You Didn’t Get In. Now What?

After weeks of checking the mailbox for that fat envelope saying you’d been accepted into your dream college, you got just a thin rejection letter. Instead of donning black and entering a period of mourning for the death of your top choice, the first thing you need to do is cheer up. You’re 18, you never have to go back to high school, and though they may not take place exactly where you’d imagined, you’re still on the verge of probably the four best years of your life.

But what happened? It may be that you were a victim of the heightened college selectivity that is the new normal in postsecondary education. 2012 saw record-low acceptance rates all over the country. The Ivies were particularly tough to break into, with seven of eight reporting decreased acceptance rates. Even schools like the University of Texas at Austin, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Binghamton University, which are considered only moderately selective, have seen the rates of entering freshmen from the top 10% of their classes rise 4%-8% just since 2007.

Part of the problem is inflated numbers. When students apply to half a dozen colleges or more, the total number of rejections naturally goes up. The schools themselves don’t mind this because a high number of applications give them an image of a highly sought-after destination. Nevertheless, even those who claim higher selectivity is a myth acknowledge getting into a particular school (a.k.a. your dream school) has gotten harder.

Look on the Bright Side

As we said, the first thing you need to do is buck up. Use these factoids for inspiration.

  • Millions of students are making their second choice work: You may think that if you decide to attend your second- or third-choice college, you’ll hate it, or at least you’ll feel out of place among all the other students who had that school as their No. 1 pick. But we’ve got news for you: the ratio of students attending their top choice to those attending a backup has crept close to being nearly a coinflip.
    A survey released in January 2012 found just 58% of freshmen were attending their first choice of school, the lowest rate recorded in over 35 years of the question’s existence on the survey. What’s driving the rate down? Money. The number of students who said cost affected their college decision has been steadily rising since 2006, increasing sharply since 2011. Even if money wasn’t the reason you ended up at a different college than your ideal, you’ll fit right in with half the campus. Give it a chance and you’ll come to see what they love about it, just like they did.
  • Price does not necessarily mean quality: Yes, a few names in higher ed still carry enough cache to make their price tags pay off in open doors down the road. However, if you had your heart set on a school outside this uber-selective handful that was still in the upper echelons for price, console yourself (and probably your parents) with the fact that by not getting in, you’ll still likely get an equally high-quality degree while saving thousands of dollars and preventing years of debt.
    According to recent research out of Wabash College, there exists only a small relationship between educational spending at a university and the quality of the education it offers. In other words, it’s feasible that for $10,000 a year, you could get an education at a school with "good" academic quality that is virtually identical to that of a school charging $50,000 a year.
    Just for fun, we ran the numbers on how much you would save in this hypothetical situation. Assuming the federal Stafford loan unsubsidized interest rate of 3.4% (but with interest not accruing until graduation), paid out over 30 years in $886.96 monthly installments, you would wind up paying $319,307.17 on $200,000 in loans. (Think a debt load that big is impossible? If only.) On the other hand, with payments of $393.67 per month you could pay off $40,000 in loans in 10 years for a total cost of $47,240.71.
  • The fault may not lie with you: Before you get down on yourself for thinking it was your grades or other transcript material that kept you out of your coveted academy, remember that the reasons for rejection are varied and often have little to nothing to do with academics. For example, since the recession some colleges have been targeting students they designate "full-pay," those who can cover the full cost of tuition, even if there grades are below-average.
    Or did you know you could have the same (or better) grades as a student from a different state and he be admitted and you rejected? Grinnell College admitted as much in 2011, saying students from big high school classes are compared against each other in the admissions process.
    You may have even been dismissed because of your race, difficult as it may be to swallow. Affirmative action policies are well-intended to promote diversity on college campuses, but they sometimes leave deserving students out in the cold. Asian-Americans in particular have been sounding the alarm in recent months claiming universities discriminate against them in admissions. Some have gone so far as to forego checking the "Asian" box on their applications, just to be safe.

Your Options Now

So what should your next move be? We asked Dr. Mike Raney, an academic advisor for the University of Texas at Austin’s University Extension program, for his thoughts. Based on his comments, we’ve listed the alternatives open to you now, from most promising to least.

  • Attend your second- or third-choice school, and transfer, if necessary: Nearly half of college students today are attending schools that weren’t their top choices, meaning they found enough to love at a school that they completed their degree there. However, if a school is not a cultural fit, or if you decide to change your major to something a school either doesn’t offer or isn’t well-known for, you can seek a transfer.
    Transferring is a slightly different animal than applying. Above all, admissions officers will now be looking at your postsecondary GPA to determine if you pass muster for acceptance. Also, your chances of acceptance are likely quite a bit higher. Even colleges considered "very selective," like University of Florida and Wake Forest University, can have transfer acceptance rates of 20%-40%.
    "If it is not too late, I recommend that they either try to get into another school or apply to a local community college with the idea of taking a year of courses and applying again," says Raney. "If they get feedback on why they were not admitted, they should address their feedback in their first year to make their application stronger next time."
  • Attend an online college or community college, and transfer, if necessary: If you didn’t get in to any of your "safety schools" (or you didn’t have any), you’ll need to find a college with open admissions that only require a high school diploma to enroll. Especially if you didn’t get in because of grades, community college can be a good environment in which you can mature, improve your study skills and habits, and put together a college transcript that will impress the admissions officer at your top-choice school enough to let you transfer in.
    There are also dozens of online colleges that have open admissions that offer undergrad degrees in over 100 programs. Online courses can be molded to fit your schedule, so if you choose to work while you’re enrolled, you can. And despite some students’ fears, credits earned through online programs do transfer to four-year colleges. Just be sure to speak to an advisor at both institutions to ensure they transfer smoothly.
  • Take a gap year: It might be difficult to wrap your head around delaying college for a year after you’ve been mentally preparing for months to head off to university in the fall. But the results of taking a gap year after high school prove you shouldn’t write this option off without first carefully considering one.
    Research out of the University of Sidney found that Australian students who took a gap year before college reported notably higher motivation, improving or increasing their persistence, planning, and time management behavior. A stateside study conducted by admissions officers at Middlebury College found the students who waited until the spring to enroll maintained higher GPAs for their entire college careers than those of their fall enrollment counterparts. The dean of admissions at the time called time off "the best predictor of overall academic success."
    Moreover, a gap year can help you deal with your problem of getting into college, if you use it deftly. Although nothing can overcome grades that are too low, if you spend that time volunteering or working you encourage admissions officers to view you as a mature, responsible young man or woman who will make the university proud. It’s also a good idea to use your gap year immersing yourself in whatever is your stated major and career ambition to prove your passion and motivation. If it’s engineering, spend it building something; if international business, take a lengthy trip to China or Japan.
  • Wait out the waitlist: This is always the tricky question, whether to hang out on the waitlist in the hopes a spot at a school will open up. Really the name is misleading; in a waiting room, for example, a person lingers with the understanding that at some point in time he will actually reach his destination. On a college waitlist, there’s no such guarantee. In fact, the odds are you will never actually see the doctor.
    Using the College Search feature on the College Board website, you can get an idea of the success rate for waitlisted students from the previous semester, assuming the school makes the information available. For instance, in Fall 2012, Babson College offered 1,190 students a waitlist slot, 364 of which agreed to join the list. Just 25 students were ultimately admitted, for a success rate of 6.8%. Of the 869 waitlist offers Haverford College extended, 350 accepted, but just 3 were let in, for a success rate of 0.85%.
    "I am not sure there is anything a student who is waitlisted can do to increase his or her chances of acceptance, assuming they have already appealed the admissions decision, which should include any new or additional information not included in the original admission application," says Raney. "They should appeal if they have not already done so. If they are on a waitlist, they should be ready to proceed with their alternative if they have been accepted to another school."

Ask anyone you know if life has gone exactly the way he or she planned; we’re guessing you won’t be able to find anyone who says so. But you probably will hear people say that even though they never thought things would work out the way they did, if they had the chance, they wouldn’t change a thing.

The Bilingual Graduate: The Benefits of Double Majoring with a Foreign Language Degree

When Kevin Newton was a freshman at William and Mary, he knew he wanted to major in history. To avoid making it anything other than a "pre-law" degree, he also decided to study a language, ultimately landing on Arabic.

"It’s trite to say that in a shrinking world that languages are important, but it is true nonetheless," says Newton.

Newton is part of a rising trend in overachieving students — the bilingual double major. Students who double major rose 70% between 2001 and 2011, according to the the Education Department. Some schools are seeing rates of double majors at or above 50%. Among those double majors, a foreign language is often the common dominator. A recent national study by Vanderbilt University sociologists Richard Pitt and Steven Tepper examining the proliferation of double majoring on university and college campuses found that a foreign language was the most popular major. Among the top 10 most popular majors, six were paired with a foreign language.

Clearly, something is in the water. Students are seeing an advantage to not only double majoring, but double majoring with a foreign language specifically.

Benefits of Pairing a Foreign Language Degree with Your Major

There are many reasons why a student may elect to do so. Here are some of the major draws:

Add value to a degree

For Newton, studying Arabic gave him the opportunity to beef up, in a sense, his history major. The Vanderbilt study found a similar compulsion for students with majors they perceived as being "under-valued" in society, such as in the arts, humanities, and education. "While more research is needed, we suspect that students tend to pair under-valued majors with a second major in order to boost the status of their degree," the study’s authors conclude.

Boost your marketability

Students looking to gain a competitive advantage in the job market may consider double majoring to help distinguish their resume.

"The ever-changing job market requires a diversity of skills and knowledge coming out of college," says Gabriel Barreneche, associate professor of Spanish at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla. "Pairing a major in a language communicates very clearly to potential employers that graduates have certifiable language and intercultural skills that set them apart from the rest of the job applicant pool."

Double majoring can also help students who are applying to medical or law school stand out from the pack of biology or history majors.

"Not all medical schools are looking for people with biology majors," says Charlie Miller, a college academic specialist in the greater New York area. "As long as you do well on the MCAT, have strong grades, and have all the prerequisites met, a school isn’t going to turn you down because you were a French major."

Meet demand

While speaking at the Foreign Language Summit three years ago, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan lamented the fact that only 18% of Americans speak a language other than English — compared to 53% of European citizens who can speak more than one language. "To prosper economically and to improve relations with other countries, Americans need to read, speak and understand other languages," Duncan declared. Bilingual students are uniquely poised to help fill this foreign language deficit in areas like foreign policy, the military, and diplomacy, as well as science and business, with a more globalized economy especially driving demand for foreign language proficiency.

Open more doors

Becoming proficient in two areas of study can create more opportunity in fields like business, government, politics, education, or the non-profit world. After his studies in history and Arabic, Newton went on to study Islamic law and Persian at the graduate level. Since graduating with his master’s in 2008, he’s worked as an editor of a specialist encyclopedia on Islamic thought and history, consulted on development issues in the Islamic world, and taught late ancient and medieval history. He currently heads up a consulting company, Habbibi Consulting, which focuses on cultural training for those doing business in the Islamic world.

"Having learned both Arabic and Persian, as well as my knowledge of history and Islamic law, I know that I am uniquely positioned to succeed in this endeavor," says Newton.

Earn more

That’s right; working double time in college may help improve your ROI. A 2007 survey that studied the link between double majoring and salary found that overall, double majoring increased earnings by 2.3% compared to having a single major. Most of these gains were from having a double major in two different fields. For instance, graduates who combined an arts, humanities, or social science major in business, engineering, science, or math had returns 7% to 50% higher than graduates with just a single major in arts, humanities, or social science.

Gain cultural capital

Outside of potential earnings or career paths, studying a foreign language can reap rewards in more intangible things like exposure, international exchange, and understanding. Having a foreign language as a major often facilitates studying abroad and learning about different cultures, as well as can shape who you are as a person for the better. As observed in the Vanderbilt double major study, "[W]hile we cannot claim that the foreign language double major combinations make students more tolerant, those double majors who end up in foreign languages are more likely to self-rate as tolerant, empathetic, and able to work cooperatively with diverse people."

Potential Pairings

The combinations for double majors are seemingly endless, limited only by the university’s course offerings. In his 10 years at Rollins, Barreneche has seen students pair their major in Spanish with such varied disciplines as international business, education, political science, Latin American and Caribbean studies, and international relations.

"These students have gone on to graduate studies, Fulbright fellowships, and jobs in the business world here and abroad," says Barreneche. "While most college graduates eventually find careers that are unrelated to their undergraduate majors, students who major in languages possess skills and experience that transcend narrow career-oriented majors."

The Vanderbilt double major study provides some additional understanding of the types of majors students are pairing with their foreign language degree. Among the top 10 most popular pairings the survey found were a foreign language with international studies, political science, biology, economics, business, or psychology. Additionally, the report found that foreign language is a particularly popular combo with ethnic and area studies majors, biological sciences, business, social sciences, and communications.

Kasandra Ortiz, a junior at the University of North Florida, is currently pursuing majors in both communications and Spanish — communications because she wants to be a reporter, and Spanish because it’s allowed her to fine-tune her speaking and writing skills, and she’s already found the two coming in handy in her job working for a local news station.

"My Spanish major has allowed me to take the lead at work when we deal with Spanish guests and businessmen," says Ortiz. "Also, now that I am beginning my on-camera career, it opens up an opportunity for me to work a Spanish news station if I so pleased."

As Ortiz demonstrates, double major pairings will ultimately depend on your career goals. A student interested in international business may decide to study economics and Mandarin, while a pre-med candidate may study biology and Spanish to potentially work with a larger patient pool. History is a good degree to pair with a language, too, advises Miller. If you’re studying European history, for instance, French or Spanish might be a good fit. Latin, surprisingly, is another common option, says Miller, especially for students studying classic literature or looking to enhance their understanding of the English language. A foreign language with another foreign language is also a potential pairing, especially if the program recommends or requires study in a second language. For example, UNC Charlotte’s bachelor’s in Spanish program strongly encourages Spanish majors to take courses in another language through at least the intermediate level. At that point, you may be just a few classes shy of a second major.

Best Double-Majoring Practices

One major is usually enough for most students, so adding a second, intensive major in a foreign language may seem like a death sentence. For many of these overachievers, the passion and desire to learn is the biggest motivating factor that pushes them to the double major finish line. But there are some more practical ways to make double majoring successful:

Test out of prerequisites

Knocking off some required courses before you start your college career can make double majoring not just feasible, but a no-brainer. Having spoken Spanish in her home, Ortiz was able to test out of most of her Spanish major, leaving only a few classes to get her degree. AP courses or college classes taken while in high school can also help you fulfill core requirements in other departments. Students may also be able to receive college credit in subjects they already know through tests like the College Level Examination Program (CLEP), giving them more flexibility to pursue a second major.

Take more than the bare minimum

The minimum number of credits required of you each semester may vary from school to school, but by taking more than that bare minimum, you can get that much closer to finishing two degrees. Most schools also have a flat tuition rate, so even if you’re taking more classes, you’re not paying more. You can also consider taking classes during the summer if you don’t want to overburden yourself during the school year.

Make your classes do double or triple duty

Understanding the requirements is key to completing any degree, says Miller, but especially more than one degree. By knowing what’s expected of you each semester, you can use the system to your advantage and have one course fill more than one requirement in your major or core curriculum. This will free up more time to take classes in two majors.

"I’ve seen one course fulfill three or four different requirements," says Miller. "You want to double dip, even quadruple dip whenever possible."

Similarly, if you double major in related fields, you may have some overlapping requirements that will make finishing both degrees that much easier.

Is Double Majoring Right for You?

If the idea of doing twice as much work during the typical college career seems suspect, you’re not alone. Earlier this year, Time posited if colleges should ban students from majoring in two subjects, pointing to a similar recommendation made by a task force at the University of Texas at Austin. The logic goes, with schools encouraged to increase graduation rates, narrowing — not increasing — student choice is the answer.

For the students surveyed by Vanderbilt sociologists Pitt and Tepper, however, double majoring wasn’t a burden; anyone considering double majoring is already an over-achieving, over-extended student. The study found that foreign language majors in particular were "less likely to say that their major combination negatively influenced their ability to participate in extracurricular activities, volunteering, or taking electives." Contributing factors include their foreign language major being less rigorous, they already have credits, or they have prior experience with the language.

If you’ve determined that double majoring in a foreign language won’t jeopardize your graduation or free time, it’s also important to consider the type of language degree your school offers before taking the plunge. Brian Rosenbaum, a 2007 graduate of University of California, Los Angeles in psychology, knew he wanted to study Spanish, but decided to only minor in it because his school’s Spanish major was more literary focused. That freed him up to take 10 Spanish language classes, as well as study abroad in Barcelona for a year.

"A minor is a more realistic way to get fluent and still have that credential," says Rosenbaum, who frequently uses his Spanish language skills as a community engagement Coordinator at College Summit Southern California, a national nonprofit organization that partners with low-income high schools to send more students to college.

The key is knowing what the focus of that particular foreign language department is, such as applied language, literature, culture, or history, before you major to make sure it lines up with your own goals. Some departments may have multiple tracks so you can pick the one that best suits your needs.

Ultimately, picking a major is a personal choice, based on a student’s interests and professional goals. For all the benefits of double majoring, you shouldn’t study two subjects just for the sake of it. Rather, you should have a persuasive account of how your two majors go together. Pitt and Tepper call it a "compelling story" or "forceful narrative." With that, you’ll be able to sell yourself — and your unique skill set — even better.

Students Abroad: Working Abroad

While studying and volunteering abroad are great opportunities to broaden your horizons, finding work overseas, whether over the long or short term, is a great way to understand what life is really like for those who call your host nation home. In nearly every country in the world, students can find opportunities for work of all kinds, from summer internships to long-term employment with a multinational company. These experiences offer a chance not only to meet and learn from those in a new country, but also to learn what it’s like to live, work, and be a part of society wherever you choose to travel.

In the third and final part of our series on students abroad, we’ll address working abroad, including some major trends in foreign work, the kinds of opportunities students can expect to find, student feedback, and loads of resources for planning your own employment abroad.

Trends in Work Abroad

Going abroad to work or to take on an internship is much more common and perhaps even desired than it has been in years past. A study of 30,000 people by Manpower found that 79% were willing to relocate for work and nearly one third were willing to move anywhere in the world. What’s more, 40% of those who would move abroad were willing to do so permanently.

Part of this trend in moving abroad for work has likely been caused by the poor economy, which has driven even highly qualified candidates to seek work in places they may not have previously considered. Of course, it’s not all economics; the world is simply a more interconnected place and there are a growing number of opportunities to work for domestic companies in their international offices.

While long-term work overseas is growing in popularity, so are internships. The total number of students traveling abroad for internships and receiving academic credit increased from just under 7,000 between 2000 and 2001 to nearly 14,000 between 2007 and 2008, according to the Institute of International Education, a New York-based nonprofit. For some, this kind of travel and work experience is a way to stand out to employers or gain critical experience for taking on jobs in global business, policy, or other fields.

While not nearly as common as traditional internships abroad, a growing number of students are finding work with international companies and organizations virtually. These virtual internships allow students to connect and work with those all over the globe without ever leaving home. While some may find the lack of travel unappealing, these experiences could prove useful to those who don’t have the funds to travel and live abroad but who still want to work with international employers.

It is estimated that four to seven million Americans live and work abroad and many more may be heading that way soon, as a Zogby poll found that 1.6 million U.S. households planned a move abroad. Due to this trend, students who choose to work abroad either for a semester or the foreseeable future certainly won’t be alone and will likely be able to find individuals from their home country anywhere they choose to settle down.


The Basics of Work Abroad

Like both study and volunteering abroad, work abroad comes in countless varieties and permutations. With so many options, there is something that will suit the needs of almost every student out there, making it possible for most students to make their dreams of working in a foreign country a reality.

As varied as employers and work may be abroad, most experiences can be divided into several major categories, as follows.

  • Childcare: Love kids and travel? Working as an au pair will give many students a chance to embrace both as they sign on to care for children, often for two years at a time.
  • Teaching English: One of the most common experiences working abroad is teaching English. These types of programs set up grads with their own classrooms where they’ll help young children (and sometimes adults) hone their English language skills.
  • Internships and Research Opportunities: For short-term stays abroad, a popular choice is an internship or research opportunity. Through these programs, students or recent grads will get to experience what it’s truly like to work at the company or facility in their host country, spending as little as a month or as long as a year working abroad.
  • Short-Term Work: Chances are good that you’ve encountered a young person taking advantage of this kind of short term foreign work if you’ve visited an amusement park, hotel, or vacation destination here in the U.S. Similar opportunities exist for American students abroad, often putting them in jobs within the hospitality, retail, customer service, or manual labor industries.
  • Long-Term Work: While it’s not always easy to find work overseas, it’s not impossible and many young people may get a chance to establish themselves through long-term employment in countries all over the world.

Working in some countries may be easier than in others, as each has its own visa requirements, some more strict than others. As a U.S. citizen, short-term travel won’t be difficult, especially for unpaid positions, but things get a little trickier for those planning to stay for years at a time or who want to take on paid positions. In some parts of the world, getting visas can be time-consuming and expensive, and may be difficult to obtain for long-term work. Make sure you do your research with regard to the requirements in the country you hope to call home, as it may change your timeline and budget.


Opportunities in Work Abroad

There are many options for working abroad that can take students and recent grads to new and exciting places for a few months, years, or even a lifetime. Here’s a brief overview of some great programs and opportunities students can take advantage of to get experience working outside of their home countries.

One program worth looking into for those who hope to teach abroad is Disney’s English Foreign Trainer program. This program sends recent grads with experience in education to China to teach children ages 2 to 12 how to speak and write English. The program has an award-winning academic curriculum, and because it’s through Disney, brings in a variety of the company’s most popular characters to help them learn, play, and engage.

If you’d prefer to work in a more tropical locale, there are opportunities for that, too. One example is Balamku Inn’s semester-long work abroad program in hospitality. Through this program, students travel to Mahahual, Mexico to work at the hotel, talking with clients, managing the bar, helping with reception, and showing and checking rooms. While ideal for those hoping to work in the hospitality industry, the experience might also excite those studying environmental or conservation issues, as Balamku is an ecological hotel. Located right on the Caribbean, it offers a range of outdoor activities that explore the reefs and beaches of a nearby nature reserve.

For those who are looking for something that’s both more urban and more career-focused, there are programs like The Washington Center’s intern abroad in London program. Past internships have matched students up with employers like the British Museum, CNN London, and the Labour Party, putting them to work two to three days a week in an internship. When they’re not at work, students will take courses on British politics, history, crime and justice, economy, or immigration, giving them a well-rounded look at their host country and preparing them for a career in international politics or business.


The Student Perspective

One of the most common forms of work abroad, at least among recent grads, is Teaching English as a Foreign Language, or TEFL. Through a TEFL program, individuals can travel to non-English speaking countries around the globe to work with children and adults on improving their English language skills. While teaching experience is beneficial, it’s not required as students will take courses before departing.

Louise Creedon, native of Ireland, only a few weeks into her TEFL program in China, had never lived abroad before signing on to teach English in China. Nonetheless, she thought it would be a good way to put her English degree to work, help others, and getting to do something she loves while exploring a foreign country. For her, the scariest part of the experience was that it was so new. "You really have no idea what everything’s going to be like until you get here," says Creedon." "However, I’m happy to report that even though China is completely (and I mean completely) different than Ireland, I’ve settled in nicely and I really like it here."

Despite her early challenges, she would recommend the experience to others, but encourages grads to be smart about what program and destination they choose. "I think the best advice I could give somebody looking to work abroad is to just go for it and see where it takes you!" she says. "Just make sure you do your research carefully and really take the time to work out what path is most suitable for you. Moving abroad is decision not to be taken lightly, after all."

After her graduation from York, Amy Dunkley wasn’t sure where she wanted to take her career but she knew she wanted to travel and see more of the world. For her, becoming a TEFL instructor was the best way to combine her desire for travel with earning a steady living and gaining work experience. Already having studied abroad for a year in Paris, adjusting to life in a new culture wasn’t wasn’t a totally new experience, though there were still some adjustments to make as she settled into life in South Korea.

For her, the biggest challenges came from work itself, not living in a new culture, as this was her first time being a full-time teacher. "The most intimidating moment was definitely my first day of teaching. By the time I’d got my head around teaching the kindergarten students, I was faced with a class of 14-year-olds." It wasn’t easy, but she figured things out. "Flying them around the classroom like Superman and singing the alphabet song wasn’t going to work; it was time to actually impart knowledge. It turned out absolutely fine and now they’re my favorite class!" she says.

To those who are hesitant to pursue such a life-changing and scary experience, Amy encourages others to take a chance. "My advice to someone thinking of working abroad through TEFL or something similar is ‘Just do it!’ Moving to Korea was hands-down the best decision I ever made."


Should You Work Abroad?

Struggling with the decision to move abroad? Here are some things you should address before taking the leap to make sure you’ll be happy, healthy, and satisfied with your decision to work overseas.

  • When do you want to go? While there are many opportunities for students without a college degree, others only open up post-graduation. Decide if it’s more important for you to gain experience abroad before graduation or if you want to spend your first post-grad years traveling and working.
  • Do you have the money? Working abroad isn’t always cheap. The cost of living can be high and for unpaid internships fees can add up quickly. Procuring visas and other paperwork can be costly, too, so make sure you know how much you’ll need to shell out to make your work abroad dream a reality.
  • How is your health? In many countries, health is not an issue when living and working abroad, but those who choose to live in less developed countries or who have chronic health issues may want to carefully consider their plans. Additionally, it’s important to note that not all medications are legal in all countries, which could also be a major obstacle for those who need certain drugs to stay healthy.
  • Are you adaptable? Not only will you have to learn how to navigate a new culture when working abroad, but you’ll likely have to speak a different language and understand an entirely different business atmosphere from the one you know at home. Creature comforts may vary, too, and you may find yourself missing certain things from home. Being able to adapt and cope with these things is an essential trait to have if you want to work abroad.
  • How independent are you? While you can find groups of expats with whom to connect, you’ll largely be on your own when working in a new country. For some, this can be exhilarating, for others, terrifying. Whether or not it’s right for you will depend on your level of independence.
  • What are your career goals? Before you decide to work abroad, consider how the experience will fit in with your career goals. Those who want to work in international business or finance should definitely consider it, but for others the benefits may be more unclear. Make sure you’ll be helping further your goals, not hinder them by spending time abroad.



Need a little extra support and guidance to help you plan your time abroad? These resources explore some great work abroad options, tips for adapting, and will help ensure you’re ready to take on whatever challenges come your way.

  • Jobs at While GoAbroad has resources for study and volunteering, it also has a great collection of jobs abroad that students and grads can peruse.
  • CIS Abroad: Those looking for internship opportunities should check out this site for a list of great ways to get experience living and working around the world for as little as a month or as long as a year.
  • Intern Abroad: This is another great site for those looking to intern overseas, with help on finding positions and getting the paperwork required to pursue them in order.
  • Expat Forum: This community of more than 175,000 Americans living and working abroad is a great place to look for others to meet up with in your new city and can help ease the transition and leave you less homesick.
  • Uniworld: Through this site, you can search for American firms in foreign countries, which may help you get a leg up in finding long-term work abroad.
  • English International: If you want to teach English overseas, you’ll want to make sure to check out his site to learn more about what options you have, the training you’ll need, and more.
  • International Jobs Center: This job search site focuses on international listings. There are openings in a variety of categories which can help grads from a wide range of backgrounds find work.

Deciding to work abroad can be a scary decision but it can be one that leads to some amazing experiences, adds to a resume, and inspires a lifelong love of international travel, culture, and exploration. While it isn’t for every student or young professional, for some it can be the perfect blend of experience, education, and adventure.

Students Abroad: Volunteering Abroad

Have you ever dreamt of teaching children to read or helping preserve the habitat of an endangered species? You may be able to make those dreams come true. While traveling and studying in a new city can be an amazing experience in itself, some students want to give back to the communities who are hosting them and make a difference in their own way while they’re abroad. For these students, programs that help them volunteer can be the perfect blend of travel and service, offering a chance to learn, grow, and have life-changing experiences.

There are numerous opportunities for students looking to volunteer abroad, encompassing a wide range of countries, types of work, and lengths of stay that can meet the needs of nearly any charity-minded student. Yet even those who want to give back may not know where to start looking for programs, how to finance a trip, or may just be intimidated by the idea of traveling and working in another country without a steady income.

In the second of our three-part series on students abroad (see the first part here and the third part here), we’ll focus on educating students about these types of programs, addressing the biggest trends in volunteering abroad, the options students have, and provide resources, and advice on making volunteering abroad a part of your college experience.

Volunteering Abroad Trends

Wondering what other students are doing when they head abroad to take on volunteer work? While each experience will be unique, a study by Planterra, GAP adventures, and International Ecotourism Society revealed some major trends in where volunteers travel, who volunteers, and what kind of work is done while volunteers are overseas.

According to this data, the majority of volunteers are between 20 and 29 years of age and 16% of them are students, though many others may be recent grads with the vast majority (two-thirds) holding an undergraduate or graduate degree. For students who are nervous about traveling alone, this built-in peer group may help make the adjustment to life in a new country a bit easier, especially as the survey also revealed that most in volunteer programs were well-traveled and have a lot of experience living abroad (one third of those surveyed had traveled internationally at least five times in the past five years).

While volunteering programs exist all over the world, the most popular destination among those surveyed was South America, which 71% said they wanted to visit. Closely following South America were Central America (63%), Africa (60%), and Asia (59%). The survey also revealed that the destinations volunteers find most appealed are heavily influenced by their own country of origin, with Americans much more likely to choose multiple locations. On a country by country basis, the most requested destinations for travel are Peru, Costa Rica, Australia, and South Africa, according to research by Lasso Communications.

It’s not just the destination that many volunteers have a preference for but also the type of work they’ll do once they arrive. Volunteers expressed the greatest interest in taking on environmental projects though community tourism and develop were almost as popular. In practice, the most requested projects for those taking on volunteer work abroad are teaching, building projects, community development, and conservation.

Perhaps the most interesting trend with regard to volunteering abroad is how willing most volunteers are to recommend the experience or to do it again. More than three quarters reported that they would recommend volunteering abroad to a friend and 87% said they were interested in embarking on another volunteer trip. This highly positive response may help students feel more confident that they own experiences overseas will be good ones.


Should You Volunteer Abroad?

While volunteering abroad is a noble endeavor, not all students may be well-suited to the challenges it poses. Others may simply find that it doesn’t work well within their plans for college and will need to wait until they’ve graduated to explore these kinds of opportunities. While there’s no foolproof way to know if you’re ready to volunteer abroad, here are some questions to ask yourself before signing on for any program.

  • Can you respect other cultures even when they differ from your own? Depending on where you travel, you may encounter cultural beliefs that are very different from your own and may even make you uncomfortable. Being able to live among people you may not always agree with and be respectful of their beliefs even if you don’t share them may be a critical part of your experience abroad.
  • Are you flexible? As a volunteer, you’ll have to go along with whatever tasks your program needs you to assist with. This may mean letting go of grandiose plans for changing the world to focus on everyday, basic tasks. Volunteering abroad will also require flexibility from you in a range of other areas, from where you’ll live to how you spend your free time.
  • How do you cope with being outside of your comfort zone? Most places that are in dire need of volunteers are going to push you outside of your comfort zone in one way another, either in terms of comfort, culture, or in the leadership they require of you. How have you coped with being pushed out of your comfort zone in the past? While new, sometimes uncomfortable experiences can help you grow, for some living and working this far outside of what they know will be more stressful than productive.
  • Does volunteering fit into your goals? Before signing up for a program, it’s important to think about what you expect to get out of a program and to assess how it will fit into your long term goals for school and your career. If you need to focus on internships or taking classes over your breaks, volunteering may not be the best option for you. For others, it might be a nice change of pace from a tough academic schedule.
  • What are your expectations? It’s also critical to think about what your expectations for an volunteering program are as well. If you’re used to living in luxury housing, you may need to think about how you’ll cope with a lack of indoor plumbing or primitive housing. Even if you’re sure you want to volunteer, you need to think seriously about where you want to go and what kind of experience you want to have, as this will play a big role in determining whether or not you enjoy volunteering or are overwhelmed by it.
  • Why do you want to volunteer abroad? This is perhaps one of the most important questions to ask yourself before signing up to volunteer abroad. Do you simply want to bolster your resume? Do you want to make a difference? Are you passionate about a cause? Knowing why you want to volunteer can help you determine where you should go, what you should do, and even how long you should stay.

If you’re unsure about your answers to these questions or find elements of them troubling, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to rule out volunteering abroad. Take your time carefully considering your options, talking to others who’ve been through the experience, and ensuring you’re taking on the project at the right time for your educational career.


Your Options for Volunteering Abroad

Opportunities for volunteering abroad have exploded. There are hundreds of private companies and non-profit programs offering the chance for students and anyone else to spend time living in and providing community service to an area in need. It’s impossible to cover the entire spectrum of programs in one article, so here are just a few common types of overseas experiences that may pique your interest and get you ready to take off on your own altruistic adventures.

One popular program for volunteering abroad is called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or WWOOF. Through a global network of organizations, students work on organic, sustainable farms and help teach these farming methods to local communities. There are over 30 countries with WWOOFing programs at present, ranging from Iceland to Kenya, so students can find work almost anywhere in the world. In return for labor on farms, participants in WWOOF programs are given food, lodging, and the opportunity to learn more about organic methods of cultivation. Those who enjoy hands-on, eco-focused experiences will love the opportunity to work outdoors and play a central role in local communities through the program.

For those who prefer to work directly with helping people, a program such as the New Futures Organization may be a more satisfying choice. NFO operates the rural schools in Takeo, Cambodia, offers English classes to the local community, and runs a home for orphaned or homeless children. Volunteers with the organization, many of them students, teach classes, build facilities and playgrounds, assist in food production, and help care for children. It’s an opportunity not only to experience another culture but also to make a difference in an incredibly impoverished and often neglected part of the country. Because NFO is a NGO, there are no fees to take part in volunteering as there may be with some commercial organizations. Volunteers only pay for their plane ticket over, registration fees, and a nominal amount each day for food and lodging (only about $5).

Students who enjoy the experience of volunteering abroad may want to consider longer, more intensive programs in their post-graduation years. One of the best known volunteer programs is the Peace Corps, a two-year government-run program that aims to foster cross-cultural understanding while providing assistance in education, nutrition, business, technology, agriculture, and the environment. With more than 210,000 volunteers to date and programs in 139 countries, it offers students a chance to get experience and leadership training in their post-college years while giving back to communities around the world and getting a broad cultural education.


The Student Perspective

Though it can be useful to learn more about the basics of volunteering abroad, most students simply want to know what the experience will really be like. While no two trips will be alike, it can be useful to hear from students who’ve been there and done it before to give students a better idea of what to expect and some of the pros and cons of volunteering and living abroad.

Eric Spioch, a student at McDaniel College, enrolled in a program called Amideast, which combines study abroad with cultural exchange and involvement in local communities. Through this program, he studied and volunteered in Egypt for four months. While many students might be nervous about heading to a country like Egypt, where both culture and language might be unfamiliar, Spioch says that this was actually the best part of his experience. "The best parts of going abroad were the ones that took me out of my comfort zone," he said. "I pride myself on being flexible and being able to adapt to anything, and my semester abroad really put those abilities to the test."

Of course, adapting to life in a foreign country isn’t easy, and young people may find themselves intimated by many situations they encounter, but this isn’t also a bad thing. "The most specific instance of being intimidated was actually my volunteer work in the Children’s Cancer Hospital, which I did as part of a class that I was taking that focused on non-governmental agencies in Egypt," explained Spioch. "With little experience in dealing with children, let alone those in such an unfortunate situation, I felt somewhat ill-prepared to function in the hospital, which ended up being where I spent the most continuous time speaking only Arabic. This initial hesitation (fear/panic/stress) ended up changing into an appreciation for the challenges that gave me the most direct contact with Egyptians from all walks of life, as well as hopefully improving my skills with children.

"My advice for anyone considering going abroad is to take the risk and go for it," he said. "There are going to be moments or entire days when you just completely fail at even the most basic social interactions and just want to go back home even if it means trying to force a camel to swim across the Atlantic, but you have to just go back to where ever you live, drink a beer and say to yourself, ‘That was not my best day, but I am moving on from it.’ Learning to laugh at your mistakes can get you through whatever difficulties you run into, and you will never get anything out of the experience if you spend the whole semester hiding from anything new or different."


Resources for Volunteering Abroad

Looking for some resources to get you started on finding the best volunteering program for you? Here you’ll find help with funding, finding programs, getting ready, and more.

  • The Best Volunteer Abroad Organizations: While it doesn’t include every great organization, this list from Goodnet is a great place to start looking for programs to volunteer abroad.
  • 10 Ways to Make Volunteering Abroad Worthwhile: Journalism student Victoria Stunt shares some of the things she found made volunteering a richer, more significant experience.
  • Go Volunteer has a huge directory of volunteer opportunities organized by country, type, and duration.
  • Go Overseas Volunteer Database: Here you’ll find a great collection of programs for volunteering abroad, with reviews from participants, too.
  • Volunteer Overseas Resources: From preparing to volunteer to special tips for women, this site is full of resources that can help students get ready for an exciting volunteer program.
  • Idealist Volunteer Resources Center: Whether you’re volunteering at home or abroad, this resource center will help you understand everything you need to know about the experience.
  • Voluntourism Grants from Travelocity: Don’t think you can afford to volunteer abroad? Consider applying for a grant through Travelocity to cut the costs.

Volunteering abroad can not only give you the chance to make a difference in the world but also in your own life through experiences that change your perspective, set you up for success, and make you a more culturally-aware, worldly individual. If you’re looking for foreign travel that goes outside of the standard vacation or study abroad experience, don’t hesitate to look into the amazing array of volunteer experiences you can take part in while you’re a student and beyond.

Students Abroad: Going to School Abroad

In an increasingly interconnected world, the opportunity to spend time living and studying in another country can be an incredibly valuable experience. Study abroad offers students the opportunity to see new things, meet new people, and learn about cultures, lives, and history outside of their own, all experiences which can help shape a future career or just produce a better-rounded and culturally intelligent adult. Despite the potential benefits that study abroad offers students in a global economy, many are often reluctant to pursue it as part of their educational experiences. In fact, a surprisingly small number of students will study abroad during their undergraduate education.

According to recent data from the Institute of International Education, while 20% of American students say they’d like to study abroad, only 1% actually do so in any academic year. Over the course of an undergraduate education, just 14% of students will study abroad. What’s more, despite consistent growth in the number of students who head to college, the percentage of those who choose to study abroad has grown very little over the past few years, just 1.3% between 2010 and 2012.

Why do so few go abroad each year? It’s likely because there are a lot of perceived barriers to study abroad, including lack of information, financial concerns, and worries about visas and homesickness. All of these things can make study abroad seem intimidating, scary, or even downright impossible.

While study abroad might not be the right choice for every student and every situation, learning more about what it is, the opportunities it offers, and how to find resources (including financial assistance) that can make foreign study a reality can help students make more well-informed decisions about whether or not spending time abroad is something that meshes well with their personal goals and ambitions. In the first part of this three-part series (see part two here and part three here), we’ll address the most common type of travel for college students — study abroad — sharing major trends, useful information, and student experiences that will shed light on both the basics and the benefits of study abroad.


Study Abroad Trends

There is no one type of student who chooses to go abroad, but some majors do send more students abroad than others. Those in the humanities are most likely to study overseas, with students in these majors making up about 28% of all students abroad between 2007 and 2008. Study abroad is also incredibly popular with business and management majors (20% of students) and those in the social sciences (21% of students). Those in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and education are much less likely to go abroad, with students in these majors making up a combined 20% of all students studying overseas.

Historically, the hottest destination for American students looking to study abroad has been Europe and that’s still true, with the U.K., Italy, Spain, and France drawing in a combined 39% of students going abroad for study. In recent years, however, countries outside of Europe have also become popular destinations, especially China, which has seen a surge in the number of students it draws in through study abroad programs, growing by almost 5% between 2011 and 2012. Other countries seeing a growth in students include Costa Rica, Brazil, and India, demonstrating that students certainly won’t be alone in looking outside of Europe for study abroad opportunities.

While most students who go abroad will choose to stay for a semester or more, the number of those opting for summer or short-term stays has increased over the past decade. According to Open Doors, the number of students opting for shorter terms of foreign study increased from 47.5% in 1999 to 54.5% in 2008, perhaps because these types of programs are more flexible and allow students to better manage their finances and requirements at their home campuses.

If you’re wondering when it’s most common to squeeze in your study abroad, most students, 36.8%, choose to make the trip while they’re in their junior year. However, over the past decade, a growing number of graduate students have decided to take courses or pursue opportunities for study overseas, now comprising just about 7% of study abroad participants overall.


Types of Study Abroad

Study abroad opportunities can vary quite a bit, so it can be hard to determine just which type is right for you and what you can expect from the experience. Generally speaking, there are three major groupings of study abroad programs, dividing them by duration, program model, and program sponsor.


While most students opt for studying abroad for a semester or a summer (these shorter programs enroll about 73% of all students who go abroad), there are a variety of other options for study abroad, too. Those who attend schools operating on a quarter system may be able to head overseas for one or two quarters. Additionally, other shorter programs that encompass eight weeks or less, including those over a January term, are also fairly popular options. Still, for those who want to really get involved with living and studying in another nation, there are plenty of opportunities for full-year study, too, though fewer students opt for these lengthy sojourns abroad than in years past.

Program Model

The program model integrates your study and into the college or educational institution, providing your education in a foreign nation. While programs can differ greatly, there are four major categories:

  • Island: Island programs provide students with the chance to travel to and live in a foreign country, but courses are all taken in English and with other American students in a study center or through a special program at a university.
  • Integrated: Programs that are integrated immerse students right into a foreign university, having them take courses alongside students at their host school. This kind of experience offers greater cultural opportunities but may require students to spend additional time honing their language skills if their native language is not the one spoken in their host country.
  • Hybrid: Hybrid programs blend elements from island and integrated programs, offering students courses at a study center but also requiring that they take courses at a local university. These programs tend to be more common in nations where the language of instruction is not English.
  • Field-Based: Field-based programs are much more flexible than any other type of study abroad. Working within a thematic focus, students will study elements of the local culture, environment, or political system and complete their own independent study projects.

Program Sponsor

A program sponsor is the organization or institution that helps to fund or facilitate a study abroad program. Generally speaking, most students will find opportunities for study abroad through direct exchanges between their school and a partner institution. These partnerships, often long-standing, guarantee that students will be able to directly apply the credits earned at a foreign institution to their study at their home institution. Programs such as these are administered by the university, but students will need to take the initiative in finding housing and transportation.

Students can also use university connections to directly enroll in foreign schools, but unlike exchange programs, credit transfers aren’t guaranteed or automatic. If a school has a foreign campus, students may also be able to use this option to enroll directly in that branch, taking courses in a U.S. academic framework in a foreign country.

Colleges and universities aren’t the only source of study abroad opportunities. There are also a wealth of third-party nonprofit and pro-profit organizations that sponsor study abroad. Students can find out more about these organizations through their own web-based research, but since many often pursue affiliation with universities and colleges, campus-based advisors can also help students to enroll in these programs.


Your Study Abroad Options

Keep in mind that the ease with which you can study abroad, both in finding information, resources, and financial support, may have a lot to do with the school you choose to attend. Not all schools are equally invested in sending students overseas to partner colleges and universities. Some will simply have better resources available to students who want to pursue an education outside of their college campus.

A few schools, among them Goucher College and Soka University of America, actually require students to spend at least one semester or summer abroad in order to graduate. Others have simply put greater emphasis on foreign study for students, with some, like the University of San Diego, American University, Yale University, and Notre Dame University, sending 50% of their students to study abroad. If you don’t attend a school that focuses on study abroad that doesn’t mean you have to write it off, only that you may have to work a little harder to find resources, financing, and support on your own.

Regardless of the importance afforded to study abroad on your campus, you’ll have a wide range of interesting options for pursuing study abroad available to you. Students can opt for a traditional study abroad experience taking courses and living in a foreign country, or for something a little more unique as specialty programs are growing in number and popularity.

One example is California State University’s program for journalism students. This program aims at training the next generation of foreign correspondents, sending students to impoverished areas of Vietnam and Cambodia to get first-hand experience crafting news stories and broadcast pieces. Students not only get in-the-field experience that will be invaluable to their journalistic careers, they also spend a great deal of time helping the local communities in which they’re staying by assisting medical relief workers.

Other branches of the program, like one which sends students to South Africa, focus on giving local people a voice, with journalism students producing stories on the issues that directly affect those living and working in their local communities. These experiences often involve a fair amount of roughing it, but the response from students has been largely positive since the programs were first implemented in 2010.

Of course, not all study abroad programs are quite so adventurous. Students can also opt for much more traditional experiences that are just as educational, like Boston-based Emerson College’s semester abroad program. Through an exchange program, Emerson sends students to Kasteel Well, a Castle in the Netherlands. Students take courses and live in a 14th century castle, surrounded by a moat and lush gardens. In addition to courses, students also get a chance to travel to other cities in Europe, including Amsterdam, Berlin, and Madrid. If it sounds cool, that’s because it is. The program was ranked as the top study abroad program (on student satisfaction) by leading study abroad review website Abroad 101.

These are only two of the hundreds of different kinds of study abroad programs that exist at colleges and universities all over the United States. With a little research, most students will be able to find a study abroad experience that fits their needs, budget, and will help them see a bit of the world in an incredibly unique and potentially life-changing way.


The Student Perspective

While each student will have a different and unique experience during his or her time abroad, most report largely positive reactions to getting the chance to live and study in a country outside of the U.S.

Jenea Robinson, a theater major and junior at Rollins College, headed to India in the fall of her sophomore year to take part in SIT India: National Identity and the Arts, a program the studies Indian culture through art, religion, and architecture. One of the best aspects of the program, according to Robinson, was getting to travel. "I spent two months in the capital, Delhi, and another month traveling all around India," said Robinson. "I visited many places such as Jaipur, Orissa, Bodhgaya, Puri, Agra and Mussourie."

SIT programs aren’t as structured as many other study abroad programs, so Robinson got the chance to spend most of her time working on an independent study project, an experience that was unforgettable thanks to some rather large local residents. "I decided to study the Asian elephant in art, temples and religion," said Robinson. "It was an amazing experience! I lived in Kerala by myself for one month. During that month, I met over 80 elephants and even kissed and hugged an elephant named Lukshmi (she was beautiful)."

While study abroad can be amazing, it can also be pretty scary to take on a new country by yourself. Luckily, few students are totally alone in the process. Averi Gerberding, a student at USC Santa Barbara, spent a semester studying in Florence, Italy in 2012. While having been to Europe before, she wasn’t prepared for the challenges of navigating it on her own, but soon found that her fears were unfounded. "I was absolutely terrified once I first stepped off the plane, all by myself, into the bustling city of Florence," said Gerberding. "Yet after realizing that my apartment-mates were wonderful and fun people, I was able to let go of my fears and fully immerse myself in everything Italy, and the rest of Europe, had to offer."

For her, the chance to be fully immersed in Italian life and culture outweighed all of the cons. "The food was to die for; I have never tasted Italian food so rich and savory," she said. "The Italian people live so simply and happily that you can’t help but strike up a conversation with everyone possible. Even walking to school in the morning was an experience, as I was able to walk straight through the heart of Florence and gaze at all its intricate architecture."

Even if study abroad is challenging, at times, most say they wouldn’t change the experience for anything. Robinson is even ready to do it again. "The connections I made with the locals and students will last forever," she said. "It was one of the best experiences of my life, and I cannot wait to go back to India!"


Tips for Study Abroad

In need more guidance for your journey abroad? Use these tips to get started and travel smart.

  • Do your homework. Before deciding on a study abroad program, make sure to learn as much as possible about the options available to you. There are hundreds of different programs out there, many of which offer vastly differing experiences for students. Learning about as many as possible will help you make the best decision when choosing a program.
  • Get your documents in order. As soon as you sign up for a study abroad program, you’ll need to start getting your important documentation in order. This can include passports, visas, health insurance information, and even a list of important phone numbers. Before leaving, make copies of all of this information or store scans in a secure online location so you will have it on hand if the originals get lost or stolen.
  • Compare costs. Before committing, compare costs to see if your investment might better be put towards a different type of experience.
  • Set a budget. Study abroad can be pricey, so it’s essential to create and stick to a budget while you’re abroad. It’s also smart to find out ahead of time what the best options are for getting cash, as some methods charge hefty conversion fees and may eat away at your savings.
  • Get an international student ID. International student IDs offer you the chance to get discounts at dozens of different museums, restaurants, movies, and online stores. Even better, with a study ID you may even be able to exchange currency at the airport at no charge. Only costing $22, these little cards are a great investment.
  • Address safety. Safety is a major concern for many who choose to study abroad. Research which neighborhoods are best for young travelers, and find a group of fellow students who can all work together to stay safe. Students should also consider safety measures with regard to their health, establishing health insurance that will cover them abroad (if necessary) and looking into whether medications will be available or legal in their new country of residence.
  • Document your trip.Studying abroad can be the experience of a lifetime, and it’s one that students don’t want to soon forget. Make sure to bring along a camera and consider journaling or blogging your experience so you can share it with others or just remember the details later on down the line.
  • Invest in a guidebook. While the Internet is full of great information about every city in the world, it’s not always possible to secure an internet connection everywhere you want to go. Instead, find a great guidebook that you can tuck in your bag and carry with you as you explore your new city.
  • Learn where your embassies and consulates are. While most students will have an uneventful and safe trip abroad, things can happen that can put students in danger. It’s important to learn where to turn to find help, so look up the addresses and phone numbers of the American embassy or consulate in your host city. Students should also enroll in the STEP program through the U.S. government. This program makes it easier for government agencies to help students in an emergency and will keep them up-to-date on important announcements.
  • Address basic services. While students might take for granted how easy it is to open a bank account or use a cell phone in the U.S., once abroad things can get a bit more complicated. Students need to figure out a cell phone plan for their trip as well as determine the best way to access their accounts before ever leaving the country.
  • Ensure your credits will transfer. While getting a chance to travel to another country is perhaps the most exciting part of study abroad, the real purpose is to continue your college education. Make sure the time you spend in courses won’t be wasted by getting approval for transferring your credits to your home college before leaving on your trip.


Resources for Study Abroad

Deciding to spend a semester or a year abroad is a big decision. Here are some resources that can help you to learn more about study abroad programs, find funding, and reduce some of the stress of living thousands of miles from home once you’ve arrived in your host country.


Read up on study abroad opportunities, resources, and other information through these great general resources.

  • The Center for Global Education: Here, students can find a wealth of resources for study abroad, including a list of programs abroad, information about countries and culture, and health and safety tips.
  • American Institute for Foreign Study: Head to the AIFS site to learn about the foreign study programs offered by this organization.
  • This site is a great place to research study abroad, with a directory of programs, articles and blogs on study abroad, and helpful guides to make the experience easier on students.
  • CIEE: CIEE, a nonprofit organization, offers a wide range of international exchange opportunities, not only to study but to teach, work, and train.
  • StudentsAbroad: This government site can help students ensure they have the right travel docs, get help in case of an emergency, and even learn how to do things like vote when in a foreign country.
  • The ISA is a popular study abroad provider and their website is a great place to find information about the programs they offer as well as resources for study abroad in general.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

One of the major concerns many students have about study abroad is the cost. These resources can help you look into scholarships, grants, and financing that can make your study abroad dream a reality.

  • AIFS International Scholarships: AIFS offers a number of different types of scholarships and grants for study abroad, with some focusing on bringing minority students overseas and others available to just about anyone who writes a winning proposal.
  • Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship: Through the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000, this scholarship offers awards to students who receive Federal Pell Grant funding.
  • Scholarship and Grant Database: While you may want to check out what your own school has to offer, the University of Minnesota has compiled and impressive database of scholarships and grants for study abroad that any student can benefit from browsing.
  • IIEPassport Study Abroad Funding: The Institute of International Education is also home to a great directory of scholarships, fellowships, grants, and internships for study abroad.
  • Phi Kappa Phi Study Abroad Grants: The Phi Kappa Phi honor society offers 50 grants of $1,000 each year. Learn how to apply and get funding from the group through their website.
  • Abroad 101: Abroad 101 is an excellent resource for any student considering study abroad. The site is home to an immense database of programs and scholarships. Even better, there are reviews from students on nearly all of them so you’ll get some insights on what a program is really like before you sign up.


Bringing your smartphone or tablet along for the trip? Outfit it with these apps that can make your adjustment to life abroad a little easier and more fun.

  • Skype: Keeping in touch with family and friends back home can get pricey if you’re placing large numbers of international calls. Another option is to sign up for Skype, which offers free online video chat everywhere in the world.
  • World Lens: Can’t read the signs at the airport or on the street? Can’t figure out what the daily special is on a menu? Take a photo with this app and it will instantly translate the text for you.
  • WhatsApp, TextNow, and TextPlus: All of these apps can save you big on international texting plans by letting you text for free right in the application.
  • World Customs: This app is a great one-stop place for information about customs, cultural information, and facts on your host country. Who knows, it may even help you avoid a serious faux pas.
  • Yelp: Find addresses, phone numbers, or even just a good place to eat through this incredibly useful site’s app that has resources for cities around the world.
  • Postagram: If you love to send postcards but don’t want the hassle of going to the post office, use this app to send cards to friends and family back home. Just take a picture with your phone, add your message, and for just .99 cents Postagram will take care of the rest.
  • XE Currency: Instead of just guessing at conversion rates, use this app to know just how much you’re spending on everything you buy while you’re away from home.
  • Convert Any Unit Free: Because the U.S. insists on using different systems of measurement than the rest of the world, you may not always know how to convert metric or Celsius into more familiar intervals. This app takes care of it for you in a snap.

While many students may find study abroad to be an intimidating idea, the reality is that there is a ton of information out there that can help you learn just what it entails, how to fund your trip, and even what to do to ensure your safety once you arrive. It may not always be easy to get a trip off of the ground, but once you get there you, just like the students who’ve gone before you, will undoubtedly find it to be one of the best and most amazing experiences of your life.

Should You CLEP?

The increasing cost of college has been a deterrent for many people who want to pursue a higher education. Some question their decision to pursue a higher education while others choose not to pursue one altogether. This is part of the reason why the College Board’s College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) is so attractive.

CLEP exams are standardized tests that access college-level knowledge. CLEP offers 33 exams in five different subject areas: composition and literature, foreign languages, history and social sciences, science and mathematics, and business. Each institution awards credit to students who meet a minimum qualifying score — which can vary by school or exam. CLEP’s credit by examination has been widely accepted by 2,900 colleges and universities for more than 40 years. From a student’s perspective, what better way to knock out some college courses for a portion of the price tag?


Benefits to CLEP Testing

One of the more obvious reasons students take CLEP courses for credit is the monetary benefit — students pay $80 for each exam as well as any other applicable fees.

For Rebekah Rodgers, a 22-year-old Texas native, CLEP testing has the potential to save her thousands of dollars throughout her college career. She has already completed a college composition course worth six credits and plans on taking more.

"I will definitely be taking as many CLEP tests as possible to complete my associate degree and eventually the majority of my bachelor’s degree as well. Of the required 120 credit hours, 90 credit hours of my degree program (Communications) can be satisfied through CLEP tests," she said. "This is by far the most valuable way to earn a degree as it saves thousands of dollars in enrollment fees, books, and credit hours."

Younger students like Rodgers are not the only students who stand to benefit from CLEP tests.

Jonathan Steele was an adult learner who returned to school to pursue a nursing degree. He was able to CLEP college math, college composition, and introductory sociology.

"As a believer in lifelong learning, being married and owning a home, both time and resource conservation were the biggest part of my decision," he said. "These were only foundational courses and I already knew them, so no need to go back to school and review what I already knew."

Steele admitted he worried and stressed over the tests, even while taking them, but found that he preferred the CLEP format over sitting in a classroom.

"Looking back, they were great. They were well-worded. There was no ambiguity. In the end, either you knew or you did not. And if you did not, there was still room for common sense and logic," he said.

CLEP tests are great alternatives for students who feel they have deep knowledge of a subject already and want to free up their time in school to tackle upper-level or advanced courses. Previous knowledge will also dictate how much time students will need to study for the CLEP tests.

CLEP tests also offer convenience to students like Rodgers who, due to working fulltime and taking on other responsibilities, don’t have the time to attend college the traditional way.

"CLEP tests allow me maximum flexibility to study and earn credits. Depending on my motivation and time available for studying in the evening, I could conceivably take one test a week," she said. "CLEP tests are much more flexible than even online learning, as I can choose to accelerate or decelerate my studying and test-taking on my own initiative."


Determining If CLEP is Right for You

Even with all the potential benefits of CLEP testing, students should carefully consider all factors to see if CLEP is right for them before committing to the tests. Failure to do so may result in frustration as well as a loss of time and money.

Students should identify what kind of learner they are. Those who are not particularly strong test-takers would probably fare far better by enrolling in the actual course. And even the savviest of test-takers could potentially miss out on something by CLEP’ing, such as interaction with students and professors, guest lectures, and learning that can’t be achieved by taking an exam.

"If a student does not like to study and would rather listen to lectures to learn, CLEP might not be for them," said Steele, who chose to take a microbiology class rather than taking the CLEP test for Biology. "I wanted some hands on experience with germs, up close and personal so to speak. So additionally, any student that would benefit from hands on experience that labs or formal education would enhance the learning, CLEP might not be the best way to go."

Steele said the decision on whether or not to CLEP also depends on the career path one plans to take.

"Anything that we can learn that will have impact on what we do in our work or personal life would be best to take as a class," he said. "Becoming a nurse I wanted to have hands on experience with microscopes. I wanted to know more than what the germs were, I wanted personal experience with them."

Similarly, an English major would probably find it more beneficial to take an actual college math course rather than testing out, because traditionally English majors aren’t the most astute in math and science. CLEP’ing biology, calculus, chemistry, and college algebra probably won’t seem too appealing.

"I don’t quite know how to explain it other than there are those who have the head knowledge and those who have the application knowledge. If you don’t have the application knowledge, then the classroom might be the best place to be," Steele said.

CLEP tests are administered at testing centers across the country. Unfortunately, testing conditions may not always be ideal. If a student’s ability to perform well on a test is easily influenced by outside factors such as long waits at testing centers, disruption caused by latecomers, and other distractions by test-takers, then a classroom setting may better suit the student.

Not all institutions accept CLEP for credit, so it’s important to research which schools do before deciding to CLEP. This is also important for students who plan on transferring schools.


Suggestions for Those Who CLEP

Some courses may be better to CLEP, such as those in the composition and literature field, because students don’t typically benefit from hands-on experience as much as they might with science or math courses. And certainly, if a student feels comfortable enough in their own knowledge and capability in a certain subject, CLEP tests would be a great way for them to accelerate their college degree.

Kari Avery, a 22-year-old student at Charter Oak State College in Connecticut, is the epitome of a CLEP test-taker, having taken 11 in all and earned 54 college credits by doing so. She said she discovered CLEP testing a year after finishing high school when she was deciding whether or not to attend college or try to get any college credit.

Avery considers herself having always been an "English, literature and psychology fiend," so naturally she felt more comfortable taking those types of CLEP tests.

"The literature, humanities and science are things that people ought to know by dint of graduating from high school, and the business and psychology is easy and commonsense for observant people — even if the student wasn’t aware he or she knew the material before studying for the test, it is easily recognized once studying begins," she said.

Avery took her CLEP tests in economics last.

"They did require more study than any of the others, partly because the older I get the worse I am at memorizing vocabulary and those were pretty full of terms I wasn’t previously familiar with," she said. "I have to read the terms in context many times to be able to remember them before I really understand them."

For those who do decide to CLEP, there are resources available to help students prepare for the exams. Here are just a few:

  • InstantCert: This company was founded in 2002 and offers online college exam preparation for CLEP tests, as well as DSST, ECE, and TECEP.
  • CLEP Official Study Guide: CollegeBoard actually puts out this study guide, which is available for a fee. It includes sample questions and suggestions for preparation.
  • Free CLEP Prep: This site offers free CLEP study guides as well as the site creator’s list of all CLEP exams listed by level of difficulty.
  • SpeedyPrep: This site gives users full access to 24 online CLEP study guides. Visitors are allowed a free one-hour trial.

"I would suggest CLEPs to peers, absolutely," Avery said. "It would do you good service to consider going to colleges that accept CLEPs so that you can finish with the college as soon and as inexpensively as possible."

If students weigh all factors, including the potential pros and cons, the decision to CLEP can end up being an affordable and flexible one.

The Internet Access Gap in Education

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Financial Literacy 101: What a Required College Course Should Cover

Brittany Tyler, who graduated college in 2007 on the cusp of the Recession, said on a scale of one to 10, her financial literacy was a four or five upon entering college. Almost a decade later, the Texas native believes it should be a requirement for all students.

The economic effects of the Recession along with rising student debt levels have proven that financial education among adults is of utmost importance. Several experts say consumers are major contributors to the current problem, but who should be responsible for providing the appropriate financial education to these people?

College is a great place to begin financial literacy, especially since many students are not getting this education earlier. Impending loan repayment combined with students striking out on their own financially creates a perfect storm for the need for sound financial advice.

"A course on financial literacy should definitely address the transition from high school to college life," she said. "I didn’t know how to fill out the financial aid forms because my mom did it for me, initially. When you’re in high school, your parents give you a little money to spend, but when you’re in college you may be in a position where you get a lot more money — like from loans."

Tyler said many students blow their loan money because they’re not thinking they will eventually have to pay it back plus interest.

"I think it’s important to be taught about investing and saving. I recently met with a financial planner and she told me things that I knew nothing about."

Some higher education institutions already offer programs on financial literacy; however, none of them are required as a stipulation for graduating. Until financial literacy 101 is seen on equal footing with accounting or English, students may not opt to take these classes, but the possibility is still on the horizon.

A Lack of Confidence

A recent survey examined the financial knowledge, behaviors and attitudes of 40,000 first-year college students, and how that factored in to the increasing loan debt and delinquency rate of graduates.

The survey found that 23.7% of students who owned a credit card had more than $1,000 in credit card debt and 35% said they typically only make the minimum payment on their credit card.

Although the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act of 2009 requires student applicants under age 21 to have a co-signer unless applicants can show evidence they can repay credit card charges on their own, many young adults still find themselves in substantial credit card debt.

Other findings from the survey were a bit more encouraging — 86% reported having a checking account — a positive sign because of the impact having a checking account has on other finance-related behaviors, such as following a budget, paying the entire credit card bill each month, and paying student loans on time and in full.

Good or bad, these types of behaviors are all reflections of the financial education, or lack thereof that students receive. Numerous states have recognized the need for financial literacy and introduced legislation at both K-12 and collegiate levels and one of the key themes of The President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability (PACFC), created in January 2010, was that financial education should take its rightful place in American schools.

Results from a national study of K-12 educators found that while teachers recognize the importance of financial education, only 37% of K-12 teachers had taken a college course with financial education-related topics. Less than 20% of teachers and prospective teachers reported feeling very competent to teach any of the following personal finance concepts: income and careers, planning and money management, credit and debt, financial responsibility and decision making, saving and investing, and risk management and insurance. Teachers who had taken a personal finance course in college were 50% more likely to rate themselves as competent in teaching financial literacy.

What Students Need To Know

Courtney Washington graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in business but has had difficulty in finding a job — for many positions she’s either overqualified or under-experienced.

"I took classes on finance because I needed them for my major, but I think a mandatory course should touch on topics of student loans, how to take care of your financial responsibilities while paying student loans, paying a car note, how to take care of your family, how to make big purchases such as a house, and how to live outside of that," she said. "I’m in a position where I need to find a job where I can make X amount of money and be a provider for my family, too."

Washington cited a recent example: since she’s currently not working, Washington and her boyfriend were planning on using his income tax earnings to take care of their finances. Unfortunately, his earnings were intercepted because he had not paid back his student loans.

"A financial literacy course should not only include information about financial aid but our students have questions regarding credit cards, interest, and paying off credit cards," said Gina Sheeks, vice president for student affairs and enrollment at Columbus State University. "They also have questions about student loans and how they have to be paid back, and information about their credit score. In our financial literacy workshops, we touch on these topics as well as spending habits and savings and how to take employment — whether it’s part-time or full-time — and make the most out of it."

Tyler echoes the notion that a financial literacy college course should cover proper use of a credit card.

"Students don’t realize if you have a card with a $2,000 limit and you charge that much, you may end up paying way more in the long run if you’re not informed about the best way to make payments," she said.

What Some Schools Are Doing

Champlain College, based in Vermont, has taken a unique approach to financial literacy among its students. With the creation of its Life Experience and Action Dimension (LEAD) Program — which includes a component specifically about financial sophistication — Champlain has managed to ensure its graduates have at least some level of exposure to areas such as employee benefits, student loans, and buying their first car.

LEAD is not part of the academic curriculum, is not graded, and does not appear on student transcripts, but it is still a requirement of all Champlain undergraduates.

"There are some colleges that make a personal finance course an elective. What we’re doing is a little bit different," said John Pelletier, director of the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College. "There are certain life skills students need to have access to in the classroom, but they don’t. Financial literacy — or sophistication as we refer to it — is one of those."

In order for students to fulfill their financial sophistication requirement, they must attend one workshop or event during each of their first three years at Champlain. If students do not complete those requirements, they are not allowed to register for the next year’s classes.

"Coming from a background in debt counseling, I see financial literacy education as a type of preventive measure against poor financial decision making," said Michael Fife, LEAD financial sophistication coordinator. "What I see most commonly among college students is a lack of planning analysis in decision-making, creating a financial picture or perception in which people move from one mini crisis to the next rather than having an ability to plan ahead for their financial goals, whether those be planning a vacation or buying a new home."

LEAD’s financial sophistication program includes six live workshops, two online workshops, and two large events. Workshops cover areas such as goal setting and budgeting, understanding employee benefits, repaying student loans, buying your first car, making your money work for you, living off campus, and reviewing credit.

Fife said students seem to lack knowledge in many of these areas, and said he and others are conducting incoming and outgoing surveys of the students.

"I think it’s very hard for many students to grasp the more habit-based subjects such as the importance of setting goals as well as budgeting and tracking their money," Fife said. "It’s hard for many students to see past the next year and plan in advance."

Educational outcomes are tracked by conducting pre- and post-tests on knowledge and comfort of the subject. Fife said although students sometimes begin the program resenting that the workshop is required, they often leave recommending workshops to their fellow students.

Columbus State University, based in Georgia, was awarded a grant in 2012 to establish a program to help students better manage their personal finances. The program, called Cody Counts, allowed the school to create a student Financial Literacy Council, an accompanying website, and stage workshops offering students advice on handling their finances.

The financial literacy workshop is non-credit and experts are brought in from the community’s banking institutions to lead them.

"Personally, as a parent of a college student, I would say yes, a financial literacy course should be mandatory to graduate, but to require a financial literacy course it would have to be discussed across campus and cleared across several different levels," Sheeks said. "We see students struggling with [financial literacy]. I think the school could move toward a mandatory course. I think this is allowing us to see the interest level. The best thing we can do right now is offer opportunities like the workshop to these students."

List of Financial Literacy Resources

It’s been recognized that financial education for young adults is necessary, but it may be overlooked if given as an option in school rather than a requirement.

For now, mandating a for-credit college financial education program is just an idea, but advocates can do their best to encourage students to use the resources already available to them.

Here is a list of some free online resources for college students to improve their financial literacy:

  • Institute for Financial Literacy: This nonprofit organization offers programs to assist clients directly in areas which include financial counseling, financial education, and bankruptcy. The INFL website also contains a blog which provides useful information on budgeting, credit cards, family, money management, and retirement planning.
  • Money Smart: Money Smart is a comprehensive financial education curriculum available in four formats to help low- and moderate-income individuals enhance their financial skills and create positive banking relationships. Curriculum is available for adults, young adults, and small businesses.
  • This U.S. government site has organized financial education help from more than 20 federal websites in one spot. Visitors can search content categorized by where they are in life, who they are, and by specific hands-on tools.
  • One For Your Money: Financial literacy expert Mary Johnson addresses students’ financial questions through this online community. Features of the site include tips on budgeting, managing debt, controlling spending, managing a bank account, and saving.
  • iGrad: Created in 2008 by a group of former financial aid professionals, this interactive online community partners with colleges across the U.S. to provide a customized financial literacy program.

College graduates are entering into an uncertain workforce and many are not equipped with the knowledge needed to make sound financial decisions. Making a financial literacy course mandatory for graduation is the only way to ensure college graduates are exposed to this necessary financial education.

100+ Places to Get a Free Business Education Online

With the rising cost of tuition and the recent economic hardships faced by so many, business school isn’t accessible to everyone. If you have the ambition to learn but lack the funds to make it to b-school, then you should check out the following places to get a business education online without having to pay a penny in tuition. Take online classes for free from top universities as well as other online education resources, take advantage of online sources full of information about business, find out what top business school professors have to say, join online groups devoted to business and finance, and stay on top of business news with these resources. Regardless of where you live: South Carolina, Missouri, Maine – you will soon have enough business knowledge to be propelling your career forward.

These universities from around the world offer free open courseware classes online with many business classes you won’t want to miss.

  1. MIT OpenCourseWare. MIT offers a ton of free classes from their Sloan School of Management.
  2. MSU. Michigan State University has an International Business section of courses available.
  3. Tufts OpenCourseware. Be sure to check out the International Relations courses, among many others, offered here.
  4. UC Berkeley Webcasts. Find current classes and search the archives for past classes here that include economics, legal issues, and more.
  5. University of Southern Queensland. Find a small group of classes available at the Australian university, including communications and technology classes that will enhance any business education.
  6. Capilano University. Check out the Business section at this Canadian university for their free courses.
  7. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. If your business education revolves around health, global population, developing countries, or similar areas, then the free classes available at this Maryland here will help you get a better understanding of these topics.
  8. UC Irvine OpenCourseWare. UC Irvine offers several business and management courses in both English and Portuguese.
  9. UMass Boston OpenCourseWare. Find courses across a variety of topics useful to business here, including critical thinking, communications, and public policy.
  10. Notre Dame OpenCourseWare. Many of the classes here provide a strong base of knowledge useful for successful business students.
  11. University of Utah. Get the basics for your business degree here with classes such as math and economics.
  12. Utah State OpenCourseWare. Look through the extensive listing of courses available here to take free classes.
  13. College of Eastern Utah. The courses here seem to change with the semester, so check back often to see what they have to offer in both Business and Accounting.
  14. Weber State University. The small group of classes here include offerings like global technology.
  15. Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. The free classes here include a variety of business topics such as accounting, finance, business operations, and marketing.
  16. The Open University. This online opportunity from the UK provides a rich selection of business and management courses.
  17. Open Learning Initiative. These classes from Carnegie Mellon include business classes such as economics, statistics, and more.
  18. Western Governors University. Get several important basic classes for your free business education from this online university.
  19. University of Western Sydney. This university offers a business section with classes on financial planning, accounting, recruitment, business consulting, and more.

Other Online Classes While these online classes aren’t offered through universities, they do offer an excellent opportunity for free online learning.

  1. US Small Business Administration. The many free classes offered here include topics on business management, starting your own business, marketing and advertising, and business planning.
  2. Trump University. This online university started by Donald Trump and partnered with professors from elite universities as well as Fortune 500 executives offers two free courses on entrepreneurship.
  3. Free Management Library’s Free, Online Nonprofit Organization and Management Development Program. This free course is an excellent opportunity for those thinking about starting up a non-profit business.
  4. My Own Business. This online course provides 16 different topics touching on writing a business plan, communication tools, licenses and permits, financing, marketing, and more.
  5. Bean Counting 101. This free accounting class is specifically designed for non-accountants.
  6. Financial Management Training Center. These short courses include information on managing cash flow, mergers and acquisitions, strategic planning, competitive intelligence, and more.
  7. Maine Small Business Development Centers. Most of the classes offered here focus on small business development.
  8. About U Business. These business courses offered through’s About U provide insight to marketing, small businesses, and more.
  9. SCORE Online Workshops. Choose from several different workshops organized by topics such as Business Planning, Making Your Business Competitive, and Legal Considerations.
  10. IttyBiz Free Marketing Courses. Get six different creative marketing courses by email when you sign up here.
  11. ShoeMoney Xtreme Internet Marketing Program. Another free marketing program by email, this one is presented by Jeremy Schoemaker.
  12. Simple Studies. These free online accounting lessons include both lectures and exercises to solidify what you learn.
  13. Improve your personal networking skills. This course is offered through HP. You will need to sign up with your email address to receive notification of the next class.

Unique Online Learning Situations These learning situations include a Business Administration degree with no tuition, college-type classes on a wiki format, and an MBA’s worth of material from books.

  1. University of the People. Apply for a completely free business administration degree from this revolutionary project. Note that enrollment is limited while they are just starting out and the university is not accredited at this time.
  2. Peer 2 Peer University. This fledgling project is in its first round of courses, with an interesting economics course being one of the seven classes offered. Join up officially to participate in class, or take advantage of the readings, videos, and more that are posted to their wiki to virtually take this class.
  3. The Personal MBA. Josh Kaufman runs this site that is devoted to providing a business education to anyone driven enough to read the recommended books (visit your library for the no-cost option) and participate in their own learning experience.

Sites Packed with Business Information From tutorial to articles, these sites have plenty of information just waiting for you to grasp on to it all.

  1. Learn That Free Business Tutorials. Find an incredible number of tutorials on business, marketing, and management from Learn That.
  2. Business & Finance. Select from Business Practices, Industry, Personal Fiance, and Small Business to find numerous resources for each category.
  3. Business Writer’s Free Library. If you want to improve your business writing skills, then this is the place to go to find out how.
  4. Ezine 401: Content Development and Writing. Learn how to write clear and persuasive marketing material with this information.
  5. OPEN Forum. This site managed by American Express offers tons of information and resources for business owners (or those who want to be).
  6. Management Methods | Management Models | Management Theories. This portal offers hundreds of links to information on management concepts.
  7. American Management Association Articles & White Papers Solutions. Read through these articles to find information on communication skills, customer service, finance and accounting, human resources, and more.

Multimedia Resources Use these webinars, videos, and audio files to continue your business education online.

  1. Read It For Me. This site offers video summaries from top business books.
  2. Small Business Audio and Video Presentations. These presentations are presented by the IRS and provide plenty of information on businesses and taxes.
  3. System Seminar TV. Watch successful entrepreneurs speak on these videos all about Internet marketing.
  4. HubSpot Internet Marketing Webinars. Select from several webinars here to improve your Internet marketing savvy.

Serious Business Games Learn business practices, economics, management style, and more with these serious games that give you wiggle room for making mistakes before trying it out in the real world.

  1. Innov8. Focusing on learning smarter traffic, smarter customer service, and smarter supply chains with this simulation game from IBM.
  2. Gazillionaire Deluxe. Learn about supply and demand in this game used in colleges to teach concepts for business, math, and economics.
  3. EVE Online. Practice running the most powerful company in the world with this serious game.
  4. Fistful of Dollars. Explore managing working capital against a space backdrop with this game.
  5. Informatists. This popular business simulation game helps you polish business skills.
  6. Robo Rush. A simple game that demonstrates how you grow a business, this one has players start out selling robots door-to-door and upgrading to a storefront and a factory.
  7. Ports of Call. Play this old classic with a 3D face lift to learn about economics as you build your shipping fleet.
  8. Ars Regendi. Reign over your own state, form alliances with other countries, and more as you learn economics and politics in this multiplayer game.
  9. The EIS Simulation. Designed at the Center for Advanced Learning Technologies, this game challenges players, as a part of a team, to introduce an innovation and convince 22 members of the management team to accept the innovation.

Business School Professor Blogs If you can’t afford to attend business school, then why not read what these business professors have to say on their blogs? This is a great opportunity to learn online from some of the top educators in the world of business.

  1. Carpe Diem. See what professor Mark J. Perry has to say about economics and finance on his popular blog.
  2. Harga-Blog. Andrew Hargadon, professor at UC Davis’ Graduate School of Management, writes about technology innovation and design.
  3. Whatever Happened to Thrift?. Professor Ronald T. Wilcox blogs about why Americans don’t save and how that practice can be changed.
  4. Andrew McAfee’s Blog. Technology and business are the topics on this blog from a professor at Harvard Business School.
  5. Financial Rounds. This anonymous professor blogs about finance as it pertains to the classroom and beyond.
  6. John Sviokla The Near Futurist. Sviokla writes about marketing with plenty of high profile examples.
  7. Open IT Strategies. Joel West writes about IT and business in an "open" environment.
  8. Ed Batista. This leadership coach at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business blogs about leadership, management, and personal development.
  9. Robert Salomon. From Stern School of Business, Salomon includes posts on corporate strategy, the economy, mergers and acquisitions, and more.
  10. Stew Friedman Better Leader, Richer Life. This Wharton professor blogs about leadership on his blog.
  11. Tom Davenport The Next Big Thing. Topics on Tom Davenport’s blog cover technology and global business.
  12. John Quelch Marketing KnowHow. This long-time professor at Harvard Business School writes about marketing here.
  13. Grasping Reality with Both Hands. This popular blog, written by economy professor Brad DeLong at U.C. Berkeley, blogs about the economy from his perspective.
  14. sustainable business design. N.E. Landrum demonstrates how sustainable business decisions make good for everyone.
  15. Division of Labour. This collaborative blog is written by several professors focusing on economics and academia.
  16. Marketing Profs Daily Fix. Another collaborative blog, professors discuss topics that touch on marketing, social media, and technology.

Business and Professional Networks Join these online business and professional networks to get to know successful business people. Some of the best teachers are the ones who have been there before you.

  1. LinkedIn. One of the most popular business networking sites, LinkedIn will help you find connections that will promote your business knowledge as well as grow your network.
  2. Jigsaw. The more you participate in this business network, the more contacts you can earn, thereby expanding your access to more business professionals.
  3. Thompson Reuters Communities. Select to become a member of the The Carbon Community or The Base Metals Community, both of which focus on commodities and energy.
  4. APSense. Create your business presence here while you learn from other members. You are safe in trusting these members as they are rated positively or negatively based on sound business practices.
  5. The Business Social Network. Network and collaborate with others when you join this business group.
  6. Ecadamy. This social network provides you with the opportunity to share and learn from other professionals, boost your visibility, and create new business contacts.

Social Networks Devoted to Investing and Money Another great way to expand your online business education is by becoming a member of online social networks that teach you about money, investing, markets, and economics.

  1. Zacks Investment Research. Learn about markets and trends with the mathematically-based research done with Zacks.
  2. The Motley Fool. This popular group will help you learn about stocks, market news, and investing.
  3. Money Talk. The members here discuss small business, finance, making money, investing, and more.
  4. TradeKing Community. Members at this site to share their insight and learn from others while keeping up with developments in the world of investing.
  5. Wikinvest. Learn about specific companies, investment concepts, funds, markets, and more at this site. Members who participate also grow their reputation among important business people.
  6. Tip’d. An excellent source of educational resources, Tip’d offers news, tips, articles, and a chance to connect with others about finance.
  7. Minyanville. Join this social network to learn about business and investing.
  8. MarketWatch Community. This online group is specifically for learning about the markets and offers members opportunities to learn and share with one another.
  9. Especially for beginners, this group is about learning the ins and outs of stocks and trading. Be sure to visit the Executives section to learn about important players in the industry.
  10. ZeccoShare. Join in one of the groups at ZeccoShare to get investment tracking as well as sharing of ideas and tips between members.
  11. UpDown. Practice investing with a $1 million portfolio while you learn about investing with this social network.
  12. Covester. An example of learning by watching, Covester members follow the investment habits of proven investors to learn the best investment tactics.
  13. InvestingMinds. InvestingMinds offers opportunities for members to share ideas and experience with everything from investing to estate planning to the ways of Wall Street.

News Any great business student, whether a self-learner or one enrolled in an elite school, knows that staying on top of the business news is an important element of staying connected to the business world. These news sources are sure to keep you business-savvy.

  1. Forbes. A major player in the business world, Forbes offers news stories, video, and more to keep you informed about all the business news.
  2. The New York Times Business. Keep up with stocks, real estate, global business, and more with The New York Times Business.
  3. Financial Times. This British publication offers global financial and business news, opinions, and much more.
  4. Bloomberg. Get personal finance support as well as business and finance news from Bloomberg.
  5. Wall Street Journal. This heavy-hitter publishes everything from world finance to business to sports.
  6. This respected source for business news will keep you updated on finance, economics, markets, politics, science, and more.
  7. USA Today Money. USA Today Money delivers news about the economy, personal finance, and real estate.
  8. The Street. Get the inside scoop on Wall Street, financial investing, stock quotes, and more here.
  9. CFO. Find out what news is important to CFOs while you learn the latest in business financial news.
  10. CNBC. Read worldwide news stories and learn about the latest in investing and markets with CNBC.
  11. Fox Business. Watch videos, read blogs, and browse through news articles on small business, personal finance, and markets.
  12. BusinessWeek. Get news, special reports, regular columnists, and blogs that provide the latest news from the world of business with BusinessWeek.

Pushing STEM Students Past the 4-Year Degree

When it comes to education and job creation alike, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) seem to be top priority right now. President Obama’s 2013 budget includes $150 million towards training more teachers in these industries and opening up employment positions for 100,000 educators over the next 10 years. A further $1 billion will go toward promoting greater collaboration between high schools and colleges to streamline STEM curricula.

But how much education will these teachers — not to mention other STEM professionals — need in order to get ahead in their careers?


Jobs and Education

There clearly exists a demand for graduate degree holders in the STEM fields, as evidenced by The STEM Jobs Act. While it remains a proposal, if passed it would expedite the citizenship process for international students who graduate with STEM-related master’s degrees and Ph.D.s from American schools. But even beyond legislation at the Congressional and Executive levels, the job market seems to agree that these fields are surging.

Projections see employment in STEM fields rising by 17% before 2020, compared to 14% for all others. As other industries saw their unemployment rates climb as high as 10%, STEM hit 4.1% in 2011. And STEM workers typically enjoy raises 26% more generous than their counterparts elsewhere. However, graduates hoping to enter academia following completion of their Ph.Ds should check their majors before applying to that professorship; some disciplines, like engineering, computer science, and the life sciences, prefer to hire those who graduated more than three years ago.

Although pursuing postsecondary education typically leads to better earnings overtime and greater chances in a competitive job market, the number of students finishing graduate diplomas in the STEM disciplines is actually on the decline. Between 1985 and 2009, the number of master’s degrees conferred dropped from 18% to 14%.

"The job outlook for STEM graduates with master’s degrees or Ph.D.s is outstanding at present. Besides the well-known reasons, there is a very strong entrepreneurship industry that is focusing primarily on technologies. For example, venture capitalists specifically ask how many STEM masters and Ph.D.s are on the staff of a startup," says Dr. Amjad Umar, head of the Master’s in Information Systems at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology (HUST) and a global consultant on IT issues.

Umar’s HUST colleague Andy Petroski, director and assistant professor of learning technologies, also agrees that STEM students’ futures improve with graduate school attendance. "The master’s degree is a path to the career field in most instances. There are almost no instructional design, instructional technology, or learning technologies bachelor degree programs," he says.

"In a recent eLearning Guild survey, between 40%-60% of respondents from the industry (depending on job role) indicated they have a master’s degree," says Petroski. "In general, the industry feels a master’s degree is important to high performance as an instructional designer or project manager."


The Top 8

Kelly Services identified the eight fastest-growing STEM jobs through 2020, as well as general information about the industries involved. For graduate students hoping to increase their chances of launching their careers after completing school, these paths might provide some of the best opportunities.

"Information technologies — has been and probably will stay a field in high demand for a while," explains Umar. "Due to the large number of IT applications in the public and private sectors, degrees that combine IT with other areas (e.g., IT and Business, IT and Health) are in high demand."

Biomedical Engineering
Biomedical engineers merge the biological sciences with the latest medical technologies in order to improve and save lives. Forty-five percent of professionals in the field hold a bachelor’s degree, 35% completed a master’s, and 20% went for the doctorate or professional certification. Kelly estimates it will grow by 62% over the next decade.

Medical Scientists
In this field, graduate school is almost always a requirement. Only 4% earned positions with a bachelor’s degree alone. Twenty-one percent hold a master’s, and 74% completed a doctoral or professional degree. Anyone hoping to enter into one of the medical fields (except for epidemiology) as physicians, pharmacologists, pathologists, and other positions will more than likely require a Ph.D. to succeed. Since these industries are all expected to experience job increases by 36% before 2020, it behooves students pursuing them to earn a graduate degree and stay competitive.

Software Developers, Systems Software
Systems software developers create and maintain operating systems and networks for numerous applications, including medical, military, educational, and business. Kelly posits a growth rate of 32% for this industry, and while most relevant positions do not necessarily involve a graduate degree, one will still grant applicants an edge. Bachelor’s degrees currently dominate the industry at 54%. Master’s degrees make up 23% of the software developer of systems software workforce, and Ph.D.s are so rare as to not even be recorded.

Biochemists and Biophysicists
As with the medical sciences other than epidemiology, biochemists and biophysics almost always need a doctoral degree to land a job. These positions require exploring the complex physics and chemistry of living organisms down to the cellular level. Eighteen percent of current workers in the field stopped at the bachelor’s degree, compared to 5% with a master’s and 77% with a doctorate. Kelly believes the involved industries will see a 31% increase in available positions before 2020.

Database Administrators
The job outlook for database administrators is expected to improve by 31% over the next decade as well, though its educational trends differ significantly from many of the other industries on this list. As the name implies, database administrators make sure computer databases remain running, stable, and safe. Graduate degrees remain extremely rare amongst this demographic, where 60% of employees hold a bachelor’s. Numbers for the master’s and doctorate levels are too low to be recorded.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators
Network and Computer Systems Administrators concern themselves with ensuring the safety and stability of local area networks for medical facilities, the military, businesses, schools, and plenty more. Data on the education levels for these jobs is currently unavailable, though for the most part they do not require anything more than a bachelor’s degree. Kelly’s research posits that employment in this position will rise by 28% over the coming decade.

Software Developers, Applications
No doubt as a side effect of the mobile computing boom, software developers who create applications will see an increase in job opportunities, to the tune of about 28%. But there’s not much of a need to attend school at the doctorate level. Seventy-five percent of workers in this field finished their bachelor’s, while 17% went on to complete a master’s degree. So few Ph.D.s exist, the exact statistics are not presented.

Mathematics and statistics junkies might adore actuary work, which involves crunching numerical data on death, retirement, sickness, and the like for insurance companies. Graduate degrees in this area certainly impress, as only 52% of workers in the field stopped schooling after their bachelor’s degree. Twenty-one percent hold master’s degrees, and a further 27% earned a Ph.D. or other professional graduate diploma. And with the industry expected to swell by about 27% before 2020, a graduate-level education will certainly help a candidate’s employment chances.


Picking a School

The more competitive candidates for STEM jobs would hold a postsecondary degree. Fortunately, graduate-level programs in most of these disciplines exist at nearly every four-year institution, public or private. Except for the colleges and universities specializing in the liberal arts, 20% of master’s and 66% of doctoral students enjoy a generous range of options when it comes to STEM.

"There are a variety of good programs throughout the country for a master’s in instructional technology or learning technologies," says Petroski. "Some focus on instructional technology for education, some for the corporate sector and some for both. Some focus on instructional technology theory more than application and some vice versa.

"The value of the program and the benefits a student receives depends on their undergraduate background, career experience, and ultimate goals."

Petroski stresses gaining an edge through skill-building, which students can garner through graduate school attendance. "As with most STEM disciplines, the learning technologies field is focused on technology as a competency. As a result you need to be able to communicate and represent yourself well with technology to exceed in the field," he says. "Face-to-face and traditional network building is still important, but so is being connected to a more global network through technology.

"In technology especially, much of the work can be done at a distance," he adds. "So, location is no longer a benefit or detriment to connecting to people and finding the best job opportunities. As a technology professional, you need to think of your network beyond the boundaries of your commuting distance."

"These are high demand disciplines that require not only technical skill, but creativity, analysis and a high level of communication skill to work as part of a team. So, a path in these fields has great opportunity to lead to career success," he says.


Changes to the Industries

Job-seeking STEM graduates do need to keep industry flux in mind when applying. They must sharpen their flexibility and innovation skills in order to best navigate the unexpected shifts.

"One disadvantage is that the technology industry (and maybe STEM in general) has proven to be volatile, in the sense that it is an every changing landscape with new technologies and new industries evolving all of the time, the hours are often demanding," Petroski said.

He also cautions against stagnation and dispassion, both of which will hamstring STEM careers. "You have to be constantly learning and evolving with the changing landscape and you should really, really like what you do, because you will most likely be doing it 50-60 hours a week."

College students aiming for a career in one of the STEM industries enjoy some considerable advantages over those who are not. On the whole, they receive more funding, more academic opportunities, and more career options. And investing the time and money in a master’s or Ph.D. program only enhances their chances of professional success.