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Undergraduate Studies: U.S. versus Europe

bruno123bruno123 Registered User Posts: 1,390 Senior Member
edited September 2006 in Harvard University
It is generally acknowledged that the U.S. has a big advantage over Europe as far as research/graduate education is concerned, basically because U.S. universities are normally better funded and a have a much larger pool of talented (mostly international) applicants to draw from. American undergraduate (bachelor's) degrees on the other hand are generally considered somewhat superficial compared to their European counterparts. Briefly, if you were asked to advise an international student, what would you say a Harvard *undergraduate* education has to offer that he/she could not get from, let's say, Cambridge/Oxford (UK) or a French "Grande
Post edited by bruno123 on

Replies to: Undergraduate Studies: U.S. versus Europe

  • hotpiece101hotpiece101 Registered User Posts: 4,042 Senior Member
    a have a much larger pool of talented (mostly international) applicants
    i'm not sure that the majority of talented students who apply to college are international... or maybe i just misunderstood what you wrote...
  • wrathofachilleswrathofachilles Registered User Posts: 772 Member
    In my completely non-expert opinion, Harvard and Yale are roughly on par with Cambridge and Oxford for undergrad, and are superior to France's Grande Ecoles.

    The question then becomes: can you get in?
  • Gallo_PallatinoGallo_Pallatino Registered User Posts: 155 Junior Member
    I'm not so sure about Cambridge, but personal experience and statistical hearsay has it that Oxford is a decent bit easier to get into than HYP (though my no means easy).

    A key difference in educational philosophy is that while HYP believe that the best education is derived from a broad liberal arts-type curriculum and allows students immense flexibility in course choices, Oxbridge tend to feel that true education is specialization in one field. Consequently, you're going to take virtually all your courses in the line of study that you chose when you applied to Oxbridge (note that you can't apply to both, btw).

    The admissions criteria seems to reflect this. There's much greater focus in Oxbridge admissions on how strong you are academically and none on ECs/personal traits. This, of course, is very different than the HYP way.

    At the end of the day, neither is particularly "right" or "wrong". It's a matter of picking the school that's your cup of tea.
  • xjayzxjayz Registered User Posts: 1,654 Senior Member
    I've actually heard the opposite; Oxford is harder to get into because they really do discriminate against international applicants.
  • Gallo_PallatinoGallo_Pallatino Registered User Posts: 155 Junior Member
    Oxford harder than HYP, you mean? Or harder than Cambridge?

    In the end, though, given the totally different kinds of applicants the schools prefer, it may come down to you individually.
  • cheesemastercheesemaster Registered User Posts: 140 Junior Member
    I'm 99.984% certain that the majority of college applicants to US universities are domestic students.
  • bruno123bruno123 Registered User Posts: 1,390 Senior Member
    [cheesemaster] You're right when you say that the majority of college applicants in the U.S. are domestic (internationals usually account for only 10 to 20 % of the undergrad student body, even in the top "global" schools). However, my point before was that it is not uncommon, for example in several top science or engineering * PhD * programs, to have something like 50 % or more of the students coming from overseas. In other words, American graduate schools, in *certain areas* like science and technology, are far more dependent on international students than their European counterparts. I'm not sure about the UK, which also seems to attract a lot of internationals, but, most certainly in France and Germany, the language of instruction in itself is already a major factor in discouraging international applications. In my opinion, one of the main reasons the U.S. beats Europe in graduate (doctoral) education is that, besides better funding (more research dollars), U.S. professors have the privilege of picking the best students from China, India, Latin America, and, in some cases, even from certain European countries, to work for them. Note that I'm by no means saying that there are no equally bright domestic students in the US who also choose to pursue a PhD in engineering or physics (there certainly are!). However, a disproportionate high percentage of smart domestic students seem to choose to go to professional schools (law, medicine) or to business school rather than go for a hard sciences or engineering PhD .
  • The Ace is BackThe Ace is Back Registered User Posts: 797 Member
    America is about all-round breadth. The amount of ECs people do over there is scary, and the education gives you a good general grounding from which you can begin to specialize. People going to/at the top universities over there all seem like very driven people, in my opinion more so than a lot of Oxbridge people. The issue to consider is really if you want to specialize early or to have some good breadth. In my opinion our system is a bit silly, because people at even top universities can get away with being completely ignorant in everything outside their one subject, and because I don't think you should have to choose your subject now. You'll generally sacrifice a bit of specialization in America, but a) I don't think this is important and b) I've heard, for instance, that in some subjects at Harvard you actually end up specializing more than you would at Oxford (I was told this by someone looking to do Physics, who got into Oxford and Harvard and ultimately chose Harvard).

    If you're incredible at one subject and know that that is your 'passion', then Oxbridge might be your place. But if you're more rounded and still want some time to try out a range of subjects and try out things you've never done, then I'd go with America. At the end of the day degrees from top universities in both countries are very well respected - and there are a lot more prestigious universities over there than in England, which basically goes Oxbridge - London - BIG DROP - The Rest.
  • columbia2007columbia2007 Registered User Posts: 906 Member
    I've heard, for instance, that in some subjects at Harvard you actually end up specializing more than you would at Oxford (I was told this by someone looking to do Physics, who got into Oxford and Harvard and ultimately chose Harvard).

    Indeed, a friend of mine majoring in astrophysics went to Oxford for a year assured she would find classes applicable to her major, but was forced to take general physics courses (many of them redundant as she had taken similar ones previously) instead.
  • molliebatmitmolliebatmit Registered User Posts: 12,374 Senior Member
    However, my point before was that it is not uncommon, for example in several top science or engineering * PhD * programs, to have something like 50 % or more of the students coming from overseas.
    My program (Harvard biology PhD) is only 15% international. I think the percentages might be slightly higher in engineering, but in science, most PhD programs fund their students through US government training grants, which can be administered only to US citizens. International students are much more expensive for the program, and can only be taken on a limited basis.
  • bruno123bruno123 Registered User Posts: 1,390 Senior Member
    According to the President of the Council on Graduate Studies writing on the Boston Globe in May, 2005:

    "Concern about declining enrollments of foreign students in US graduate programs goes well beyond university walls. Of the 1.4 million graduate students studying in the United States, 17 percent are international, but, more significant, in engineering non-US citizens make up over 50 percent of graduate enrollment, and in the physical sciences over 40 percent."

    Source: http://www.udel.edu/iepmedia/editorial_stewart.html
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