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Education: comparing USA and Europe


The majority of the best educational programs in the world are taught at universities in the United States and Europe. However, the very processes of admission and training in these two large regions are quite different. When choosing an educational direction, it is necessary to understand many parameters that will ultimately determine what your experience of studying abroad will be.

Although each university sets its own rules for admission, there are some general principles for the selection of participants in all European universities. The same is with American educational institutions.

Admission to an American university

Admission to an American university is more demanding than almost any European educational institution. In the United States, applicants face many requirements and submission of a much larger number of documents. On Coursera, you can even find a particular course devoted exclusively to how to get into an American university.

Even more, difficulties fall on the shoulders of foreign students upon admission. You will need to attach an additional (often very voluminous) package of documents to your application, as well as pass one of the exams confirming language proficiency and mastering the required academic minimum, such as GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, or IELTS.

Admission to a European university

For admission to a European university, fewer documents are required. Some universities in Europe simplify the admission procedure. All applicants who apply are automatically enrolled even without any formal interview. But in this case, the selection is made already in the learning process.

As a rule, within 1–2 semesters, it becomes clear whether the student can cope with the chosen program. However, this does not apply to highly specialized programs (for example, MBA) – here you will also be asked to provide a large number of documents. You may have to take additional entrance exams and request recommendations from the school or place of work.


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Cost of education in the USA and in Europe

Costs are often the deciding factor when choosing a university. And if we compare American and European universities, the situation here is radically different for international students.

US universities are “famous” for their high fees. America is one of the most popular and expensive countries for those who want to get higher education. Tuition fees for international students can range from $ 5,000 to $ 50,000 per year. Don’t forget about all sorts of additional costs: in 2017, they averaged $ 34.5 thousand per year.

It’s more possible with European universities. The cost of education will be influenced by two factors:

  • Whether you are an EU citizen;
  • The country you want to study.


The advantage of European universities over American ones is their extremely flexible pricing policy. You can study in Denmark or Austria, where higher education is free. Or, on the contrary, go to one of the most expensive universities in the UK. Besides, the cost of studying even at expensive universities can vary significantly depending on the chosen specialty.

Curriculum in the USA and in Europe: many options vs. rigid structure

When you are applying to an American university, your curriculum will include a major and additional specialty. The major is a base, fundamental knowledge, something with which you intend to connect your career.

Additional specialty – side courses that you can integrate into your main specialty. For example, if your major is Chemistry, you can take an additional Biology, or you can take English Literature. Thus, the curriculum at American universities gives students more opportunities to manage.

European universities have a more traditional approach to curriculum development. Typically, each study program contains a list of required courses. The main task of the university is to give the student a basis. A student can expand the area of ​​his knowledge following his interests by participating in a variety of research projects. In 2018, more and more European educational institutions, especially in the UK, are enabling students to follow the American model of curriculum.

Control of acquired knowledge

As mentioned above, in European universities, the educational process is much less controlled. A reflection of this approach is the system for controlling the acquired knowledge. As a rule, certification is carried out only once, at the end of the semester. The exam lasts 1.5–3 hours and includes questions on all topics covered. It allows students to decide for themselves what, how, and at what speed to learn. During the semester, most teachers offer students a variety of additional materials to help them prepare better.

On the other hand, most universities in the USA are proud of their system of consistent control over the absorption of each topic by students. During the semester, students solve many tests and carry out individual and group projects, and prepare presentations. The advantage of such a system is that the teacher can see which topic is causing a problem, and promptly help to understand it.

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