by Steve Sutherland
It can be expensive to book a language course abroad when you take all of the costs into account. Tuition fees, enrollment fees, accommodation expenses and living costs can add up to a considerable sum when you add everything up. The pleasure and benefits of studying a language abroad far outweigh the expense though, so think of these costs as money that will be well spent.
Nobody wants to pay more than they have to for anything, so you will want to shop around and make sure that you are getting the best value for money with the course that you select. If you do your research and think smart, you can ensure that you are one of the lucky students getting a great deal, rather than one of the people paying too much.
I am aware of six ways that you can save money when you book a language course abroad. Some of them may seem obvious but I'm sure that you won't be familiar with them all.
Most schools set regular prices on their websites and other marketing materials. These prices are usually updated once a year or so and these are the prices that you would expect to pay if you book directly with the school or online via their website.
This system works well as it appears that students basically pay the same 'sticker price' and all end up happy. Once they befriend each other at the school and chat about what they paid, nobody is left feeling disgruntled if they paid more than others.
However, it doesn't always work out like this and some students end up paying a different price if they book through an agent. If you do book through an agent, don't let them charge you a price higher than the 'sticker price'. Agents earn a commission that is set as a percentage of the tuition fees for the students that they enroll. Agents are reasonably well compensated for handling your booking and should not need to charge extra consulting or administration fees.
Sometimes language schools will offer promotions with pricing at lower rates than usual. They don't always publish these promotions on their website so it does pay to call or email them and see if they currently have any discounts or special offers. Some of the offers may only be advertised to their agents so you could also push your agent to tell you some of the schools that are currently running promotions.
Many language travel destinations, particularly those in Europe, get really crowded during the peak season. Schools are often packed during July and August in Europe and find it tough to handle the volume of students when it comes to accommodation and classroom space. To balance things out, some schools charge a premium price during their busy months and offer much lower rates to students during the quiet months. Check the website of the school that you have in mind and see if seasonal pricing applies. Maybe you save a considerable amount of money by re-scheduling your course.
Students that come into a school for a short term course usually pay a lot more for their tuition than those that book longer courses: if you calculate rates on a weekly basis rather than as a total amount. If you are prepared to commit to a course of a longer duration you'll find that the price per week can drop dramatically. Longer courses represent a lot better value for students and weekly prices can drop by 20% or more at some schools, if students commit to study for a period greater than three months.
In most businesses, lower prices (per unit) are offered to those who buy in bulk and the language travel industry is no different. Agents or school leaders that enroll groups of ten or more people can expect to negotiate considerable discounts on their tuition fees. Even if you are enrolling with one or two friends, you should ask about getting a discount for a group booking and see if the registrar will go for it.
While some agents will try and get away with charging you prices above the sticker price, you may find that they can also get you discounts below a schools advertised prices. Just like when you book a flight with a travel agent rather than an airline, agents can sometimes get you a better price than if you book directly with the school.
One way that agents can beat a schools advertised prices is by sharing their commission with you. Instead of taking their full commission on your tuition fees an agent might offer to share the commission with you. This amount may be deducted from the invoice that you pay to the school or it may be refunded by the agent when he or she receives commission at a later date. Commission sharing is basically when an agent agrees to take a lower commission on your booking in order to get you a better price.
Some schools disapprove of this behavior and make agents agree not to 'discount' when they enter contracts with them. Agents often have large overheads for their office space and advertising so many rely on getting the full commission and will decline. However, if you ask around or look online you can find discount agents like this.
For more tips on how to choose the best language schools check out the Language School Secrets guide. Written by a language travel agent, it offers prospective language school students an inside perspective of the language school business and provides honest advice on how to get the best value and experience from a language course abroad.