Skip to Content

What drives student interest in study abroad in 2024?

Today’s college students are more interested than ever in study abroad, itching to travel after spending much of their formative high school years in a pandemic. The education and real-life experience that come from travel are irreplaceable for students, as they acknowledge studying abroad is important for personal and professional development. But perhaps the greatest benefit is an expanded worldview – confirmed by 83% of the college students we surveyed in survey report.

Considering the deep interest in study abroad, cost remains the primary barrier. But universities have an opportunity to alleviate student concerns and offer a smooth, equitable travel experience. Increased and streamlined communication efforts throughout the application process, including funding resources, as well as in their pre-departure programming and while in-country help ensure a successful experience and increase confidence in their plans.

When do students become interested in study abroad?

Many students learn about study abroad programs as a possibility before college. In fact, 44% of students report that they first became interested in studying abroad while in high school, and nearly half of students said an institution’s .

However, university communication is critical and in-person university information sessions are still the number one way college students learn about the opportunities. Orientation, the university’s website and marketing materials are also helpful for promoting this invaluable educational opportunity. Students also hear about the possibility of studying abroad through friends, family and increasingly, social media. Influencers sharing their study abroad experiences and students documenting their travels on social media have helped encourage more students.

An interest in intercultural experiences and a global education are primary drivers among the 73% of students who hope or plan to study abroad in the future. The most popular option for students remains a semester abroad followed by internships and short-term (two- to six-week) faculty-led programs. European countries are the top destinations for students, with Japan and South Korea the next closest desired locations. Traveling to Europe has long been the top choice among U.S. students, likely for the cultural experience and opportunity to travel among other countries during weekends and breaks.

More from UB:

Cost is a top concern for students

There is no way to get around the fact that studying abroad is expensive. Aside from program fees and tuition, students also have to account for plane tickets, accommodations, food and expenses for any additional travel during the trip. Most students estimate the total cost at . While the interest is there, 67% of students say cost is the No. 1 reason preventing them from studying abroad. To help offset the price, most students utilize financial aid, grants and scholarships, but more can be done to help students find and understand alternate funding options. The students we surveyed said they don’t feel fully informed about financial aid options and want their universities to do more to educate them on this. This also highlights an accessibility issue when many student populations—especially first-generation students—may be struggling to pay tuition, let alone for a study abroad program.

Financial aid opportunities also must be readily available online and clearly communicated to students. Increasing communication efforts around funding options through regular email communication about opportunities, deadlines and what’s needed from them to proceed can help. Sessions for all students planning to study abroad that review cost expectations and how to apply for aid are also important. Addressing concerns about cost , allowing more students to benefit from global education and cultural immersion.

Expanded communication helps eliminate barriers

Students are looking for increased communication from their universities on all aspects of study abroad, not just cost. To accomplish this, study abroad offices must make regular communications on key program information a top priority. Email remains the dominant contact method students want to leverage with offices. However, almost half are still enthusiastic about some element of in-person support—whether full-time or simply having the option for face-to-face advising. With two-thirds interested in text messaging for regular updates as well, students value multi-channel engagement throughout their journeys.

Across all stages, from early awareness-building to advising on program selection and financial aid, students desire more robust guidance and tools. Half directly ask for access to dedicated study abroad offices and peer mentors. At the same time, many want crowdsourced reviews and database-driven program recommendations tailored to specific majors or class sequencing for on-time graduation. As information empowerment continues rising across higher education, study abroad resources must keep pace.