Even before my oldest started high school, I was worried about the cost of college. Though we had regularly put money away for college, our savings wouldn’t even scratch the surface of private or out-of-state tuition. I also had concerns about the competition of the college admission process and was worried that my son wouldn’t be a good player of that game. We were both thrilled to stumble upon the existence of English-taught degree programs at European universities. Prior to this, I assumed international students would have to know a foreign language to study in Europe. I had no idea non-English-speaking countries in Europe contain over 400 universities with full-degree programs conducted entirely in English—no foreign language skills needed! These options have been a game changer for us and other families across the country. Families and students are excited about European universities for different reasons, but most of the benefits fall into these key benefits.
1. Lower costs
On average, international students pay less than $8,000 per year to attend one of the 1,800+ bachelor’s programs across continental Europe. There are more than 600 programs with tuition for less than $5,000 per year and more than 60 options that are tuition-free—even for international students! The savings are further increased when you factor in that most European bachelor’s programs take only three to three-and-a-half years to complete instead of four. In many cases, it costs less to obtain a full bachelor’s degree in Europe, including cost of travel, than one year of out-of-state or private school tuition in the United States. Even after factoring in living costs, travel home, and a student visa, you could end up saving more than $200,000 on college costs like we did.
2. Less competitive admission
In Europe, schools don’t use admission rates as an indicator of educational quality or prestige. The reputation of the school is not generally linked to how selective it is. At most schools, the admission process is less competitive—even at highly ranked ones. Each school has its own set of transparent admission criteria, which might be a certain ACT/SAT score, a set GPA, a defined number of AP courses, or as little as a high school diploma.
Many very reputable European universities have programs without enrollment caps, so students who meet these criteria are accepted, period. Students aren’t compared to other applicants; they are solely assessed to see if they have the qualifications needed to succeed in the program—it doesn’t matter if they have a higher GPA or more AP courses than someone else. This process allows students to make mistakes, explore their interests, spend time with family, get after-school jobs, and end the day with a good night’s sleep because there is less stress. It also levels the playing field, as factors like legacies, donations, and financial portfolios aren’t factors.
3. Global employability
Other than learning, an important outcome of attending university abroad pertains to your future employment. There are a few reasons attending college in Europe gives students an edge in this area. Many of the English-taught programs in Europe have an entire semester set aside for internships, with multinational partner companies like Google, JP Morgan Chase, Accenture, and Deloitte. There are incredible internship options that are unique to Europe as well, including opportunities with the Counterterrorism Center, the International Criminal Courts, the World Health Organization, and the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center. Given that employers often hire the interns who work for them, these options put students on a fast track to employment overseas.
4. Valuable soft skills development
Equally important to employers are the soft skills international students develop. Students who have studied outside their home country immersed in a different culture have cultivated a deeper awareness and appreciation for cultural differences. The emphasis on group work in European schools gives students the opportunity to collaborate with people with a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. These graduates are often flexible, adaptable, and experienced in navigating unfamiliar circumstances, all of which lead to success in the workplace. According to a study published in Harvard Business Review, employees who live oversees as students are more adaptable and tend to receive promotions more quickly than students who don’t.
5. Life-changing experiences
The English-taught programs in Europe are developed to attract students from around the world. Classroom discussions include varied perspectives and experiences which allow you to have a better understanding of the world and how current issues affect people in different countries. International students have peers from around the world. Though there are differences in background and culture, there are meaningful common experiences and values among international students. They are all experiencing living away from their home country—a significant and life-changing experience. Most international students have values associated with global citizenship, allowing them to connect on a deep level.
Yes, saving an incredible amount of money on college is great. Yes, the application process is simple and transparent. Even without these benefits, exploring a European university for the less tangible benefits is equally important. I want my kids to feel invested in the world and its problems. I want them to experience and value diversity, and students should want that for themselves too. Students should know the world is within their reach if they want it. Me and my son are both confident that attending college in Europe will lead to these positive outcomes.
Has this swayed you on an international higher education? Learn more about what that might look like with our blog 7 Key Things to Know About Studying in Europe.