Its that time of year again. As if midterms weren’t enough, you’re already late for filling out your study abroad applications…balls! Don’t worry; we’re here to help. Before you go any further, make sure your program is still accepting candidates and that you have a good handle on what your particular university requires from its students who want to go abroad (this is different everywhere). Once all of that is taken care of all you have left is filling out the application and, trust me, it’s not as difficult as you think it is.
Step 0.5- Pick your program and breathe. Hopefully by now you know where you want to study abroad and what program you want to go with (if you’re not sure wander through our handy world profiles and try to narrow it down). One thing to know about the study abroad application process is that it’s not like school or a job. Except when you’re dealing with very specialized and high level academic programs you should only apply for one (and expect to get in). Provided you meet all of their stated requirements and actually fill out the application, you'll typically be accepted. So don’t stress too much. I’ve never heard of a qualified candidate getting rejected from a standard study abroad program.
On the other hand, schools sometimes veto their student’s request to study abroad or don’t accept the program they choose based on their own academic requirements, so be sure to go through the proper channels (i.e. your school’s study abroad office) when picking your program.
Step 1- Look over the whole application. Some applications are longer and more detailed than others (and some websites are easier to use) before you settle in for a long afternoon of online questionnaires try and go through the whole thing to get a better idea of what will be required of you.
Step 2- Do some planning. If the application is long print it out and do some pre-filling in with a pen so you can do your thinking before you get stuck in an internet-form-timeout vortex. This will also give you a chance to gather any documents you may need (hello passport and medical records) and mentally sort out things like travel arrangements that you may not have expected to have to deal with this early on.
Step 3- Gather your paperwork. Before you do anything else make sure you have all of the supplemental documents the application requires. Run around to offices, fill out document requests, pay weird fees, and make sure you’re on waiting lists now to ensure that you can sent this application in the moment you’re finished filling everything in.
Step 4- Fill things out! Get in there and fill out that application!
Step 5- Essays. Your essay is basically only there to help so stop dreading it and just type one up. In fact, study abroad programs have been known to accept less than stellar academic candidates on the basis of an extremely well written set of essays. Remember, your essay is an indication of your personality so make sure to let your enthusiasm for travel and breaking out of your comfort zone shine.
…proofread and edit. Make sure your essay is well written and has a point.
…stay positive. This isn’t your college application essay, no need to belabor major issues or the obstacles overcome.
…stay within the given page or word limit; you won’t get any points for surpassing it.
…overtly brag about your home institution. You may go to a great school but that’s really not important here and acting snobbish will not work in your favor.
…be too polished. Your essay must be well written and professional but it shouldn’t sound like it was written by a robot, it should reveal something about your personality.
…forget to edit!
Step 6- Edit. Yup, this gets a step all its own. Edit your essays, edit your short answer questions, and most importantly go through every page to make sure you’ve properly marked every box. If something doesn’t apply to you mark it with “N/A” (unless otherwise instructed) because that is proper form-filling-out etiquette.
Step 7- Breathe and remember that getting into a study abroad program isn’t about tricks or luck; it’s about being organized and filling out all of the paperwork on time. Once you’ve done that there’s nothing left to do but be patient and start planning your trip.