More and more students are dreaming of study abroad trips when they think about going off to college. Immersing themselves in the culture of another country. Exploring in a way they won’t be able to in the early years after graduation when money is tight.
In 2014/2015, 313,415 students from the US earning college credit studying abroad. While this number is on the rise, it is not meeting the needs of employers in a global economy where 95% of the world’s consumers live outside the US.
Study abroad gives students some experiential learning they cannot gain on the college campus. Obviously, they develop language and communication skills, but they also will grow in their problem solving, flexibility, and interpersonal abilities.
They will be more attractive to employers looking for grads with those skills. When every college student has the same degree with the same courses, what will make them stand out in an interview? Study abroad is an experience students need to take advantage of if they can.
The problem is money. Study abroad programs are not free. Prices can run the gamut. For example, a summer program in Berlin could be $8,500. A semester-long study abroad program could run around $15,000–potentially more than the costs for a semester of college!
We’ll talk about some ideas to help with the cost, but the main point we want to stress is planning. At Capstone, we are always talking about the importance of having all four years of college planned out down to the penny before you pick a school. Study abroad is no different.
If a family knows their student will want to study abroad, those numbers must be worked into their total package plan. How will they pay for four years PLUS a study abroad summer?
Now, some unique things they can do.
Some websites can be helpful sources of scholarship information like iie Study Abroad Funding. You can get overwhelmed searching the internet, but sites like iie will help you search by college major and country of interest–pulling together scholarship lists from many different websites.
Many companies that offer study abroad programs will also offer scholarships as well to help pay for them. A program like CEA offers merit and need-based scholarships to help defray the costs.
You might rethink your country of choice.
Lots of students go to Western Europe. You may find some better “deals” with a lower price in South America, Asia, or Africa.
Don’t forget the inexpensive travel tips you already know…booking airfare in advance before prices rise, avoiding tourist-trap restaurants, and living like a local.
Be sure to apply early.
Study abroad has lots of details to work out: applications, scheduling, travel reservations, housing, etc. In addition, students need to give themselves time to find some scholarships and apply for them. Learn the deadlines.
If a student receives federal student aid, they may also qualify for aid for study abroad programs. Contact the institution’s financial aid office to find out the details. Remember that applying early recommendation? Give yourself and the aid office time to get everything arranged.
The experiences and skills students gain by studying abroad can give them an edge when it comes to finding a job after graduation. Employers are looking for international experience. 64 percent of employers consider it important to recruiting.
The key is to include the potential costs in your comprehensive college funding game plan. Otherwise, you may find the cost too high to take advantage of the opportunity when the time comes.