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Plan for study in the US as an international student

  1. Oct 27, 2015 #1
    Hello dear forum community,

    I am a German student, currently engaged in my last year of high school. I am planning to study in the US after I completed my A-Levels. Since I am very interested in physics and engineering, pursuing a career in those field would appeal to me the most. I managed to narrow down my field of study to two courses: Applied Physics or Mechanical Engineering, though I am not quite sure about the differences of applied physics and a normal physics bachelor course. Later switching will not be impossible, I guess. Since this year is coming to an end, I need to apply to different universities in order to secure a college place.

    Of course, when you think about studying in the US, you think about all those high ranking universities and seemingly endless opportunities, although it is obvious that it is not that easy to get accepted. When I graduate from high school, I will probably obtain a score of about 3.5, converted to the Amercian GPA scale. I noticed that many schools require the SAT test to be completed and many high ranking universities (such as MIT) require at least one SAT subject test. Since I am unable to get good support about preparing for those exams, I quite frankly don't see the point to attend, since my scores probably will not be as high to qualify for said high ranking schools (800 in maths seems possible, 800 in physics not quite, as I am lacking the english vocabulary in specific areas). I am very good and ambitious in subjects like maths, chemistry and physics (got the highest possible count of points in the last 3 years) but I am unable to project this knowledge into standardized english tests. Thereof, Im looking into schools that do not require standardized test like the SAT to pursue my study goals.

    I recently got in touch with a correspondent from the University of Idaho, describing to me their splendid research facilities and SAT-free admission for international students. I am actually keen on getting to know more about that specific college, as the atmosphere seems to be pretty decent. However, I have no experience I can refer to, that is why I came to this forum. Currently ranked at 168th place, the University of Idaho is certanly not a bad catch, but I am wondering how much better I could do and more importantly, is there any reason to consider college ranks in the first place? Does this really matter for undergraduate studies? I mean, you can transfer to an other college for your major and Phd, right?
    My English proficiency is quite high, I scored 110 on the internet based TOEFL test, so language will not be a barrier.

    I just wanted to get your insight and maybe some guidelines and recommendations concerning the choice of universities. What colleges will meet my criteria and provide a good environment to learn and thrive?
    I certanly need to apply for financial aid, as my family is unable to support me financially.
    I looked into colleges in Canada aswell, they do not require any SAT tests and are quite flexible concering their courses as well.

    I would be very thankful for your thoughts.

    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 27, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 29, 2015 #2
    Better to complete an undergrad degree in your native country and come to the US for graduate school.
  4. Oct 29, 2015 #3
    I thought of this option aswell, but I figured that I then would have to switch to the english language way later. Wouldn't it be better to start my study in english in the first place? I am going to a school following a German curriculum abroad, so I have experience with foreign cultures other than my own.
    My question now is, wouldn't it be harder to switch after your bachelor degree than now? Having your foundation in english in your field of study seems beneficial to me.
    Im looking forward to your answer.

    Best regards,
  5. Oct 29, 2015 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    Learning a few topic-specific English words is easy. Most of the words are very similar in German or do not even have a German version.
    There are a few false friends (e.g. "Impuls" is "momentum", while "impulse" is something like "Impulsübertrag"), but nothing problematic.
    Scientific communication is in English anyway.
  6. Oct 29, 2015 #5
    You are right, topic-specific vocabular is similar. Would it then be wiser to start in the German system, rather than starting your academic career in the US? The vast research capabilities of some US colleges are certanly impressive and I would like to have every opportunity to support my thrive for knowledge. Would it be wiser to do my bachelor in Germany, as it would then be easier to get into graduate programs in the US? Especially at better equipped schools? I need to manage my resources, as I am busy with my A-Levels and would have to spend extra time on the required SAT programs. Our highschool degree features, besides scientific subjects, humanitarian aswell as language subjects, which require much more effort, as you actually have to learn stuff that you can't derivate from logical thought. :)
    Im thrilled for your input.

    Best regards,
  7. Oct 29, 2015 #6


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    I hope you're aware that it can cost a lot of money to attend a US university as an undergraduate, as an international student. Even at state-supported universities, usually only students from that particular state (Bundesstaat) pay reduced tuition rates. In recent years, many states have reduced financial support for their university systems, which have had to increase tuition and other fees as a result.
  8. Oct 29, 2015 #7
    As we say in Germany: Where there is a will, there is a way. Some universities offer need based financial aid that covers for most financial expenses and would virtually enable everyone, regardless of their financial background, to study there, once accepted. I looked into these schools, as I am unable to afford the high tuition fees that you describe. However, there are also schools who offer scholarships based on academic archievement. I did the math and figured, that I probably can fulfill that many requirements to reduce my expences significantly. Enough to enable me to study in the US. However, I calculated this with low tolerance, so a college offering need based aid would be preferable. It is just not as easy to get accepted, so I need to put effort and probability to suceed into relation. I know that you are probably not familiar with the system of higher education in Germany, so it would be hard to compare the two systems. I am just curious about the difference of possibilities in the US compared to Germany. Of cource, my perception is highly biased, as you mostly hear how much better US colleges are, offering more advanced research facilities, despite the higher financial expenses. You almost never hear about disadvantages or areas that need improvement. Can you give me advise from your perspective?

    BTW: How do so many of you know German terms?

    Best regards,
  9. Oct 29, 2015 #8


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    Staff: Mentor

    You are not the only German here ;).
  10. Oct 31, 2015 #9
    Wow, that's great to see more Germans here. Do you have experience in both academic systems and can point out pros and cons concerning them?

    Thanks for your reply.
  11. Oct 31, 2015 #10


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    Staff: Mentor

    I don't know the US system well enough for advice there.
  12. Oct 31, 2015 #11


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    While I'm aware that the following will be an overly general statement that cannot do justice to particular institutions or individuals, I would like to add that in my perception the quality of undergraduate science and mathematics education in Germany may typically be higher than in the USA. This opinion is based on limited contacts with undergraduates from both countries, and on some familiarity with undergraduate level textbooks of both German and US origin.
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