Interested in Studying Abroad? The 4 Essential Points to Consider When Applying to Colleges

September 22, 2022
College Admissions

Studying abroad can be one of the most enriching experiences in which college students take part. For many, the ability to immerse oneself in a foreign culture, learn a new language, and explore new places makes study abroad programs hugely popular and factors in significantly when they are deciding which university to attend. And while many schools offer study abroad opportunities and programs, they can vary considerably in terms of location, duration, the rigor of coursework, and level of student support.

To get the most out of a study abroad experience, students should first establish what is essential to them and research various university programs to understand how well each aligns with their interests. Below we’ve outlined several of the most important considerations and some information about a few of the most well-established university study abroad programs.  


Students considering studying abroad should first give careful thought to the place in which they genuinely wish to study. The number and variety of locations a school offers are clearly important factors. Universities with robust study abroad programs spend years establishing and building networks with local institutions in various countries and cities worldwide.

The largest concentration of programs is in Europe, with cities like London, Rome, Madrid, and Dublin being amongst the most desirable Tokyo and Shanghai are other popular destinations. Students looking for experiences in less traveled regions, such as Africa and South America, should research the full spectrum of locations offered through each university to determine which is most suitable.


The vast number of university study abroad programs means there are opportunities for every possible length of time from which to choose. These include summer or winter, semester or year-long, and some schools even offer entire degree programs overseas. For some students, a short duration program, such as a summer or semester abroad, is the perfect length of time to experience living in a foreign country. While for others, spending a full academic year or completing a degree entirely in another country is of most appeal. Students should remember to determine the amount of time abroad they need. In doing so, students will ensure their study abroad experience is the most beneficial and rewarding.

Rigor of Coursework

These programs primarily intend to offer students coursework and further their education. So, it is vital to understand the variations in the rigor of coursework between different schools. While some study abroad programs allow students to focus on courses specific to their major, others provide a more diverse catalog of courses.

Students looking to maximize their learning experience should research prominent international schools and domestic universities with well-established partnerships. A lot of information is available online that details the prestige and quality of foreign universities

For many students, the opportunity to study abroad in English is challenging enough, but for those with a particular focus on languages, taking courses in a foreign language adds a much-desired degree of difficulty and opportunity to the experience. In this case, reviewing university course catalogs of partnering institutions is important, so one is aware of the necessary language requirements for enrollment. Effectively incorporating these factors into the research and selection process will allow students to further narrow their focus toward schools that most align with their interests.

Student Support

The overwhelming majority of schools with study abroad programs maintain offices dedicated to supporting students during their time overseas. But they differ in terms of the level of support they provide before, during, and after completing study abroad. Any high-quality study abroad programs will employ full-time, year-round advisors to guide students through the selection process, considering program costs, duration, housing, academic support, and transportation.

Students should also consider how comprehensively individual study abroad programs support cultural immersion. The best programs will often organize and promote events and day trips to various local destinations of interest. Additionally, some programs host webinars and Q & A sessions for students and parents to understand further what types of assistance they provide during this exciting part of a student’s college experience.

Below is a list of some US News Best Study Abroad Programs with a brief description of what each of them offer.  

New York University: NYU maintains campuses in more than a dozen countries, including Shanghai, Prague, Buenos Aires, and Tel Aviv, sending 3,000 students abroad annually, more than any other university. They offer first-year student, summer, January, and graduate-level study abroad programs.  

Boston University: With more than 70 programs in 25 cities spread across more than 20 countries, BU has one of the most comprehensive study abroad programs. Students can choose between programs that include summer, semester, yearlong, and even internships. Some of the many countries available include Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Italy, and Singapore.

Duke University: Duke offers students the opportunity to choose from 50 programs on six continents, all while receiving direct support from Duke faculty and staff. These programs are either a summer or semester in length in notable destinations such as Brazil, Chile, Denmark, and France.

Dartmouth College: Placing a particular emphasis on the intersection of academics and foreign cultural immersion, Dartmouth offers a wide range of study abroad programs centered upon specific areas of study, including language-focused programs. Students can study anthropology in Auckland, art history in Rome, or astronomy in Cape Town. In addition to regular academic programs, they offer internships.

Middlebury College: With more than 90 programs in more than 40 countries, including Russia, Brazil, Cameroon, India, and Morocco, Middlebury offers an extensive array of opportunities. Students can choose between semester, year-long, summer, and winter options. Studying abroad is such a mainstay at the college that more than half of the junior class studies in a foreign country each year.

In Summary

Studying abroad is an excellent opportunity for students to enhance their cultural awareness, improve their understanding of a foreign language, and connect with people from diverse backgrounds. Many students look back on their experience abroad as being one of the most impactful and memorable of their lives. Students interested in incorporating study abroad programs into their college search should establish a foundational framework incorporating specific criteria as they embark on their research. That framework should start with the factors we discussed above:  location, duration, the rigorousness of the coursework, and the level of student support. This approach will ensure students find the most suitable university and program that will provide a truly positive and enriching experience.