University – USA versus Germany

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If conversations ended up in debate about colleges  & the financial commitment that is involved with it, we used to brush off comments with: We’ll send our kids to Germany.

Last week my older son got accepted to UC Berkeley (Yeah!) and my husband and I have turned into the proud parents of a prospective Cal Golden Bear !

Whatever happened to studying in Germany, you may think?

Well, as I found out during the college application process for our son,  it’s not as easy as we thought to send your children over to study in Germany. Especially right after high school. Despite the fact of being a German citizen and therefore having the right to study at a German university, it turns out that the  school systems in both countries are still quite different from each other. Therefore a transition to a university in Germany right after an American high school graduation would not be such a smooth ride after all.

Are we still considering sending our children to Germany for university studies? Generally speaking, yes, but perhaps not at this point, even though it still seems a smart idea –especially financially speaking.   But to avoid a lot of bureaucratic nightmares, we figured it will be easier to just start out with college here in the US, and then transfer over to Germany – on a university to university level so to speak.

Financially speaking Germany presents itself obviously as a very attractive alternative: Education is either free or in some states tuition is Euros 500 per semester versus $30-50,000 per year in the USA. Studying in Germany – It’s a no brainer!

Academically speaking, Germany has some excellent universities to offer and this compared on a worldwide level. I learned through my son, who compared every college he took into closer consideration,  that the LMU in Munich is ranked number 66 worldwide (according to US News World’s Best Universities) , right behind UC San Diego (65) and Boston University (64) . The Technische Universitaet Muenchen is even ranked at number 58, with Heidelberg being 51. Compared with all the universities worldwide , not bad…!

To consider Germany as a university destination for your youngster, one needs to consider also a few other things. For starters, does your child actually want to go to Germany and study there? It might sound great to you, but to your child, who has been raised in the United States,it might not sound as tempting.

Financials are a hot topic and should be looked at in-depth when looking into studying, particularly in the US . Financial aid might be available to your student in the US. You will find out by filling out the Federal Student Aid Application forms (FAFSA) or for certain schools the more detailed CSS Financial Aid Profile. Scholarships and financial aid rewards can help make an American university education a somewhat more affordable option.  The end result after all  financial aid and scholarship awards have been received, is still not comparable to tuition fees in Germany though. You just can’t beat free (or almost free) education!

If Germany turns out to be THE choice for starting out university life after all, then start preparing your student for it already in the early years of high school. What we learned over the last few months is, that no matter if your child has taken the most rigorous curriculum and taken 5 or more AP classes and finished them with test scores of 4 and 5, it won’t help much (in the eyes of German university admissions)  unless at least one class out of each core subject area has been tested in (math/sciences; arts/languages & social sciences), almost similar to the German  Leistungs- und Grundkurse for the Abitur.  SAT scores should be around 1300 points for both ‘maths’ and ‘critical reading’. Helpful is also to sign up for IB classes, should your high school offer them.

Bottom line of it all: Starting university education at an American university first and at least finishing  one year before transferring to a German university seems to be a much easier way to get into a German university, then right after an American high school graduation.

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