The following is a guest post by Kevin Newton who specializes in helping students apply to college in Europe.
When it comes time to apply to colleges, casting a wide net can often be beneficial. The opportunity to move away from home allows students to grow in remarkable ways. Yet for the overwhelming majority of American college applicants, that net often reaches no further than the Atlantic and Pacific shores. This is limiting for a number of reasons. For many students, the opportunity to study for a degree in Europe is a life-changing event.
It’s life changing because it’s different
The most notable difference is the focus on the degree. In the United States, students pick a major and take between a quarter and a half of their courses in it or related fields. The rest is roughly split between general education and electives.
Outside of a small number of universities modeled on American institutions, European degrees focus solely on the field of study. Someone studying History will only take history courses with the exception of an occasional language or political science course. Outside of Scotland, there is no such thing as “undecided.”
This means that students who are not passionate about a particular field should be weary of studying in Europe.
Fewer courses-faster degree
Because of this focus on the major rather than on general education, European degrees take less time to earn. The vast majority of European undergraduate degrees can be earned in three years. Furthermore, they are still recognized by employers and graduate schools back in the US as the same as an undergraduate degree from a U.S. institution.
Yet, due to the focus of the degree material, some pretty knowledgeable people have said that the depth of information gained in the European BA format is more akin to what an American MA graduate would possess.
Of course, being able to complete the degree in three years rather than four means that students could save a considerable amount of money. Not only will they save a year in tuition, while their US-bound classmates will be still studying an extra year, someone who studied at a European university will already be making money as a graduate.
However, keep in mind that financial aid packages vary widely. Some British universities offer nothing while a number of German institutions offer free tuition to American students. Yet, even with paying living costs, this can make higher education much more affordable.
Cultures are different
Finally, there is the simple act of being abroad. It is trite to say it, but globalization has left the world in need of people with international experience. Earning a degree taught in a foreign country, even if it is still taught in English, acts as a strong indicator that a person is capable of working in different environments.
Many countries have plans by which students can be hired by local companies and start their careers abroad. Even if students have the desire to come back to the United States after their degree, weekend trips to Paris, London, Rome, or Barcelona can create much more meaningful stories than tailgating or going to the beach for Spring Break.
While it is certainly not for everyone, the opportunity to study abroad for an entire degree can be a life-changing one. It does require confidence, academic maturity, and self-discipline; all important life lessons that often matter more than survey courses on economics or calculus.