When to Start Planning for Study Abroad

Which way will you choose for studying abroad? If you start planning early, you can go often!I’m guessing that if you have made it to a blog named “Study Abroad and Beyond,” you might have an interest in studying abroad (or know of someone who is planning to study abroad).  

If you are interested in studying abroad at some point during your college career, it is important to meet with your study abroad office as early as possible.

When it comes to study abroad, we live by the phrase “plan early, go often.”

As I have said before, of the many, many, many students who express interest in studying abroad during college, only one in ten undergraduate students in the US actually end up studying abroad.

It still shocks me that this is the case – there are so few times in life when there are minimal ramifications to leaving your home country for months at a time.

If you are planning to study abroad at some point in your college career, get thee to a study abroad office.  Stat.

The advisors are there to help!

Related: Study Abroad Guide: Preparation Phase

If you plan your experience early (ideally during your freshman year, or at least two semesters before your desired study abroad semester); you have more time to:

Prepare for scholarships (especially the ones with weird application timelines).

Fact: Studying abroad costs money.

Also fact: There are opportunities for funding for study abroad programs (through competitive scholarship competitions, your home university, your program provider, and more).

Also, also fact: Some study abroad scholarships only have one application deadline for all study abroad programs in the following year; if you haven’t figured out if you want to study abroad by these deadlines, your opportunities for funding will be much more limited!

Moral of the story: Planning ahead + submitting applications = more chance of getting $$$.

Related: Resources for Study Abroad

Arrange your classes to allow more flexibility.

If you figure out early just how many classes you will need to take whilst abroad (as well as which courses / electives you will need to fulfill), you will improve your chances of having access to more programs.

You can either plan your classes so that one semester can be entirely electives (this provides the most flexibility), or some major credits that are easy to obtain abroad, or a semester in which you only need to enroll in four courses.

Any of these would be ideal to make studying abroad a reality.

See how much money you should save for your program (and plan for how to save money while abroad).

Just because I said that there are scholarship opportunities for studying abroad doesn’t mean that they are guaranteed.  So it’s not a bad idea to start saving early!

Again, depending on the type of program that is a good fit for you, the costs will differ (sometimes significantly).

In this case, mo’ planning = mo’ money.

Related: 10 Ways to Save Money While Living Abroad

Find out about all of the study abroad opportunities available to you through your school.

I’ve previously encouraged students to research at least five programs prior to choosing one.   This will help you see all of the options available – maybe one of the more obscure programs would be a great fit for you!

Also, doing some research will help you figure out the differences between types of programs.   Not every program is a good fit everyone.  

Related: Thinking about Study Abroad? Use GRAPES

Learn how to get credit for your experience.

The last thing you want is to find an amazing program, get your heart set on it, and then not end up getting credit for it (#beentheredonethat).

Your study abroad office is a great resource for identifying programs that are for credit.  Not all programs are eligible at all colleges, and it’s important to learn about this as early as possible.

While I had an incredible experience studying abroad, it would have been nice to get credit on all of my programs.  Lesson learned.

Related: How to Get Credit for Study Abroad Programs

Plan how you can add resume-boosting activities to your study abroad experience.

One of the greatest changes that is happening to study abroad programs is the increase of “immersion activities.”  This means that, while you are abroad, you can get involved with volunteering, internships, organizations, clubs, and more.

If you know what career you would like, this is a great opportunity to get experience in the field in another culture.  Work experience abroad makes you a very competitive applicant for jobs!

What are you waiting for?  Contact your study abroad office today!

One of my favorite travel quotes (and books!) - by Dr. Seuss

When did you start planning to study abroad?  Did you wish you had started earlier?  Share in the comments below!  For more study abroad inspiration, follow me on Pinterest!

Visit Study Abroad and Beyond’s profile on Pinterest.

Related Posts:
How to Find the Right Program for You
How to Write a Kick-Ass Application Essay
Why Students Prefer Spring Study Abroad (and Why You Should Consider Fall!)
Ask an Advisor: Where Should I Study Abroad?
5 Reasons Why Students Don’t Study Abroad

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