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6 things to consider if your child is going to college overseas
http://www.savingforcollege.com/articles/6-things-to-consider-if-your-child-is-going-to-college-overseas-919

Posted: 2016-04-11

by Kathryn Flynn

While most parents are comfortable with the idea of their son or daughter spending a semester of college abroad, many are caught off-guard when their child asks to attend an international school full-time.

Sinead Flynn of Frankfort, IL was initially met with shock and disapproval when she told her parents that she wanted to pursue her degree at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

"My parents were surprised at the distance I'm going to further my educational endeavors. At first they thought I would be too far away, yet in theory the time away and distance is not that long," she says.

Yet as they learned more about the cost savings and valuable experience a degree from an international school can offer, her mom and dad soon came around. According to the College Board, total costs of tuition, fees and room and board at an out-of-state public school were around $24,000 for the 2015-16 school year, and over $32,000 for a private university. At Trinity College Dublin, Flynn will be paying around $19,000 a year, and expects to complete her degree program in a significantly shorter time period.

Yet while it may seem like a no-brainer at first, cost shouldn't be the only factor to consider if your child wants to attend college overseas. Here are six questions to think about that can help with your decision.

RELATED: The biggest college planning mistake parents make

1. Does your child have a specific major in mind?

Unlike American universities, where it's common for students to begin their college career as an "undecided" major, some European schools require that students select a field of study before they even begin the program, and they don't make it easy to switch. At Trinity, for example, general education requirements don't even exist.

"If one is studying Accounting, all their classes pertain to accounting. A student will not take an English class or Science class in their time at the University," Flynn says.

"Students spend four years learning the content of their area of study in depth, which produces more qualified students," she added.

And even if your child does know what they want to study, be sure to check with the school to see if they offer the program. If graduate school is in their future, you'll also want to make sure that the credits from the international school will transfer.

2. Does the school accept U.S. financial aid?

The government does offer some assistance to American students attending college overseas, but only for tuition at participating schools. To see if a school participates in Federal Student Loan Programs, you start by checking this list provided by the Department of Education, which is updated quarterly, or check with the school directly.

In Flynn's case, she plans to use a combination of subsidized and unsubsidized U.S. federal student loans, loans through a private lender and scholarships to pay her tuition.

Also, keep in mind that although students can take out federal student loans to pay for international schools, they won't be able to use grants, such as the Federal Pell Grant to cover tuition costs.

RELATED: 15 facts about financial aid eligibility

3. Will your 529 plan savings be eligible?

According to the IRS, generally any postsecondary education institution that is eligible to participate in the federal student aid program is also considered an eligible institution for the purposes of Section 529. This includes traditional universities, vocational schools, community colleges and international schools.

To find out if a particular school is eligible, you can use Savingforcollege.com's Federal School Lookup Code, which is based on information from the Department of Education. If you end up taking money out of your 529 plan to pay for a school that is not eligible, it will be considered a non-qualified withdrawal and you'll be subject to income tax and a 10 percent penalty on the earnings portion.

4. Have you accounted for travel costs?

Students attending college overseas will also have more planning to do regarding holidays and other school breaks. Airfare and other travel costs should be figured into the family's budget, and mom and dad shouldn't expect too many surprise weekend visits from their son or daughter carrying a bag of dirty laundry.

That being said, Skype, FaceTime and social media make it easy for today's students to keep in touch with their families on a regular basis at little or no cost. And Flynn reminds her parents that she'll only be missing one more trip home than her friends who will be attending an out-of-state college in the U.S.

"The one difference is that I will not be home for Thanksgiving, but I will have an entire month around the Christmas period to be home," she says.

It's also important to be prepared for other unexpected costs, such as a passport, international visa, living costs and exchange rates.

RELATED: Using 529 plan savings to pay for a gap year

5. How long will it take to complete the degree program?

In addition to cheaper tuition, students going to college overseas may also be able to complete their degree program in a shorter amount of time than they would at a domestic school. Many European schools award bachelor's degrees after just three years, compared to four or five years in the U.S.

What's more, students pursuing certain professions may be able to shave off even more tuition costs if they choose to study in Europe. For example, students in the U.S. who want to pursue a law degree generally have to complete a four-year bachelor's degree program in another area of study before moving on to a three-year law program. But in Europe, law is taken as part of an undergraduate degree. According to Flynn, who will be studying law at Trinity, there are also other benefits of completing her degree in a shorter time period.

"Receiving a Law degree as an Undergraduate is a more direct route into this field of study. It gives me the ability to network at a younger age, work on internships, and also begin working in the field sooner," she says.

6. Is the school recognizable to U.S. employers?

If your child plans to return to the U.S. for work after college, they'll want to consider the reputation of their school and how it might be perceived on their resume. For most hiring managers who scan resumes, brands matter– and that includes where an applicant went to school.

In Flynn's case, Trinity is the number one university in Ireland and a school many U.S. companies should be familiar with. But those who attend lesser-known schools can include a short description of the program on their resume to help boost their chances of getting an interview.

RELATED: Are college admissions officers checking out your profile?

While most parents are comfortable with the idea of their son or daughter spending a semester of college abroad, many are caught off-guard when their child asks to attend an international school full-time.

Sinead Flynn of Frankfort, IL was initially met with shock and disapproval when she told her parents that she wanted to pursue her degree at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

"My parents were surprised at the distance I'm going to further my educational endeavors. At first they thought I would be too far away, yet in theory the time away and distance is not that long," she says.

Yet as they learned more about the cost savings and valuable experience a degree from an international school can offer, her mom and dad soon came around. According to the College Board, total costs of tuition, fees and room and board at an out-of-state public school were around $24,000 for the 2015-16 school year, and over $32,000 for a private university. At Trinity College Dublin, Flynn will be paying around $19,000 a year, and expects to complete her degree program in a significantly shorter time period.

Yet while it may seem like a no-brainer at first, cost shouldn't be the only factor to consider if your child wants to attend college overseas. Here are six questions to think about that can help with your decision.

RELATED: The biggest college planning mistake parents make

1. Does your child have a specific major in mind?

Unlike American universities, where it's common for students to begin their college career as an "undecided" major, some European schools require that students select a field of study before they even begin the program, and they don't make it easy to switch. At Trinity, for example, general education requirements don't even exist.

"If one is studying Accounting, all their classes pertain to accounting. A student will not take an English class or Science class in their time at the University," Flynn says.

"Students spend four years learning the content of their area of study in depth, which produces more qualified students," she added.

And even if your child does know what they want to study, be sure to check with the school to see if they offer the program. If graduate school is in their future, you'll also want to make sure that the credits from the international school will transfer.

2. Does the school accept U.S. financial aid?

The government does offer some assistance to American students attending college overseas, but only for tuition at participating schools. To see if a school participates in Federal Student Loan Programs, you start by checking this list provided by the Department of Education, which is updated quarterly, or check with the school directly.

In Flynn's case, she plans to use a combination of subsidized and unsubsidized U.S. federal student loans, loans through a private lender and scholarships to pay her tuition.

Also, keep in mind that although students can take out federal student loans to pay for international schools, they won't be able to use grants, such as the Federal Pell Grant to cover tuition costs.

RELATED: 15 facts about financial aid eligibility

3. Will your 529 plan savings be eligible?

According to the IRS, generally any postsecondary education institution that is eligible to participate in the federal student aid program is also considered an eligible institution for the purposes of Section 529. This includes traditional universities, vocational schools, community colleges and international schools.

To find out if a particular school is eligible, you can use Savingforcollege.com's Federal School Lookup Code, which is based on information from the Department of Education. If you end up taking money out of your 529 plan to pay for a school that is not eligible, it will be considered a non-qualified withdrawal and you'll be subject to income tax and a 10 percent penalty on the earnings portion.

4. Have you accounted for travel costs?

Students attending college overseas will also have more planning to do regarding holidays and other school breaks. Airfare and other travel costs should be figured into the family's budget, and mom and dad shouldn't expect too many surprise weekend visits from their son or daughter carrying a bag of dirty laundry.

That being said, Skype, FaceTime and social media make it easy for today's students to keep in touch with their families on a regular basis at little or no cost. And Flynn reminds her parents that she'll only be missing one more trip home than her friends who will be attending an out-of-state college in the U.S.

"The one difference is that I will not be home for Thanksgiving, but I will have an entire month around the Christmas period to be home," she says.

It's also important to be prepared for other unexpected costs, such as a passport, international visa, living costs and exchange rates.

RELATED: Using 529 plan savings to pay for a gap year

5. How long will it take to complete the degree program?

In addition to cheaper tuition, students going to college overseas may also be able to complete their degree program in a shorter amount of time than they would at a domestic school. Many European schools award bachelor's degrees after just three years, compared to four or five years in the U.S.

What's more, students pursuing certain professions may be able to shave off even more tuition costs if they choose to study in Europe. For example, students in the U.S. who want to pursue a law degree generally have to complete a four-year bachelor's degree program in another area of study before moving on to a three-year law program. But in Europe, law is taken as part of an undergraduate degree. According to Flynn, who will be studying law at Trinity, there are also other benefits of completing her degree in a shorter time period.

"Receiving a Law degree as an Undergraduate is a more direct route into this field of study. It gives me the ability to network at a younger age, work on internships, and also begin working in the field sooner," she says.

6. Is the school recognizable to U.S. employers?

If your child plans to return to the U.S. for work after college, they'll want to consider the reputation of their school and how it might be perceived on their resume. For most hiring managers who scan resumes, brands matter– and that includes where an applicant went to school.

In Flynn's case, Trinity is the number one university in Ireland and a school many U.S. companies should be familiar with. But those who attend lesser-known schools can include a short description of the program on their resume to help boost their chances of getting an interview.

RELATED: Are college admissions officers checking out your profile?

 

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