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Studying abroad: the options

Applying to study abroad needs a lot of practical preparation. Read on for how to make the process a smooth one.
Panthéon center of faculty of law, France

Every year scores of students undertake postgraduate study overseas for a variety of reasons:

  • To study at an institution with an excellent international reputation
  • To pursue study in a specialist area not available at home
  • To perfect a foreign language
  • To gain life experience within an international, multicultural environment.

To gain an overview of what it's like to study abroad take a look at our country-by-country guides. First, however, there are some general things to take note of.

Applying to study abroad is time consuming and requires a lot of preparation, and you should begin at least 18 months before your intended start date. Remember that some closing dates fall early in your undergraduate final year, eg in October. Most US college dates are in December.

A big factor in the appeal of overseas study is the experience of living in a different country, integrating into a new culture and meeting interesting people. When considering study in a foreign country you should find out what support is offered to international students at the institutions that appeal to you, especially when you first arrive. Don't forget to take linguistic proficiency into account, as you will usually have to demonstrate this when you apply.

Your final choice of location is likely to be driven by a combination of factors, including subject choice, reputation of institution and/or individual course supervisor, personal preference and funding availability. A visit to your chosen destination before you commit is recommended, but if this isn't possible then your research at home needs to be even more thorough than if you were planning to continue your studies in Ireland.

Researching the options

Your first search should be within your own department or faculty. Discuss your plans with your lecturers; some of them may have studied overseas themselves and are often members of wider academic networks, so they are a valuable source of information. Investigate whether your careers service runs a briefing session on studying outside Ireland and start to work out which institutions offer the courses that interest you. (Most course prospectuses are available on the internet.)

While your initial research will probably focus on course content, don't forget to investigate additional factors, such as:

  • Campus location (in or out of town) and facilities (library and IT resources, accommodation)
  • Courses and living costs
  • Exact course start date and duration
  • Entry requirements and overall standards
  • Potential sources of funding
  • Application processes – there may be a lengthy submission required and most US colleges will require applicants to sit a test.