Everything You Need to Know About Studying Overseas
Getting your degree overseas might seem like a silly, unattainable fantasy.
Maybe it’s too expensive. Maybe no one from your country has ever done it. Or maybe, you just don’t know where to begin.
But, what if I told you that your fantasy could come true?
Don’t worry, you can thank me when you get your degree!
Anyone can study in the US or UK, as long as you work hard and start preparing early.
That’s right. All it takes to fulfill your dreams is to plan ahead and work a little bit every day to achieve them.
Sounds easy enough, right!
However, there are a few barriers you have to overcome before actually studying abroad – such as telling your parents you want to study overseas. Oh, and then there's the cost.
Before I get into that, let’s take a look at the benefits of studying abroad.
Benefits of an Overseas Education
1. Develop Your English Language Skills
If you come from a non-English speaking country, then this applies to you.
In today’s society, English is a very powerful language regardless of where you are in the world. Luckily, the US and the UK are both native English speaking countries (though they each have their own unique versions of the language) and getting your degree in either country will improve your English dramatically, whether you like it or not.
Even if your English isn’t great going into uni, your skills will improve throughout your time overseas. And I’m not just talking about your reading and writing skills. Your conversational skills will be miles ahead of all of your future colleagues who didn’t go to college in the US or UK.
In fact, certain employers may hire you just because of how great your English skills are and your bilingual abilities!
2. High Quality Institutions
According to the QS World University Rankings, 15 of the top 20 universities in the world are in the US or the UK.
Both of these countries offer top-notch education coupled with high-end facilities that foster incredible learning environments.
In these countries you will learn from the best of the best. In fact, there’s a good chance that your textbooks are actually written by your professors!
While the level of education may seem intimidating, if you prepare both mentally and academically in the years leading up to college, you’ll be just fine.
Not to mention, most US and UK schools do a great job of easing their students into college life by hosting their own versions of freshman (in the US) or first year (in the UK) "orientation”.
3. Gain a New Perspective on the World
Have you ever spoken to someone who has travelled the world? If you have, chances are, they told you you should take every opportunity you get to travel.
They were right.
As you grow older, you’ll take on more responsibilities and it simply becomes too hard to travel. Think about it, you can’t just leave work, take your five kids and travel the world (well, you can, but we’ll save those tips for another time).
Travelling helps you gain a new perspective on life, helps you learn about yourself, and helps you become a stronger person.
Each new place you visit (or live or go to school in), changes the way you look at the world.
By meeting new people and seeing how they live their lives, you slowly start to get a better understanding of how the world works and can more easily put yourself in other people’s shoes.
You'll also be exposed you to new experiences, which allow you to learn more about what you want as a person. What makes you happy? How can you live a fulfilling life? What do you want to do with your life? Travelling helps inform all of these decisions and ultimately helps you gain greater self-awareness.
However, travelling isn’t always fun. More often than not, you find yourself in stressful or less than ideal situations. Yet, once you push through the difficult times (of which there are many), you'll find a new sense of strength within yourself that will guide you throughout the rest of your life.
The best part is, studying in a foreign country is a constant adventure, even if you aren’t travelling to a “new” place every day. Everywhere you go, whether it’s to the library or to a nearby city, is going to be new and exciting (at least for a while).
You get all of the perks of travelling and still feel like you have a steady home. Basically, you’ll get to experience new things while also establishing yourself as a local!
Talk about the best of both worlds.
4. Make a Diverse Group of Friends
Remember how I said travelling changes the way you look at the world? Well, so does having friends from around the globe!
Having friends from different countries not only makes it easier to travel the world (Hello, Anna! Can I crash on your couch?), but also furthers your ability to understand people.
Your friends will introduce you to new foods, new problems, new cultures, and new ways of looking at everyday aspects of life.
Plus, think about the awesome potlucks you can have!
So if you get to college and you find out your roommates are from Bulgaria and Jamaica, embrace them and their cultures with open arms. You never know when you’ll need to crash on your roommate's couch in Bulgaria. (Thanks Anna, you're the best!)
5. Gain International Experience
Simply having a foreign university on your CV can make you more attractive to potential employers.
US and UK colleges have a reputation for high-end education and employers expect nothing but the best from graduates of these universities.
It’s likely that you will enter the workforce with a lot more experience than other students as well because of the internship opportunities in the US and the UK.
With your experience and education, employers are going to be fighting to recruit you!
Get ready for some salary negotiations.
US and UK Universities With the Highest Percentage of International Students
The US and UK are home to an insane amount of international students. The US alone has about one million!
While pretty much all of the universities in both of these countries accept international students, there are some schools that take a much larger percentage than others.
If you don’t see your dream college on the list, that’s okay! Chances are, it also accepts international students, just not as many.
1. Imperial College London (Imperial)
It’s no wonder that international students flock to Imperial College London, a university that only offers science, engineering, business and medicine. Among the university’s staff there are Nobel Prize winners and prestigious fellowship holders. If you are looking for a top-notch uni that specialises in one of the four subjects above and have an itch to study in London, you’ll love Imperial.
Location: London, UK
Tuition: About $35,256 USD per year (for non-EU undergraduates)
Percentage of International Students: 52.2%
Total Number of Students: 16,610
QS World University Ranking: 8
2. London School of Economics (LSE)
Often touted as one of the best economics schools in the world, LSE has educated more billionaires than any other European university, so you’ll definitely get a great return on your investment by going to school here.
Location: London, UK
Tuition: About $24,075 USD per year (for non-EU undergraduates)
Percentage of International Students: 50%
Total Number of Students: 8,896
QS World University Ranking: 35
3. University College London (UCL)
UCL is the highest ranked university in the UK, besides Oxford and Cambridge of course. If you are looking for a great education but don’t think you have the credentials for Oxbridge, UCL may be your best bet. Plus, you’ll get to experience everything London has to offer... without having to take a train into the city!
Location: London, UK
Tuition: $21,371-$42,729 USD per year, depending on your program (for non-EU undergraduates)
Percentage of International Students: 46.9%%
Total Number of Students: 39,473
QS World University Ranking: 7
4. Florida Institute of Technology (FIT)
Although not as well known as, let’s say, MIT, the Florida Institute of Technology is a great university to attend if you are from Melbourne, Australia and want to keep a little bit of home with you when you study abroad... just kidding!
FIT is a great university if you are interested in technology and engineering. Plus, it’s one of the few universities in the US that offers a degree in Forensic Psychology. If you’re not sold yet, keep in mind that many US national agencies such as the FBI recruit FIT students heavily.
Location: Melbourne, Florida
Tuition: $36,900-$40,490 USD per year, depending on your program
Percentage of International Students: 32.9%%
Total Number of Students: 6,631
QS World University Ranking: N/A
5. The New School
The New School consists of a liberal arts college, a design school, a college of performing arts, a social research college, and many other colleges that you probably wouldn't find coexisting at any other university.
Its design school, Parsons, is ranked number four in the world.
Location: New York City, New York
Tuition: $32,000-$46,820 USD per year, depending on your program
Percentage of International Students: 31.7%%
Total Number of Students: 10,254
QS World University Ranking: 601
6. University of Tulsa
You’ll get a lot of attention from your professors at the University of Tulsa thanks to the small class sizes, which are actually taught by professors, not by assistants like at a lot of other US colleges. Plus, the university is located on the historic Route 66 – perfect for road trips across the country!
Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Tuition: $41,024 USD per year
Percentage of International Students: 36.7%%
Total Number of Students: 4,563
QS World University Ranking: 751
How Affordable Are Overseas Universities?
Now that you know why you should study overseas and which colleges accept the most international applicants, the real fun begins.
Here comes the money, honey!
One of your biggest worries about studying abroad is probably how you’re going to afford it. You’ve heard the horror stories of the kids who are drowning in debt. You’ve seen the price tags and you know there’s no way your parents can afford to send you to school in the US or the UK.
However, you probably haven’t heard about all of the different ways you can finance your education!
The US and the UK have very different education systems so depending on where you decide to go to school, the amount of aid you can receive and where the aid comes from will be very different.
Let’s break the finances down once and for all.
Financial aid in the US comes in four forms:
1. Scholarships: More free money! Woohoo! Scholarships are a great way of funding your education; however, they require a lot of time on your end. You’ll need to research, fill out applications, and maybe even write a few essays. Luckily, there are scholarships for just about anything. Are you left-handed? Do you have a twin? Do you play a sport? How’s your SAT score? There are so many scholarships out there, all you have to do is look! This website has a large database of scholarships just for international students. Take a look!
2. Loans: International students aren’t eligible for US federal government loans, but there are a few other loans available. Just bear in mind you need a US citizen or permanent resident to cosign the loan. Many places will be willing to lend you money for college but you’ll need to pay the money back – with interest. Therefore, taking out loans should be your last resort.
3. Your Home Country: The best way to find money as an international student is through your home country and/or international organisations. Some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, offer multiple sources of funding for citizens looking to study in the US. Be aware that some of these funds may require you to return to your home country once you complete your studies. There are also many international organisations (think the UN and the World Health Organization) that may be able to help you fund your studies. Start looking at these options early because they tend to be very competitive.
Luckily, due to the amount of aid available, studying in the US can be cheaper than studying in your home country.
Many colleges do not want money to be a deciding factor for you so they try to create ways to make their school more affordable, regardless of whether or not your parents are billionaires.
The amount of aid you receive is usually determined by your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
Essentially, the more your family earns, the more you pay.
So, don’t let the insane sticker prices deter you from applying to US universities.
For example; at Stanford, if your family’s income is less than $125,000 USD a year (which is a lot!) you are not expected to contribute any money towards your tuition. And if your family’s income is less than $65,000 USD a year, you are not expected to contribute anything towards tuition, room or board! However, you will need to contribute about $5,000 USD a year through work study or another form payment. But still, you’d be getting a top-notch education for next to nothing!
Convinced you can afford college yet?
Most universities have cost calculators on their websites so look up your prospective colleges to see how much your family actually needs to contribute.
There are three types of schools when it comes to financial aid: full-need, need-aware, and need-blind.
These colleges will provide enough aid to sufficiently cover your family’s need, based on your EFC.
These colleges take your financial situation into account when accessing your application and may reserve some spots only for students who can pay full price. All US colleges are need-aware for international students (with the exception of the five listed below).
Need-blind colleges do not take your financial situation into account at all when assessing your application.
These colleges will not deny you based on whether or not you are able to pay.
However, there are only five colleges in the US that offer need-blind admissions for international students:
However, these five international need-blind institutions are also some of the hardest to get into.
There are many ways universities may give you financial aid and many ways for you to find additional aid on your own. Some of these options are only available to US students so make sure you reach out to your prospective school to see what kind of aid they offer.
Below are the US universities that give out the most aid to international students.
1. Williams College: Williamstown, Massachusetts
Number of International Students Who Received Aid in 2015-2016: 94
Total Cost (2017-2018): $67,700 USD
Average Amount of Aid Given to International Students in 2015-2016: $59,674 USD
2. Stanford University: Stanford, California
Number of International Students Who Received Aid in 2015-2016: 160
Total Cost (2017-2018): $69,109 USD
Average Amount of Aid Given to International Students in 2015-2016: $59,000 USD
3. Amherst College: Amherst, Massachusetts
Number of International Students Who Received Aid in 2015-2016: 159
Total Cost (2017-2018): $73,250–75,700 USD
Average Amount of Aid Given to International Students in 2015-2016: $58,477 USD
In the US, each university has a certain amount of money it gives out to students in need in the form of scholarships, grants, and loans.
In the UK, however, financial aid varies based on your country of origin. The majority of UK financial aid comes in the form of loans but you may be able to find independent scholarships that you will not need to pay back.
1. Loans: Certain universities, such as University of Manchester, Cambridge, and Oxford, offer loans to international students. It’s usually a case-by-case basis, so you’ll need to do some independent research. For example, Oxford and Cambridge offer loans to US and Canadian students through the Foreign Enrolled loan program.
__2. Scholarships:__There are plenty of scholarship options available for international students in the UK. For example, if you are a citizen of a developed Commonwealth country, such as Australia and New Zealand, then you are eligible for a range of Commonwealth-based scholarships. Keep in mind that many global organisations also offer scholarships. For example, The Fulbright Scholarship is one of the most famous, and successful applicants are provided with financial support to attend an international (or national) college of their choosing.
3. Your Home Country: Your home country may also offer some sort of financial assistance if you choose to study in the UK. Check with your local government office online to see what they recommend as well as with a few large local companies. Just be aware that funding through your home country may require you to come back home once you've graduated.
Luckily, UK universities tend to be much cheaper than US universities and their programs tend to be shorter, although they still aren’t affordable for most people.
If you really want to study in the UK but are short on money, consider studying outside of London as both the tuition fees and living fees of unis inside of the city tend to be astronomically higher than in other parts of the UK.
Below are the three cheapest UK universities for international students.
1. Bucks New University
Tuition: $13,804 USD per year
2. Leeds Beckett University
Tuition: $13,804 USD per year
3. University of Bedfordshire
Tuition: $15,119 USD per year
High School Tips and Tricks
By now I hope you feel a bit more confident in your ability to study abroad, but if you’re still doubting yourself there are a few things you can do throughout high school to increase your chances of getting into a university overseas.
1. Start Early
I cannot stress this enough. None of the points below are beneficial if you do not start planning to go to a US or UK university early on. I know it can be hard, especially if you are in your first year of high school, but even if you have the slightest inkling about studying abroad, start taking the steps you need… just in case.
It’s hard to know what you want to do years before you start applying to colleges, but if you’ve planned ahead, you won’t have to limit yourself to local colleges.
2. Talk to Your Parents
While it would be nice if your parents weren’t involved in where you choose to go to college, the fact of the matter is if you want them to help you pay for college they probably should have something to say about your decision.
Once you figure out that you want to study abroad, loop in your parents. I promise, they’ll be thankful that you are talking to them openly and while they may not agree with your decision right away, if you nag them enough over the next four years, they may just come around.
Plus, once you show them how cheap overseas universities can be, they are bound to let you go!
3. Choose Your Classes Wisely
This tip applies a bit differently depending on whether you want to go to universities in the US or the UK.
US universities want to see you challenge yourself throughout high school. If you get a C in maths in your first year of high school and continue to take challenging classes throughout school and end up with an A in your last year, US colleges are more likely to accept you. They want to see that you are pushing yourself to your limits academically, regardless of the subjects you take.
UK universities, on the other hand, want to see you take classes in the field that you are interested in majoring in. Want to study economics at uni? Make sure you are taking any and all A-levels that have to do with economics and scoring very high on the exams you sit.
4. Pick The “Right” Kind of Extracurricular Activities
While UK universities see extracurriculars as a plus on your application, they are nowhere near as insistent on strong extracurriculars as US colleges are.
Your basic formula for picking great extracurricular activities goes as follows:
Find something you are really passionate about (math, cancer research, musical theater, horses, etc.) and delve into it as deep as possible.
Basically, the more interesting experiences you can create around your passion, the more likely you are to get into a US university.
Remember, you don’t have to invent the next Facebook! You just have to follow your passions... intensely.
3. Take the Right Exams
Again, the exams you need to sit depend on where you want to go to school.
If studying in the US is your dream, then you’ll need to sit the ACT or SAT and a few SAT subject exams. Also, look into whether or not you can take AP exams in your home country.
If the UK is your dream, then you’ll need to sit the appropriate exams based on your home country. Think: ACT, SAT, AP, IB, HSC, VCE, HKDSE, A-levels, etc.
Keep in mind that each university has its own test score requirements so the sooner you narrow down your list of colleges, the more you’ll know.
See, I told you studying overseas wouldn’t be as difficult as you thought! Or as expensive. Or as stressful.
Anyone can study abroad – even you! As long as you put their mind to it and start planning early.
Just think about all of the doors studying abroad will open for you!
And always remember, take any and all great opportunities that come your way (especially when you are young) and you are bound to learn a thing or two about yourself and the world around you.
Don’t chicken out. Take the leap. You can do it.
Starting your application for the University of Chicago? Learn how Max tackled his personal statement and gained admission to one of the world's top colleges
Writing your personal statement? Hear from University of Chicago accepted student, Chris, on how he got inspiration for his essays.
Writing your personal statement? Learn how recent UPenn admit, Chris, was able to make all 650 words count
Recent UPenn admit, Chris, reveals how he tackled the strategy for his personal statement and landed on the perfect topic to wow admissions officers.