Earlier study abroad proposal deadline affects sophomores

This year the International Center is implementing earlier deadlines and due dates for those interested in studying abroad in the 2015-2016 school year. The deadline for submitting applications for study away in either semester of the 2015-2016 academic year is now Dec. 5, as opposed to the old February deadline last year. The new deadlines are in response to problems experienced last year, when many students got switched from their intended study abroad semester and were forced to navigate tricky situations, such as getting out of already signed leases.

“The International Center heard those complaints and went back to the drawing board and thought, ‘What can we do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?” Kevin Morrison, International Director, said.

Decisions will hopefully be returned early in the second semester, at least a month earlier than they were given out last year.

“One of the best things about this new deadline is that it coincides with the registration for Spring 2015, so when you are thinking about classes and timelines and meeting with your academic advisor, it seems more natural to talk about a greater plan for the next year as well.”

This year students applying for study away don’t need to have already declared their major, but they do need to have an intended major and a four year plan signed by the department chair from that major.

“I feel pressure to declare a major quickly,” Shannon Mahedy ’17 said. “We were told that we must have a major plan figured out before applying for study away, but that we don’t have to actually declare our major. Still, I feel as though sitting down and creating a major plan is the biggest aspect of declaring a major, and having to figure out my major and study away at the same time, with such a pressing deadline, is overwhelming. I understand the reasoning behind the new deadline, but that doesn’t negate the stress I’m feeling.”

One of the changes this year is that meeting with a study abroad advisor is optional. Last year, everyone, regardless of desire, needed to meet with an advisor before submitting the Macalester study away application. This year, students who know what program they want and feel confident in their decision after completing online advising can submit the application entirely online, after they’ve attended one of the required info sessions Sept. 16 and 18.

“We still want there to be an advising process,” Morrison said. “But we have incorporated some of our advising techniques into the information session that students are required to attend, and then we have transferred some into the online forms. But we are absolutely happy to continue to meet with students who have questions that need to be answered.”

There is also a revised online questionnaire, so that if you meet with a study abroad advisor conversations can start from a more specific place.

Eun Gyeog Shin ’17 said she appreciated the early orientation session and found it helpful.

“I am glad that they give this early orientation so that I have more time to think about studying abroad,” Shin said. “Because I am an international student, I only have [a] few choices. I need more time to research programs, talk to my professors, and consult with the International Center staff.”

This year study abroad advisors specialize on programs and locations of study versus being assigned to students based on major. So, students looking into Spanish-speaking countries will meet with one specific advisor.

The International Center also revised its program list into three sections of programs it feels accurately represent the goals of Macalester as an institution. “A” programs are the approved three exchange/Macalester faculty led programs. “B” programs are approved direct enroll and other organization sponsored programs that Macalester has partnered with, such as SIT, CIEE or ACM programs. “C” program are competitive or non approved programs. Students applying to programs in the “C” category must have a backup program in the event that their program is not approved, and students applying to “C” category programs must also attend an in-person advising session.

“Programs in the ‘C’ category are excellent quality programs, but quality that come at a price, so we want to make sure that if we are extending that cost, the student’s learning goals are really in line with the program mission, and when the goals do align we definitely think it is worth the cost to do so,” Morrison said.

Students applying to programs not present in any of these categories will have to make a convincing case that their program meets Macalester’s standards for a study away experience.

“I think the bar and expectation for why a student would choose an unapproved program will be higher,” Morrison said. “I think the [Study Away Review Committee], who I can’t really speak for, and this is only my opinion, will probably be looking at those with a much more discerning eye.”

SARC, made up of faculty, not International Center employees, will ultimately make the decision on whether or not study away applications are accepted or denied. Appeals will still go through to Ann Minnick, the director of Academic Programs.