Ins and Outs of ISEP

You may not have heard of ISEP. It’s fine, neither had I. No judgments, I promise. Prepare for a crash course in all things ISEP.

My university has a system for applying for a year abroad. You pick up to 5 universities in order of preference, and they try and allocate you one based on your first year marks. If they can’t get you into one of the 5 you chose or you don’t like the institution they offered you, you get put into a second round of allocations and they’ll put you somewhere they can find a space. Some degrees get preference on location. For example as an American Studies student, I get priority on US institutions over those students from other degrees like Maths and Biology.

As I’m redoing my second year, I applied through this system last year and got my third choice (there were three choices then). Because I’m fancy and just a little bit extra, I decided to go external this time.

Enter ISEP. **fanfare**

International Student Exchange Programs, aka ISEP, is a way for students to study abroad in more than 50 countries at over 300 institutions. The process allows you to choose up to 10 universities, so provides more choice than my university’s system, but doesn’t adopt degree preference allocation. ISEP is open to students all over the world, so the pool of applicants is much bigger (which means more competition for places). The universities are ranked according to projected input/output of students; for example institutions with less outgoing students than incoming have a placement chance of ‘very limited’, whereas those with a higher number of students outgoing than incoming have a placement chance of ‘very good’. It’s advised that you rank your choices in order of preference AND chance of placement in order to have a successful application. ISEP then requires a reference and a personal statement, as well as reasons why you’d like to study at the universities you’ve picked. Both my university’s system and ISEP require you to indicate modules you’re interested in studying at each institution, and obviously you need to research things like accommodation and the local area for each place you’re interested in. This means that both pathways require a lot of research and consideration. It’s worth noting that ISEP charges a $100 application fee when you submit your application, and a $325 acceptance fee when you’re allocated a university.

Despite the costs and extra work I decided to go external not only just because I’m fancy and a little bit extra, but because I appreciated the variety. The options that my university had were places that I would settle for rather than those I would choose of my own accord. I believe that if I’m spending a year somewhere I want to be happy about the placement, not resentful that I had no other choice but to be there. In my search so far, ISEP has at least 15 institutions that I would very happily go to.

The priority deadline is February 15th, so it’s time for me to get back to my application and explaining exactly why I would like to study at Lake Forest College.


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