“We are always getting ready to live, but never living.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Let me make myself clear…if the process you went through to choose a study abroad program wasn’t as complex or more than it was for you to choose a college or university for which to study and obtain an undergraduate or graduate degree, then you’re probably not ready to apply. If you’re sure that you’ve weighed the pros and cons and found a program that is a good fit for all your academic and personal goals, then by all means start filling out the application materials.
First, it’s important that your application is truthful. If your GPA isn’t up to par, don’t exaggerate or mislead. GPAs are never rounded to the nearest ten; a 2.75 is NOT a 3.0. Your chances of getting into a program are greater if you’re honest, than if you’re dishonest on your application, even if your GPA is lower than the minimum requirement! Dishonesty is usually discovered, because most study abroad offices verify the information that you put on your application.
If required, write a strong statement about your academic and personal objectives for study abroad, and check for spelling and grammatical errors. The purpose of a statement should be to demonstrate your thought-provoking goals and strong writing skills. Poor writing is a red flag for many decision makers. If you can’t think clearly or write well, then you won’t succeed on essay questions that sometimes count for half your grade in many study abroad programs.
So what makes a strong application? While it depends on the program, decision makers are generally looking for:
- At least the minimum eligibility requirements
- A match between your goals and the program
- Scholastic achievement and motivation to succeed
- Strong references that support you studying abroad
- The likelihood of you being a positive ambassador for your school, community, and country
- The likelihood of your having a healthy and safe experience, and not endangering yourself or others
Finally, include any pertinent health information and special needs (if not in the application, in the paperwork you receive after you are admitted to the program). This is critical so that your advisor can help to accommodate your particular needs. It might be necessary to find a counselor while you’re abroad or it may be that you require a notetaker for a disability that you have declared. You may need to attend AA meetings in your host country or find a host family that can support your vegan diet. Whatever the need, early disclosure is critical.
After you’ve filled out and submitted your application before the deadline, sit back and wait for the results. Depending on the program, there may be several decision makers involved. In case of an exchange program or partner program through your study abroad office, the host or provider usually makes the final decision. Depending on the program and country, this may take longer than one would expect. If you don’t hear back within a reasonable time period (longer than a month), then call your study abroad advisor to find out what’s going on. He/she may be able to provide you with status updates.
This is a partial excerpt from the latest updated edition of Study Abroad 101 by Wendy Williamson.