The Pros and Cons of Attending School Overseas

Have you considered doing your university studies outside the United States?

Many globally-minded students are strongly considering various international options now, and the good news is that universities around the world are eager to welcome students from around the world to study overseas.

For the last 5 years or so, I have wanted to understand this better and have embarked on my own professional development to learn more. That includes taking classes, attending sessions at conferences, participating in Zoom meetings with international colleagues, following various international Facebook groups, and listening to webinars about the topic. But nothing is as fun as actually going to visit universities!  

In order to better understand the options available to all kinds of students, I have now visited universities in the following countries: Netherlands, the UK, Switzerland, Spain, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Germany, and parts of Canada. To my great disappointment, 2020 trips to visit universities in Paris and Madrid were cancelled due to coronavirus, but I hope those visits will be rescheduled soon!

Here is a quick summary of pros and cons that I think students and families need to know before pursuing this further:


  1. For students who love travel, adventure, being immersed in new cultures, and learning in an international setting, the chance to study overseas is an invaluable experience. 
  2. Many international options require a great degree of student independence. If a student is ready for this level of personal responsibility this would be a strong option.
  3. Financially, studying outside the US can offer great value for the money. Average fees for local universities might be comparable to in-state tuition for Americans. Tuition at American-style universities might cost more, but still less than the cost of a private American institution in the States. 
  4. Many kinds of American federal financial aid can be used to study outside the US. Pell Grants are an exception to this rule. 
  5. Many 529 savings plans can also be used abroad. See a listing here.
  6. Many universities do offer some kind of scholarships; many do not. 
  7. Degrees in most European or UK universities can be earned in 3 years instead of 4, as is the case in the US, Canada, and Scotland. 
  8. Degrees earned outside the US are highly respected and students can apply to American graduate programs with them. 
Studying Overseas
Czech Technical University Library


  1. Since many degrees are earned in three years, not four, it is important for the student to know what he/she wants to study. It can be extremely difficult to change one’s major once they have started. 
  2. Combining interests across disciplines, like double majoring, dual majors, major/minors, is still a nascent concept. That does not mean it’s impossible but one should be very aware of the options before starting a “course”. 
  3. Housing (accommodations) and dining services (catering) are very different from what one would expect on an American campus. Often residential services are offered to first year international students. After that, students are expected to find apartments in the area. 
  4. A high degree of independence and personal responsibility is necessary. since the universities offer fewer support services than is customary and expected in American universities. 
  5. Degrees, or courses of study, that lead to licensure may not be recognized in other countries. Such degrees might be in education, nursing, medicine, engineering, or psychology. Know before you go. 
  6. Factor travel to/from university into your cost of attendance. 
  7. Standardized tests are still very important for admissions. Be sure to check requirements before senior year so that there is enough time to prepare and attain the requisite scores. 

This is a quick overview of some of the distinctive features of applying to college outside the US. I love to talk about what I’ve seen and learned about studying internationally. If you would like to consider study overseas contact me!

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