Does college really matter
As a junior in an American high school, the college stress really starts for me. Which college should I go to? Can i afford it? Is my SAT / ACT test result, both standardized tests that are important for college entrance, good enough for the college of my choice? These and various other questions are constantly buzzing around in your head.
Between various college visits and practice tests for the important SAT / ACT test, one tries to find the ideal place for further education among the approx. 3,000 colleges. If there is also the possibility of studying in Germany, as with me, you really have to sit down and weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of studying on either side of the Atlantic.
American colleges are expensive.
The two-year community colleges are the cheapest, followed by the public colleges in their own state, although these are not cheap either (University of Maryland: 25,000 US dollars per year). It is most expensive to study outside of your own state, whether it is a public or private college. Often times the tuition is from $ 50,000 to $ 60,000. (Room and board included.) Students often try to get scholarships through great athletic achievements to lower the price.
In Germany, on the other hand, there have been no tuition fees since October 2014. A social contribution paid by the students enables, among other things, the free use of all means of transport in the region. Thus the study is really cheap compared to the USA.
Rent and food are also cheaper in Germany, so it's worth considering whether you want to study there.
In the USA you need a good average grade of all classes in high school (GPA) and the highest possible score in the SAT or ACT test for the college application. When you have made a financial decision about potential colleges, you then have to see which of the shortlisted colleges offers you a place to study. The higher the values, the better the chances of being accepted.
In Germany there are admission-free and admission-restricted courses of study. Once you have passed the Abitur, you can register for an admission-free course. A certain NC (Numerus Clausus) is required for courses with restricted admission.
The Abitur grade, which results from the grades of the last two school years, must be below the NC if possible so that you have a chance of a place at university.
If you have a foreign school leaving certificate, you have to take a language test (e.g. the DSD2 test) to prove that you can speak and write German well enough.
The study itself
To get a better understanding of the course, I interviewed my sister Anna and her friend Elena. Both are in their first semester and previously attended all American schools together. Anna is studying at the Technical University of Braunschweig and Elena is studying at the University of Maryland. I asked the two of them the same six questions to get a direct comparison of their impressions and experiences.
What do you like best about your university?
Elena (USA): What I like most about my school is the Honors program that I participate in. In “Honors” Humanities, there are students who take courses in this area and get to know each other better in this very large university. We are a very close community who live in the same building and attend classes together. We have a lot of fun together like at movie nights (the last films were Bolt, Black Mirror and Taylor Swift's Netflix concert), "sip n’ study "(drink tea and study) and our own little book club!
Anna (Germany): The price. But also the healthy attitude that people have towards university. I like that it's only part of life, it's not like college is your whole life. I also like the independence to which one is practically forced. There are no advisors to take care of you, it's up to you to organize everything. There is also no life on the college campus, you have to learn to be independent.
What do you like least about your university?
Elena (USA): The cost. In-state tuition makes it cheaper, but UMD still costs about $ 25,000 a year including room and board.
Anna (Germany): One of my favorite sayings here is that we go to a technical university where the technology doesn't work at all. There are a few lecture halls without ventilation, so if you sit behind the first four rows, heat stroke is easy. Another problem is that our schedules are overcrowded; in the first semester we had 24 hours of lessons per week plus 30 hours of homework.
How much of your time do you spend on campus?
Elena (USA): I spend about 95% of my time on campus because I live there. I go out once or twice a week to buy food or meet up with friends. I go to Washington, DC once a month, usually for school projects, but sometimes just because it's fun. I spend around 14 hours in class during the week.
Anna (Germany): I am basically only there for my courses (although that is quite a bit of time) and sometimes I also have lunch there. Sometimes I study there, but usually I prefer to do it at home.
How big are the courses on average?
Elena (USA): It varies depending on which courses I choose. I had courses with three students and also courses with over 300 in the same semester. My smallest course currently has 15 and my largest 75 students.
Anna (Germany): Because it's the first semester, all of my math lectures had 300 people and the economics lectures 800 (although in the end only a third of them came). There are also “little exercises” for math, where you can discuss your homework with a group of 15-20 people and ask questions.
If you could change something, what would it be?
Elena (USA) If I could change anything, it would be the high tuition fee.
Anna (Germany): One thing that I would like to change at my university would be that the students become more involved. Almost nobody knows what is going on with university politics, and only 10 percent of the students took part in the university election day. In America everyone is super enthusiastic about their university, but in Germany there is no “school spirit” at all.
How do you get involved outside of class on campus?
Elena (USA): I'm involved in a lot of extracurricular activities! I have a part-time job at the university in the office of my "Honors" college. At our university I also work as a salaried author for the art magazine "The Writer's Bloc". I am also a member of CHAARG, a sports club at my university that has ten different clubs across the country.
We have evenings together, study groups and organize events such as the TerpThon, a dance marathon that we organize voluntarily and that brings in money for a children's hospital. I also take part in many events in my “Honors” group.
Anna (Germany): Extracurricular activities are not very important at my university. I've heard almost nothing about any clubs or associations to join - other than sports clubs. At least the sports offers are very cheap with a fee of around 15 euros. I haven't done any sport this semester because I had to get used to all the homework, but next semester I plan to take two dance classes.
The bottom line
Personally, I find these perspectives very instructive because you experience reality firsthand. Both Elena and Anna are happy with their choice.
In particular, the price seems to be very important to both of them. The tuition fee is a burden for Elena and Anna criticizes the sometimes poor conditions that exist in the classrooms.
In the final decision for a German or American university, of course, the personal situation plays a major role, such as the financial means or your own language skills. But I think no matter which side you choose, you can be happy with your choice of study.
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