Here’s what to do now if your student is considering applying to college abroad.

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Photo credit: Charlie Brady

In my previous post, I provided an overview of the experience of earning your degree at a foreign university. Here’s what to know if this is a serious option for your child. [Note: Information focuses on the UK because of its popularity among American students.]

How to get started If your student has any interest in attending college abroad, begin planning early, sophomore year is ideal, but even freshman year isn’t too soon. This will allow your teen enough time to set up their high school class schedule with the required AP/IB courses to apply in the fall of their senior year. “You’ll have to know how many AP scores every university you’re applying to requires you to have,” explained Peter Schleisman of Minnesota, who attends the University College London (UCL).

With less financial aid options, especially free money, your family will need to discuss affordability. A three-year program will save a year’s tuition and housing, but US federal student aid is likely to come in the form of a loan rather than a scholarship or grant.

Because you apply to a course of study, i.e. major or program, rather than simply to a university, your student will need to research what programs are available at which colleges and decide which course best meets their interests.

For UK colleges, students, whether foreign or domestic, apply to a maximum of five universities. Researching early will give your teen time to create a list and carefully pare it down to the maximum.

Picking a course and a university Unlike in the US, at UK schools the course a student chooses matters more than the university. Remember, the entire application is designed to show why the student is qualified to take this particular course. At UK universities, students enter college on track to study a specific program and rarely change.

Understanding acceptance An unconditional offer means you’re in. A conditional offer means you’re in if you meet some additional requirements. For Schleisman, his UCL conditional offer came with a requirement for one more AP exam with a score of 5, which meant waiting until July for that score to know whether he was in. In similar cases, students should do what Schleisman did: accept an unconditional offer and take it back after being admitted to their conditional college.

Withdrawn means either the student or the university has withdrawn the course choice. If the college withdraws, a reason will be given. An unsuccessful application means a student was denied admission to that university.

For a student who receives no offers, they can go through clearing and apply to fill a course vacancy at a university or college. Clearing occurs between February and July.

Paperwork for international students For most countries, foreigners must obtain a student visa. Others also ask for proof of financial independence to make sure a student won’t need to go on public assistance while studying abroad. Some require proof of attendance from the university, as well as travel insurance.

College abroad “Classes themselves run October to March,” Schleisman explained. There’s almost a month break in the winter from mid-December to early January. After classes end in March, students get a month off. From late April to early June students take final exams. At the end of his freshman year, Schleisman took five exams over a month and half, each testing on all the material covered in class from October to March.

Going to college in another country isn’t for everyone, but it’s an option to consider if you think your high school student would benefit from the experience.

Share your thoughts on attending college abroad in the comments section below.