Wednesday’s Parent: 5 ways to maximize the advantages of studying abroad

Maximize the advantages of studying abroad

Maximize the advantages of studying abroad

Study abroad was not common when I went to college but a foreign language requirement was. Back then, there wasn’t much talk about a global economy although we did often say, “It’s a small world.” Today, students need soft skills, hard knowledge, and practical experience to set themselves up for success. If done right, ubiquitous study abroad programs can deliver all of these. Plus parents can benefit too if they visit, in the form of a family vacation.

A recent survey of freshmen found, “In terms of personal goals, keeping up to date with political affairs and influencing social values are more important to those who believe there is a very good chance they will study abroad.” I discuss this and other findings in my article 9 college prep insights from Freshmen Survey Part 2. It seems just thinking about the study abroad possibility prompts more civic responsibility.

Benefits continue to grow when students merge and take seriously travel and studying. They can develop independence, self-reliance, and communication skills. Living another cultural lifestyle can lead to greater understanding, patience and tolerance. Combined with academics, the experience becomes a practical skill-builder worthy of a prominent place on a grad’s resume.

Here are five ways to maximize the advantages of studying abroad:

  1. There are different costs depending on the study abroad program sponsor so shop around. Compare programs offered at the student’s college with those offered by home and other state schools. Students may be able to participate in another college’s program, too. Just make sure the credits are accepted by the student’s college.
  2. Financial aid can follow the student’s educational program. Based on foreign education and living expenses, costs may turn out to be the same or cheaper than attending a semester at the student’s college. Make sure the program is properly approved.
  3. Plan college courses on campus carefully so studying abroad won’t delay graduation. Watch out for prerequisites and compare when courses are given so they don’t conflict with when students desire to study abroad. Even adding one more semester can be a budget buster.
  4. Plan college courses abroad just as carefully to make sure they fulfill necessary graduation requirements and enhance class selections towards the diploma. And check out internship options.
  5. Although personal travel time and excursions may be offered, study abroad programs are not vacations. Choose both the country and program based on how they fit with personal, educational and career goals.

The parent-student team can have the study abroad talk and touch on the above five points. Beware the fifth one. Extra expenses from excursions and personal travel can be significant. Students must know the rules, regulations and laws so they act appropriately. It’s a good idea to learn about medical care available, room and board options, and transportation from living quarters to classroom. Students should understand that studying abroad is a privilege and a responsibility that requires thoughtful preparation to maximize it’s advantages. They should also understand the timing both for what they are getting as well as what they are giving up on campus.

Read Suzanne’s post

Read more:

Using Your High School Study Abroad Experience as College Prep 

Use Federal Financial Aid to Pay for College Abroad


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from to and vice versa.

Using Your High School Study Abroad Experience as College Prep

SPI Study Abroad

SPI Study Abroad

When most parents and teens think of studying abroad, thoughts of college students attending overseas college programs often come to mind. However, high school students may be interested in attending a study abroad program while they are still in high school and use the experience as preparation for college. How to do this successfully is explained by the following guest post from Justine Harrington, SPI Study Abroad.

Studying abroad as a high school student is a wonderful personal experience – there’s nothing like learning all about another culture and language in an exciting foreign country. But, did you know that study abroad can also be a great way to prepare for college? There are just a few questions to address when choosing a program, in order to fully maximize the college prep potential of a study abroad experience:

Does your program include the opportunity to attain college credit? Some high school study abroad programs offer the chance to take classes in exchange for college credit  — this is definitely an aspect worth placing near the top of your list when choosing between programs.  Attaining college credit during a high school abroad experience indicates a deep level of maturity in a student’s academic career, and looks wonderful on a resume or application.

One important note: in order to make sure that your future university will definitely grant credit, it’s best to check with that specific university before going abroad – every school is different! It’s also a good idea to chat with your study abroad advisor about how often credit is granted – inquire as to whether more than 90% of students receive college credit for the program.

Is there a global leadership or student ambassador component to your program? Most high school study abroad programs include some kind of global leader or mentor role that students are encouraged to apply for – this is a fantastic way to gain great cross-cultural leadership skills, which will not only help you stand out during the admissions process, but will also aid you during your time in college. In today’s world, global leadership skills (such as the ability to communicate across cultures and understand cultural nuances, and be informed about the world) are a must.

Is your program an immersion-based program, or more of a travel-based program? Both types of programs certainly have their appeal, but in terms of college prep, an immersion-based study abroad program (in which students are completely enmeshed in the culture and way of life of another country) is much more likely to help students in acquiring a second language. So, why is this important? Because, in our globalizing society, demonstrated proficiency in a second language is rapidly becoming the norm among college students. Getting a jumpstart on the language learning process (in high school!) will help you become more fluent in a faster amount of time – and there’s no better way to do this than by engaging in true language and cultural immersion.

About the Author: Justine Harrington is an Admissions Advisor for SPI Study Abroad, a provider of language immersion and global leadership programs exclusively for high school students. Justine is also the main contributor to the SPI blog, and is looking forward to spending her summer assisting with SPI’s French immersion program in Biarritz, France.