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A Journey Around the World to College

March 2015

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With seniors getting acceptances and juniors having their preliminary meetings with their college guidance counselors, college seems to be on everyone’s mind. All Friends students are aware of how the college process works here in the US, but few are aware of how it works in other countries.

Recently, Germany has decided to offer a free college education to any American who meets their standards. Ever since the German government nationalized the education system and reformed it after World War II, it has been run by the state. This means that very few private universities exist in Germany and, effectively, the government controls tuition rates. Thanks to recent legislation, the price for a semester at a public university has been reduced to about €60 or $68.  Just comparing that to the University of Delaware, with its seemingly low tuition of $12,342 a year, this tuition puts things into perspective. Germany has the ability to support this education program, and recruits foreigners to attend their institutions because, in Germany, there are far less students than there are in, for example, the United States.  Secondary education is only mandatory until the age of sixteen and, as a result, many students leave high school after ninth or tenth grade and never receive a high school diploma. Instead, they enter into an internship or “Ausbildung.”  One of my classmates in eighth grade, left school two years later, and is now working as an auto mechanic in downtown Hanover. People do not look down upon those who choose to leave school, as this decision does not prevent them from finding a job. In fact, it is much easier to find a job in certain fields like autocare or theater after an internship than with a university degree. This program not only reduces the number of college students in Germany, but increases the amount of skilled workers. This contributes to the success of German businesses and the German economy.

Those who are familiar with the IB program know that at the end of each year, students taking IB classes need to take IB exams. In fact, the International Baccalaureate exams have many similarities with the French Baccalauréat, or BAC, that every French high schooler takes at the end of their twelfth grade year. Many of them view exam week as the most stressful week of their lives, especially because a student may sit through two of these multi-hour-long exams a day. French universities base the admissions process entirely on a student’s BAC scores and grades at school, and will not even look at extracurricular activities or sports. In fact, I remember my host sister last year telling me that she could not apply to certain schools because they would only accept kids who ranked in the top three of their classes, regardless of anything else.  This may seem crazy to us, because of our perception that college is a diverse place, but in France the best universities are highly specialized. My host brother last year, a student at the best medical school in the city, only took classes relating to medicine and was surrounded by other students studying medicine all the time.

It is interesting to see these different methods and systems of getting into college. While most aspects of them may seem incredibly intimidating, I assure you that many of my French and German friends have told me that they are not at all jealous of our SATs and the several years of preparation that American students put into their college applications. Also, thanks to programs like IB, people who study at a school like Friends have the chance to apply to schools all over the world.

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A Journey Around the World to College