The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Study abroad applications exceed cap

By Annie Lewine

Correction appended.The deadline for spring study abroad applications came and went last Friday, and it appears that once again, the number of students who applied has exceeded the number of spots available.

This fall, 113 students are studying abroad, 12 of whom will continue through the spring, leaving 135 slots for spring semester, Paula Paul-Wagner, assistant director of the International Center, said.

Students who study abroad the entire year occupy two study abroad slots, meaning the 113 students currently studying abroad, with the 12 planning to remain away the entire year, occupy 125 slots.

While Paul-Wagner did not give a finalized number of applicants, President Brian Rosenberg said at a faculty meeting Wednesday afternoon that about 169 students applied to study abroad this spring.

The International Center has tried to accommodate recent high numbers of applicants by increasing the cap of 230 semester slots to 260 this year, but the number of students applying for study abroad spring semester has still exceeded the cap, according to Paul-Wagner.

In the 2005-2006 school-year, a large imbalance in the number of students studying away for fall and spring semesters led to a loss of $200,000 in empty dorm rooms, The Mac Weekly reported at the time.

“After that year we tried a lot harder to balance it,” Paul-Wagner said. “We’re pretty flexible with the even distribution of students studying abroad each semester, but it’s better for the campus in general if it’s more balanced.”

The International Center advising staff has been encouraging more students to study abroad in the fall by highlighting the less-pressured nature of fall semester applications, according to Paul-Wagner.

Iain Lempke ’09, an art and math and computer science major who is studying abroad in Scotland this semester, said in an e-mail that he took the idea of less competition for fall study abroad into consideration in deciding when to study away, especially because his study abroad program is not directly related to or required by his majors.

“I was nervous [about my application for this fall],” Lempke said. “I knew there wasn’t too much chance of not getting in, but you can’t help being a little nervous.”

David Wheeler ’09, a classics major, said he did worry about more competition in the spring, and the main reasons he decided to apply to study abroad second semester were his role in the fall semester play, Angels in America, and the opportunity for summer travel.

“I wanted to take the summer to travel around and see the world,” Wheeler said. “But I actually have no idea if Macalester will let me [study abroad] or not.”

Other students decide to study abroad in the spring because of Macalester courses only offered fall semester or because of abroad programs only offered in the spring, Paul-Wagner said.

“Sometimes students have legitimate reasons for studying abroad spring semester, and we understand that,” she said. “But there are always more students studying abroad in the spring.”

The number of applicants exceed the number of slots this semester, but Paul-Wagner said she hoped that every valid application would be approved because “there is work being done to go over the official cap.”

When making decisions on students’ applications, the International Center focuses on what it sees as the most important criteria: health and safety, academic quality and the level of cultural immersion, according to Paul-Wagner.

The International Center denies applications if applicants are not academically or linguistically prepared for a program, of if a proposal is unsafe, Paul-Wagner said.

When the number of applications exceeds the cap, the Study Away Review Committee ranks students’ proposals based on a variety of criteria. Seniority and majors which require students to study abroad factor into the ranking, and students applying to Macalester’s own programs are also given priority.

In past years, some students have been denied for study abroad because of limited slots, especially in the spring.

Applications for spring 2007 study abroad reached 149, of whom only 130 were approved, The Mac Weekly reported at the time.

Students with unsuccessful applications may apply for an appeal of their study abroad decision by submitting a written appeal to the Educational Policy and Governance committee, but in general very few students choose to do so.

Last year about five or six students appealed their study away decisions, some of whom have been successful, according to Kendrick Brown, chair of EPAG and a professor in the psychology department.

“It gets tricky [with appeals] because EPAG reviews the cases but it becomes a resources issue,” Brown said. “So [the administration] has a conversation about whether the college can afford it.”

Students should find out about their application decisions shortly after fall break.


The article above now states that 113 students are studying abroad during the fall 2007 semester while the article originally stated that 125 students were studying abroad at the time. The 113 students now abroad take up 125 study abroad slots for Macalester because 12 will stay abroad for two semesters.

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