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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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Get STEM Degree Through College in Europe

We recently received an email from a college senior who was about to graduate with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from a school in North America. His internship in Europe had ended abruptly due to Covid. After two previous internships, he was unsure about whether the engineering field was for him or if he should get a graduate degree. This email sparked curiosity on my part to explore the STEM fields in our database and I was astounded by what I found. 

First, what is STEM? The STEM fields are science, technology, engineering, and math. The science refers to the physical sciences like chemistry and biology, as opposed to the social sciences.  

Here are a few quick facts that caught my attention:

According to data from the IEE, of the US college students who study abroad, the largest cohort of students, a full 25%, study in a STEM field. 

Of the 2,038 bachelor’s degree programs in the Beyond the States database, 33% or 665 are in STEM fields. In our master’s database, 38% of the programs are STEM. 

Cost is another major benefit of this area of study because the average annual tuition is just 6,751 EUR for a bachelor’s degree and just 6,642 for master’s annual tuition. 

Starting salaries for STEM jobs are among the highest for new grads, so taking advantage of the 3 year programs available in Europe coupled with the lower tuition costs mean that STEM grads can enter the workforce a year sooner and with much less college debt.

97% of study abroad students found employment within 12 months of graduation, while only 49% of overall college graduates found employment in the same period last year, according to IES. 

For those of us who are parents of prospective students, the STEM field appears drastically different than when we were studying! Back in the 80’s, many of these technologies didn’t really exist, but have since exploded. Whether you’re a student yourself, with vast knowledge of the possibilities, or a parent who feels like all this STEM stuff is a foreign language, today’s post can help!  We will look at some of the different types of STEM degrees in Europe, for both master’s and bachelor’s degree students.

Data Science/Data Engineering: Over the past few years, businesses of all sizes are in a mad rush to mine and refine all the data that they are generating, which is proliferating like never before. The massive data boom has dramatically transformed the way people do business, and companies are constantly trying to figure out innovative ways to use the Big Data explosion to their advantage. This is driving a huge demand for experts in how to use all that data, data scientists and data engineers. The Beyond the States database has 40 bachelors programs and 158 masters in this field. 

One example is the Mathematical Engineering bachelor’s program in Data Science at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. At just 9,541 EUR, tuition is affordable. Barcelona is incredibly easy to get around, has a fantastic food scene, and great weather with 300 days of sunshine a year.

Robotics/Mechatronics: Mechatronics is an interdisciplinary branch of engineering that focuses on the engineering of electronic, electrical, and mechanical systems. The Beyond the States database has specific area of study search field for Mechatronics and Robotics, so it’s easy to navigate. It contains 23 bachelors and 64 masters degrees.  

An example of an interesting graduate program is the Master in Robotics, Systems, & Control at University of Zurich (ETH Zurich). This program joins the disciplines of mechanical and electrical engineering with computer science. ETH Zurich is one of the top tech schools in Europe and has a highly competitive admissions process, boasting 12 Nobel laureates including Albert Einstein. The school is highly international with 40% of the student body coming from outside Switzerland. Tuition: 1,350 EUR for 1.5 year program.

Cryptocurrency: Cryptocurrency and the associated technology of blockchain as well as fintech are domains of high level math. There are 4 masters programs in this area. If this is really your area of interest at the bachelor’s level, then getting a degree in mathematics would be a good start. 

Network Architect: Are you familiar with the internet? The network architect’s job is to design the networks that have become an increasingly vital part of our lives. Since these networks are generally a legacy of the telecommunications infrastructure, learning about telecommunications would be useful. We have 11 bachelors programs and 23 masters programs in this area.

Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning/Deep Learning: This field has a number of names, but I see it as all about teaching computers to simulate thought. Our database contains 12 bachelors and 48 masters programs in this area.

Cyber Security: Jenn often highlights the Cyber Security program at Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia. The three year program at TUT costs just 6,000 EUR per year and cyber security talent is in very high demand. It is one of 3 bachelor’s programs in Cyber Security. There are 36 graduate programs as well.

Internet of Things (IoT): First, let’s define the term. According to wikipedia, the Internet of Things (IoT)describes the network of physical objects—“things”—that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the Internet.” There is not really a degree specifically for IoT at this point. I looked at open engineering roles at one company in the IoT space, Real-Time Innovations (RTI). They’re looking for engineers with computer science degrees who have coursework in experience in programming, networks, distributed systems, and autonomous vehicles. Our database has 3 bachelors programs and 12 masters programs. Here’s a tip: search the Title field contains the term internet. If you search IoT, the search will pick up biotechnology, semiotics, and other programs you don’t want. 

Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR): According to tech news site, the Information,  Facebook now has 20% of it’s employees working on VR/AR projects currently, which says this tech area is poised for rapid growth. The database has 14 programs that cover VR/AR.

If you’re unsure of your exact area of tech interest, look for a survey program like the one at  VIA University College in Denmark (14,800 EUR) called Software Technology Engineering. In 3.5 years, the student learns programming, computer networks, Internet-of-things (IoT), game design, web design, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), database technology, big data, and cloud computing. As part of this program, the student develops professional and personal skills in information technology as well as gain qualifications for further studies at Master’s level.

In the final analysis, technology continues to drive productivity forward in the global economy. If technology is your area of passion, getting a STEM degree in Europe will position you for long term success, while maximizing your travel opportunity.

 

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Studying in Europe: Still a Great Idea

When we post this blog, we don’t expect to know the winner of the US presidential election. It’s a time of uncertainty around so many issues in the world. Regardless of who is in the Oval Office in January, though, studying in Europe is still an idea worth exploring.

We truly hope to see changes around the cost of American higher education. However, even if we have a president who is proposing real reforms, the process does not move quickly.  Changes will take some time to be approved and then implemented, if it even gets that far. Until then college will remain incredibly expensive. Students and families will still be drowning in debt. And, of course, the rigged and convoluted rat race of the admissions process still must be solved.

The proposed changes as we have read about are adding free tuition at four year state universities for families with incomes under $125,000. This would potentially be an incredible opportunity for so many families and students!

There is another group of students, though, who do have enough saved for in-state tuition but seek a wider number of choices.  These students currently have access to an affordable higher education within their state, but they want more choices than they are allowed under the current system of in-state tuition. Perhaps they want a fresh start in a new place, don’t want to be in a dorm with their high school classmates, or want to experience living further from home.

These students may not be able to afford out of state tuition at $24k per year on average or private school tuition at $32k, but the options in Europe with an average tuition of just $7,390 with many just 3 years in duration provide them with an international experience for in-state prices!

We’ve had many new members join recently who are interested in leaving due to the divisive political climate in the US. No matter who wins the election, I’m afraid that the fractured atmosphere will prevail for quite some time. That said, the families and students we work with aren’t turning their back on the US, rather they are moving towards something far more aligned with their own values. We’ve worked with students who want to study sustainability in places that are already leaps and bounds ahead of the US. We have others who are interested in studying things like Political Science, International Relations, or Peace &Conflict Studies in a more international atmosphere. These students will hopefully become change makers in our future.

The benefits of studying in Europe are substantial, regardless of the political climate in the US.  Since we started Beyond the States in 2015, we’ve talked about the more affordable tuition, the shorter time to get a degree, and the transparent admissions processes, as those are the most obvious benefits.  Another benefit to note is the growth that occurs due to international experiences.

In the US, many of us live in areas where we are surrounded by people who are very much like us in background, values, and/or beliefs.  Particularly on social media, we see a lot of our own opinions reflected by others and we often “unfriend” or at least “mute” those who offer conflicting views.

When American students go to universities in Europe, they are exposed to people of all different backgrounds and viewpoints. The English taught programs exist to draw students from all around the world, so the diversity within the classroom is tremendous. Exposure to a more diverse world view allows students to come back to the US with fresh perspective and allows them to advocate for change where it is needed. Their experience as global citizens will help inform a new dialog going forward.

Exposure isn’t just about being in a different place, it’s also about trying and accepting new things. Living abroad forces a student to navigate unfamiliar circumstances and to adapt to new environment outside of his or her comfort zone. This is something we are experiencing firsthand ourselves with our recent move to Portugal.  It’s not always easy, but the growth that occurs as a result is well worth it!

Higher education in Europe is not for everyone, but we don’t believe the current US college system is for everyone, either. We truly believe that studying in Europe remains an option worth exploring for many, regardless of which political party is in charge.

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Why You Shouldn’t Be Worried About Knowing Your Area of Study

One of the biggest differences in applying to universities in Europe is that you are applying to a specific program, as opposed to applying to just the overall university. This is basically like declaring your major ahead of time and since there generally aren’t any university-wide core requirements, switching majors/programs often means starting over. Don’t stop reading this based on that fact! This doesn’t mean that you are stuck studying only one thing. This doesn’t mean that you must know exactly what you want to study. And this doesn’t mean you have to know what you want your career path to be!

Now, if a student does know exactly what they want to study, there are plenty of programs that focus on that area from day one. Many students appreciate that they can focus on their area of interest from day one, without having unrelated required courses. What appeals to even more students, though, are the multidisciplinary program options. The Dutch have been far ahead of other European countries about this type of English-taught educational offerings. Their universities have not only the largest number of English-taught programs, but also include liberal arts programs and many multidisciplinary options. I’m starting to see this in more and more other countries and today will focus on these types of program options in other European countries.

Vrije University, in Brussels, offers a Social Sciences program. It takes three years to complete and tuition is 3850 euros per year. The first two years provide the broad and diverse knowledge that so many students want. The first year of the program includes classes in sociology, political sciences, and communication studies. The second year seeks to interweave the three disciplines also teaches students to use critical thought in these areas. The thirds year allows for customization as students choose to specialize-like choosing a major in one of these three areas.

The Global Humanities program at the University of Sapienza, in Rome, allows for customization from the very first year! Students take 1-2 required courses each year, and the rest are courses they choose from different categories. The categories themselves are broad and include history, the arts, sociology, anthropology, economics, law, psychology, theology, and international studies. Course option goes beyond basic intro courses with options like
Environmental Law, Gender Economics, Law and Literature, Sociology of Media and Culture, Indo-Tibetan Studies, Global Health, Japanese Narratives, and Human Rights, Classical Archaeology, Latin Literature Medieval Art, and Contemporary History. And there is just a small selection of the offerings! The program takes three years to complete. Tuition at public universities in Italy is like a sliding scale, based on family income, and 2821 euros per year is the maximum annual tuition charge for this program.

Global Studies and International Studies type programs are a popular multidisciplinary program type for students with diverse interests around social sciences and cultures. The the University of Pompeu Fabra, in Barcelona, offers a three year Global Studies program that costs 6800 euros per year. The premise is that in order to develop a comprehensive view or world issues, students must look at the problems through the lens of different fields. Students take required courses in data analysis, global history, global communication, research methods, finance, economics, international relations, law, sustainability, cultural studies, business, and politics. They are required to learn another language and take electives focused on global issues as well as those that pertain to a region of their choosing.

Students who love math and science can consider the Science program at the the University of Helsinki. All students take courses in math, computer/data science, physics, and chemistry during the first year, and then they choose one of the four areas to focus on. Students can choose to combine more than one track and/or can take electives from the different tracks as well. The program takes three years to complete and costs 13000 per year.

Though it’s structured differently than in the US, students in Europe are still able to explore varied academic interests. Even those students who choose a more specific area of study can pursue interests outside of their program through the semester that is set aside for electives during study abroad. It’s not necessarily better or worse than the system in the US, just different, and the same goals can be achieved.

The options on this list represent just a few of the great options. My visits to schools and research did for other best-fit lists and such have helped me identify many more-including several programs that aren’t obviously multidisciplinary from the title name. I would love to help you find great options that fit your interests too! Act now and receive one-month free membership with your purchase of a best-fit list. There is no long term commitment for 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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“How Can I Transfer to a University in Europe?”

I’ve been getting a lot of emails from college students in the US these days. Whether it’s due to the political climate in the US, frustration with how their universities (or fellow students) handled the pandemic, or seeing ROI issues around US higher education first hand, these students are seeking alternatives. Some have a year or more of college credits and others are working on their associate’s degree. The question I’m getting from these students is “How do I transfer to a university in Europe?” I wish I had a concise answer, but it takes a bit of explaining and the complications are often due to the differences between the systems.

One of the main differences around bachelor’s degree programs in Europe is that you choose your field of study from the get go and apply to a specific program (like your major) at a university. There aren’t a set of gen-ed requirements for all of the bachelor’s students at a university. Your course requirements are specific to the program you are in. Because International Relations is a popular program choice, let’s look at the course requirements for the International Relations and International Organizations program at the University of Groningen.

The first year of study, students take History of International Relations, International Politics, International and European Law, Academic Skills, Statistics for International Relations, International Organizations, Economics, International Organization, and Political Science. You also start taking a language, with choices for Chinese, Dutch, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, French, or German. You have a variety of course topics, but they are cohesive and in some way related to the program objectives.

You don’t see life or natural science classes on the list of first year courses. Nor do you see philosophy or english comp. These are the types of courses, though, that most students at US universities take during the first year. Since there aren’t these types of gen-ed requirements, the courses would not transfer. Maybe you did have an intro course to International Relations. The university will have to determine, after you get in, if it’s a 100 level course at a US university is comparable in content to their course (and it very well may not be, depending on the country).

You might be wondering whether your gen-ed courses could transfer as electives. The issue is that the courses are structured for each year of the program. Groningen, like many other universities, sets the first semester of the third year aside for a semester abroad, which is when students take electives. Since some programs require or encourage students to study abroad, particularly when the content is international in nature, you would still need to (and probably would want to) take part in that semester. Further, even if the credits are applied to that semester, you won’t graduate early since you have course requirements to complete in the second half of that final year.

Don’t let this discourage you! Let’s look at why this isn’t all horrible news!

First of all, your credits can be used to open up even more opportunities for you in Europe! There are about 350 of the 1900+ programs that require US applicants to have more than just a high school diploma to apply. These requirements can be met with an IB diploma, a certain number of AP scores (usually 3-4 scores of 3+), a year of college credit (not from a community college) or an associate’s degree. If you didn’t got the AP or IB route in high school, you are now apply to these 350 programs! Further, if you have two years of college credit or an Associate’s degree, you can apply to schools in Germany (which has free tuition for international students at most public universities).

Further, as mentioned earlier, most bachelor’s degree programs in Europe take only 3 years to complete. If you spent a year studying in the US, you will still be graduating in 4 years if you finish your degree in Europe. Further, you are likely to spend less than your would on tuition in the US, since the average tuition of bachelor’s degrees in our database is about $7300 per year, with hundreds of options under $4000 per year.

It’s still a good deal if you have two years of credits. Let’s look at the math around this. The average in-state tuition for flagship universities in the US is $11,849 per year. Using this number, after two years of credits in the US, you have $24968 left in your tuition budget. Even if you have to participate in the entire duration of the study program, there are 965 options in our database that fall within that tuition budget!

That said, your credits generally will transfer to the American universities in Europe. There are some really strong and affordable options in this category. McDaniel College in Budapest and Anglo American University in Prague are great options. There are other American schools in Europe that come with an American size price tag. Further, these schools often cater more to semester abroad students than full degree students. The academic and social needs of these groups are very different, so an emphasis on the semester abroad students can effect the experience of full degree students. This isn’t the case for all of the American schools, but something to assess if you choose to go that route.

I encourage students not to limit their choices to just those that will take their credits. You may miss out on some amazing opportunities that are within your budget if you limit yourself to just those that accept the credits. Come up with your overall tuition budget for the rest of your degree, like in the example above and work backwards from there. Yes, it may take you an additional year to finish, but that is one more year you get to spend living in Europe!

Have you taken advantage of our our Back to School Special? Join Beyond the States now and receive access to both the Choosing A Major in Europe and Choosing a University in Europe self paced classes. The regular non-member price for these courses is $75 each. Join now and the courses will be unlocked and waiting for you in the portal-at no additional cost!

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Navigating College in Europe with Ellie

It’s hard to believe summer is ending, mostly because I don’t really remember it starting…From March until now seems like it’s been one long season called Covid.

It’s been a pretty good summer, all things considered. As I mentioned before, Sam hiked the Camino de Santiago with friends, spent some time with us here in Portugal, and then returned to the Netherlands to move from the Hague to Rotterdam. I was concerned that he would check out academically after deciding to change schools in the spring, but he ended the second semester with really strong grades in all his classes. I feel like he’s going into his year at Rotterdam with the confidence he needs for a great year. More on his program and experiences in coming weeks.

As I’ve mentioned before, Ellie spent the 2019-20 school year doing online school for 10th grade (intentionally…). We knew we would be moving midyear and this gave her the opportunity to do a lot of travel before settling down. She’ll be starting at in international school here in Portugal next week for her final two years of high school. She’s already getting a taste of the incredibly diverse set of friends and welcoming international community that many of our members have when they start at European universities. Several kids from Ellie’s new school reached out to her this summer. She’s made friends from Brazil, Denmark, India, Mexico, France, as well as an American who was raised in Singapore. Like our members studying in Europe, Ellie has connected with these kids based on their common interests as well as the shared experience of living outside their home country. She’s especially happy that she won’t have to worry about whether she will have anyone to sit with at lunch on her first day of school!

Because many of you are in a similar stay of the college hunt as we are with Ellie, I want to keep you updated on how we are approaching the process. One of our long term members has a daughter who is finishing up her thesis this semester at AAU in Prague and also has a son who is starting at Leiden this month. She talked about how very different the search process was for each of her kids and that’s something I’m experiencing now with Ellie! Sam’s areas of interest were all related-political science, international relations, area studies. It was easy to find many programs that combined these various interests. It’s not quite so easy with Ellie…

Ellie’s academic interests have developed over the past few years which, of course, is common. We have put less emphasis on exploring specific schools or programs over the last years, and more time thinking about areas of study that match her interests. I’ve sent her links of related programs to look at, not to decide if she’s interested in that particular program, but to get a better idea of what she does and doesn’t like about the areas of study. By doing this, she has been able to decide that, though she has related interests outside the classroom, she’s not interested in studying media studies or programs related to animal protection. The interests that have she has maintained relate to sustainability studies, tourism, possibly marketing, and possibly some areas of psychology. This exercise has helped her determine more specifically what she IS looking for in a program as well. For instance, by looking at various programs related to sustainability, she was able to explain to me that she’s more interested in those with a multidisciplinary approach and less science-based.

One issue that Sam had with his original program is that he realized that he was not a fan of economics. He had never taken an economics course, so didn’t know that in advance. Unfortunately, economics was a part represent in classes most semesters of the program, which is one reason he decided to change. We are trying to avoid that problem with Ellie. She took Environmental Science last year and this year will take Environmental Systems and Societies. This is a multi disciplinary class somewhat aligned with the type of sustainability programs she thinks are interesting. Since tourism is essentially a specialization of business, she is also taking Business Studies this year. This can help her learn now whether this is something she finds interesting and-if so-which aspects are and are not particularly interesting to her. She’s already taken psychology and at this point finds aspects interesting, but not enough for it to be the focus of an entire program.

Since she has a better idea of her interests, we have started looking at specific programs. Right now, there are a few Dutch university colleges that appeal to her. In case you aren’t familiar, let me take a minute to explain. Each Dutch research university has a self contained programs that is considered to be liberal arts. This is because students have a broad curriculum during the first year that often serves as an introduction to the different study choices and choose a major (or theme, depending on the structure) the second year.

Ellie is especially interested in Erasmus University College as they have majors in Sustainability Studies, Business, and Psychology (in addition to 15 others) which keeps her options open. She’s also interested in University College Fryslan, which is one of the university colleges with University of Groningen. The entire program and majors related to the UN Sustainability Goals with majors presented as themes like Responsible Planet (science focus), Responsible Governance (economics and political science focus) and Responsibility Humanity which is most aligned with her interests with global health and psychology focus areas. We’re also looking at other multidisciplinary programs that combine some of these interest areas, like the International Environmental and Development Studies program at Norwegian University of Life Sciences

We’ve discussed tourism and feel like, if she decides that she enjoys business, choosing a business program that potentially allows for classes in tourism will be a better fit for her than a specialized tourism program. NHL Stenden University of Applied Science was on her radar for their tourism program, so she is now looking at their Creative Business and International Business programs. She’s also looking at Toulouse Business School and will likely look at some schools in Finland if she decides on business as well.

Of course, we’ve postponed the school visits we were planning to take this Thanksgiving. Even if travel is doable in November, I don’t think she will get as good of a feel for the schools until covid has passed. We are (FINGERS CROSSED) planning on visiting this spring. By that point, she will be well into her environmental science and business classes and hopefully have some more insight into those areas of interest which will make the trips more meaningful. In the meantime, a lot schools are having many more online events for prospective students, given the circumstances affecting so many. Ellie will likely participate in some of these online events as well, particularly if her list of potential schools and programs grows.

So, that’s how we approached the initial aspects of our search. Having a strategy around admissions requirements, safety school, and related admissions issues is also key. More on that in an upcoming blog!

Interested in navigating the options yourself? Whether you need help determining study areas that relate to your interests or are ready to dive in and explore specific programs and schools our BACK TO SCHOOL SPECIAL is for you! Join Beyond the States now and receive access to both the Choosing A Major in Europe and Choosing a University in Europe self paced classes. The regular non-member price for these courses is $75 each. Join now and the courses will be unlocked and waiting for you in the portal-at no additional cost!

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How Does the Travel Ban Affect Students?

I know there are a lot of questions about the travel ban and, because I want to be super careful not to provide inaccurate information, I can’t speak to many of the specifics. There are a few things I DO know for sure. First off, the ban does not apply to students.  Secondly, and related to the first point, is that the ban is based on country of residence as opposed to citizenship.  International students have student residence permits from a European country which exempts them from the ban.  We had a member fly back from the US to the Netherlands last week using her residence permit, after the travel ban was put into place.  Sam flew here to meet us in Portugal this week, also using his student residence card. Students who have their residence card should not have a problem being able to board and getting through border control.

Then we have students who have been accepted for the fall.  The issue they have is that residency permits are almost always issued after arriving in the country. Even though it’s in process, they don’t have the physical card in their hands yet.  I’d like to go through a few suggestions for the students in this boat.

First and foremost, do not bank on the information you see on facebook. I’ve mentioned before about the well intentioned misinformation I’ve seen in many groups. I saw many things stated as fact even before the travel ban was officially announced!  There is someone who even posted in the comments of one of our facebook ads that her “good friend’s son has just been advised that his university in the Netherlands is not accepting him due to Covid-19 reasons”. Though I found this hard to believe, you can be sure that I immediately reached out to my Dutch administrators group who all assured me that they are NOT rescinding acceptances due to nationality!  It’s just that there A LOT of people saying things that aren’t true or are misleading.

The fact is, specifics will change depending on the country you are traveling to. The advice of someone who has a student going to France, for instance, may not apply to your student who will attend in Finland. Your first point of contact should be the school.  Usually you will already have someone, or at least a department, who has been working on your residence permit. Find out from them what they can issue you to show at the airport and border control proofing that you are a student and that your residence permit is in process. Then ask for a contact at the immigration department (of the country) to see if they can issue documentation. Ask the immigration office for confirmation (preferably written so you can print it up and take it) that what your documentation will suffice.

You may also be able to find information on the country’s website.  For instance, if you look here, you can see that students are listed separately from people who have a residence permit. This implies that already having the residence permit is not required. It also talks about documentation that can be presented at the border and information about who to contact if your documentation is not accepted. Now, it is very true that not every country hasp public information that is this thorough, so well organized, or is even translated so some digging might be required. Ideally, your university could point you to this information and the google translate extension can be a life saver when trying to work through non English documentation!

This brings you to the airport where you and your student arrive with all the necessary documentation. Can you imagine how difficult it must be to work for airports or airlines right now?  You may get in the line of someone who has had an exceptionally bad day or maybe someone who hasn’t yet dealt with this issue.  If you get push back after showing your documentation, ask for a supervisor.  It could also help to research whether your particular airline has a department that handles these type of issues so that, if the supervisor pushes back, you have a next step. There IS someone who can help, if you are in the right and it will be less stressful to figure out who this person is before you arrive.

So, you get your student on the plane but perhaps you are worried about border control on the other side.  One of our retained an immigration attorney in Prague when her daughter flew back, just in case there were any problems. If you are having trouble figuring out the documentation information you need to board, it’s possible that an immigration attorney (in the country your student is traveling to) could help you with that as well.  Here in Portugal, we worked with an immigration specialist (not an attorney but someone who knows the system backwards and forwards) and it’s been worth every penny and more. You can join facebook expat groups for the particularly city or country your student will be moving to and ask for recommendations.

If the current travel ban is still in place in August, you won’t be able to travel with your student. Don’t worry!  Parents dropping off their students isn’t the norm like it is here in the US.  I followed the lead from one of our members last year. Her son (who started a year earlier than Sam) went to school on his own. She made sure he had all the information he needed about tasks that needed to be accomplished, resources to use, and she followed up to make sure he was on top of the particularly important ones. Universities often have resources in place to help with much of this anyhow. Doing this on his own gave Sam a level of confidence and independence which helped him through the year.

If your student is going to a country that requires a quarantine, the first thing I would do is to see if a negative test would change the requirement. Some airports, like Prague and Frankfurt are offering instant tests in the airport (for a fee). I understand that more will be opening in the coming weeks and months. The next step would be to contact the school and student residence around this to see if there are suggestions or resources for new students who have to quarantine. I would also check our member group to see if another student is going there who wants to coordinate travel and quarantine together. Finally, if you have to send your student early to deal with a quarantine, have a plan in place ahead of time.  Of course, you will make plans for where they will stay (if the student residences aren’t a possibility). Find the grocery stores that offer delivery and set up an account ahead of time.  See if you can set up an order be delivered shortly after arrival and pack non-perishable food to get them through until the delivery time.  If they will be in the student residences, make plans to take a router or have it delivered on day one (if they aren’t provided). Set up an uber eats account with the quarantine address ahead of time and look at the options. Most universities, programs, and student residences have facebook and what’s app groups to join.  This will allow students to start meeting people virtually.  It won’t be fun, but at least they can get over the jet lag before their life really gets started in 14 days!

Some families are worried about the impact this will have on the first year experience.  I totally understand that concern! However, given that Covid is everywhere, life is going to be affected no matter where you are!  I’ve said before that making an international move in the midst of a worldwide pandemic was not ideal for us, but since we’ve never moved internationally before we really don’t have a frame of reference. I don’t know what was harder than it would have been without the pandemic. The same applies for students. They will have a first year experience and it will be different than students in the past, but they will still get the information that is needed and meet other people. Since they don’t have the frame of reference from previous years, they won’t necessarily feel like they are missing out.

Honestly, the overall climate around this is just so much different here and I think the students will feel that. I know I’m generalizing, but I’ve heard this from people in other European countries  too. There’s less doom and gloom and much less hostility and divisiveness around it.  Yes, we have teens who irresponsibly have large gatherings and cause an outbreak, but we don’t have people refusing to talk to contract tracers until issued until issued with subpoenas. And nobody is breaking arms over being told by a store employee to wear a mask. I’ve heard that there is more of a concern for the common good than an every man for himself mentality.  Most (again, but not all) people are following recommendations and taking precautions but moving forward with their lives as much as possible.

I’m in a similar boat as many of you, in that I’m unable to leave the country until I have my residence permit. Due to covid, my original appointment was cancelled and I don’t have a new date yet. For now, its exciting exploring this new country we are living in, but I am dreaming about all the places I want to travel!  For those of you with students in Europe, you will be able to visit them again. For those of you exploring the options, this will likely be resolved well before fall of 2021. Until then, our services and our BTS community can serve as your supports and resources!

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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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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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To Stay Out of the Rat Race, You May Have to Insist!

As I’ve mentioned before, I founded Beyond the States after exploring the possibilities for my own kids. This was three years ago and they will now be entering 9th and 12th grade this fall.  High school has been an incredibly different experience than it would have been, if we didn’t know about college in Europe.  If you are new to our the journey, be sure to check out the blogs on the admissions process because Europe’s transparent admission criteria make as much of an impact as the savings in tuition!

My son, Sam, had a few concrete opportunities to opt out of the US admissions rat race and we were quick to grab them!  When registering for his senior year classes, Sam elected to take two non-credit opportunities. One is a study hall, which helps him stay on top of his work since he has an after school job.  His job as a cashier at a grocery store has been of tremendous value and taught him lessons and skills he would not gain at school.  He also arranged to be a teaching assistant (TA) for one of his teachers.  Though not a credit opportunity, this entails new types of responsibilities and learning. After submitting his registration, his counselor emailed him and told him that he needed to choose one or the other and sign up for another credit class. She said that if she didn’t hear from him in a week, she would choose a class for him. Seriously?

I’m a big fan of having Sam handle this type of thing on his own.  We had already dealt with having his counselor automatically saying “No” to anything outside of the box and then having to go up the chain of command to get accurate answers. For that reason, I shot her an email inquiring about this policy. As it turns out, it wasn’t necessarily a true policy and all I needed to do was fill out a form to have this approved.  His counselor cautioned me about taking this path. She said “Sam will likely have to explain to colleges why he is only taking 4 credit classes when his peers are taking between 5 and 7. It will be a disadvantage to him when it comes to admissions and based on his GPA, I am assuming he will be applying to more competitive colleges that will be looking critically at what students have done in high school.” I can’t tell you how much pleasure it gave me to explain Sam’s college situation and ask her to send the form!

SAT/ACTs are another way we benefited this year.  The university Sam is applying to does not require a certain score for these tests.  Most schools in Europe don’t require the test at all but again, in order to help Sam keep his options open, he did take them.  The overall communication from Sam’s high school is not the best in the world.  I had emailed them to find out if/when they were offering the ACT. Since nobody got back to me, I signed him up to take it on a Saturday at a nearby high school. Shortly after he took the test, his school sent an email saying that they were administering the test and that it was mandatory for all juniors. I let his counselor know that Sam wouldn’t be taking the test, since he already had and we were fine with his scores. I was told that taking it at the school was mandatory and that “taking the test again could benefit him as most students scores increase the second time they take a test simply because they are more comfortable and know what to expect.”  Sigh. Guess what it took?  I just had to push back enough to find out that I could opt out if completed another form.

So in addition to being able to opt out of these problematic mindsets and systems, Sam has had time to gain skills and cultivate interests outside of school.  He is currently spending a month in Rabat, Morocco through a program with CIEE, an opportunity we were able to afford since we don’t have the financial worries that accompany college in the US!