For many, going to college abroad is a dream. The chance to live in a different country, experience a new culture and maybe even pick up a language may not only be exciting, but invaluable.
But going to college overseas can be tricky, especially if you are interested in a four-year program, rather than a study abroad opportunity for a semester. You have to navigate a different currency, education system, and potentially a new language.
The most important thing is to start planning early. Going to college abroad involves a lot more legwork than attending a domestic university. The first step is figuring out how to apply to colleges abroad.
Nearly every country will have different entrance requirements. But since it is not always a point-to-point conversion, the earlier you know the requirements the better off you’ll be.
In general, international universities offer much more specific programs than the four-year college experience in the United States. This can mean that they are targeted, three-year programs, which can be a boon to savings. But this also means that you may need to show some sort of expertise in that field of study.
Being Prepared with Your Course Selections in High School
If you know you’re interested in going to college overseas, and your high school offers international equivalency courses like the International Baccalaureate or the IB , you could consider enrolling in those programs rather than (or in addition to) taking AP classes. This can help broaden your options when applying to college abroad.
Generally, you’ll want to begin taking classes for the IB program by sophomore year, so the earlier you are thinking about going to college abroad, the earlier you can prepare. The same way that you need to think about American schools being reaches or safeties, it’s important to know what a university abroad will require of you.
Counting All Your Costs
Make sure to account for all expenses associated with getting a foreign education. You may need to apply for a student visa, as well as transportation costs. Round-trip tickets to a foreign country can also be very expensive, so if you go to school there, you’ll need to consider that you may miss out on family events like holidays or birthdays.
Financing the Cost of School Abroad
Other countries may offer less-expensive education options than those offered at American colleges. Although many countries charge international students at a higher rate, it can still be a bargain when compared with other places, and in some Scandinavian countries like Norway, it could even be free.
Even if you’re getting a great deal by attending college in a foreign country, you may still have to pay for some sort of tuition. And attending school internationally means that the rules change for financial aid.
Federal student loans are still available at many schools around the world through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program . You can download a list of international schools that participate in federal student loan programs here from the U.S. Department of Education. They recommend confirming with the school regarding their status as the list is updated every quarter.
In terms of the process, applying for federal student loans for study abroad is fairly similar to applying in the United States. You have to fill out the FAFSA® form, making sure to include the school’s Federal School Code .
The rest of the process depends on the school. It’s important to communicate with your college about next steps. See how they will get the loan money, which forms you need to fill out, and what the deadlines are. Since they are outside of the American system, how they process loan payments will be different.
If you’ve already gone to college abroad, congrats! You’ve done the hard part. If you have loans, you could consider refinancing them with SoFi. If you qualify to refinance, you may possibly secure a lower interest rate, which means you could reduce the amount of money you spend in interest over the life of the loan (depending on the loan term, of course). You can take a look at SoFi’s student loan calculator to get an idea of how your loan may be improved if you qualify to you refinance.
Thinking About the Bigger Picture
While there’s a certain globe-trotting glamour and excitement to living on foreign soil while attending college, studying abroad may not be for everyone.
For instance, if you’re typically a homebody or a creature of habit, living on a completely different continent for several months may not be for you. If you find that you’re prone to FOMO and think you’ll feel left out with family or friends during this exciting time of life, then perhaps staying put may be the best option.
But, if you long for distant shores and the idea of experiencing a brand-new culture and landscape is intriguing, then going to college abroad may fit the bill for you.
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
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