American VS European Universities

Regardless of which year you are currently in, it's always a good idea to plan ahead of time which universities you want to apply to. This search does not only mean a specific list of universities you might like, but also includes another important factor: location. If you want to study at an English-speaking university, most of your options will probably be located in the US or in Europe, and, as such, you might want to know some key facts about the universities in those locations.

Also -- I acknowledge that there are very prestigious and English-speaking universities outside of the US or Europe, however I will not be including them in this article because I don't know enough information about them.

Key Factor 1: Price

Universities in Europe are much cheaper than in the US, even for international applicants. Some European universities are even completely free (depending on your nationality).

On the other hand, US universities are very expensive. Even if you are applying to a public university (say UCLA or UMichigan), you will still have to pay costs that are much much higher than European private universities.

It is also difficult to get financial aid, and as such, cost is an important factor to consider.

Key Factor 2: Vibe

The "vibe" of European and American universities are very different.

American: you really get that college experience. Virtually everyone lives in a dorm, you have freshers week, you can go to football games, etc... University is about experiencing life on your own, making friends, having fun, as well as getting a higher education.

European: the European college experience is more focused on academics. Many people choose to live at home or to rent an apartment, and dorms are much harder to come by. There are less on-campus activities offered for students.

Key Factor 3: Admissions

Securing a place in a European and American university is very different.

American: they use the process of holistic admissions, meaning that they look at you as a general person. They want to see not only strong academics, but also volunteer work, leadership, extra-curricular activities, sports, etc... They also want to see your personality shine through, and you have the opportunity to do so with the College Essay where you can talk about yourself and an experience that has shaped you.

European: they mainly focus on grades and academics. The projects that you have undertaken outside of school that do not relate to your intended major do not interest them (only if it is very very impressive). As such, they want to see stellar grades, focused subjects around your major, activities that relate to your academics...

It is also important to note that American admissions tend to be much more random. As your grades alone cannot guarantee you admissions, you may be a very qualified applicant and still not secure a place. This fact is made worse by the fact that most American universities do not have entry requirements, which means that it is much harder for you to see how competitive you are in regards to that university. On the other other, European universities clearly state entry requirements and you can position yourself based on your grades.

Key Factor 4: Flexibility

In American universities, you are very flexible in terms of your major. You do not have to pick a major before you apply, or even after your 1st and 2nd year of university. This gives you time to take classes and discover your passions and interests. It also means that if you applied for economics, and decide that it is not right for you, you could still switch to another major of your choice. European universities are much less flexible. You must announce your major before you apply, and once you have gotten in, it is very difficult to change. For example, if you are a maths major, you can only switch to a physics or an applied maths major. You would not be allowed to switch to business because it is too far from what you got admitted to.

Wishing you all the luck in the college admissions process!

The UCLA Campus