Your Study Abroad Application: Things To Know

Studying abroad is a popular choice for many undergraduates--especially at St. Lawrence, where over 65% of students have an off-campus study experience at some point during their four years here. It is important to remember that studying abroad in any location outside of your home university will have its unique ups and downs, but only you will know if it’s the right fit for your undergraduate career.

With the deadline to apply for study abroad programs quickly approaching early this spring semester, there are a few pointers you should be aware of before submitting your application(s). As someone who went through the process during this time last year, I can assure you that like with anything you apply for, if you devise a plan, do your research, and follow through, your chances of submitting a well-curated application are higher and you will have more peace of mind while you wait to hear back. Below are a few aspects of the study abroad application process to pay attention to!

1. Weigh All Of Your Program Options

It’s important to consider absolutely all of the program options offered for the term you wish to study abroad, as some programs are not offered in both (fall semester vs. spring semester). You may even decide that studying away for an entire semester is not the right choice for you, but you would still like the off-campus study experience. St. Lawrence, along with many other universities, offers the opportunity to enroll in shorter study abroad program for credit during the summer, so make sure to consider this if you aren’t keen on the idea of being away for a whole semester.

2. Look at Course Requirements/Catalogues

Don’t just look at the location of the program, but also look at any other deciding factors as well, such as the homestay requirement (if applicable), foreign language requirement, and course offerings in the program catalog.

If you have already declared your major/minor (or know what your intended major is), it’s crucial that you look at which programs offer courses that will or will not transfer over for credit towards your major/minor back at SLU (the study abroad and SLU website both have an approved study abroad course list available to look at.) For some students, they are on track to graduate their intended major and don’t have to worry too much about taking specific courses while abroad, while for others choosing to study abroad in a program without courses that will go towards their major will set them back. It’s important to make a pros and cons list and to map out how many courses you must take in which areas (major/minor and any remaining distribution requirements you have left) so you are aware of the impact that studying abroad will have on your academic path to graduation.

3. Meet With Your Advisor/Study Abroad Program Coordinators

Something that I found really helpful during the application process was talking it out with both my academic advisor, as well as one of the study abroad program coordinators in the CIIS Office on campus who ran the two programs I was interested in. Both academic and abroad advisors have dealt with many different students’ situations regarding their plans to study off campus, and it is their job to be there for you and to provide you with helpful resources during this time. Capitalize on the opportunity and set up an appointment with either or both your academic and abroad program advisor! It saved me a lot of time and unnecessary details I was planning on including in my application essay, and I had a clearer idea of how I had to complete the application than if I had not met with them at all.

4. Talk To Experienced Students

Everyone’s experience is different and people want different things out of their time studying abroad, but it could be helpful to ask questions to students who have previously completed a certain study abroad program. Asking a student who has been through it will offer more social advice and tips that don’t have as much to do with the academic side, which is just as much of a part of your experience abroad, if not more (living situations, cultural and social adjustments, travel destination/activity recommendations, etc.)

5. Give Yourself Enough Time To Write!

Usually, the study abroad program applications use essay-style questions, so plan to at least read through them and draft out what you would like to say. Don’t stress too much about the essay mechanics and structure of your essays—these aren't for class and aren’t being graded. The program advisors want you to provide content and context as to how this particular program will benefit your undergraduate career and how you plan on getting the most out of it in the short term and in the long term. They want to see more of your personality and your mindset about the opportunities presented in studying abroad (other than eating and drinking on foreign soil!). You could also have your academic advisor or an older student read them over to review before submitting. Just know that if you prepare your essays well and don’t rush through them at the last minute, it will show!

Studying abroad is an amazing life experience during college that you won’t be able to have again, and each program has its pros and cons—so weigh your options, meet with your academic advisor and the study abroad office coordinators for advising advice, and to go over the fine print of filling out the applications.

This process involves a lot of decision making, but do what YOU feel is best for you and don’t follow the crowd. You will thank yourself later on. Good luck!