College Abroad

Parent Q&A

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  • I just read an article about US students attending college in Europe where it's free vs. the US where they would have to pay around $50,000 per year.  The article said classes are presented in colleges language and then repeated in English for foreign students.

    Any BPN parents sent a child off to Europe to save on the cost of college?


    No, but I am British so I would definitely consider sending my kids back to England for university if they wanted to. Currently the highest fees are 9,000 gbp a year (about $13,500, but less at the moment because of Brexit!). If you aren't a citizen though your kids will have to pay international fees, which will probably be substantially higher. I doubt there are other countries in Europe that will college educate a non-resident/non-citizen for free but I might be wrong. 

    I have *heard* that tuition in Germany is free. I do know of a friend's daughter, from Oakland, who attended undergrad in London ( not free, but less than tuition here) who now is in grad school in Gerrmany, where tuition is free.
    It is my understanding that classes in the universities in Amsterdam and Copenhagen are taught in English, but I don't know about tuition for international students.
    My own daughter attends college in Canada, and I know several other kids who did the same. There are thousands of students from the US at her university. We pay international tuition; comparable to tuition at a UC. Canadian citizens do pay far less. We're very satisfied!
    I believe that students who spend 4 years at a Canadian uni and graduate are eligible fora three year Canadian work permit; that can open the door to Canadian citizenship... an appealing perk in this election cycle.

    Michael Moore's film Where to Invade Next, talked about free college in Slovenia, even for Americans. I see an article in the Wahington Post about places that have free college, with different caveats.

    OMG, think carefully, especially when it's a freshman. Apart from tuition that, depending on the country, may or may not be all that low (ditto cost of living), there are other expenses, mostly travel: going there with your kid to check out schools, going there with your kid to get kid settled, getting kid home for winter break, etc. University abroad can be an expensive and time-consuming project. (I speak from experience; It cost us just as much as U.C. Davis would have and was far less convenient.)

    Not that you asked us, but I think an 18-year-old, however smart and well-behaved, is too young to go overseas to university unless there are trustworthy friends or relatives around who've sworn to look out for her/him, or a dormitory system that provides some structure. (Again, I am speaking from experience; my husband's family were well-meaning but too busy to see much of our daughter.)

    If you do decide on a university abroad, speak IN PERSON with parents who've also sent their children to that school; don't depend solely on Web sites and charming brochures and university employees. Sorry to be so discouraging, but the university-abroad experience has changed a lot since I did it as a 21-year-old. Good luck.

    I second the advice of one of the posters to consider Canada.  Our daughter has been a student at McGill University in Montreal and has found it to be a wonderful experience.  There are a few other students from surrounding highschools at McGill, and she knows many others attending other Canadian institutions.  She has really enjoyed being the "international" student among many of her peers and has gained a different perspective on her home now that she is on the outside looking in. Learning about the culture and politics of another country has contributed to her overall education. The cost is comparable to a UC.  And, the cost of living is relatively low.  Certainly in Montreal.  She would definitely encourage students heading to college to consider another country.  Great experience, something different. 

    Yes, I agree on considering Canada. My daughter will start at McGill in Montreal this fall. The tuition for international students is comparable to a UC, the cost of living in Montreal is quite low, and travel to Montreal is comparable to flying to NYC in terms of cost and distance. I am still amazed at how low the overall fees will be. The only downside is the winter weather, which is quite severe, but she is excited to learn about a new culture without being too far away from home. 

    My cousin is getting her masters in Germany. It is free but she said she had to pass a written test in German.

    There are school in Holland, like University College Utrecht and University College Amsterdam, where instruction is in English. You can Google them. With a European passport tuition is around $3 K, for Internationals about $10 K a year. These are excellent liberal arts colleges with small classes. Amsterdam is a bit crazy, for my taste, but Utrecht is a quintessential student city.

Parent Reviews

Unfortunately, even the most brilliant math student is unlikely to get into top US colleges without stellar extracurriculars. Would your son consider applying to college in the UK or Canada? College there tends to be more focused on your major, and admissions also are focused on how good you are (as demonstrated by tests) in your chosen field.

My son is a first-year math student at Cambridge University, one of the top places in the world to study math. In high school, he had sky-high SATs, excellent grades, had already completed most of the college math curriculum in high school...but didn't have impressive extracurriculars. He applied to 10 selective US colleges and got into only one (a UC). However, he also applied to 5 of the top UK universities and got into all of them. 

An additional bonus: college in the UK is way cheaper than here. My son's 3 years (for a BA—he can stay a 4th year for a master’s) at Cambridge (which is one of the two most expensive universities in the UK), including room & food, will cost about the same as it would have to send him to the University of California (as an in-state student!) for 4 years, and way way less than it would have cost to send him to a private university in the US. And he absolutely loves Cambridge, and is delighted that he never again has to take a history or English course! All his classes are either math or theoretical physics. Good luck to your son--I hope he finds a college where he can continue to explore the wonderful world of math!

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Go to College/University in Europe?

Aug 2015

Hi there,
We're dual citizens, but culturally very American. My kid has decided to finish high school early, and would like to go to school somewhere in the EU.

Other than internet sleuthing, we know nothing about the European higher education system, except that it's much cheaper, and as good (if not better) than in the US. Please share any insights you might have regarding going to school in the EU.

Thanks! Missing my baby already

Your decision depends, of course, on a lot of factors, including your child's maturity; why he or she wants to go abroad; where he or she wants to attend university; and what, specifically, the academic goals might be; your family's finances, etc. Keep in mind that however sweet and lovely your kid, this is a near-presumptuous idea, just as it was on my daughter's part--the sort of thing teenagers like trying on their parents. It's still your decision, not your baby's.

I assume you'll check money matters carefully; university tuition in the U.K., for one, has risen dramatically in the last several years (we had to pay international-student fees, even though her father is British and she has a U.K. passport), and there's also the expense of flying back and forth to be considered, for your child and for you--those winter-holiday travel fares add up. And if you do decide on a school, don't be misled by the glossy brochures; ask questions, get to know some parents of other international students, make sure the school will deliver what they promise.

Anyway, I think 17 or 18 is too young to go that far away from home for an entire academic year. As you may have gathered, I regret letting our daughter go to Britain in her freshman year; I wish she had attended a U.S. university for two years, and then reconsidered the overseas idea. Moreover, now I think all high school graduates should take a gap year during which they do useful work, whether paid or volunteer. It's a good way to learn about the real world.

Good luck and best wishes to your family.
The Trans-Atlantic Mother

IB student wants to study abroad for college

May 2011

My child, a junior in the IB school at BHS, wants to go study abroad for college. We have been looking online and like some schools in Europe, but there is only so much you can find online. The BHS counselors, though great, are not very helpful in this field. Does anybody have experience with sending their kid to college abroad and can share some pointers where to turn? Is the IB program helpful at all, since (if) the kids earn the diploma, it will be on the end of the senior year? Or can someone recommend a college counselor/coach who is familiar with schools abroad? confused IB mom

We may be pursuing a British or Scottish University for our youngest daughter. It is easy to apply through the ucas system -- there is a common entry form. You apply as a foreign student. There has to be a teacher's recommendation, which you will see. They want to see AP courses. A UK degree is often viewed as a higher standard than a US degree. You can transfer back course credits to a US institution. UK fees are rising. The English ones have already gone up, the Scottish and Welsh may follow. The English universities require that you declare a major. The Scottish system may be more open about majors. You graduate in three years from an English University. I believe British schools like American students as they earn more in fees for foreign students. This is all I know currently. Good luck, Judith judith

To go to college abroad there are one of two ways. Either your student applies and is accepted to a foreign college and then you aquire the appropriate travel documents or the student attends a US school that has an existing exchange program and goes abroad for a specified amount of time, usually a semester or year.

There are other ways to study abroad, but all are shorter duration (several weeks or a few months as opposed to a a full four years). My organization and I work primarily with high school students going abroad. We do have a Work and Travel program for high school graduates as well as teach or volunteer abroad as well.

Here is the State Dept. link to their Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs dept, I think that is an excellent place to start. I hope that helps. Candace

You've received some good advice about applying to foreign universities. One more thought: See if you can't meet and/or e-mail with parents whose children have gone to foreign universities, especially as freshmen. Even a mature 18-year-old is very young--too young, in my opinion, to be quite that far from home. I speak from experience, and I now believe that it's better for them to have at least two years of university experience closer to home before trying their wings abroad. (Not to mention the expense of visiting foreign universities, international-student tuition, flying them back and forth, etc.!) Best wishes to you and your family. mel