When high school student Andrea Genovese of Switzerland presented his case to his parents for a university degree abroad, he said he focused on three main points: traveling, living a new experience, and getting out of his comfort zone.
“I explained to them that I want to leave my country for my university experience,” Genovese says. “Going to university is an experience, so I want to remember it and make the most of it.”
Genovese is looking at schools in places like London, New York, Boston, Madrid and Milan.
“Studying abroad really opens the world to students in ways that cannot be experienced at home,” says Michael Wesley, Vice-Chancellor for International at the University of Melbourne in Australia.
Here are seven tips to help the conversation with parents about getting a degree abroad:
- Show seriousness.
- Emphasize academic or professional benefits.
- Calculate a budget to present to parents.
- Seek help from counselors and teachers to present your case.
- Talk about safety.
- Connect with similar students.
- Involve parents in the decision-making process.
Introduce the idea of studying abroad early and look for schools and locations, experts say.
Says Adrija Das, a Singaporean-Indian and a political scientist at Clark University in Massachusetts.
Students should prepare a list of questions parents are likely to ask and then provide those answers, says Sally Robinston, senior advisor at College Karma Consulting and a former admissions advisor at Smith College in Massachusetts. She says questions may range from selectivity and specializations offered to logistical questions such as the distance from school to the airport.
“What will convince parents the most is that you take ownership of this process and have something to show for it – knowing yourself, knowing which institutions you want to attend and being open about discussing this with your parents,” says Jennifer Ann Aquino, an international education consultant with offices in Switzerland and Singapore and author of The Family Guide International Admission to American Universities.
Emphasis on academic or professional benefits
Students should stress that they will get a quality education that they would not get at a college in their country, experts say.
“There are also the rich personal and professional opportunities that come from internships, joining clubs and societies, taking field trips, or meeting industry leaders in another cultural setting,” Wesley says.
Robinstone says students should think about what their parents expect of their education. “Great job in engineering? Fluency in English? Be sure to explain how this can happen at the overseas college of your choice.”
For parents who rely on data, Aquino says, students should get some numbers to support their case and do more research. “What do recent graduates do? What do older graduates do? You can find this on LinkedIn quite easily.”
Calculate a budget to present to parents
Affordability will be a major concern for parents, as they are most likely to help pay for college. Students may want to consider many options and countries, as the cost of education can vary greatly between countries.
“Compare the prices,” Aquino says. “And don’t forget to include room, board, expenses, including flights, etc., and currency exchange.”
Robinstone says college costs should also take into account the availability of scholarships. “Facts and figures can help prove to parents that a student is serious about studying abroad.”
Ask counselors and educators to help you take your stand
Counselors and tutors can be great resources when you’re considering attending college abroad.
“I sought help from high school counselors as well as an outside personal counselor,” Das says. “They helped suggest universities based on academic performance and my student portfolio.”
Aquino says that school counselors are likely to have data from one student’s school about other students who have applied to or attended certain universities. She says teachers can be helpful, too.
“Do any of your professors have degrees from the universities you’re researching? Do their sons/daughters go to one of these universities? Talk to your teachers about their experiences. Share that with your parents,” Aquino says.
Talk about safety
Experts say many schools have school safety information on their websites, but students should also reassure parents that they can be trusted to make safe decisions.
“While parents may be afraid to send their children away, FaceTime, Skype, and other forms of electronic communication can make the distance seem smaller,” Robinston says.
Most US universities are very safe, she says, “although students enrolled in urban colleges who are not familiar with city environments will have to learn to care more about their surroundings than they are used to.”
Experts say parents and students can reach out directly to schools with questions about safety.
“For discerning parents, Australia is safe and has an excellent standard of living,” says Wesley. “Melbourne has been the most liveable city in the world for seven consecutive years.”
Connect with similar students
Schools often have ambassadors, mentors, and alumni who can be great resources.
“I contacted some students at different different universities, and I thought it was a very useful option also because these are students who go to school and live it day in and day out,” Genovese says.
In its website forums, “students can anonymously contact other students, parents, and admissions professionals to ask questions and share candid advice,” says Joy Pullen, senior editor at College Confidential, a college admissions website and online community.
The website’s International Student Forum covers topics such as costs of attendance as an international student, what life is like at a particular school, and admission opportunities.
Involve parents in the decision-making process
Involving parents can help get their blessing on going to university abroad.
“The best thing you can do is involve your parents in the decision-making process, because they have been on a lifelong journey with you and know you better than anyone else,” advises Wesley.
He says parents often think about questions students might not have “which are important to preparing for life in another country or just transitioning from high school to university.”
Aquino suggests letting parents know about preparation for the application process, schedule, letters of recommendation, and other relevant information.
“The more you give them, the more they give you, realizing that you are a young adult in complete control of your future,” she says.
While Genovese doesn’t think parents should make the decision for the student, he says he welcomes his parents’ input.
“My parents are very open-minded and want the best for me.”