Is the Dream Worth the Reality?

Sabrina Moreno, Reporter

College. That tiny, seven letter word stirs up all kinds of emotions. For most teenagers college is synonymous with freedom and adulthood. Some adventurous young adults dream of spending semesters abroad, in foreign and exciting countries, meeting new friends with strange accents and eating all kinds of exotic food. Others dream of moving there after college permanently. With the average public state school tuition running at around $21,000 and private universities at $42,000 per year, some are wondering if college is even worth it. Don’t give up hope of attending your dream university because there are plenty of options that won’t break the bank. When comparing the costs of top schools, some tuitions are significantly less.

Going to school outside of the US isn’t usually the first option that comes up on college searches. Before comparing the daily cost of living, in countries where the exchange rate is favorable, tuition is usually about $10,000 when converted back into US currency. For example, a full year masters program at McGill University in Canada will cost around $17,000 a year. Some countries with a high cost of living are home to top universities (for example Norway and Switzerland). Even though they charge little to no tuition, it may not make financial sense to attend depending on your situation.

Non-English speaking countries will almost always ask you to provide proof that you are fluent in their native language. If you are fluent in German, get ready for all the pretzels you can eat because most universities are free and many international students receive money to cover living expenses.

If you want to go abroad but aren’t ready to learn a new language in addition to experiencing complete culture shock, consider schools in the UK and Ireland. Many top schools, specifically some colleges of Cambridge University, University of Edinburgh, University of St Andrews, and Trinity College in Dublin, are becoming friendlier to Americans as their number of students from the US grows. Schooling across the pond is quite different than it is here. For one, career specialization starts the first semester of your “fresher” year as an undergrad. If you’re acing the classes related to your major, but your other grades are less than stellar, there’s no need to take them. The reduced number in classes lets most undergrads graduate in three years (that’s one year less tuition) though they can choose to attend for a fourth year. Universities located in Scotland allow you a little bit more freedom to take classes outside your major, which is not the case in England. All of those extra-curriculars you crammed into your schedule and hours you wasted writing essays that American universities just seem to gobble up have no impact outside the US.

Many applicants who applied, and were denied, to Ivy League schools in the US, had an easier time gaining entrance to Cambridge University, which is located in England. Cambridge University is made up of many separate colleges, each with their own criteria for admittance. This is almost always the case with universities, no matter where you are. An interview in England is usually required. These colleges provide housing and are in the general area of where your classes will be, seeing as most are arranged by department. If your major and your house doesn’t match up, special arrangements can be made.
The University of Edinburgh and University of St Andrews are both located in Scotland. While only one in ten UK citizens gain entrance to these elite schools, US students seem to have a better success rate. Relationships between professors and students are less personal, and it is not uncommon for professors to not give any comments on your work.
If studying abroad is a serious option for you but you still aren’t sure about your major, you may want to attend a state school or community college, at least to earn your basic credits and figure out your likes and dislikes. After you figure out what it is exactly that you want to do, you can always transfer to a more specialized graduate school.

With all of that being said, there are still drawbacks that need to be considered. One of most obvious is that networking will be very hard. You aren’t very likely to meet anyone who has job contacts in the US. If you plan on living and working in your country of study, this will not be a problem. Another problem is money. Even though these universities are cheaper, they have the added cost of lengthy flights, application fees, and tedious phone calls at unnatural hours. Studying abroad isn’t for everyone, but it is another option to consider.