Should I Encourage My Son To Attend An U.S. University?

<p>Hello everyone,</p>

<p>I'm a german high school teacher and a mother of two. I actually first planned to pay CC a visit in order to get some info on how to write a teacher recommendation for a great student of mine who's applying to US universities for the fall 2006 semester.
I've already had some amazing help and am therefore pretty much done with that process. But this whole thing made me curious ...</p>

<p>After some research from my part, I started to get acquainted with the (totally different) US university system - and I must say that US universities seem to offer a lot more to their students (regardless if it's an Ivy or not). </p>

<p>My son, who's going to finish school next year actually thought about attending a german university, but wasn't too excited about this. I have to admit that, even though the secondary school system in Germany is demanding and thought provoking, only very few German universities are top-notch. With a rising unemployment rate and a too bureaucratic university system in Germany I thought about encouraging my son to have a look at US universities - who, at this point, is not really aware of the opportunities waiting for him in the US.</p>

<p>But the question is - does it really pay? Or was I easily deceived by the glossy brochures? </p>

<p>How should I engage in such a conversation between me and my son? I don't want him to think that I am pushing him; all I know is that he has a lot of potential and shouldn't "waste" (!?) it in Germany. </p>

<p>He's currently on a schooltrip, so let's find some answers quickly so I can confront him with my idea as soon as he returns :) </p>

<p>Thank you!</p>


<p>How is his English? Does he have an interest in other countries and trying new experiences abroad? If he does you could suggest college as an ideal time to try out something new. College is not forever; it is four years - long enough to become something far beyond a tourist, but short enough that the eventual return home is a reality rather than a theory. </p>

<p>I don't know whether a US education will "pay" for him in the economic sense. How American college diplomas are viewed in the German job market is something you could answer better than us. But it will certainly pay for him in the sense of personal growth. You could suggest studying in the US to him in terms of an adventure that provides a lot of oppotunities for new experiences and personal growth.</p>

<p>One of my son's best friends is German. He is the valedictorian at our school this year(an American International School) and is going back to Germany. He doesn't know yet which school. I am sad he didn't apply to a few US schools. He spent a year in a US high school.</p>

<p>That said, we have many students who go to the UK and elsewhere. It is cheaper for some to do that. But after spending time investigating options for my son who is graduating this year, I am amazed at how many great choices there are for college in the states. I think you get what you pay for. There are also schools in the states recruiting international students. They add interest to the student body. Some international students could better speak to this issue since we are Americans living overseas. I know many students who have gone on to the states and had a wonderful experience. With the dollar/Euro exchange right now, it is sure better for Europeans than it was 3 years ago. Ouch! That pendulum can swing back.</p>

<p>My son feels undergraduate better in the states for him. He will get a broader education and he wants to do graduate work in Germany. He is studying music.</p>

<p>An American university education is only worth it, if you can afford it--because aid is hard to get as a foreign applicant, and if your child can get accepted at a "top school" Ivy League or top 50. Otherwise, European universities offer equivalent education that is cheaper. These days many German universities are way overcrowded and the quality suffers in enormous classes. Some European kids may do better in a more personalized environment at a good LAC.</p>

<p>Can you afford to send him to the US and pay full cost? Because financial assistance for international students is very, very limited. While many international students like to think they are going to get "free rides" at US colleges, the truth is there are very few "free rides" in US schools for international students. In fact, there are very few schools that even offer financial aid at all for internationals. The competition for spots in schools that do offer large amounts of aid to internationals is quite intense and usually only truly stellar students will have a chance of being accepted to those schools. </p>

<p>So, unless you can afford US$40,000-plus a year for tuition, room and board, PLUS the cost of transportation, books, and other extra expenses, I would be cautious about selling the idea of a US school to your son and then having to tell him you can't afford to send him once he applies and gets in. But then, that's just my opinion. :)</p>

<p>Thank you for your advice so far.</p>

<p>I think I am immensly mistaken, but aren't most schools in the US need-blind? </p>

<p>Judging your previous posts, the answer probably is NO :) </p>

<p>How many schools are "need-blind"? </p>

<p>As for my son, he's far from being "mediocre" but then again is nothing like an "over-achiever" - I already talked to a friend of mine who graduated from the "Berklee School of Music", and he actually wanted my son to try out for Berklee. He indeed does have a deep love for music and has been playing the piano and violin ever since he was 4 years old. </p>

<p>But does he want to become a musician? His answer clearly was "no". He actually was thinking about studying Law.</p>

<p>Let's just assume I have all the money in the world - which schools should I present to him? Which schools are most "international-friendly"? Which schools would probably welcome an International as a necessity? At which schools can his "International-Status" work for his advantage? </p>

<p>By the way, Carolyn, thanks for your PM!</p>

<p>"How many schools are "need-blind"? </p>

<p>most of the top schools are need-blind for domestic applicants, not international applicants</p>

<p>I think that for your particular situation Williams may be a good bet. It is a small liberal arts college which is need-blind to international applicants.</p>

<p>Look at Grinnell and Macalester. Check on their websites for specific info about financial aid.</p>



<p>It would probably be a mistake to study law in the US unless he planned and was able to permanently live and work in the US after law school. The laws and legal systems of Germany and the US are sufficiently different that a US law degree would probably not qualify him to practice law in Germany.</p>

<p>Meine liebe Frau, My family is Polish and German. Last year, one of my German cousins came here as a foreign exchange student, and he loved it! He plans on coming back for college. Many reasons - one, the overcrowding and lack of individual attention in the German university system. He feels also that his degree from a US school will set him apart from the other applicants. He wants to study economics, and believes that a knowledge of the US economic system can only help him with the internationalism of his content area. As to the law degree- many companies are international and what a bonus to have someone who studied prelaw in the US, and then went back to Germany for the law degree, so they could send him to the states whenever they needed, and he could negotiate with a better understanding of the US system. Many top US law firms have offices in Europe, and they would be thrilled to have a local lawyer that they could really talk to, who could better explain the differences, or he could get his degree here, work for one of those firms in Germany later, representing US firms. My other cousin, a veterinarian in Germany, came to Auburn U for a year in order to learn specialty things that he couldn't get for his doctorate in Germany. This gave him an edge for the title Herr Profesor. So, if you have the funds, this can only help, not hurt him. With the German unemployment situation, setting yourself out from the crowd will make him much more memorable to the employer. Alles gutte.</p>

<p>In terms of financial aid remember that most need based packages include loans, for US students the government subsidized loans make it easier, I don't know how internationals are handled. I have a German friend who has lived in the US for several decades. Her final degree is fromn St Andrews in Scotland. She and her husband, also German, are quite adamant that they don't want their children educated in the US. The first son applied to Canadian, British and Scottish schools and I expect the second will do the same. My understanding is that they US schools have a too parochial view point. Also they think the european students enter the university at a much higher level. How old will your son be when he graduates? I know our Danish cousins don't enter the university until they are 20 while the US students enter at 18.</p>

<p>Hallo! I am a student taking German, and so I am very interested about doing a study-abroad program in Germany. Do you know any information about how American students fare in Germany? Danke.</p>

<p>AP, You need to understand some key terms. </p>

<p>"Need blind" only means that a school does not consider need in deciding whether to accept a student. It does NOT always mean that the school will meet full financial need. For that, you want to find schools that guarantee to meet full financial need (whether or not they are need blind). </p>

<p>Unfortunately, there are very few schools in the US that guarantee to meet full financial need for internationals. And, your definition of what your family can afford can often be different from a school's definition. That's why I asked about how much you can realistically afford, including expenses beyond tuition and room/board.</p>

<p>At present, only 50 US private schools are need blind schools, yet many of those schools do NOT guarantee to meet full financial need for internationals. All US public universities are need blind, yet almost none guarantee to meet full financial need for internationals and the vast majority do not offer ANY need for internationals.</p>

<p>In helping international students, I have found very few schools in the US that do guarantee to meet full need for all internationals once you're admitted - among the ones that come to mind are Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Macalester, and Grinnell. Perhaps others will add to the list. </p>

<p>There are other schools (often smaller and not well known internationally) colleges and universities that are good about offering financial aid and merit scholarships to internationals but having full need met is not guaranteed. </p>

<p>Then there are schools like Colgate that offer about merit packages to internationals each year --- but get four or five times that number in international applicantions. You mentioned Berklee College of Music - they do not offer financial aid to internationals, only merit scholarships which are based on talent, and even those are not typically enough to meet full costs.</p>

<p>I do not mean to be discouraging, but I would hate to see you encourage your son to do something that your family may not, in the end, be able to manage. It is even MORE important for the parents of international students to have an upfront evaluation and discussion of what they can afford with their child than it is for US students. There is nothing worse than talking to an international student (or any student) who has been accepted to a US university or college but can not afford to attend because expected financial aid did not come through. Believe me, I have heard from many of them!</p>

<p>So, that is why I ask every international student who is thinking about coming to the US the same questions:</p>

<li><p>Can your family afford to pay full fare, including expenses at a US university or college? If they can't then you must be realistic, there are very few colleges in the US that offer financial aid to international students. "Free rides" go only to the very best international students. </p></li>
<li><p>If your family can't pay full fare, what can they afford? If they can afford less than $20,000 or $30,000 a year, there are even fewer options in terms of schools that will be able or willing to make up the difference for international students.</p></li>
<li><p>Are you willing to attend a school in the US that is not well-known internationally? This is important because some of the best financial aid for international students once you get past the Ivies and similar schools is going to be at smaller liberal arts colleges, often in the middle of no where in the US. </p></li>
<li><p>What do you want to study? This can make a very big difference in how many options you have open to you. For example, There are fewer schools that offer substantial financial aid for internationals who want to study engineering than those who want to study liberal arts subjects. </p></li>
<li><p>Are your grades, test scores, and accomplishments such that you might qualify for a merit scholarship at a US school? (A merit scholarship is different than financial aid - it is based solely on accomplishment, not family need.)</p></li>
<li><p>Are you willing to consider schools in the US that are not in major metropolitan areas like New York, Boston, or Los Angeles? Are you willing to consider schools in rural areas? (and again, can your family afford to pay for transportation to and from because financial aid and merit scholarships do not cover that).</p></li>

<p>In any case, I think it is VERY important that you consider just how much you can afford to pay for your son to study in the US. The options for full rides are very limited and many international students and their families are discouraged when they find out that most colleges either do not offer financial aid at all for internationals or do not offer much. If your son does want to go to school in the US, then it is not too soon to start doing intensive research to pinpoint the schools that may match what your family can afford.</p>

<p>He actually was thinking about studying Law.</p>



<p>AP, just noticed this line in your post above. Unlike many european countries, a law degree in the U.S. is a graduate level program. To be admitted to law school, students in the US first do four years of undergraduate work, most often studying a social science such as history or political science.</p>

<p>evitajr1's post</p>



<p>This actually does sound like a appealing choice. "Prelaw" probably means the 4 years of undergraduate study, before going to graduate school? </p>

<p>As for Carolyn's questions:</p>

<li>and 2.
I talked to my husband last night, and we also discussed our financial situation.
4 (years) x 45.000 $ = 180.000 $ for undergraduate studies</li>

<p>As for our financial situation - we'd probably be able to manage 125.000 $ (plus/minus 5.000 $) for four years. </p>

<li><p>The prestige taken aside - I just want my son to have an eduaction in a great environment - he doesn't need an Ivy to his name in order to be recognized in Germany. His well-being comes first, not the acclaim he his going to earn for studying in the US.</p></li>
<li><p>He was toying with the idea of studying law. evitajr1's suggestion sounded very good actually. The key factor basically is, that he (should he decide to return to Germany) should have qualities that make him stand out and help him to be a strong candidate for certain jobs.</p></li>

I am (at this point) not aware of what one needs to qualify for a merit scholarshop. Therefore my answer is, I do not know!
(Do you have any examples to compare my son to?) </p>

We have a lot of friends in the US, who live in various parts of America (Massachusetts, New England,New York,Florida,Georgia,Illinois) and who'd be more than happy to assist my son on his endeavor by either taking them to their home or helping him financially. However, I haven't discussed this with my son yet, so I'll have to come back to this one later.</p>

Another option that your son might consider is attending a Deutsche Universitat, and then attending a U.S. college for a graduate degree. We have a family friend who is German and he attended university in Germany, and went to the U.S. for a graduate degree in business. It might have been an MBA. It was difficult for him because he had to improve his English, while he was also having to learn American Business language. However, he now has an advantage over competitors for "international" jobs in Germany because he understands U.S. business theory and language. I think the same could apply to a law degree assuming your son might be interested in international law.</p>

<p>My son just forwarded me an email from a legal officer in the Hague who came from the Czech Republic and did his undergraduate work at Lawrence University and went on to further studies....Check out Lawrence University; check out College of Wooster; as written above there are many great small schools that offer merit awards to internationals as well as some who offer financial aid.</p>

<p>Assistance, We are Americans living in Asia. Many of the Asian and European kids at my son's international school choose colleges in the US instead of their home countries for the very reasons that you describe. America is not perfect but it's hard to beat the educational system! </p>

<p>I think the best place to start to determine the level of school that would be appropriate for your son would be to take the SATI. This would give you an idea of the range to apply to and also help you project if he would be a candidate for merit aid.</p>

<p>My son goes to Williams which is one of the schools mentioned in this thread. It's a small LAC in rural Massachusetts. Williams has rigorous academics in a friendly and nurturing environment, plus a good music program. Many graduates go on to study law. Williams actively recruits international students -- but I suspect that many of those targetted kids are recruited because they offer ethnic diversity to the campus. They don't offer merit scholarships, but are fairly generous with need-based aid, even for internationals; however, my guess from what you've said you can afford to pay indicates that you wouldn't qualify for too much assistance.</p>

<p>Something else to consider:</p>

<p>He could study law in Germany for 2-3 semesters but take one year after that as a "guest student" at an American university--if he entered as a Junior and did well there,many colleges would let him take an extra year to get the American B.A. Then he could return to finish the German degree. I know German female students who did this at Mount Hoyoke and at Bryn Mawr (women's colleges).</p>

<p>There is also the Fulbright program (very prestigious and competitive) that sends top German students to American universities for one year.</p>

it's hard to beat the educational system!


<p>Hard to beat the higher education.</p>