When The Most Affordable College Options Are Across the Sea
I am a fourth-year student at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, and people often ask me why I chose to attend university abroad. Now that the clock on my college experience is running out, I have had plenty of time to reflect on why St. Andrews was the right place for me.
I applied to nine schools in the United States, mostly out-of-state private schools. I knew that my family could not afford the sticker price of the U.S. schools I was interested in and that I would most likely not qualify for financial aid. Applying to college in the U.K. was my backup plan. I applied to five U.K. universities with one $80 application.
During spring break of my senior year, I visited St. Andrews and fell in love. Luckily, my parents were on board with sending me 3,500 miles away to the most affordable college.
To put things in perspective, tuition for the 2015-16 academic year at St. Andrews is £17,040, or about $26,000. Tuition for Johns Hopkins University, my top choice in the U.S., is $48,710. I was accepted without any financial aid.
Additionally, the U.K. education system really appealed to me. It is very different from America’s liberal arts style, so it is not for everyone. Students here only study the subject in which they are getting their degree. Since I already knew what I wanted to study, I really appreciated the chance to skip out on core classes and general education requirements. As a result of this narrower course of study, students in Scotland graduate with a master’s degree in four years instead of just a bachelor’s.
University Abroad: The Experience
My favorite part of studying at St. Andrews is the opportunity to live and travel abroad. It is an education in and of itself. In the small coastal town where I attend school, I have experienced the university’s 600th anniversary celebration and the Scottish Independence referendum. When my friends and I need a break from the library, we can catch a train to nearby Edinburgh, an international metropolis and also our downtown. On spring breaks and the occasional weekend, I have been lucky enough to travel all around Europe.
This Grand Tour has led me to the Villa Borghese in Rome, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and the Wiener Staatsoper. I have also been to the Keleti train station in Budapest, where the Syrian refugee crisis has been playing out in the past months. I just got back from Paris ahead of the recent attacks. I’ve been educated on global crises in a very intimate way.
When I graduate in June, I know I will be able to move anywhere in the world and feel confident in my ability to set up a life for myself. I was homesick my first semester, and I am always sad to miss Thanksgiving. But the benefits of attending an affordable college abroad far outweigh the challenges. For anyone feeling underwhelmed by their American options or overwhelmed by the college process, I would wholeheartedly suggest considering schools abroad. It is the best thing I ever did.