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Dual and joint degrees: An excellent option for international study

Discover how you can study in two different countries, expand your skillset and network, and prepare for an exciting career. With program examples and helpful tips, this article is a must-read for anyone considering an international study experience.

I’ve encountered more and more students in recent years who are curious about non-traditional degree courses. These students are often thinking globally and are interested in opportunities for education outside of the standard four-year undergraduate course and beyond the borders of the US; they’re after something a bit more exciting. For the right type of student, a dual or joint degree can be a fantastic fit.

Say you’re a student in the US who wants to find a program that will allow you to study internationally. You might want to study a subject, for example, that long-term international study would enrich, or you may be hoping to pursue a global career after graduating.

You might also be an international student who is excited about the prospect of going to university in the US. Going abroad for university is a big decision, however, and it’s sometimes one you’re not yet ready to commit to fully. On the other hand, you might be completely sold on studying internationally and ready to dive in but stuck wrestling with your choice of destination.

In both cases, these are students who are passionate about international study but don’t want to be limited to just one country and just one campus. For many students, the appeal of an international degree can be the opportunity to encounter new perspectives, access new opportunities, and build new networks. If this sounds like you, it’s worth knowing more about international dual and joint degrees before finalizing your school list.

What is an international dual degree?

In a dual or joint degree program, you complete your undergraduate degree in the standard four-year timeframe and have the unique opportunity to receive two undergraduate degrees, or one degree endorsed by two institutions, at the end of your study.

In general, these are Bachelor of Arts degrees, and there are a handful of majors or academic tracks that you can choose to study.

International dual degree programs are hosted across two campuses: you split your time between a university in the US and a second, host university abroad. Students become fully immersed in each university for two years and often enroll in courses that are incorporated into that university’s standard curriculum. It’s an excellent opportunity to collaborate globally, push yourself academically, and really stand out at the end of your undergraduate study.

How do dual degrees differ from study abroad programs or satellite campuses?

You can think of an international dual degree program as a halfway house between a study abroad program and a degree at an international satellite campus.

Study abroad programs are widely available at US universities and are often beloved by students, but students who are seeking international immersion sometimes reflect that they are too brief or that it is hard to feel like they’re fully part of their international host university. It can also be challenging to highlight your academic achievements during study abroad programs on your transcript or resume in the future.

Studying at a satellite campus, on the other hand, gives you an opportunity to complete your entire degree following a US-style curriculum at a location abroad. In the end, the degree you earn is issued by a US university. More and more universities have opened these international satellite campuses in recent years, notably Yale-NUS College in Singapore, NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai, and Northeastern University London, Toronto, and Vancouver. Committing to a full degree abroad can be a decision that some students are not ready to make, however, and while your degree is completed outside the US, this path only allows you to study at one institution.

An international dual or joint degree, therefore, can really suit students who are passionate about their subjects and want to spend meaningful time making the most of what other universities around the world have to offer.

Where can I find these programmes?

There are two universities that you should consider applying to which offer exciting dual and joint degree opportunities: Columbia and The College of William & Mary.

Columbia University

Columbia offers a range of dual degree programs where you can complete your studies with two years at Paris’s Sciences Po, Trinity College Dublin, Tel Aviv University, or CityU in Hong Kong.

In each of these programs, you study for two years at Columbia’s School for General Studies, where you complete their Core Curriculum and take additional classes related to your major, followed by two years at the international partner institution, where you take further classes related to your chosen major or academic pathway.

Each program has a range of academic pathways to choose from, but they differ somewhat from one program to the next. At the end of your studies, you earn two bachelor’s degrees, one from Columbia and one from your international host university.

You can find out more about Columbia’s dual degree offerings here.

College of William & Mary

The joint degree offered at The College of William & Mary is slightly different. Here, you complete your first year of study at your home university. This can be either William & Mary in Virginia or St Andrews in Scotland, depending on which university you originally apply to. The second year is completed at the host institution. In the third and fourth years, your choice of location is then flexible.

This program offers six areas of study (Classical Studies, Economics, English, Film Studies, History, and International Relations), and you are awarded one BA with international honors and the insignias of both universities when you finish your degree.

You can find out more about the joint degree offered through The College of William & Mary here.

What do I need to do to apply?

First and foremost, it’s important to research the program you are interested in carefully as the applications can be nuanced. Be sure you are choosing a location and academic path that excite you, and note that these programs are four-year commitments where you need to choose your major or academic path in advance.

Applications to Columbia’s dual degree programs cannot be submitted via the Common App. Rather, you submit an application for the specific dual degree course you have chosen. It is important to note that you cannot apply to study at Columbia College or Columbia Engineering if you are submitting an application to one of their dual degree programs, nor can you submit applications to more than one of these programs. You will still need to write an essay, submit letters of recommendation, and follow the testing policy laid out by Columbia. Currently, the programs are test optional. There is also an interview, conducted in English, after the initial review of applications. Students interested in the CityU Joint Program must already be enrolled at the City University of Hong Kong before submitting an application in their second year.

The process is rather different for applications to William & Mary’s joint degree with St Andrews. This application can be submitted via the Common App with an additional supplemental essay, and students may still be admitted to William & Mary even if they are not successful in their application to the joint degree program. It is also possible to apply for this degree through St Andrews using their application (UCAS or direct application), but students may not apply via both pathways.

Admission to both programs is competitive, so be sure to prepare a strong application by starting early and enlisting support if you need it. If your interest in an international dual degree is piqued and you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me by email to arrange a complimentary consultation.