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!