Expanding Horizons: Seniors Apply to Colleges Overseas

Kelsey Hamilton, Staff Writer

For many people, October is a month of spooky fun, trick or treating, and, of course, Halloween. For seniors, October means something completely different: college application time!

As the school year kicks off and Prep heads into the second month of school, many seniors are finalizing their applications for colleges. With all the tours, essay writing, and application forms that must be done, it’s undoubtedly a very stressful time for many.

While numerous seniors are looking at colleges in the U.S., some are also looking at colleges overseas, John Calvert ’22 is applying to a handful of colleges in the UK including Glasgow, Saint Andrews, Oxford, and Queens. When asked why he chose to apply overseas in the UK, he responded that he wanted to get a change of environment and that the common language would make the transition a lot easier.

When applying abroad, it can be hard to get a feel for the campus since it’s abnormal for people to fly out and visit, even more so now because of the pandemic. COVID has put a strain on visiting colleges in the UK and many other countries because they’ve been on lockdown. A common way to become acquainted with an overseas college is through virtual tours, talking to former students, and attending visits when the colleges send representatives to Prep. The college talks that Prep hosts are beneficial to students in more ways than one. It not only gives students more insight into colleges they’re interested in going to, but it also can introduce students to other colleges they didn’t even know they might want to apply to.

“It put Glasgow on my radar of a college I want to go to,” explained Calvert.

The number of applicants to colleges overseas is a growing trend. This year, 14 students are applying to a total of 19 overseas colleges, mostly in the UK and Canada. One person who is applying to a country that’s not either of those is Flore Bindel ’22, who is applying to Bocconi University Milan in Italy. Bindel is of French descent and going to school in Italy would allow her to be closer to her relatives there and connect to her French roots, which is a huge motivating factor behind her choice.

Applying to colleges both in the U.S. and overseas is very taxing, and it can be too much if there isn’t someone there for students the entire step of the way.

Sandra Foy is the Director of College Counseling, and she, along with many others, is there as a constant support for the students. She understands some of the nuances involved in applying overseas. For instance, American schools take a more holistic approach, looking for what kind of community member you are and what activities you’re involved in. The UK and Canadian schools are more focused on how well prepared students are to study a specific major because when they apply to colleges in the UK, they’re applying for a specific major from the beginning. Because of this, many international degrees can be completed in 3 years, rather than the 4 years it takes in the U.S.

“They’re much more interested in the specific classes you had to prepare you for that major,” explained Foy.

Not only is the focus of the application different, but so is the deadline. In the U.S. the common app deadline is usually November 1st, but overseas, the deadlines can be as early as October 15th.  Another difference between the applications is that U.S. universities center their essays more on the experiences and struggles a person has had in their life, while the UK’s essay is focused on why you deserve to be given a spot in your course-specific skills,

“It’s a lot less personal and more about why should we pick you,” said Calvert.

While every school in Canada has different rules on how to apply, the application process in the UK uses a system known as the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), similar to the common app. Unlike the common app in the U.S., where you can apply to up to 20 schools, UCAS only allows you to apply to up to 5 schools.

The process and application requirements are different for applying to school overseas, and counselors recommend that you start researching entry requirements early to have a successful application. Best of luck to all the seniors, whether you’re applying near or far!