Frequently Asked Questions
- Why should you consider studying abroad in high school?
- Who may apply to SYA?
- Will I need a visa?
- What does SYA look for in an applicant?
- What does the SYA student body look like?
- When should I start my application to SYA?
- What if I miss the application deadline?
- I attend a member school, is my application process different?
- Are there any language requirements?
High school students in the 10th, 11th or 12th grade are mature enough to respond to the challenges of living abroad while young enough to absorb new experiences fully and integrate successfully into a foreign host family. They're much more likely to see another country from the inside than are students three or four years older. Students headed for careers in math- or science-related fields find the high school years ideal for a year abroad because they're not yet locked into a college major; students who think they may major in languages or other liberal arts will have the chance to take a second year abroad in college.
SYA graduates find that the transition from high school to college is smooth, thanks to the independence, self-confidence and renewed academic motivation they gain abroad.
As we read each application, we ask ourselves these fundamental questions: "Is this student prepared to keep up with a challenging academic program?" and "Is this person going to make a good ambassador for his or her school and country, taking full advantage of opportunities for growth while making positive contributions to both the school and their host family?"
We carefully review and consider all materials. Successful applicants need not be "straight-A" students. They must have strong verbal skills, however, and a strong desire to master a second language.
We particularly look for qualities such as the capacity to be grateful and show enthusiasm; open-mindedness; organization and a sense of responsibility; a willingness to communicate; a sense of humor and generosity; and the drive to make the most of opportunities.
Our student body reflects our commitment to diversity, both ethnic and socioeconomic, but also represents different regions from around the country and, increasingly, the world. Our schools are typically more diverse than the schools our students come from, and we believe it creates a superior educational environment for all.
Roughly two-thirds of our students come from independent schools, including some of the most competitive institutions in the country. Others join us from public or charter schools. In fact, the SYA class of 2020 enrolled from over 107 different schools, from Maine to Hawaii and beyond.
To learn more who SYA students are, check out the Meet SYA Students page!
You may begin the application process at any time during the fall or winter; we request however, that teacher recommendations not be sent to us until midyear.
The earlier you submit Part 1 of the application and pay the application fee, the sooner SYA will be able to assign you an interviewer. Click here for information on deadlines.
- How are host families selected?
- What after school activities can students participate in? Can students play sports abroad?
- How do students get to school each day?
- What do colleges think about SYA?
- Can students take the SAT, ACT and AP tests abroad?
- How do students use cell phones while abroad?
Living with a caring host family is one of the defining components of SYA. You'll be placed with a family that is excited to share in your experience. They provide far more than just a place to eat and sleep, and together you'll weave memories that will last a lifetime.
Each SYA country has a dedicated Host Family Coordinator who not only matches you with a family, but is available throughout the year to help guide you through the process of adapting to a completely different set of norms. The families we select after interviews in their homes are of varying sizes, configurations and social classes. What they have in common is a desire to incorporate an American teenager fully into their lives and the flexibility and warmth necessary to make that work. We spend long days during the summer studying student folders and questionnaires, matching interests and personalities with those of our host families.
Check out the Host Family page to learn more!
We strongly believe that the greatest impact of a successful study abroad experience depends in part on your full engagement in both the local community and the host country. SYA’s curriculum, schedule and commitment of resources are there to help you understand and become an active participant in the local community as well as meet and work with students your age in local, national and international exchanges. Engagement can include athletics, community service, tutoring, exchanges with local schools and enrichment classes. Tennis, cycling, soccer, swimming, golf, dance, photography, fencing, cooking, instrumental lessons, choir, orchestra, hiking, basketball and martial arts are only a few of the activities SYA students have pursued in recent years. While not all of these activities are available in all of our host cities, an activities coordinator at each school will help you investigate, find and develop opportunities to become involved in activities of interest to you. Each school has a different requirement and model for tracking student involvement in co-curricular activities that will be explained during the opening weeks of school.
For that reason your SYA school will organize only a few U.S.-style afterschool activities, such as the yearbook or talent shows. There are almost no SYA athletic teams since we prefer that you play on local teams, using the host country language to communicate with your teammates.
Check out the Co-curricular page to learn more!
Students walk, ride bikes, and use public transportation to get around their host cities. Each SYA school is centrally located in its city, and most students live within a short walk or bus ride to school. SYA students are not allowed to drive or operate motor vehicles of any kind during their year abroad.
College admissions officers know that successful SYA students are proven risk-takers who have responded well to the combined challenges of a rigorous academic program and life in a foreign culture. Students who make the most of SYA are regularly accepted at top colleges and universities.
Click here to view the most recent College Profile. SYA students have the opportunity to take PSAT, SAT and AP examinations while abroad. The SYA administration works closely with home school counselors to ensure that all transcripts, recommendations and other application papers are sent to colleges in time to meet U.S. deadlines.
SYA's schools are registered test sites; SYA administers all appropriate PSAT, SAT, and Advanced Placement examinations at each of our schools. We are no longer a test site for the ACT. SYA maintains close contact with parents and home school counselors throughout the year to ensure that students are taking the appropriate tests. SYA also offers SAT prep courses.
All SYA students are required to have a local cell phone for daily use and emergency contact. SYA recommends that students purchase a cell phone with prepaid minutes while they are abroad; the price of a new cell phone ranges from $50 to $150. The Resident Director will advise students about local options during orientation.
SYA students typically purchase prepaid minutes rather than commit to a 12-month contract. The fee per minute can be as high as 40 cents, but students can receive calls on their cell phones for no cost. Some students who have brought their U.S. cell phones have successfully exchanged their U.S. SIM card for a local SIM card, but anyone interested in that option should check his or her phone specifications to make sure it is a tri-band, unlocked phone that will work in Europe or China. As a warning about expensive phones, know that each year many cell phones are lost, forgotten or stolen.
Responsible and thrifty use of a cell phone abroad affords convenience and security, but excessive use dilutes the experience of living abroad, just as excessive reliance on computers does to maintain contact with friends back home. Successful SYAers find that speaking to their parents briefly once a week works well. A popular way for students and family to save money is by making use of free services such as Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp. Note, however, that these services may not be available in China unless accessed via a Virtual Private Network (VPN).