam is super excited about going to Europe and the benefits it will provide not only from an academic perspective but also for the travel and life experience opportunities. Of course, the immediate benefit is that he does not have to jump through the ever moving admissions hoops in the US. Opting out allows him to pursue his interests in and out of the classroom and still have a tremendous number of excellent academic options at the end of the road. And it allows all of us to relax.