College Around the World: Studying in the U.S. vs Europe

international college
Interested in getting your degree from a European college? Let us help you decide whether or not you should make that move or stay local.

We sat down with Michael Leppo, AKA our favorite International Admissions Counselor. He told us what goes into studying at an international school, which really got us thinking. How different are international colleges from the colleges we know so well? Dave and Joe put their heads together with Michael so we could answer this question for you.


Let’s start off the comparison with the elephant in the room: the cost. One of the biggest differences between European and American colleges is the funding, which is probably why you’re reading this article. While schools in the U.S. are paid for by the students that attend them, many European colleges are funded by the country they reside in. This makes them more similar to what we know as high schools or even some community colleges when looking specifically at the cost, since the individual student doesn’t have to pay as much for their education.

When we say cost, we mean the entire COA. The cost of food and room & board is most likely going to cost less in Europe than the United States.

At the end of the day…
Cost of Attendance in Europe and will potentially be much less for an American family who is used to colleges on this side of the pond.

Application Process

Applying to European colleges is actually quite similar to American colleges. The information and documents are the same, but the difference arises within the personal statement essay. While the essay questions for American universities are more introspective for students, the essay questions for European universities are based on the universities themselves. They might ask you why this university is right for you or what your plans are at the specific university. This makes the European essay questions more similar to what prospective students might be asked when applying to American grad schools.

At the end of the day…
You still apply the same way for both American and European schools, but the difference is in the essay question. European schools will ask school specific questions, but American schools will ask student specific questions.

Admissions Process

The acceptance rates in the E.U. are slightly higher than the U.S. because of the funding. Most colleges in Europe have an acceptance rate between 50% and 80% while the average acceptance rate for U.S. colleges is 67%. This means that you might have a better chance getting into a European school if you meet the requirements.

In order to be considered as a student for a university in the EU, you must pass a language test for the native language of the university. For example, you have to pass a french test to attend a school in France. You might also have to pass other tests depending on the school that are similar to the SATs.

Once you have finished the additional tests, filled out your application, and written your essay, you have to get your additional documents (ex. transcripts and birth certificates) notarized by an Apostille Notary. These types of notaries can be difficult to nail down since there aren’t very many of them, so they might require some research or travel.

At the end of the day…
You might be more likely to get in to a European university, but you will definitely have to jump through several hoops with the admissions process.


The undergraduate education from either side of the pond adds yet another difference to the comparison at hand. In America, it’s common for students to attend college before attending grad school. In this way, undergraduate education can cover broader topics, whereas grad school is where students go to narrow their focus and obtain specific skills for their career. European schools challenge this education system by making college a one-stop-shop. The education a student can receive from a university in Europe will set them up perfectly for their career without a need for further education.

Let’s look at an example. An American student who wanted to become a doctor would complete their undergraduate education at a university on a pre-med track and then attend a med school. A European student looking to pursue the same career would only have to go to one university and immediately start learning medicine.

On top of the systemic difference in education, a contrasting aspect between American and Europe lies in the teaching methods. European schools will get right to the point and immediately teach students what to think. Students’ classes are related directly to their majors so they can be proactive in their education. On the flip side, U.S. schools will have students take general education requirements that aren’t necessarily related to their majors. This might seem pointless, but the intention is for students to learn how to think.

At the end of the day…
European schools will teach you what to think with a shorter and more direct education system, and American schools will teach you how to think with a more time consuming but rich education system.

Social Aspect

The common understanding for the social life at an American college involves sororities and fraternities, football games with a ton of school spirit, and big parties. Unfortunately for some students, the social setting is very different for European schools. There is no greek life in Europe so students will have to find other forms of social gatherings. But don’t worry, there are clubs for students to join.

Additionally, there are no athletic programs at European colleges. This means that studying in the EU might be out of the question for students who are looking to play their sport for a college team and eventually go pro.

At the end of the day…
The social environment might be a deal breaker for students who are looking for a more traditional American college scene, and D1 athletes might want to stay in the states if they want to stick with their sport.

Other Important Things to Know

To wrap up, we compiled a list of aspects specific to European schools.

  • European colleges are driven more by passion than salary when it comes to careers
  • Some degrees do not transfer from Europe to the U.S. which can be complicated when it comes time to get a job
  • Changing your major is more than possible in European schools even with the direct education
  • European colleges are not as competitive as American colleges

We hope that our article gave you some insight about going to college in Europe. Visit our website for more information like this, and reach out to our financial aid and college affordability experts at 610-422-3530 to start your college planning journey today.


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