Advice on landing that study abroad acceptance every time.
Having studied abroad on four separate occasions, I have written my fair share of study abroad applications. These applications only got easier the more applications I wrote and, undeniably, with more travel abroad experience. Wanting to mentor other college students interested in study abroad, I became an Education Abroad Peer Advisor after returning from three months studying abroad in Russia, India, and China in my junior year. One repeated question I got from prospective study abroad students was “can you read and edit my application?” Having read, edited, and advised many students on applications, I thought it would be helpful to compile my suggestions along with the advice of my friend Alex, who is a Senior Program Manager for college short term study abroad programs- an expert to say the least!
I am a big fan of the concept of backward design. In order to write a good application, you need to start at the beginning. What are your personal, professional, and academic goals and objectives? How will this particular program help you to get there? If you find that it’s a hard sell to connect these two, then you may want to revisit your program choice and apply for a program that will help you achieve your goals.
Let me give you an example. At the end of my final year of high school, I took a road trip to Austria (I was living in Switzerland at the time, so it wasn’t that far) and loved it there! I decided that I would learn German and move to Austria one day. So naturally, when I came to the U.S. for college and began taking German classes, I told all of my classmates that I was going to study abroad in Vienna. My overarching goal though was to become fluent in German. When I talked with my education abroad advisor, I learned that most people in Vienna spoke English and that if I wanted to be forced to work on my language skills, I should consider another program in a small town. Ultimately that is what I did and my German language skills dramatically improved!
Once you know what you want and have found a program that will help you get there, make sure to spell it out in your application. At the end of the day, faculty members and education abroad advisors want to help you achieve your dreams!
Here are a few other tips to help you as you compile your application:
- Be honest and authentic in your application. Tell YOUR story. I meet with students who are afraid to tell their story, because they don’t think it’s compelling enough, or they think it might disqualify them from a program. Part of telling your story is helping the person reading your application to assess whether this is a good fit for you and the program.
- Tailor your application to the program. Please please please do not submit a generic education abroad application! This goes for any job search as well. Research the program online and make sure that your application is tailored specifically to this particular program. Cite particular aspects of the program that are referenced in the online material. This demonstrates that you have done your research and will make your application stand out from the crowd.
- Reach out to the faculty member or education abroad advisor. Go to the faculty member’s office hours, get to know them, and share your passion for the program! Faculty members want to know that you are excited about their course, especially if they may be spending several weeks with you.
Remember education abroad programs are competitive. If you don’t get in the first time you apply, ask for feedback, and see how you can improve your application for the future. Your desire to grow and learn will only make you an even more attractive candidate for the future.