Whether you’re still in high school contemplating your freshman year, an older person returning to college, or a professional considering getting a master’s degree, figuring out how to go to college in Europe as an American may be the best decision you’ll ever make. So if packing up your whole life and moving your entire life sounds more exciting than terrifying, then you’ll love what going to college in Europe has to offer you.
Why Choose to Study in Europe?
What is the best thing about Europe? The continent includes over 870 different cities offering college programs taught entirely in English. This translates to more than 870 different cultures to enjoy and explore. But it only starts there… Here are nine powerful reasons to ditch college in the US and go to college in Europe instead:
1 – Tuition fees and living expenses are way lower.
Since 1985, US college costs have surged by about 500 percent, and tuition and fees continue to rise.
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According to the College Board, the average tuition rates in the US for a bachelor’s degree is $10,950 for in-state students at a public university, $28,240 for out-of-state tuition at public universities and $39,400 for a private college. In contrast to higher tuition fees in the US, the average tuition fees for a bachelor degree in Europe is just $8,000 per year for American students.
The average tuition fees of a master in Europe is just $9,050 per year, and with the average duration being only 1.76 years, the average cost of getting a master’s is just $15,928 for American students. With average college costs at over $30,000 in the US, a student getting a master’s in Europe will spend less than half on tuition costs vs getting a master’s from public universities in the US.
Even when you factor in the cost of living and travel, attending programs at even the most prestigious universities in Europe is at a minimum comparable to affordable American public colleges. When you consider the cost of private colleges, the difference gets even more staggering.
Health coverage is a blessing in Europe. Although student health insurance is a visa requirement, it usually costs about $300 a year, but it doesn’t have any copays, deductibles, and you’ll pay zero out of pocket.
Is it cheaper to study in Europe or the USA?
Studying at private universities in Europe is generally cheaper than studying at both public and private universities in the USA, although private colleges in Europe tend to be less prestigious than their US counterparts.
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What is the cheapest country in Europe to study?
In general, Germany is the cheapest place to study in Europe, although there’s plenty of other opportunities elsewhere, including 11,200+ programs from our database.
Can an American go to college for free in Europe?
International students can find over 1,000 tuition-free programs in both our bachelor’s and master’s databases.
Where is education cheap in Europe?
More than 850 schools (not including the UK) offer more than 11,200 English-taught bachelor’s and master’s degree programs across Europe. There are more than 4000 programs with tuition fees less than $5,000 per year—even for international students. The savings are further increased when you factor in that most bachelor’s degree programs take 3 – 3.5 years to complete, and many master’s degree programs are only 1 year in duration. In many cases, going to college in Europe costs less for a full bachelor’s degree, including cost of travel, than ONE year of US out-of-state or private school tuition.
2 – Get your degree taught entirely in English.
When expenses are a chief consideration for American students, you may be limited to only in-state colleges, where you’ll usually spend less. But what if your in-state schools aren’t a good option for your chosen field of study?
Good news: there are thousands of bachelors and master’s degree options in Europe without foreign language requirements, meaning these are all taught 100% in English.
According to our data, there are more than 850 European colleges and universities that teach in English, offering more than 3,400 bachelor’s programs in your search for study abroad. This makes it easy for high school students to get their bachelors abroad in Europe.
With over 8,000 master’s programs to choose from, getting your master’s abroad in Europe is also a great option for professionals looking to kickstart their career with the European system and save money on tuition fees in the process.
Study in English at Your Ideal European University
Many American students don’t speak a foreign language proficiently enough to study at a college that teaches in it, but that doesn’t matter. Even in non-anglophone countries in Europe, there are full-degree college programs taught in English. These countries are very welcoming to international students, especially Americans, who want to study there.
3 – Get a highly-valued degree.
Learning for learning’s sake is a noble proposition, but few students go to college for reasons that don’t relate to employability in some way or another. Students know that a degree is required to access many career opportunities. Why then, are our universities are not preparing students for the workforce? There is Life After College, by Jeffrey Selingo, notes that nearly half of college graduates in their twenties are underemployed, meaning the jobs they can get don’t require a bachelor’s degree.
In stark contrast to European universities, few schools in the United States require internships or help students find them, and only 1 in 3 graduates in the US had an internship in college, even though internships are a fast track to a job. According to the Collegiate Employment Research Institute, employers hired around 50% of the interns who worked for them as full-time employees after graduation; in some fields, it is closer to 75%.
Students who studied abroad stand out from the crowd when seeking jobs after college. The very act of leaving their comfort zone to make a fresh start in a new place builds skills and confidence that will be carried throughout a student’s life. Silicon Valley billionaire investor, Chris Sacca, describes international study experience as a critical differentiating characteristic among candidates. According to former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, “The Jack Welch of the future cannot be like me. I spent my entire career in the United States. The next head of [General Electric] will be somebody who spent time in Bombay, in Hong Kong, in Buenos Aires.”
According to The Erasmus Impact Study, internationally mobile students are half as likely to experience long-term unemployment compared with those who have not studied or trained abroad and five years after graduation their unemployment rate is 23 percent lower.
Many of the bachelor’s degree programs in Europe usually have at least one semester set aside for an internship. Having a semester to do internships removes many of the obstacles that students in the United States report, such as deciding between a paying summer job or a non-paid internship or trying to juggle internship duties and classwork. This dedicated semester also means that the internships can be completed in countries outside of the one they are studying in, increasing international opportunities and exposure.
The internship opportunities in Europe are particularly interesting and includes many international companies. A number of universities have partnerships with these companies, and they will often work together to place students in appropriate internships. Some of the major internship providers are:
- JP Morgan
These internships are not limited to students studying business. Google, for example, offers internships related to software engineering, legal work, and customer service in many of their European locations. There are also a number of organizations unique to Europe in which students can intern, such as:
- The Center for Counter-terrorism
- The International Criminal Courts in The Hague
- The World Health Organization in Geneva
- The UN Regional Center in Brussels
- European Energy in Copenhagen
- NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center
- The European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center
In summary, just behind pursuing higher education, making the decision to study abroad is the smartest career-oriented decision you can make. If you’re unsure if a European degree will be recognized in the US, rest assured, you’ll be far better off.
4 – Avoid the headache of college admissions.
I recently read that many college admissions counselors spend less than eight minutes on each application. With so many qualified applicants, admissions counselors must often look for reasons NOT to admit an applicant. Such reasons can range from not enough AP classes, class ranking that isn’t high enough, mediocre SAT/ACT scores, not enough extracurricular activities—or not enough with leadership roles—or summers that lack enough enrichment. It’s a fine line, though, because too many extracurricular activities may indicate the applicant lacks focus, yet many extracurricular activities in a similar area might look like the applicant doesn’t have a diversity of interests. The list of reasons not to admit an applicant goes on and on and is often contradictory.
The goal is to be the best, yet it’s impossible to excel in every area. This sets up both students and parents to feel inadequate and vulnerable to rejection no matter what they do. US schools claim that this admissions process provides a holistic assessment of the applicants, but in fact the process is highly subjective. This competition is not just at the Ivy League schools either—many lesser-known schools, like College of the Ozarks in Missouri, Alice LLoyd College in Kentucky, and Faulkner University in Alabama, accept less than 20% of their applicants. The stress involved with this process is linked to the increase in anxiety among American teenagers and is said to be creating a national mental health crisis.
The application process in the United States has become a race to the bottom as students compete with their peers for a single spot in a liberal arts college, convinced by other parents and guidance counselors that their survival rests on playing a musical instrument or varsity sport.
Many smart kids don’t do well on standardized tests as they’re not designed for every student. This doesn’t limit them as much when looking outside of the US, as many universities in Europe do not require standardized tests. Many countries see entry into universities as a right, rather than a privilege, so admission standards are not as stringent.
Admissions are not a quality factor
The first thing to recognize is that, in Europe, the schools don’t use admissions rates as an indicator of educational quality or prestige. The reputation of the school is not generally linked to how selective it is. At most schools, the admissions process is less competitive, even at highly-ranked, reputable ones. Each school has its own set of admissions requirements. If you meet those requirements and there is room in the program, you are admitted. The admissions criteria might be a certain ACT/SAT score, a set GPA, a defined number of AP courses, or as little as a high school diploma. A number of very reputable European universities have programs without enrollment caps, so students who meet these criteria are accepted. Period. It doesn’t matter if they have a higher GPA than the one required, or more AP courses. They aren’t being compared to the other applicants; they are being assessed to see if they have the qualifications needed to succeed in the program. Students then have the first year as a student to prove that they can succeed.
The procedures are transparent even in the schools that have more competitive admissions. There are a few schools that make admissions decisions based 100% on SAT scores. Mediocre grades? Doesn’t matter. No sports? That’s fine. While I don’t agree that the SAT score is necessarily the best indicator of future success, I do appreciate the total transparency. This process allows students to make mistakes, to explore their interests—even those that aren’t quantifiable—to spend time with family, get after-school jobs, and end the day with a good night’s sleep.
5 – You may be eligible for financial aid.
American students may be able to receive US federal loans, or won’t be penalized by applying their 529 funds, to study at an international college. The Department of Education has a list of international schools participating in its student loan program. And some European universities also provide grants and/or scholarships for foreign students.
We show this in our database by listing the FAFSA number, which is a number that will be written on the US financial aid application.
6 – Earn your degree much faster.
According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, on average, just 58 percent of US students who started college in the fall of 2012 had earned any degree at all six years later. According to the non-profit Complete College America, every additional year averages $22,826 in costs and expenses.
In contrast, many bachelor’s programs in Europe are completed between three or three-and-a-half-years, because there are fewer general education classes required. Many master’s programs are just one year. Finishing a program faster is a double benefit for students who avoid taking on more debt and also begin earning a living sooner as employed workers.
7 – Powerful learning experiences.
At colleges in Europe, the educational experience is rich, where students are expected to engage and even encouraged to debate and disagree with the professor. The goal is to help solve problems and enhance critical thinking skills as opposed to regurgitating the material, which leads to stress. Further, many universities use modules or block scheduling, so the number of courses you are taking is limited in number with more intensive study over a shorter period of time, focusing entirely on one class before moving to the next. Best of all, the community you’ll be learning with is highly diverse, so beyond being academically-inclined, you’ll enjoy the support and benefits of diverse opinions.
Interacting on a personal level with people from different countries enables a greater perspective on world events. Unlike homogeneous classrooms in the United States, the English-taught programs in Europe are developed to attract students from around the world. Classroom discussions include the perspective and experiences from these students, which allow students to have a better understanding of the world and how current issues affect their citizens.
International students that study abroad have peers from around the world. The cultural differences between a student from Atlanta, Georgia and one from Tbilisi, Georgia are dramatic. These contrasts-as well as the similarities-are recognized, openly discussed, and valued. Though there are differences in background, there are meaningful common experiences and values among international students. They are all experiencing living outside of their home country, which is a significant and life-changing experience. Further, most of these students do have the values associated with global citizenship, which connects them on a very deep level.
In addition to experiencing the world by studying in a different country, many international students that study abroad in Europe have many other opportunities for international experiences. The EU’s Erasmus+ program, for instance, is an umbrella organization with a rich history for the many programs that encourage mobility among young people. The student mobility program is one that all degree-seeking students attending European universities can participate in—even international students! Students can spend up to twelve months studying in other European countries (and sometimes outside of Europe as well). The attendance can be studying at another university or doing an internship in another country, or a combination of the two. There is no additional cost to these programs and students can even apply to receive a stipend of 150-500 euros per month while participating.
Many schools have their own bilateral agreements with other schools, which allow students to study in another country outside of the EU for no additional costs. Some schools have active international student organizations that plan day and weekend trips around Europe, further enhancing a student’s understanding of other people and cultures.
I was recently speaking to a group of students for a student panel presentation. One of the students is in her second year of study at a university in Prague. She said that when she went initially went to study in Europe, it felt like a big deal to get higher quality teaching and experience distinct culture at the most incredible cities. Now though, “the world feels accessible”.
8 – Gain high-demand language and soft skills.
While a foreign language isn’t necessary to start or even complete a program at European universities, you’ll have the wonderful opportunity to learn a language in the country of your choice. Because you’ll be immersed in it, students interested in expanding their network will want to learn how to greet and even how to order a beer at the bar.
By studying at Europe, you’re prepared for common problems. Living abroad, your communication needs to be adaptable, flexible, and evolving. If you don’t speak the local language (yet), you will quickly learn to read body language while avoiding jargon or slang that isn’t useful.
Thankfully, many universities in Europe offer free language lessons for international students where you can practice through daily interactions in town with native speakers and with other students.
Along with the real-world experiences that internships provide, prospective employers also look for an applicant’s development of soft skills. Soft skills are personal attributes, as opposed to job-specific skills and knowledge. Students who are going to college in Europe have studied outside of their home country and are immersed in different cultures. They are able to cultivate their awareness and appreciation for cultural differences. The emphasis on group work in European schools gives students the opportunity to work with people with a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. These graduates are often flexible, adaptable, and experienced in navigating unfamiliar circumstances, all of which lead to success in the workplace. In fact, a recent study by the Institute of International Education found that studying abroad for longer periods of time has a high impact on job offers, as well as job advancement.
9 – Travel the world & enhance your life experiences.
Travel opportunities abound when attending university in Europe. For example, Lille, a city in northern France with multiple universities, is close to major cities such as Brussels, London, and Paris via high-speed rail. Air travel, especially with the rise of affordable airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet, and Transavia, can be comparable in price to rail travel. So besides affordable rail, there are many more destinations that open up with a short 2-hour flight for a weekend getaway. With the chance to visit world class museums, the ability to visit ancient historical ruins, sample world renowned cuisine, studying in a European country is has huge added bonuses, just behind studying at some of the best-in-class oldest universities.
As much now as ever, we want to be unique. We want to have unique experiences that make our life exhilarating. In America, we’ve created a linear path, an assembly line if you like, that sends people from high school to college onto a career with a family and a white picket fence… the American dream. The most interesting people took the road less traveled, a surreptitious journey which confounded the general public, family or friends. However, they dared to live an adventurous life.
How to Go to College in Europe as an American
European degrees are renowned for their quality and are highly sought after across the globe. If you want to earn a high-quality degree from a reputable institution, choosing to study in Europe is the way to do it. Best of all, they’re insanely affordable and easy to get into. Here’s how to go to college in Europe as an American student seeking better options abroad:
1 – Learn about savings for international students.
Costs vary depending on where you choose to study, but in general, it’s much cheaper to study in Europe than it is to study in North America.
An entire degree at some of the best universities in Europe will total only $46,966, and this includes tuition, housing, transportation, and more. If students would have chosen one of the US schools, graduating in 4 years (which less than 50% of students do), then the total cost at the public university would be $98,328 and $336,788 at the private university.
2 – Master the admissions process.
When you also factor in the many problems with US higher education, it is imprudent not to consider other possibilities. It is true there are many excellent schools in the United States—I don’t think anyone would argue that. There are some that have managed to look at applicants as people, and not just a checklist of achievements. Some even have reasonable rates, and/or professors that actively teach and have highly engaged students. Despite this, I have yet to find a school in the United States that addresses all of these issues: allows students to opt out of the rat race the admissions process has become, have reasonable tuition, AND have positive results around the educational experience and post-graduation outcomes. Not every school in Europe provides all this either, but the schools listed in our database do. All you need to do is follow the transparent and objective admissions process.
3 – Find your best fit college program.
Finding these programs in Europe can be burdensome, difficult, and confusing, especially with institutional websites in foreign languages. We know that making the decision to study abroad can be difficult, so we want to make it easy for you. We scoured the continent for vetted programs and made them available to thousands of families looking to leave the US and find a better life in Europe.
We found over 11,200 degrees and 850 universities that teach in English, so you can choose any city out of 550 options in 32 countries. (Keep in mind, we don’t include UK universities due to their the financial barriers and difficult admissions process). Nonetheless, European countries offers an impressive range of educational opportunities, and you’re bound to find your ideal school!
We have gathered all of the information you need to know about finding your school and studying in Europe – from the different types of colleges in Europe available to how to get housing and everything in between. Our database helps you find these programs quickly and easily, helping you contextualize the many benefits and options around higher education in Europe.
How to Find Your Best Fit College
All in all, studying abroad in Europe is a great way to gain new experiences, meet new people, and get a taste of what it means to live overseas as a student. If you’re thinking about going to a university in Europe yourself, we recommend you explore a membership with Beyond the States. You’ll quickly find over 11,200 accredited English-taught programs.
Best Colleges in Europe
For additional context, you can now explore our new method of ranking schools in Europe, and our top picks:
- Top Undergraduate Colleges in Europe
- Top Graduate Universities in Europe
- Top MBA Schools in Europe
- Top Architecture Schools in Europe
- Top Computer Science Schools in Europe
Squashing the old, outdated, and unreliable lists, our rankings reflect many years of on-the-ground research, vetting, and experience by ourselves and our members, and speaks directly to what really matters to US students pursuing an English-taught university in continental Europe and Ireland.
Guides to Study in Europe
Explore our ultimate guides, containing everything you need to get started with your journey to Europe:
Europe offers some of the best higher education opportunities around the globe. And while you might think it makes sense to go abroad to further your studies, there are plenty of reasons why studying in Europe could be just as good – or even better – than a typical study abroad program. With options like the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Spain, France, and more, our database will help you find your best fit quickly and easily.