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How to choose a study abroad destination

November 06, 2015 11:57 IST
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While the US and Europe may emerge as your top destinations to pursue your masters, each has its fair share of advantages.

Before zeroing in on the right university and destination for your higher studies, it is important to weigh the pros and cons and understand what's best for you.

Are you confused about which continent to choose for pursuing higher studies?

While Europe's rich culture and heritage may attract you, the American hype cannot be ignored too.

No matter which side of the ocean you choose, both USA, and European countries share an excellent quality of higher education, magnificent research facilities, and academic freedom.

Before applying to top-notch universities, you must consider a few things about attending graduate school abroad.

In this article, we will highlight the pros and cons of European and American education system and underline the differences between the two.


Europe is home to various prestigious universities like Oxford, Cambridge, London School of Economics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, London Business School and University College London while the US boasts of universities such as Princeton, Harvard, Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The 2014-2015 World University Rankings list states that 90 universities the top 200 universities in the world are located in the USA.

Length of academic term

One of the key differences between the education system in the US and Europe is the amount of time it takes to finish the degree programme.

In the US, it takes about one year longer than programmes in Europe because the course programmes are much more focused in Europe as compared that in the US.

The advantage of a longer course in the USA is that you can intern in the summers and/or do a Research or a Teaching Assistantship along with your course.

Cost of education

The cost of education in the United States is generally higher than that in European countries.

Universities in different countries of Europe may charge differently, but the cost may go up to £10,000 per year.

To reduce the financial burden on students studying in the European universities, scholarship amounting to 16 billion euros are available every year.

The average fee for private institutions is around $30,000 per year, and a bit on the lower side in the public Universities.

In order to help students cover the tuition fee, loans are available through the government of USA.

Other than that students can avail of research or teaching based assistantships, which will reduce the cost to a great extent.

You are also eligible to work on-campus for 20 hours a week to take care of the living expenses.

Thus, adequate funding and ample scholarships are available for international students pursuing a graduate programme in the US.

Academic requirements

You are eligible for the graduate courses in most of the American universities only if you have completed 16 years of schooling (12 + 4), whereas, in Europe, many universities allow 15 years of undergraduate studies.

Due to the language barrier in some European countries, students are required to learn foreign languages, for instance, learning German level A1 and A2 is pre-requisite in many German universities.

European universities are more academic-centric than their American counterparts.

In order to get admitted to American universities, you are required to appear for exams like GRE, SAT or GMAT and get a minimum score requirement in TOEFL and IELTS.

European universities require the students to be proficient in English language and successfully complete one of these exams; IELTS (International English Language Testing System), TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), English preparatory programme.

In case you have average academic scores, it's advisable to excel in GRE in order to get into a good American university.

Academic intake

Most of the American universities commence in mid to late August or early September and take a break from mid-December to early January.

The semester pattern varies from University to University -- it can be trimester or a quarter system as well.

A majority of the intakes happen in Fall (August), and some are open to Spring (January) intake as well.

The European courses usually start by mid-September and take a break around Christmas to mid-January.

Similar to the US, European universities too, have semester or trimester pattern depending upon the university.

The deadlines of applying to the USA are much earlier than that of their European counterparts.

University Organisation

The European universities comprise of ‘specific subject colleges' that not only have autonomy from one another but also the university itself.

The system is course specific and enables the students to get a thorough understanding of the chosen subject.

This implies that the student is expected to have a prior knowledge about the course of interest before applying to the university.

Whereas in the US, the student applies to the university and takes courses in various fields before selecting the specialisation at the end of the first year, enabling him/her to acquire a range of knowledge on varied subjects.

Based on the above-mentioned reasons, we can conclude that higher education in the US is focused not only on the breadth but also on the depth of the curriculum whereas, in European countries, more emphasis is given to the depth.

Homework and grades

In the US, courses require weekly assignments in the form of minor projects, presentations, and research papers.

Whereas the European institutes are lecture based with occasional or no assignments at all.

End semester exam plays an essential role in the European universities whereas in American universities, the final exam combined with student's performance in projects and assignments determine their grade.

Hence, the American curriculum stresses more on practical knowledge as compared to the European universities.

Availability of employment 

In case you seek to work abroad after completion of your masters, the United States of America is the destination for you.

Several work opportunities such as Optional Practice Training (OPT), easy work permit, more employment offers are available in the US.

On the other hand, work permit in European countries is slightly more stringent.

The US would be preferable if your goal is to recover your educational expenses by working in the foreign country.

Moreover, most of the dream companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc. are located in America, making it the technological hub of the world. 

While both provide extensive theoretical as well as practical knowledge, there are several differences between the two regarding the structure of the education as well as student life and tuition fee. Before you take the life changing decision of selecting your dream university, take into account all of the factors mentioned above.

Lead image used for representational purposes only. Image: Klearchos Kapoutsis/Creative Commons

Collegepond is a career guidance company whose aim is to help students achieve their potential, crack the competitive exams and guide them in the application process for various courses across the globe.

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