Why more U.S. students are planning to obtain their degrees in Europe

In March, a new wave of American students began to pursue the possibility of attending European universities as their main source of education. Here are three attributes that attract students to schools in Europe

The number of U.S. students who want to obtain European degrees spiked at the onset of the pandemic and continues to rise. Meanwhile, families who originally showed interest in their children attending European universities prior to COVID-19 have yet to change their minds.

This month, the percentage of customers connecting with a service that helps American students navigate European degree programs rose by 97.3% when compared to March. Since May 1st, 3,381 users signed up for newsletter subscriptions, more than doubling the two-month period earlier this year.

“In March, I hunkered down and prepared for several months of no new customers,” says Jennifer Viemont, founder of Beyond the States. “But business suddenly picked up like you wouldn’t believe even though I didn’t do any marketing and despite the fact that no one wants to travel.”

1. Lower costs

The cost of degrees and the overall transparency of the admissions process in Europe are two of the main factors that drive students away from American colleges and universities. For example, international undergraduate students attending European universities usually pay $13,130 per year on average, according to QS Quacquarelli Symonds, a service, analytics, and insight provider for higher education. Additionally, students usually finish their degree in three years instead of four, says Viemont.

Students attending European universities can also “see the world instead of going to the beach in Florida” for relatively cheap such as a $225 weekend trip to Montenegro, she adds.

2. Transparent and noncompetitive admissions

Students are attracted to the transparency and inclusiveness of European universities as well.  “In the U.S., we have the perspective that if a school is noncompetitive, then the quality of education is not as high,” says Viemont. “Since competitiveness factors into admissions-related criteria, schools are incentivized to be more exclusive to obtain higher rankings.”

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Conversely, areas of study and research drive admissions decision-making in Europe. Essentially, students apply to specific school programs instead of entire institutions and know the requirements going in. “If you meet those exceptions, then you’re in, so long as the program doesn’t have an enrollment cap,” says Viemont. “The letters that students send in also don’t have to be some big emotional struggle that they overcame,” she adds. “Instead, students say what they have to bring to the table that is relevant to the program and how the school can help them reach those goals.”

Additionally, European universities place more value on the variety of courses that students took than the number of extracurricular activities. “In Europe, being a member of 50 school clubs doesn’t correlate with success and doesn’t necessarily mean they will perform better in college,” says Viemont.

3. Internships are a requirement

European schools make internships a requirement to graduate and therefore work to ensure students find a program. Internships also align with every curriculum.

“It’s not like summer internships in the U.S. where you have to fetch a CEO’s coffee every day,” says Viemont. “It’s usually a semester that schools set aside so students can acquire the necessary soft skills that employers are looking for.”

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