The new semester’s here, which means you’re probably already looking for an escape better than a musty frat party. Studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to continue your academics while gaining a bunch of unique experiences. Studying abroad seems like a simple decision but between the cost and competitiveness of study abroad programs, the application can be more daunting than you think. Though I was accepted into my university’s study abroad program in London this past spring, I’ll be the first to admit that the application process was more rigorous than I expected. Here are some tips to make sure you send in a strong application.
Your application isn’t just about you ― it’s also about what people think of you.
Study abroad applications often ask for recommendation letters. When it comes to choosing a professor or boss to write it, choose someone that won’t just vouch for your academic abilities, but also your inquisitiveness or open-mindedness. Study abroad programs want students who will pass the classes, but they’re also looking for students who are willing to take in the culture of an entire country. They want students that won’t slouch on field trips or snore during theater visits. If there’s a class that you know you participated well in or where you demonstrated research or reading skills, choose those professors to write your recommendations. As always, ask sooner rather than later. You may not have a lot on your plate but professors get busy very fast. Talking in person is best but if that isn’t possible, send a polite e-mail.
The essay or personal statement is probably the most daunting part of the application process. However, study abroad essays are actually easy compared to most essays because your academics don’t have to be the highlight of the essay. While you can ― and should ― say how studying abroad fits into your career goals, it’s more important to emphasize why you want to study abroad in that specific country. Get personal. If you have any family ties to the country you want to study abroad in, such as that your family lives there and you’ve never gotten a chance to visit, say so. If a film, artist, musician, or writer inspired you to travel to this country, explain how. Most importantly, if you’ve never traveled outside of your hometown, say that! Study abroad programs want to give students who’ve never traveled before the opportunity to see the world, so don’t see your lack of travel as embarrassing. It’s actually a major boost. Before studying abroad in London, I’d never been to Europe, and I made sure to include this in my essay. You may think of it as a desperate thing to say, but it shows desire.
While you’re applying, make sure you’re also searching for scholarships, grants, or other financial aid to ease the cost. Studying abroad is an expense. If financial aid is necessary for you to study abroad, make sure to stay on top of any opportunities. Don’t let the fear of denial keep you from applying. As a student at a state university, scholarships and grants are cutthroat, which can be discouraging, but I still applied. Not bothering to apply means giving away the opportunity to make your life easier, or giving up the opportunity to study abroad for good. Visit your school’s financial aid office or website, or generic grant/scholarship sites to track financial aid opportunities for study abroad students.
The last step for success? Apply ASAP! Exams and assignments will pile up before you know it. You don’t want to miss out on studying abroad because you couldn’t find the time to apply. Set aside time daily or weekly to work on your application. You’ll be overseas in no time.
Home > Students > How to Write an Outstanding Study Abroad Application Essay
For some students who wish to study abroad, the statement of purpose can be one of the most daunting components of the program application. The good news: it’s not as difficult as it may seem at first! After all, you’ve come this far in the study abroad research process, so chances are you’ve already given thought to what the essay requires you to write about. As long as you don’t rush and take the time to create a solid outline, your study abroad application statement of purpose will truly shine.
Common statement of purpose requirements
Although each program application may have program-specific essay requirements to address, most will ask students to address the following two components:
- Goals for studying abroad (i.e. academic, career, and personal) – Most likely, you will have to briefly describe your goals, outlining specific ways in which studying abroad will help you achieve these goals.
- Reason you chose this program/location – This aspect of the statement of purpose is more specific to why, out of all the programs and locations on Earth to study, you’re applying to this one.
Creating an outline
Before rushing into writing out your statement of purpose, make sure you’ve carefully read the instructions and prompts for the essay. The worst way to sabotage an otherwise excellent essay is to miss a key requirement outlined in the instructions. To help keep essay requirements fresh in your mind, consider copying and pasting the requirements at the top of essay document so that they are there for quick reference.
After you fully understand what points you are required to touch on in your statement of purpose, drafting an outline will help keep your essay organized, clear, and succinct. Consider following the steps below to help make this process easy and straight-forward.
Open up a blank Word document, and get down the general essay components:
Now that you have the foundation laid out, you can complete your outline by creating a couple compelling sentences for each paragraph. Having these sentences drafted will help you quickly move forward after your outline is complete. Let’s take a look at each paragraph, and sample sentences for each.
Introduction – Create a strong thesis sentence that sums up your overall purpose for studying abroad.
- Example: Studying abroad at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid will be a monumental step in realizing my personal, academic, and career goals to my highest potential.
This thesis sentence portrays to the reader that you have identified personal, academic, and career goals in relation to studying abroad in a specific program, and will describe them below.
Paragraphs 1-3 – Draft a sentence that sums up your response to the each point, then a second sentence that provides a specific outcome that this study abroad program will provide.
Paragraph 1 (e.g. personal reason/goal for studying abroad in this program):
- Example: My grandfather migrated to the United States from Madrid, and since an early age I’ve wanted to see and experience the city and culture he grew up in. By the end of my study abroad program, I plan to have developed a deeper understanding and appreciation for my family heritage by becoming more fluent in Spanish and familiar with Spanish customs and cultural practices.
Paragraph 2 (e.g. academic reason/goal for studying abroad in this program):
- Example: As a history major, I plan to utilize my time in Spain to contribute to my overall academic success and focus within the history program at my home university. Throughout my time studying abroad, I will visit historical sites around Spain relevant to my intended topic for my graduate thesis topic: Moorish architectural and cultural influences in modern Spanish society.
Paragraph 3 (e.g. career reason/goal for studying abroad in this program):
- Example: I plan to one day teach Spanish history and culture at the college level, and this program will give me the first-hand experience I believe necessary to be qualified and successful in this position. By being completely immersed in the Spanish culture, and by having access to a large number of relevant historical sites and resources, I will enter this study abroad experience with my career development in mind.
For the conclusion, come up with a strong sentence to sum-up (again) why this program and location is the best choice.
- Example: After extensive research of all possible programs, I am convinced that studying history and Spanish culture at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid is an ideal match for my personal, academic, and career goals outlined above.
Now that you have a strong outline, filling in the rest should come easily and naturally. As would be normally expected in college-level essays, it’s important to make sure that each sentence you write relates directly to the main sentences in its respective paragraph you came up with in the outline.
After you’ve written your completed first draft of your study abroad application statement of purpose, save the document and take a break for a week. After you’ve had some time to clear your mind, you’ll likely come back to edit your essay with a fresh perspective and as a result more easily catch mistakes you may not have otherwise caught!
Finally, before you send it off, double (and triple) check to make sure that you haven’t overlooked any requirements for the statement of purpose. Also, consider having at least one other person look at your essay – your campus’s writing center is a great resource you might consider utilizing!
After you’ve sent in your essay, congratulate yourself! You are well on your way to one of the most exciting journeys of your life, and you certainly deserve to be proud of this accomplishment.