Study Abroad

How to Apply to Grad Schools in Europe as an American

If you're interested in applying to graduate schools abroad, read on to learn the in's and out's of going to grad school in Europe.

Key Takeaways 🔑

  • There are two different types of master's programs in Europe: Taught Masters and Research Masters. The main difference is the level of independence you'll have during the program.
  • There are important factors when choosing where to study, including your goals, budget, visa availability, and your familiarity with the language
  • There are English spoken master's programs at certain European universities, even outside of the UK
  • Grad school programs in Europe vary in scheduling but traditionally last between 1-2 years
Friends sitting underneath the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

Unfortunately, many students aren’t aware of the many opportunities or programs out there for earning your masters degree abroad.

The opportunity to study abroad in Europe as a grad school student has numerous advantages such as refining knowledge, professional development, personal growth, and more. Plus, your graduate program will be taught in English!

Read on to find out why you should earn your master’s abroad in Europe and how to apply to grad schools as an American.

Benefits of doing a master’s degree program in Europe

Studying abroad in Europe as an American is a great way to gain valuable international experience while refining your specialized knowledge. Some of the benefits of doing a master’s abroad program in Europe include:

  • Qualifications from reputable institutions: Europe is home to some of the best universities and research facilities in the world, and gaining academic qualifications here in your specialized field will enhance your career opportunities significantly.
  • Internationalize your approach: Gaining international experience can widen perspective and diversify your knowledge by being introduced to methods of teaching and learning that are different from how you’re taught back home.
  • Study in your native language: Many non-English speaking countries offer classes or entire degrees in English, meaning you can avoid a significant language barrier while studying abroad.
  • Learn a new language: However, if students are keen to learn or refine a language while studying a master’s in Europe, they can do so through bilingual degrees or a master’s degree taught entirely in a different language.

Where to study abroad in Europe

A flower shaped building behind a green patch of grass

It can be hard to decide where to study in Europe considering its varied topography, cultures, and the range of high quality institutions you can choose from.

Some of the best countries in Europe for grad schools abroad include:

  • The United Kingdom: UK graduate schools are some of the best in the world. Some of the highest quality UK graduate schools are located in Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Bath, Manchester, Edinburgh, London, offering many options for international students studying in the UK.
  • Germany: Students pursuing a master’s abroad in Europe can find many English taught or bilingual degrees - as well as some of the best universities in Europe - in Germany. Tuition fees are also comparatively low in Germany when compared to US and other European countries.
  • Spain: Spain offers many English taught and bilingual master’s degrees at reputable universities. Studying abroad in Spain offers international students an excellent lifestyle in addition to access to high quality education in cities such as Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, and more.
  • Italy: Roma Tre, LUMSA, Lorenzo de' Medici University and Domus Academy offer some of the best master’s courses in Italy. Milan, Rome, Naples, Florence, Bologna, and more offer fantastic opportunities for international postgraduates studying in Italy.
  • France: France is not only home to iconic landmarks and delicious french cuisine, but it also offers grad students low tuition fees at top universities. While Paris in particular attracts grad students from all over the world, cities such as Marseille, Montpellier, Toulouse, and Lille offer universities with excellent master’s courses.
  • Ireland: Although a small country, international students studying in Ireland can choose from many cities and universities to facilitate their master’s studies, including but not limited to Dublin, Galway, Limerick, and Cork. The Third Level Graduate Program allows students to qualify for employment for 24 months after finishing their master’s degree.

Different types of master's degrees in Europe

When it comes to studying for a master's in Europe, there are a few things to consider, like whether you want to undergo a taught master’s or a research master’s.

  • Taught master’s: Program during which you take modules and your degree ends with a dissertation. Similar to a bachelor’s degree, your degree completion is based on your course grades and your thesis.
  • Research master’s: Program based entirely on your dissertation. The application process is similar to taught programs, however, you should establish contact with course advisors before applying for a research program.

How to find the right master's program in Europe for you

An old building sitting in front of a modern cityscape

In order to make the most of your grad school and master’s in Europe experience, follow these steps to determine the best program for you.

  1. Choose a destination: You’ll need to choose a destination that interests you and optimizes your study abroad experience. Consider what sort of climate, landscape, culture, and environment you’ll want to live in. Whether you opt for a Spanish, French or a UK graduate school, remember that you’ll also have a life outside of studying, so pick a place that excites you!
  2. Choose a course: Choosing the right course is just as - if not, more - important as the destination. As a master’s student in Europe, you may already know what sort of field you want to study. Your master’s course in Europe should be engaging and benefit your long-term goals.
  3. Compare tuition fees: It’s important to consider tuition fees, among other expenses, when thinking about studying at a grad school in Europe. Tuition fees vary considerably across European universities, so be sure to research thoroughly.
  4. Budget for the cost of living: In addition to paying for flights, visa, and so on, you’ll need to take into consideration the cost of living. Rent, groceries, transportation, and other costs should be considered when budgeting for studying your master’s in Europe.
  5. Decide if you'll apply independently or with a third-party provider: To apply for a grad school in Europe as an American, you can research and apply independently, or you can make use of a third-party provider. A placement provider will help you find a master’s abroad, organize your visa, arrange your accommodation, provide in-country support, and much more.

How to apply to grad school in Europe

A multicolored building in Croatia

In general, the application process for European master’s is similar to the US. Here are some of the crucial steps of applying for a grad school in Europe:

  1. Write your statement of motivation: Your statement of motivation is essentially a humanizing form of your resume. Not only should you list your academic and extracurricular achievements, you should explain why you want to study at this university and country, and why you’d be a valuable addition to the program.
  2. Prepare your documents: Allow yourself plenty of time to gather important documents such as your resume, references, academic transcripts, and more in order to stay on top of your application.
  3. Research scholarships and finances: You should have a plan on how to pay for your grad school abroad. Whether you’ll be making use of loans, scholarships, grants, or funding yourself entirely, it’s important to budget accordingly.
  4. Apply for your visa: Once accepted onto your program, you’ll need to apply for a visa. This often requires proof of finances, a health check, and a background check - so ensure you can pass all of these before spending the time to apply.
  5. Consider Erasmus Mundus: The Erasmus Mundus Master’s programs allow students to study at multiple universities typically across 2 academic years and gain valuable internships experience. If you want thorough insight into the different layers of Europe while studying, this will optimize your master’s abroad experience.

Commonly asked questions about grad school in Europe

A old, cylindrical building in Oxford, UK

Is it possible to study a course in English in Europe?

Yes! More and more universities across Europe offer courses entirely in English. Outside of UK graduate schools, you can study courses entirely in English or bilingually. Some of the best countries for an English-taught master’s abroad program in Europe include Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Germany, and Austria.

When do grad schools start in Europe, and how long are they?

Many universities in Europe have September start dates for the first semester and a January start date for the second, however, some universities allow students to start in January. Most grad schools typically require you to complete at least two semesters.

The standard European Master’s program is two years in length, but certain programs, especially at UK graduate schools, can be completed in just one year. These programs require a lot of time spent researching and writing, so be careful to factor that in if you want to travel.

The term structure will vary from one country or university to the next. Most will either have two semesters with a summer and winter break. However, be sure to ask about the structure at the university you're applying for to plan your travel and housing.

Read more: Study in the UK vs the US: Which is Better for Your Master's Degree?

How much does a grad school in Europe cost?

While it varies from one country and institution to the next, the average tuition cost for an international postgraduate studying a master’s abroad in Europe can vary anywhere from around $1,750 - $20,000 USD per year. Some countries may allow you to study for free - or at a greatly reduced price - if you want to study a degree in the country’s native language.

However, you may be eligible for scholarships and grants which can cut the costs of your grad school in Europe. Be sure to research the different scholarships available to help you achieve your dream grad school abroad experience.


Is a grad school in Europe the right option for you?

The process can be overwhelming at first, however, the benefits of studying at a grad school in Europe is worth the time and effort invested into your application. Not only are you bolstering your resume by adding international experience and a master’s degree, you’ll find that the personal benefits of studying abroad are just as profound as the academic benefits.

Start your study abroad adventure today: