Do you want to save money on college, such as by learning how to go to college in Europe?
Yes, you can actually save money by going to college in Europe, and today’s article will show you exactly how.
The average cost of programs for college abroad in Europe is around $8,000 per year, which is a huge savings over what you may pay in the U.S.
There are also hundreds of options under $4,000 per year, and there are even 50 programs that are tuition-free for international students.
Plus, bachelor’s degrees in Europe tend to only be 3 or 3.5 years long, which makes the cost per year even better.
And, you don’t even need to know a foreign language as there are over 3,000 bachelor degree programs taught completely in English in Europe.
Today’s interview is with Jenn Viemont, founder of Beyond the States. She is an expert in the area of going to college abroad to save money. Beyond the States helps students and parents find the right college for them outside the U.S.
I had no idea that this was even an option until recently, so I asked Jenn and Beyond the States if they would like to do an interview on the subject as they are the experts.
Jenn answers questions such as:
- Is it cheaper to go to college in Europe?
- How much money can a person save by going to college abroad instead of in the United States?
- Do any countries offer free college for U.S. citizens?
- Can a U.S. citizen obtain a student loan for going to college in Europe?
- Does a student need to know a foreign language for college abroad?
- Will a college degree from Europe be recognized in the U.S. for jobs and advanced degrees?
- Is college different in Europe than the U.S.?
- What’s the catch? Why is it cheaper to go to college abroad in Europe?
And much more.
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Here’s how to go to college in Europe.
1. Can you share how and why you got into this topic and decided to help students and families?
When my son, Sam, was in 8th grade I started to get really nervous about higher ed in general. I was worried about the admissions process and the cost.
How could we possibly save enough?
I was keeping my ear to the ground on various options. I was reading books like Colleges that Change Lives and watching documentaries like Race to Nowhere, about the do-or-die admissions crisis in the U.S.
It was about this time I saw on Facebook a story about a kid who was studying in Germany, in an English-taught program, for free.
Germany, of course, has programs for free for international students at most of their public universities. So I read the article and hadn’t known that this was a possibility, and thought I’d keep this on our radar for the future for Sam and our daughter Ellie. I figured the options would be limited or the process would be expensive but as I did the research I found the opposite was true.
Actually, there were quite a number of options and the cost was extremely reasonable, and there were also a number of other benefits as well. But it was also super confusing, and so I figured that if this was information that I wanted and could find useful, there were other families that could benefit from the information too.
And so, I took a year, knowing I was going to really research, more than just an interested parent, but researching for BTS, gathering this information to become this one-stop shop of unbiased information on English-taught, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in Europe. So, my son is currently studying in Europe, in Prague. And my daughter, Ellie, is a senior this year and is planning to apply next month to a university in Ireland where she wants to study Criminology, Psychology, and Law.
2. What is the difference between college abroad and study abroad?
It’s really semantics more than anything.
You think of “study abroad” when you consider a semester abroad as part of a university or college program in the U.S.
With “college abroad” you’re getting your degree in Europe and spending your entire time there.
3. What countries can U.S. students go to for college?
There are countries all over the world where students can study.
We focus however on EU and EEA countries.
So, this is everywhere from Ireland to Estonia, Greece to Portugal to France, to Slovakia and the Czech Republic. If it’s an EU or EEA country, we have information about their English-taught degree programs.
4. How much money can a person save by going to college abroad instead of in the United States? Is going abroad for college cheaper?
The average cost of the programs we have listed is around $8,000 per year, compared to the average tuition in the U.S. of $9,139 (in-state), $22,968 (out of state) and $31,231 (private university).
Further, most bachelor’s programs in Europe are 3 or 3.5 years which further adds to the savings. Interestingly, most programs we have listed are under $10,000 per year but the average is pulled up by the American schools.
Yes, there is the additional cost of airfare and most students we work with go home twice per year. Without using miles or shopping aggressively for discounts, you can get a round trip ticket from most places in the US to most cities in Europe for under $1,000.
Even with the additional $2,000 per year in airfare, you are paying less than you would for a four-year, in-state degree. This blog post of ours expands on this subject, including living, eating, and transportation costs comparison.
While the savings are certainly a tangible and significant benefit, we would still have pursued these options if the price was comparable. Certainly, there are other benefits like a transparent admissions process and those related to educational outcomes.
Just as important to us, though, is what this experience can do for the overall perspective of the student. He will make friends from around the world, which helps cultivate his identity as a global citizen. He will gain great confidence from learning to successfully navigate unfamiliar situations.
According to research published in the Harvard Business Review, this international experience will help his career, too.
5. Do any countries offer free college for U.S. citizens? In which countries is college free?
Yes, there are some countries in which there is free tuition at public universities, and those are Norway and Germany.
Finland used to be on that list but they have recently begun charging fees for international students.
However, I often tell students not to limit your search to just free programs. There are often places that have tuition that turn out to be even more affordable in the long run when you take into account scholarships that are offered or cost of living.
Given there are hundreds of options under $4,000 per year, I would encourage people to not limit themselves to strictly free programs.
6. Why is going to college in Europe so much more affordable than the U.S.?
It’s funny, I’ve asked students studying in Europe this question and they say that the real question is why is college so expensive in the U.S.
The administrative bloat is just not there, like it is in the states.
There also aren’t these huge (and expensive) stadiums associated with the university, or sprawling residential facilities, for instance. There’s much more of a focus on education, and delivering that to the students.
We have a podcast episode that speaks to this with American professor, Peter Kumble, who teaches at Czech University of Life Sciences.
7. Can a U.S. citizen obtain a student loan for going to college in Europe? How can a U.S. citizen learn how to pay for college abroad?
Yes, there are options.
Things are far more straightforward in this respect than in the U.S.
Some schools offer scholarships or tuition waivers, and it’s generally clear and transparent about what the criteria is and what’s included in the scholarship. I could go into the nitty-gritty here but we have a really enlightening podcast episode that hits the specifics on financial aid for college abroad where we speak with Mark Kantrowitz, a leading expert on this subject.
8. Does a student need to know a foreign language for college abroad?
No. Foreign language is not part of the admissions process.
All of the lectures are in English, as well as the tests and readings. Your classmates are from all around the world. English may not be their first language, but they have a level of proficiency in English they had to prove in order to apply there.
If you do want to learn more of the native language, most universities have ways to do that in the way of formal classes or language buddies, but English proficiency in many countries is quite high.
When you’re in northern Europe, and even in the Netherlands, English proficiency is so high you feel like you’re in the UK sometimes. And of course, we also list Ireland now, where English is the first language.
9. Will a college degree from Europe be recognized in the U.S. for jobs and advanced degrees?
If you return to the US for graduate school, you won’t be an international student but you will be applying with a foreign degree.
There were more than 1 million international students studying at universities in the US during the 2019-2020 school year. This indicates that admissions departments are very familiar with assessing foreign degrees. Most use a credentialing agency to assess the degrees and ensure that they are valid, which is part of the admissions process. To note, you will still need to take the GMAT, GRE, LSAT, etc and meet any prerequisites the university has.
When applying for a job, you will likely not need to take any official steps for recognition. Many companies are multinational and/or have been employing people from other countries for many years so seeing degrees from other countries is commonplace, and there are recent studies showing that study-abroad experience actually increases employability in some arenas.
Further, most of the students who pursue universities abroad would be seeking employment with companies that have some aspect of internationalization, simply because their own interests and values related to global citizenship is one thing that led them to study abroad in the first place.
Professions that require licensure are a different matter; these include many careers related to health care, education, social work, psychology, law, and architecture. Of course, most of these areas also require a master’s degree, so students could study for their undergrad in Europe and then get their master’s degree in the US to avoid these obstacles.
All in all, I think you will be happy to learn that pursuing the affordable and life changing options in Europe will, in most cases, keep these doors open for you!
10. Is college different in Europe than the U.S.? If so, how so?
College in Europe is not for everyone.
You really need to have international interests, and you need to be comfortable making decisions outside of group norms. You need to be comfortable being away from home, and being around people of all different backgrounds and perspectives.
Those are the key qualities, and those qualities aren’t necessarily good or bad, but they are needed. If you don’t come in with these qualities then studying abroad may not be a good option for you.
College abroad is also not a good option for those focused solely on the possibility of a free education since you still do have to present a proof of means in each country that shows an acceptable amount you have to live on during the year.
11. Is going abroad for college worth it? What are the pros and cons?
There are not necessarily pros and cons, but there are differences to be aware of.
For instance, universities are not the mini-communities they often are in the U.S. since they are mostly focused on academic life.
Most schools don’t have their own student residences owned by the university. But keep in mind that students, and especially international students, still live in dorm-like residences but they are privately operated. The nice thing about that is you get to know students from other universities in the same city, and you’re not confined to the community of just your school; you’re more a student of your city. This opens up a lot of opportunities as well.
Another difference is there’s a lot less handholding than there is in the U.S., and so you need to be more proactive and independent. A lot of parents seem concerned about this, but actually we hear from students abroad that they really appreciate being treated like an adult and having expectations of an adult.
One of the biggest differences though is the admissions process; it is so much more transparent and clear than in the U.S. They say, here’s what you need in order to attend here; if you have those things, great, and if you don’t you’ll have to go elsewhere. Generally speaking, unlike in the U.S. schools in Europe don’t care about things that don’t relate directly to your academic success in their programs. And so, you’ll need to know to a large degree what program you’ll be studying before you attend, which is also contrasting to applying to U.S. schools.
But we at Beyond the States offer a number of services that help students find a niche and narrow down their interests in order to approach the right program in the EU.
12. Some who read this will think that this is too good to be true. What would you say to them? Why don’t more people in the U.S. know about this?
One answer to this is that the majority of school/college counselors in the states are equipped with info specifically on their local and state schools and schools in the U.S. only.
Information about college programs abroad isn’t necessarily being passed down and so most students and families haven’t any idea that this is a viable option.
This is changing however, and we are, for instance, increasing our work with counselors around the country to give them the info they need.
13. Can you tell me more about Beyond the States? What do you offer to students and families?
More or less, we advise students and families in the U.S. who are exploring options for college and university programs in continental Europe and Ireland.
We have a trove of objective and unbiased resources and courses that are unmatched in the industry, but we support all matters of the studying abroad process such as choosing a university, identifying the right program, and navigating the admissions process.
But we also engage on topics that matter to students who want to study in Europe like travel, lifestyle, student housing, job prospects and internships, and the value of global citizenship.
We have a variety of memberships, webinars, courses, a best fit service, student Facebook groups, and importantly, our proprietary database that lists all details on 3000+ English-taught bachelor’s degree and 6500+ English-taught master’s degree programs.
What other questions do you have about how to go to college in Europe and save money? Are you interested in going to college abroad?