Undergraduate Education: US versus Europe

<p>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 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 or Yale <em>undergraduate</em> education for example has to offer that one could not get from, let's say, Cambridge/Oxford (UK) or a French "Grande </p>

<p>As a German student I see two big advantages in the American system.
First, as an American undergraduate student you are allowed if not required to fulfill certain general education or core requirements, where you have the chance to explore a range subjects before declaring a major. In Europe, you will simply study one major and maybe one minor and nothing else, but it only takes you 3 years instead if 4. The second advantage that I see in the American system is that undergraduate classes are still taught as classes, wheres in Europe you will find mainly/solely lectures with far more than 100 students listening to one. If you would like to talk to your professor, you need to get an appointment (no quick question after the lecture). Also, you won't find research positions for undergraduates, clubs, varsity sports or the like at European universities.
So if you are an independent learner who knows exactly what to study then go to Europe, if you want the whole college experience then the US would be right.</p>

<p>America provides and draws a much wider range of talents from different social backgrounds. On a normal American college campus, you'd be able to find yoyo players, nobel laureates, olympic athletes, chess freaks, political maniacs, inspired artists, presidential advisors, and 21st century Einsteins all mingled into one. A college campus is like a big magnet that attracts people from all walks of life together. </p>

<p>More specifically, going to college in America means giving yourself a period of time to explore a variety of areas of interest. In a typical political philosophy class, it may not be surprising to find yourself sitting with a crowd of engineering and molecular biology students who are also interested to learn about your favorite subject. Everything just seems to be that much flexible. College in America is a time to explore and to act as a keen observer. Once in a while, you'll also run into some things that "you don't even know you don't know :)" That's the beauty about an American college experience.</p>

<p>The thing that perplexes me about the European education system is the way the select "individuals." I mean, how can world renowned institutions like Cambridge and Oxford produce quality talents when the only and most important thing they focus on during the admissions process is a cold-blooded GPA? No wonder Oxbridge have been gradually pushed aside by rising American institutions in recent years, while Great Britain's past glories diminish day after day. All these have an inevitable relation to Europe's often rigid, "time-honored" education system that is alreayd having a hard time keeping up pace with the rapidly advancing global society.</p>

<p>I disagree with your last paragraph.
You don't seriously want to say that top American universites don't pay attention to your GPA, do you? Do you happen to know any kid that got accepted to Harvard with a 3.0 GPA?
Oxford is not selecting their candidates solely on the basis of their GPA either. They ask for recommendations, conduct interviews and even administer their own admission tests.
And besides that, Oxford simply doesn't need as many criteria for admission as Harvard does because not so many kids apply. Accpetance rate at Oxford is about 26%, at Harvard only 9%.
I don't see how that implies that "Oxbrigde" don't have a diversive student body.
But I do have to agree with you that the European education system in general is not up-do-date anymore.</p>

<p>Oxford does not have an admit rate of 26%. It's definately lower than that. Oxford is a lot more coldblooded than any of the Ivy's because while you do have rec's and things, it doesn't include a lot of the things that a US uni does. It's a good education, but the people leave something to be desired.</p>

<p>I don't know if there is more than one University of Oxford in GB, but the admission rate I have been refering to comes from this site: <a href="http://www.admissions.ox.ac.uk/adstats.pdf%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.admissions.ox.ac.uk/adstats.pdf&lt;/a>
But you are right, it's lower than 26%. It's just 25.x %.
What does a US university include that Oxford doesn't, in your opinion?</p>

<p>Well they only ask for one recommendation, the majority of the application is the UCAS application (though there is the supplement) which doesn't ask for EC's etc. It doesn't take into account class rank, difficulty of courses (they do give AP and IB credits) nor does it ask for a secondary school report. That may be what they are publishing but I would be surprised if it was the truth. I know lots of people who have gone to oxbridge, i live with them, I'm not anti-oxford or anything.</p>

<p>I can only tell you of the German secondary school system, but that is much more similar to the British one than the American.
At least in Germany, we do not even have class ranks (except for the valedictorian). Even if we had them they would not have the same meaning as American class ranks, because here only about 20% of the students in a grade do their A-Levels (which is required for post-secondary study). They also don't ask for the difficulty of courses because in Europe almost every school follows a standarized curriculum (IB, A-Levels, Abitur,...) with nationwide (or even international) school-leaving exams. So why send a school profile?
But Oxford does ask for your secondary school report:
"You must provide full details for the following qualifications to help universities and colleges consider your application. These include: [...] all qualifications (you may also include details of performance in individual units of qualifications, such as GCE AS and A level) for which you are currently studying or for which you are awaiting examination results."
For me, that means my secondary school report, starting with my junior year because A-Levels are a two-year program.
I don't know where you are from, but ECs are nowhere as common as in the US. At my school (800 students) we do not have varsity athletics, a community service organization or academic clubs. What we do have is a school choir, a school orchestra, a drama club, a rec soccer club and a beekeeping (?) club. That's it. We also have a student newspaper but that is not an official EC. If I add it up, maybe 100-150 students out of the 800 are involved in ECs (for no more than 4 hours a week!).
British schools most likely offer more ECs, but here they are viewed as part of our own private life. Where is the big difference whether I play soccer in a rec soccer club in school or at home with friends? The difference is just that the soccer club is official and my home games are not. But should that make a difference in college admission?
So basically all the points you listed are simply unnecessary due to differences in the school systems.
If you consider Oxford coldblooded, you should come to Germany where many universities admit or reject students solely on the basis of their GPA (no interviews, no recommendations, no personal statement).</p>

<p>Everything is said in the first post. Undergrad studies are better in Europe (generally), and grad studies are better in the US. Period. The two advantages I see in going to the US, for an European, are the campuses and the wide range of classes offered. There is the social status brought by a US degree too, in some cases.</p>

<p>[b@r!um] I agree with most of you and others have said. I am not convinced though that going to the US as an undergrad is really worth the money you would have to pay. As a German student for example, wouldn't it better for you to get a regular 5-year Diplom (for free) in Germany and then apply directly to a PhD program in the US ?</p>

<p>I am familiar with the german, american, UK and canadian systems. Canada is just the same as Germany in university's taking straight gpa. No rec's. No list of ec's. Nothing. </p>

<p>That is part of my point there. Oxford obviously has a strong international community but in my relations with various UK uni's they have a lot less understanding of North American systems than vice versa. I'm just telling you my personal experience and the ones of others I know. I'm not saying it's the be all and end all.</p>

<p>megtfs, trust me, a few top Canadian universities do pay considerable attention to extra-curriculars nowadays (afterall, we have to change and constantly learn from our southern neighbors). Take Queen's University, for instance. Not only do students have to have 90%+ average, they also have to be equipped with a high extracurricular profile. A few of my friends got rejected from there because their ECs are really scattered. </p>

<p>In fact, I sort of like this idea of incorporating the evaluation of ECs in the admissions process. Many canadian universities are also changing their policies, awarding extra scholarship to students with outstanding ECs. In recent years, provincial governments have also begun implementing mandatory "EC Portfolios" for public school student. Nowadays, we each have to keep a large profile of ECs and outside activities we've done, and report it on a monthly basis to our teacher advisors. Yeah, to some degree, I do think the admissions process should evaluate students on "three-dimensional" scale: GPA/standardized testing, Extra-curricular activities, and a few personal narrative essays. Afterall, this is one of the best ways to extract quality talent, which also represents the birth of a new form/era of education. </p>

<p>By the way, where are guys from? I suppose that some of you are from Germany, correct? If you ever get a chance, come down to Canada and America to really see what it's like in our "education rennaissance." My sisters and cousins are all down in the US, and they told me that American education has always been very creative, flexible, and individualized. Anyway, good luck folks:)</p>

<p>They may be changing their policies now but they weren't two years ago. I am actually technically still a student at Queen's. I was accepted into their first year study abroad program (the ISC here in the UK) and then attended their kingston campus. I NEVER had a 90 percent average and that was during the year of the double cohort (when ontario eliminated grade 13) and they NEVER asked for my ec's.</p>

<p>I'm a student from Venezuela who did senior year in France and the education there is far much better than american one, I think...it's really demanding. I have the impression that Undergrad is better in Europe because education in america is too flexible and I think (It's a very personal opinion) that students come out knowing a bit about everything and have no deep knowledge on one subject. But I have my doubts...that's why I'm applying both to France and the US...I hope I'll make the right decision at the end.</p>

Do you happen to know any kid that got accepted to Harvard with a 3.0 GPA?


lol someone got into harvard on cc with a 2.8 or 2.7 gpa.. Cried over how he got rejected from 12 other schools (eg vanderbilt, uci/ucsd (instate), georgewash, etc..) and he was definetly sure that he was gonna get rejected from harvard on apr 1st.
Surprisingly, he got in.. because of his ECs..started massive commnity service projects overseas, fundraised near a million for this new developing city overseas, etc etc
Yeah.. anyway... it's a nice story..</p>

<p>WIth this whole europe/us thing, I 100% agree with barium's first post.</p>

<p>Flexible doesn't mean lead to an "easy system." It's actually a "pretty hard" job trying to incorporate a ton of ECs into your daily life while struggling to maintain a high GPA. There's always ALOT on hand to worry about. As for college, I'm sure you've all heard about every American college student's obsession with coffee in order to stay awake. Sure I admit that there are also some fun parts to colleges in America: the greek life. Fun as they may sound, frat parties are the biggest sources of unrest, underage drinking/drugs, and physical abuse on certain campuses. Some schools banned frats completely in recent years to avoid all that trouble they've caused. And yes, people do die under a few circumstances...</p>

<p>But hey! other than that, college in America's pretty much an intense, exhilarating experience. If you've never even been to America before, why not come and try out something new!</p>

<p>Barium's 1st post is right on. Also the OP says it all: "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 applicants to draw from." That applies to both UG and G levels (especially the funding part) from what I have seen in our students going to the UK, Europe and the US over the years. I have heard parents discuss that their "students" attending universities in the UK have not had adequate contact hours (classroom, professors etc. )in their education: so much was done on their own. I believe that is an outcome of pure and simple funding. As far as the secondary education being better in Europe: I have my doubts if you break it down by class meaning upper, middle and lower.</p>

<p>I think ultimately people will excel in an environment that they want to. Some people prefer a very concentrated time at university where the focus is more on their subject and not taking a core curric. Others prefer to take a slightly longer time and test out more things. I think it also has to do with the education system you grew up with. While at Queen's, I only had the option to take 5 electives for my whole 4 years there. That meant taking art history in my first and second semester and then chinese in my second year had basically already used all my electives up so I found that didn't really work for me. Other people, wouldn't need to use any of their electives. So it all depends what is right for the student.</p>

<p>In the UK there are schools that can easily compete with Oxbridge such as UCl, IC, and the LSE. U.S. schools know how academically rigurous these schools are, i live in the U.S. and turned down some very good schools here to study at UCL. I know that the UCL law department has a direct transfer to the Columbia Law undergrad degree upon request (and seeing that you meet some strict requirements). Obviously Columbia respects UCL enough to allow its students to directly transfer to it. And i know that Imperial College's (IC) study abroad students impressed Stanford so much that transferring there from IC is a cake walk. Frankly i really dont know why more U.S. students dont choose to study undergrad overseas as long as they know the area they want to study. Academically the top UK schools can easily compete with the top U.S. schools and i know for a fact it is far far more intensive and you dont get any of the fluff classes. If you pay $40,000 a year, i think you should be able to study what you want, not have to fulfill all these required classes which usually are huge lectures that one doesn't get anything out of. UK education is about $25,000 to $29,000 a year which includes tuition and room and board and its only a three year program</p>

<p>What's UCL?</p>