Does study abroad help enhance a PhD candidate's profile or does it not carry much weight at all? Let's say I took "regular" coursework while on study abroad for a semester, like a core course and not something research-focused.

Would my having lived in Prague or Florence or Shanghai be something that PhD admissions committees consider favorably?

The field is applied mathematics, statistics, or operations research.

  • Abroad with respect to which country?! May 5, 2016 at 21:16
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    Unless the destination had something to do with the subject you're applying to grad school in, I don't see why a committee would care one way or the other.
    – user37208
    May 5, 2016 at 21:24

2 Answers 2


I think this is too broad a question to have a really good answer, but I think the most generic one is: not really. If your study abroad experience could provide some unique opportunity to deepen your knowledge of the field, then that might get some real consideration. Otherwise, it probably won't be seen that differently from other classes, and in some cases viewed more skeptically if they were at a program whose reputation is less established. EDIT: In particular, to address the last sentence, living abroad will count for extremely little.

As one counterexample, I will mention that when I applied for grad school, one graduate director explicitly mentioned my study abroad experience. However, I think this is the sort of exception that proves the rule: I went to a very well established program specific to my field; I was going to a small liberal arts institution, so the study abroad program actually had a stronger reputation, probably; and I took a very ambitious schedule and he mentioned the specific classes I had taken, not the generic fact that I had gone.

My point is, study abroad can mean many things. Use your good sense (or talk to mentors) about how different ones can affect your graduate school applications.

  • 1
    In pure math, my feeling is that Budapest and Moscow can count positively, in part because the courses are likely to be as difficult or more than at their home institution (even if students are taking graduate courses at home), and also because they have decades-long reputations. I don't know of any other programs of the same caliber.
    – Tom Church
    May 6, 2016 at 4:43
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    @TomChurch I think that's basically right, though I think if you are at a nationally recognized program, it's probably a wash. For people from a smaller less known school (like me) it can probably be helpful, in that it's information that's independent from that school and gives a more broadly applicable yardstick, and allows you to take a greater diversity of advanced classes (and indeed, most people I knew in Budapest were going to small schools). May 6, 2016 at 14:10

It really depends on the university one is opting or taking admission to and also the country in which the university is present. Sometimes, it gets difficult to get admission into top institutions in one's own country but he/she gets easy admission to foreign university. One such example is India. Mainly in Engineering, you would not get admission to research positions in Top tier institutes in India, rather foreign universities shall give you offers of admissions. However, not all Indians who come back with degree from outside India will get a job or reputation until and unless they have degrees from top institutes of the world.

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