More students from the United States are starting to attend college abroad. Why is this option more popular now? What are some of the advantages of attending college in another country? Here are some things to keep in mind when considering attending college and whether students should do so abroad:

College is expensive in the United States; not so in other places

Attending college abroad can drastically reduce the cost of college tuition. Many universities around the world offer free or substantially cheaper tuition than the programs in the United States.

Germany and Norway, for instance, offer free tuition.. In France and the U.K., universities are far cheaper than their American counterparts.

Also, in some countries (in Europe and in Canada, for example), B.A. degrees can be completed in three years, which means that students and their families can save an entire year’s worth of tuition.

It is an adventure that brings benefits

Students will become familiar with different cultures, learning philosophies and ways of life as undergraduates in a different country. They will also develop independence, flexibility, expanded worldviews and cross-cultural facility, all of which can be impressive to potential employers.

Quite possibly, depending on where they decide to attend college abroad, students will also become fluent in another language. In an increasingly globalized world, extended experience abroad and fluency in a language besides English can prove valuable indeed.

Studying abroad is challenging

Learning a new language is ultimately rewarding, but in the short-term can be frustrating and it can make taking classes in that language even more difficult than a similar class in English might be. It is certainly doable, though, and may make attending college abroad even more appealing for some students!

College can be an adjustment on its own; culture shock and needing to learn a For some people, these are exciting challenges, while for others they can bring isolation, so it is important for students to consider how they feel about such matters.

Students can study at universities in English or in other languages

Even countries that do not speak English as a native language offer academic programs in English. The United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, are some places that already meet the language criteria, but students should not limit themselves to places that speak English as the primary language. Germany, for instance, has completely funded college for students since October 2014 and offers hundreds of programs in English.

Other countries may offer some classes in English, but in other instances students may need to learn or already know the dominant language.

Students should, of course, do their homework and figure out what each college offers for international students.

Some countries, France, for example, actively court international students and offer assistance, financial and otherwise for students through international student programs.

While tuition can be free or considerably lower abroad, there are other costs that students and their families might want to take into account

Countries offering tuition-free college may also have very high costs-of-living. Students and their parents will want to investigate which costs are covered and which are not.

Some of the expenses associated with going to college abroad include: international flights for visits, home, visas, cost-of-living, mandatory health insurance for international students and differences in exchange rates.

Attending college in China or Latin America might mean a favorable exchange rate for American students abroad, but schools in Europe and in the United Kingdom might make costs higher for students. In short, students and their parents should be certain to crunch their numbers to assess whether studying in another country will be considerably less costly.

Financial aid for students going abroad

Students can still obtain federal assistance (loans) from the U.S. government, but would not be eligible for need-based funding. However, students attending school abroad may also be able to secure funding for college-associated costs from the host country and/or work part-time. France, for instance, provides state assistance for rent for international students.

Students should do their research well in advance if they believe that they will need financial aid. In addition to asking questions about the availability of U.S. funds, if they decide to attend school abroad, they can consult the embassies of the countries where they want to study (for instance, if interested in studying in France, students would want to consult the French embassy in the United States).

Different school cultures

In addition to cultures outside of the classroom, the academic culture around the world varies from the one students may be familiar with in the U.S. While there are top-notch universities around the world, students may be unprepared for differences in educational philosophy.

For example, European universities might offer less handholding for undergraduate students compared to U.S. colleges. Also, at many universities around the world, students must decide which major to pursue upon matriculation, while most colleges in the United States allow students time to figure out which major they will pursue. Some students may already know what they want to study at the start of their college careers, but others may wish to take their time and explore before diving into their major.

Bottom line:

Students should consider what they want out of their college experience. If they find the idea of attending college to be an exciting adventure full of welcome challenges and opportunities, they might just want to do more research on colleges abroad! Just as is the case for colleges in the United States, however, students are encouraged to do their research carefully and not commit to attending colleges without visiting them first. (Check out our blogs on researching colleges and building a list here: http://galined.com/archives/2-steps-for-making-your-best-college-list).