In our fourth and final article discussing Unifrog’s new Horizons report, we’re turning our attention to overseas study.
Student interest in studying abroad remains impressively high this year, with 29% of students from state schools and 41% of students from independent schools shortlisting a UK university study abroad programme.
The advantages of studying abroad
These figures don’t come as a huge surprise, given the many benefits on offer: studying abroad can mean the opportunity to experience a new culture, pick up a new language, and save a small fortune on fees. Most public universities in Germany, for instance, don’t charge tuition fees at all; many higher education institutions elsewhere in Europe offer reduced fees to students from the EU and EEA; and a large number of US colleges offer financial aid.
There’s even evidence to suggest that overseas study can improve a student’s long-term prospects. Analysis from Universities UK has shown that graduates who study overseas at some point during their degree are less likely to be unemployed after 6 months (3.7% compared to 4.9%), and a 2017 report carried out by a study group on global education concluded that young people who study abroad are likely to develop attributes integral to tomorrow’s economy: “They will need self-awareness and self-confidence, a willingness to take smart risks, and knowledge of the world and other societies. These are not luxuries in the 21st century; they are vital skills. Global education fosters these skills.”
The factors that matter
Despite the high proportion of students interested in taking advantage of these opportunities, however, only 7.2% of students who graduated in 2015 had participated in some form of study abroad during their degree, suggesting that many young people are not able to realise their goals.
If this is the case, what’s holding them back? Unifrog asked students which factors were the most important in encouraging them to study overseas, and amongst the most popular responses were ‘easier access to student loans or funding’, ‘more information on the opportunities available’, and ‘an easier application process.’ All three link to transparity and guidance regarding an unfamiliar and potentially complex process, without which a potential applicant might feel overwhelmed.
It makes sense, then, that 46% of students chose ‘being able to speak to someone who’s studying overseas’, as this person would presumably help them to access reliable information on funding and other opportunities and guide them through the application process. It might also explain why we see a lower proportion of students from state schools shortlist a study abroad option: only 13% of state school students know someone from their school who did their first degree overseas, compared to 41% of independent school students.
Overcoming the barriers
Although knowing someone who has studied abroad appears to be a key factor, it is by no means a deciding one. Yousuf Bakshi, at seventeen years old, is the first student from Cardiff’s Fitzalan High to apply to a US university, and in August 2019 he will go to Harvard to study Computer Science and Politics. He was inspired to study in America nearly ten years ago upon hearing Obama’s first inauguration speech and took the initiative to find out as much as he could about the application process: “The biggest barriers,” he explains, “were finding out information on their admissions system and finance. No one from my school had ever applied to a US university before, so they lacked information. I had to do lots of independent research at the beginning and be really proactive about it.”
Yousuf’s initiative really paid off. He began by attending a US college fair in London, where he found out about summer schools, need-blind institutions and financial aid. He then attended events hosted by Seren – a network which helps to support Wales’ brightest sixth formers in achieving their academic potential – and was eventually accepted onto the Yale Young Global Scholars and Sutton Trust summer schools, which gave him the chance to experience life at Yale, MIT, and Harvard.
When he decided to apply to Harvard, Yousuf’s teachers went out of their way to support him: “One of my teachers went on a course to find out how to be a great counselor for my application. They learnt about how to write a Letter of Recommendation and what other supporting documentation the school needed to provide. I can’t thank my school enough for this.”
How Unifrog can help
Yousuf’s story is an inspiring one, and we hope that the tools and resources Unifrog have created will make it that bit easier for students and teachers to navigate an overseas application. The US is a particularly popular study destination and came out as the number one preference for students who want to study outside of the UK. For those interested in applying to the US, there are a number of ways in which Unifrog can help to make the process as clear and straightforward as possible, including:
- Guides on need-based aid, merit-based aid, loans and scholarships, which can all be found in our Know-how library
- Our US universities search tool, which allows students to rank and filter their results by factors such as ‘grants for international students’, ‘living costs’, ‘QS world rank’, and ‘Close to airport’
- Our Common App Essay tool, which help students to craft a successful application essay
- Tools that help teachers to write US recommendations, view Common App Essays, and mark them as finished
If you’d like to speak to someone about how to get the most out of these and our other tools, get in touch! You can reach one of or friendly team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 020 3372 5991.
To read more about the key findings from Chapter 4 of the Horizons report, click here to download a full copy.
Horizons report, Unifrog
Gone International: mobility works, Report on the 2014-15 graduating cohort, Universities UK
Global Education for Canadians: Equipping Young Canadians to Succeed at Home and Abroad, Report of the Study Group on Global Education