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Five Stellar Colleges for Students Who Want to Study Abroad

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If you’re preparing and planning for college, it’s likely that you’ve at least considered the possibility of studying abroad at some point during your college career. While it’s usually not a requirement to graduate, studying abroad is firmly positioned in popular culture as a typical part of the college experience, and many colleges proudly advertise their study-abroad options, knowing they’re likely to be enticing to prospective students who are ready and eager to see the world.



According to The Atlantic, as of May 2016, only about 10% of college students overall in the United States actually study abroad during their college careers. However, at some colleges, and particularly at competitive schools full of highly motivated students, the numbers are considerably higher. Clearly, where you go to college has an impact upon whether and how you’ll end up studying abroad, both for practical reasons and due to each school’s individual culture. 


If the international experience of studying abroad is something you’re eagerly anticipating, it’s to your benefit to consider factors like study-abroad program availability, requirements, and funding when you’re choosing your list of colleges. Read on for our list of excellent colleges for students interested in studying abroad, as well as our tips for assessing and preparing for collegiate study-abroad programs while you’re still in high school.


A Quick Introduction to Studying Abroad

In college, studying abroad usually means spending one term or a full academic year attending school outside the United States. Studying abroad isn’t just about taking classes in a new location, however; it can also help you to sharpen your language skills, access resources related to your studies, and gain a more global perspective.


Alongside coursework, you’ll likely also participate in other activities through your study-abroad program, such as homestays, community service, cultural events, and additional travel. While you’ll still be expected to fulfill your responsibilities as a student and stay on track toward your degree, you’ll also have many opportunities to explore exciting, non-academic activities and simply have fun.


In order for you to receive academic credit for your classes taken abroad, your study-abroad program will have to be accepted by your home college. This is most straightforward when your study-abroad program is operated directly by your home college. (Many colleges offer one or more of these in-house programs.)


However, you may choose to pursue programs that operate independently or through a different institution, as long as they’re approved by your home college. This approach can give you a wider range of options in terms of location, educational opportunities, specific focus areas, and additional side activities, but it may be slightly more complicated to arrange.


Evaluating Study-Abroad Programs Before Applying to College

Many students who are applying to college have some interest in studying abroad, but they’re not always sure where or how to make that work. That’s okay — since studying abroad typically doesn’t happen until your junior year of college, you still have some time to figure it out.


If you’re already dreaming up study-abroad plans as a college applicant, though, you may want to take a harder look at the study-abroad options offered by the colleges in which you’re interested. Here are some factors to take into account when making these initial assessments of what kind of study-abroad opportunities might be best for you.



In most cases, you’ll need to come into your study-abroad program with a strong working knowledge of the language of instruction at the college or university you’ll be attending. This is necessary in order for you to fully understand your coursework and continue progressing academically, as well as go about your daily life and make friends during your time abroad.


When considering your future study-abroad options, you’ll need to think about your language skills. Do you already speak multiple languages? Are you willing to put in the time and work to learn another language, or would you prefer to study in a language you already know? In the latter case, you may be interested in the handful of colleges that offer study-abroad programs primarily taught in English.


Relationship to Your Overall College Plan

Since the classes you take abroad will still be part of your college education, it’s often a good idea to match your prospective study-abroad program to your intended major or field of study. This will help ensure that you stay on track academically, fulfill your graduation requirements and keep preparing for whatever comes next.


If you already have some idea of what you’d like to study in college, you might be interested in colleges with strong study-abroad programs in places that are particularly relevant to your field. If you’re a prospective art history major, for instance, a program in Paris might be particularly appealing. If you’re in the sciences, you might choose a program affiliated with a university that’s on the cutting edge of research.


Cost and Financial Aid

Studying abroad can be expensive, especially if you want to pursue all those fun, new experiences that students love to have. Your exact cost will depend not only on the study-abroad program you choose, but also upon your home college.


Each college has different policies for handling study-abroad costs and awarding financial aid when you won’t be physically on campus. If you really want to study abroad, but you’re on a tight budget, it’s wise to seek out colleges that are particularly generous with financial assistance for these programs.


For more information on the costs of studying abroad and the ways that you may be able to make study-abroad programs more affordable, check out our post Can I Afford to Study Abroad in College?

Colleges to Explore if You’re Interested in Studying Abroad

While studying abroad is an option at most colleges and universities, not every school offers access to the same options. Each school and program takes a slightly different approach to the purpose, format, and practical details of studying abroad, and you’re likely to find that some options suit you much better than others.   


Here are five colleges that offer something special to prospective applicants who intend to study abroad. While there are, of course, many more options available throughout the educational world, these five will get you started on researching and understanding what it means — or what it can mean — to leave the United States for part of your academic career.


Carleton College

This well-regarded liberal arts college is known for its own school-sponsored study-abroad programs. The small, high-quality programs, many of which use a seminar format, are taught by Carleton faculty who travel with students to a variety of countries. Since Carleton’s undergraduate teaching is considered by some to be the best in the country, this is a considerable strength.


Whether or not Carleton students studying abroad choose one of Carleton’s own programs, financial aid is available to help with the cost. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Applying to Carleton for more information about the school and its offerings.


Dartmouth College

This respected Ivy League institution offers a wide range of different study-abroad options to choose from, including English-language programs in various countries, more traditional study-abroad programs in various languages, and exchange programs with Dartmouth’s partner institutions worldwide.


Its most unique offerings, however, are its Language Study Abroad programs, which focus on local languages and cultures and incorporate homestays with local families. These programs seek to develop valuable relationships between Dartmouth students and communities all over the world, and to enhance students’ global perspectives.


For more information, check out our post Ultimate Guide to Applying to Dartmouth.


Goucher College

While Goucher may not be as familiar a name as some of the other colleges on this list, it’s here for a reason. Namely, it requires all undergraduates to study abroad during their college years in a school-sponsored program, and it was the first liberal arts college in the United States to institute such a requirement. Students can travel to over 30 different countries while participating in Goucher’s 60-plus study-abroad programs.


Since studying abroad is the norm at Goucher, the school is uniquely geared toward preparing students for the experience and helping them to apply what they’ve learned to their academic and career goals. Some financial aid is available, and since all study-abroad programs at Goucher are school-sponsored, students enjoy the predictability and simplicity of continuing to pay the usual cost of tuition even if they’re abroad.


Middlebury College

More than half of Middlebury juniors study abroad, and while their college may be relatively small, they have access to a huge range of study-abroad options. While financial aid policies differ by program, the college offers help in accessing outside funding sources to make studying abroad more feasible.


Some students choose Middlebury’s C.V. Starr Schools Abroad programs, held at over 40 different universities in 15 countries, and benefit from a highly immersive approach in which they pledge to speak only their language of study. Many others pursue approved outside programs, resulting in a total of over 90 different study-abroad programs that have participants from Middlebury.


The University of Chicago

UChicago is well-known for the high-quality, rigorous educational programs it provides, and its study-abroad options are no different. One particular strength is the university’s International Centers in Beijing, Delhi, Hong Kong, and Paris, which serve as “anchors for teaching and research in Europe and Asia” as well as “academic homes” for students studying in these regions — a nice perk for those who might be worried about losing touch with their home college while abroad.  


Students in UChicago’s study-abroad programs continue to pay their usual UChicago tuition and have access to financial aid and scholarship opportunities. You can learn more about the school and its application process in our Ultimate Guide to Applying to the University of Chicago.


Preparing for Study Abroad While in High School

Clearly, your choice of college has a significant impact upon the study-abroad options you’ll eventually be able to access. However, it’s not the only thing you can do in high school that matters. Here are some tips for using your time in high school to set yourself up for success in collegiate study abroad.


Study One or More New Languages

Your language skills play a major role in determining your study-abroad options, since you’ll need to understand the language of instruction at a college level. Starting your language studies early gives you more time to develop your skills, and also means that you may not have to fit as many time-consuming language classes into your first two years of college.


Even aside from your study-abroad requirements, knowing an additional language is never a bad thing. Learning a language means you’ll be able to communicate with more people; you’ll have access to another whole world of culture and scholarship; and you may even get a head start on graduate school or career requirements.


Familiarize Yourself with the Geography, History, and Culture of Areas You Might Like to Visit

Learning about a particular area will help you make a more informed decision about whether you want to live and work there for an extended period of time. You’ll also be able to better understand how studying in that country could fit into and enhance your educational program.


Of course, studying abroad will be a learning experience no matter how you prepare, but with some background knowledge, you’ll have a better idea of what you’d like to see and do while you’re living in a new place. It would be a shame to miss out on great opportunities because you didn’t know they existed. As a bonus, knowing what to expect can help alleviate some of the stress of moving to an unfamiliar place.


Don’t Feel You Have to Plan Everything in Advance

While it’s a good idea to consider potential study-abroad plans in advance, this doesn’t mean you should try to map out your entire study-abroad experience while you’re still in high school. In fact, it’s not really possible to make any solid plans yet — it’s just too early in the process.


You’ll likely change in a variety of ways when you head off to college. Many students switch majors, develop new interests, or reassess their previous goals. By the time you have to make concrete decisions about studying abroad, your priorities might be very different. It’s best not to get stuck on one path too early.


Studying abroad during college can be a great experience — in fact, many students count it among their best memories of college. If you’d like to set yourself up for a great study-abroad experience in the future, it pays to take your study-abroad needs and plans into account when you’re making your college list. We hope these tips help you get started on that path.


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Monikah Schuschu
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Monikah Schuschu is an alumna of Brown University and Harvard University. As a graduate student, she took a job at the Harvard College Office of Financial Aid and Admissions, and discovered the satisfaction of helping students and parents with the often-baffling college admissions process. She also enjoys fiber art, murder mysteries, and amateur entomology.