We’re excited to provide some follow-up Q&A after our collaborative event, “How Families With High EFCs Can Save Money By Going to Universities Abroad” (watch the recording here). We had so many questions during the event that we decided to reach out to Kevin and give you a list of answers/solutions to this topic’s most commonly asked questions. Here’s Kevin:
A few months ago, I was lucky enough to sit down with Brock Jolly and discuss the advantages of going overseas for college–offering a great way to save time, money, and frustration while giving your child the experience of a lifetime. Unsurprisingly, we ran out of time before we could answer all the questions.
In the past few weeks, The College Funding Coach sent me some of the most burning questions; I thought I’d answer them below!
1. How do engineering accreditations/degrees work overseas compared to the US?
Engineering qualifications actually transfer quite easily back to the United States. An international consortium of engineering accreditation bodies decided in the Washington Accords that their academic training for engineers was effectively equivalent. This allows a number of countries’ engineers to meet the academic requirements to be an engineer. Notably, not every European country is a signatory. However, the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are, as well as the United States.
2. What about getting a medical or law degree outside the US?
As a general rule, getting a medical degree outside the US is difficult, especially if you want to return to the US and practice. If you want to live overseas, it can be a great way to save time and money. You’ll need to take AP Bio and AP Chemistry and do well on the exams. If you do want to practice medicine in the US, your choice of residency will be limited; for GPs, it’s increasingly common. Dermatologists should stick to the US MD route.
For lawyers, the outlook is a lot better. If you want to practice law as quickly as possible, get a common law degree, which is a law degree from England (not Scotland). After three years of study, some jurisdictions in the US will let you take the bar exam. About half of the states will let you do this after you complete an LLM at an American law school.
The best route is to do a law degree overseas, in any country, and then look to law schools that offer an accelerated JD program for foreign law graduates. You’ll be able to practice law anywhere in the US and get considerable merit money if your grades were good. Best of all, it only takes two years to complete.
3. Are there English language schools in non-English speaking countries that are affordable and offer a good degree?
There are hundreds of programs in non-English speaking countries that offer a top degree at a low cost. Take a look at the list of country-specific search engines here to get started.
4. If you’re on the fence about going to college abroad, does it make more sense to complete your undergrad in the US and get a masters abroad?
That’s a tough one. That is the route I took, but I’m not 100% convinced I did the right thing. Most of my student loan debt came from four years of undergraduate study in the US, and it would have saved me a small fortune to go abroad. From a maturity standpoint, that’s a conversation to have with your child; the elephant in the room is definitely the drinking age, for example. In that case, it’s better to know your kid.
That said, if your child wants to live abroad, it’s best to start building the network earlier. Doing an undergraduate degree overseas is the best way to start that.
Of course, you don’t have to want to live abroad to benefit from a degree from overseas, but if your kid wants to emigrate, it’s a great way to get the ball rolling on that while helping them with higher education.
5. What do you mean when you say the admissions process overseas is much more transparent?
The admissions process at elite universities in the United States is largely subjective. Grades and test scores are only one piece of the puzzle; instead, everything from family connections and athletic ability to family background and the ability to create an emotional connection through a personal statement matter. Throw in the fact that college rankings in the US penalize universities for having too few students accept an admissions offer, and it increasingly looks murky.
Overseas, it boils down to two things: an applicant’s academic achievement in the relevant subject and proof that they actually want to study that subject. While it’s not for everyone, it’s refreshing for those students who worry that they may not have the background or extracurriculars to charm an admissions reader.
6. Don’t all the tangential costs negate the savings of going to school overseas – e.g. plane travel, food, living in a foreign city, backpacking, insurance/visa/misc fees, etc?
Not at all! Living in many foreign cities is much more affordable than in major cities in the US, with student discounts on rent and food often available. Rail discounts are available for students, and with proper planning, plane travel is downright affordable. Student visas and insurance coverage, while necessary, get you a lot more bang for your buck than they would here in the US.
7. What are some countries/cities/regions that have a good balance of quality education and cheap cost of living? And isn’t there free tuition in Germany?
Don’t sleep on Spain, Italy, Belgium, or the Netherlands. The quality of education in those countries is world-leading. Scandinavian countries are also really good but have a higher cost of living. The UK and Ireland both charge relatively high tuition.
Most university programs in France and Germany, and by most, I mean the vast majority, are not taught in English at the undergraduate level. With a handful of exceptions, those that are tend not to be high quality. If you speak French or German, you can save and get access to those 500 Euro degree programs, and the quality of education will be good (in France) or downright excellent (in Germany).
French universities are only now realizing that personal attention and building study skills will help them retain top talent, so they can be very hit or miss in that regard.
As for Central and Eastern Europe, they can be amazing places for studying abroad or a master’s degree, but I can’t recommend them for a bachelor’s degree. The professional networks just aren’t there. It is a shame, as Charles University in Prague (the one exception to the rule) is just as good as Trinity College Dublin, but it is only now investing in building out its reputation beyond Central Europe. If your child wants to stick around Czechia, it’s a perfect university. Otherwise, not so much.
One other rule. Be cautious of any place in Europe that calls itself an ‘American’ university. They’re either expensive for what they are (in Paris or outside of London) or just lack the resources to be good for anything beyond a study abroad.
8. Can you work while attending college in another country?
Yes! Typically you can work up to 20 hours per week during term time and 40 hours per week outside of term. Just be nice to the immigration official processing your paperwork at the border; if you’re a jerk, they may stamp that you’re not eligible to work.
9. Can you stay and work in the country after you graduate?
It depends, but the answer is typically yes. Most countries want to keep educated people around.
10. Can you qualify for need-based aid or merit aid?
Need-based aid is typically reserved for citizens, but it can be accessed at the most elite universities.
Merit aid, like in the US, is often used by less well-known places to lure students. It will rarely be a full ride, but it can make universities overseas more comparable to even low-cost stateside options.
11. What about accreditation?
Most universities overseas are public, so they are accredited by the local ministry of education. That makes their degrees transferable in the US. In fact, with the exception of a handful of places, namely Bocconi (in Italy), IE University, and Esade (both in Spain), most private universities overseas should be largely avoided.
12. What about US Federal Loans and 529 Plans?
A number of foreign universities process the FAFSA, but typically only Direct Loans are available. Here’s the list of places that accept it: https://studentaid.gov/sites/default/files/international-schools-in-federal-loan-programs.xlsx
These universities also can accept 529 plans without a penalty. Others will likely incur a penalty, and it’s a conversation for your financial planner as to if this is worth it.
Accepting US federal aid is not a marker of quality. Some of the worst offenders you should watch out for are on this list (e.g. Jacobs University Bremen).
If you think going abroad is the right choice for your family to save money while getting a great education, then there is no more economical decision than registering for one of An Education Abroad’s admissions bootcamps! These cover everything your child needs to know to apply overseas, leaving them with a fully-finished application by the end of it! To learn more or register, visit www.aneducationabroad.com or email Kevin Newton at email@example.com
If you’d like to talk to a financial planner about the actual mechanics and strategies for paying for college, you can talk to one of our college funding experts for free: