Passport Required: Why Some European Teens Want An American Education

Ed. Note: The process of deciding whether, how and where to apply to college is a difficult one for teens worldwide—regardless of if you’re planning on the community college an hour from home or a large university halfway across the globe. To kick off a Youth Advisory Board series on the value of a U.S. education and the many challenges applicants face, we asked YAB member Caroline Marques, an American teen studying in Switzerland, to share her perspective on attending a university in the States.

As always, you can communicate directly with any member of the Ypulse Youth Advisory Board by emailing them at youthadvisoryboard at…or just leave a comment below.

Passport Required: Why Some European Teens Want An American Education

Newsflash to U.S. students reading about the number of college applicants getting higher and higher:  it’s not only more American teens applying—a growing number of international students are deciding that college in the United States is the best option worldwide.

In Geneva, I used to be one of the few who sincerely wanted to go the States for university—I planned on taking my SATs and touring colleges, as well as planning how to explain my intricate Swiss school system to admissions boards. But more and more, kids from both the international and the Swiss schools have been sporting UCLA and NYU sweatshirts. It’s official: they want the college experience, with the football games, nice campuses, huge libraries, good opportunities…and, of course, the highly esteemed education! Even though it’s cheaper to stay in Europe, and universities here have their own prestige, the U.S seems to offer something that the European teen now craves. Maybe it’s the unknown, or the risk, the excitement, or the idea of leading a free, happy and interesting life.

While I have always considered England or staying in Switzerland, it has been my dream to go back to the U.S. for college—it just seems like the right option for me. It has more variety, and offers an experience that is truly unique. I know young people here think going to college in the U.S. will make their lives basically television-worthy. And while it’s true that many say that college constitutes the “best four years of your life” and that I highly doubt I will ever be bored there, teens here seem to underestimate the difficulty of even getting in. The trend is to visit a few schools, do a summer program at a college, and maybe sign up for the SAT without fluency in English. Here, high school is so hard that getting a diploma almost guarantees entry anywhere in the country. But you need much more than a high school diploma to enter the most competitive American colleges.

There are motivations, however, more based in reality. With universities in Europe having more problems lately, parents here are starting to doubt the system as well. Students are also attracted to U.S colleges because they offer more variety and choices when it comes to class options. Here, you choose a specific area to study for the next four years. But there, you can change your major and take a variety of classes in different fields.

This modified “American dream” still seems relatively new among European teens, but it is a hot topic that will surely spike some questions on both sides of the ocean. What will this mean for American teens: more diversity or more competition? And what will happen to some of the European universities? Will there be a return to Europe after college for another degree? Is this spike in interest just a trend among young students—or is it more long-lasting than that?  And finally: Will our acceptance letters be stamped locally or come from halfway across the globe?

About Caroline

Caroline is working hard on her twelfth school year in Geneva, Switzerland. Her third year on the YAB will help her keep up with the numerous US trends in various departments, as well as keep up her two passions: reading and writing. When she isn’t busy working on an article, most would usually find her occupied with sports, school, photography, traveling, or enjoying learning several languages, working on her ‘novel’, music,  making smoothies, hip-hop, kick-boxing, watching American TV, writing long papers at night and spending an enormous amount of time on her computer as well as trying to find life’s complicated answers.

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