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Graduate School in Europe: The Complete Guide

Are you thinking about going abroad for graduate school? Do you know the best possible options and the way to go about applying?

Let us help you.

Selecting the right graduate university program can be difficult for students. There are subtle differences between programs in the US and EU, and you need to decide whether it’s a good option to go to Europe for higher education.

Before you finalize your decision on the destination or the institution, make sure you know:

  • How much the program will cost;
  • What the admissions process is;
  • Whether you need a visa;
  • How the cultural experiences in these graduate programs will be different; and
  • About accommodation options.

In this article, we will outline what you need to know about studying in the EU and how European programs offer completely different learning environments and experiences to students. Armed with the information in this article, you’ll be in a better position to make an informed decision about your graduate program, and hopefully, convince parents along the way.

Cost

Tuition costs in the US for a master’s program range anywhere from $5000 to $50,000 per year. This varies according to the university and the particular program.

On the other hand, graduate programs in the EU are different. It all depends on where you go for your studies. International students applying to study in the EU need to pay for their tuition fees, but they can also apply for different scholarships to ease the financial pressure.

Europe offers annual scholarships worth more than €16 billion (US$ 17.63 billion) across different programs and universities in many EU countries.

To make decisions easier, here are three popular destinations in Europe where you can study, along with the tuition costs:

Finland

As an international student, you will need to pay the tuition fees for a bachelor’s and master’s program, where you’ll be taught in English. Degree courses in Swedish or Finnish are entirely free of cost.

Tuition costs in Finland for international students generally range from:

  • US$ 5,513 – 14,333 per academic year for Bachelor’s programs
  • US$ 8,820 – 19,846 per academic year for Master’s programs

Germany

Public sector universities in Germany except for Baden-Württemberg allow international and local students to pursue their bachelor’s and master’s free of cost. Baden-Württemberg has a tuition fee of US$ 3,308 per academic year for international students.

Some students also decide to change their fields when entering master’s or Ph.D. studies. For instance, an engineering major may opt for business to learn about the fundamentals of management to apply in their careers.

If you choose that route, you will have to pay an extra US$ 11,026 or more per semester in tuition fees in Germany.

If you apply to a private sector German university, you can expect to pay tuition fees ranging between:

  • US$ 7,167 – 28,667 per academic year for a bachelor’s program
  • US$ 1,103 – $41,102 per academic year for a master’s program

International students also pay an administrative fee of up to US$ 400 per semester for public transportation tickets and other student facilities.

From January 2020 onward, international students requiring a visa for their studies also need to show funds in excess of US$ 11,285 to be granted admission.

France

Studying in France is very affordable. If you opt for studies as an international student, tuition fees vary from US$ 188-717 per semester, depending on whether you apply for a bachelor’s, master’s or Ph.D. program, as well as your field of study.

For private French universities, however, yearly tuition costs range from US$ 5,513 to 33,077 for a bachelor’s programs, and for master’s programs costs vary from US$ 1,654 to 38,589 per academic year.

Admission Process

The admission process differs from university to university, whether it’s in the UK or the USA. But what’s more interesting to note is that US graduate programs require more documentation, including but not limited to:

  • Academic transcripts
  • Application letters
  • Statement of purpose
  • Reference letters
  • Supporting letters

On the other hand, admission to graduate programs in the EU is a relatively straightforward process as universities there tend to be less stringent in terms of documents required.

For specialized programs in the EU (such as an MBA), however, you might have to pass an entrance exam or bring additional documents as requested.

When applying for bachelor’s or master’s degree programs in Europe, you generally require:

  • A cover letter
  • A Resume (CV)
  • Academic reference letters
  • Copy of passport or national identification
  • Preceding degree certificates or transcripts of grades
  • IELTS or TOEFL as proof of proficiency in English
  • Any other specific documentation as required by the university

Always go through university admission guidelines thoroughly to see what documents you need and when. Some universities may also accept a few documents after the application deadline as long as you begin and send in your application form before the closing date.

Closing dates for the fall semester in European universities vary. Generally, you have time until the first quarter of the year as an international student to apply and submit documentation. Therefore, it’s recommended that you do all your research and prepare your documents in advance.

For instance:

  • Sweden stars accepting documents at the start of February and closes university applications by January 15.
  • For most French universities, the closing dates lie between February and April.
  • Most public sector German universities have deadlines in mid-July.

Be careful when applying to a particular university, and make a note of important dates and documents you will need.

In case you missed the deadline, you can:

  • Email or call the university, asking to submit a late application. Don’t go into the details. Just focus on convincing them of your potential as a candidate;
  • Browse the country application system or university website for directions on applying late; and
  • Prepare your documents the moment you get the green signal for the late application.

Visas

Visa requirements for the EU and US can be different depending on your specific case and nationality. As an international student looking to study in the EU, you will need a Schengen student visa.

This is a requirement for all students who don’t live in the US or who are from other countries that have not signed a visa-free agreement with the EU.

You will also need to present several documents along with the visa application. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Two recent passport-sized photos
  • Valid passport
  • Travel medical insurance
  • Biometric data
  • Proof of Accommodation
  • Previous passports

Submit the visa application with the required documents at the embassy, wait for the interview call, attend the interview, and pay the visa fee. The visa takes a few days to arrive.

Learning Styles

At American universities, you should expect plenty of quizzes, assignments, and practical learning through internships, not to mention regular classes and limited interactions with an experienced professor. It’s necessary to pass the exams.

When you get accepted in European university programs, your learning is given more importance. You will get a lot of one-on-one time with the teachers because the education system in Europe doesn’t just focus on knowledge-sharing, but it emphasizes how a student thinks.

If you have trouble understanding anything in your courses, teachers are willing to help you out, so you can come to grips with concepts better. There’s also a greater emphasis on analytical thinking, independent research, problem solving and teamwork, as well as leadership, so you can progress in your career with the skills you learn throughout the degree program.

Taking Exams

The US and UK graduate programs are different in the way they conduct examinations.

If you’re in the US, you may have to get accustomed to monthly exams, quizzes, and assignments.

Exams in European universities have been scheduled for the end of the semester, which might come as a surprise to some students. Luckily, now you can mentally prepare for a more forgiving examination schedule.

Cultural Experiences

Both European and American graduate programs have international students, so you’ll get to interact with people from different cultures.

But European university programs present many opportunities to make new friends, travel and go sight-seeing. Opportunities are not just limited to the classroom or weekends.

Since you don’t expect a surprise quiz or assignment, and exams are at the end of the semester, going out on weekdays and interacting with locals is common. If you choose to attend a European university program, you get to experience a new environment and create experiences that you’ll cherish for the rest of your life.

Housing

American student life is all about living on campus, but with European university programs, you get the freedom to live independently by renting a flat with other students.

You get an opportunity to experience what it’s like living independently in Europe, managing your time, finances and resources. These are critical skills that will help you live a more fulfilling life ahead.

Length

University programs in Europe and the US can be of variable duration depending on the discipline and level of the program (bachelor’s, master’s or Ph.D.).

Generally, US programs tend to be longer. For instance, a Master’s Degree in the US may be completed in two to three years, whereas a similar degree in the EU can take only a year to complete.

Course and Lesson Formation

The educational system in Europe is based on learning theory, so there are mandatory classes in the EU that you will have to take.

US students, on the other hand, have greater freedom of choice when it comes to the courses they take, as they can choose to study broader disciplines for the first two years of college. But they come to expect information-intensive classes, and they prepare for surprise quizzes and monthly exams as well, which puts immense pressure on students.

Degrees

It was previously thought that degrees from the US were more valuable, but that’s not the case.

Degrees from European universities are just as valuable as those from the US. It all depends on how much exposure and experience you gather for yourself.

Even if you choose to find employment in the US after completion of a European university program, the degree is viewed positively by employers.

The EU education system is to thank for that. The way they emphasize learning how to think is something that the EU education system thrives on.

Students can obtain their master’s degree in one of these promising fields of study to enhance future employment prospects:

  • Business Analytics
  • Actuarial Mathematics
  • Computer Science
  • Applied Economics
  • Electrical Engineering

Adventure

The EU has much to offer in terms of breath-taking landscapes, beauty, and traveling opportunities at affordable rates. Apart from classes, students coming to the EU can enjoy themselves independently.

They can travel to different destinations within Europe, creating new experiences and meeting new people along the way.

Whether you choose to watch a game at Old Trafford, explore the Cliffs of Moher, stroll through the cobblestone streets at the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona, visit Buckingham palace, or attend a concert in London, you can do it all and then some when you’re attending university in Europe.

Language

Students may have to take some graduate courses in the EU in the local language.

For instance, graduate programs in Germany (where there’s no tuition cost) have some classes taught in German aside from English.

Someone planning on pursuing graduate studies there may have to learn the German Language before going abroad.

Conclusion: Graduate School in Europe

University programs in the EU and the US are different. Each involves unique experiences, environments, and different ways of learning professional skills. It falls on you as the student to decide which is best before making a decision.

It won’t be easy saying goodbye to your life at home, but know that a lot more awaits you abroad. Don’t ignore these experiences and opportunities because they will help you grow and become a better person in the long run.