Easing US College Admissions Woes: The European Advantage

For the last several decades, the American dream has included a college education. Guidance counselors, administrators, teachers, and everyone else have told millions of soon-to-be high school graduates that their next step is…college. 

Do grades really affect your future?

Many of the current generation will be the first to graduate, a hope their parents have put everything they had into. 

“If you want to be successful, you must go to college. To get into college, you need good grades.” – Everyone and their mother.

The reality is much different. The American dream, at least in regards to higher education, is uniquely expensive, and stressful enough to prematurely age even the most optimistic applicant. 

laptop, woman, education

There were nearly 4.9 million college applications in 2002, or about four for every student who ended up enrolling somewhere. By 2017, the total number of college applications had more than doubled to almost 10.2 million, or 6.8 per enrolled student.

With that many annual applicants, every student is tossed into a biased and unforgiving ranking system, pitting every applicant against each other, but without transparency as to why a few will receive “Congratulations” while the many receive “We regret to inform you.” 

The questions on everyone’s mind: Are grades really that important, and when do grades start to matter? And so the fixation begins: How can I get high grades?

Yes, there are requirements for grade point average (GPA), fees, essays, ACT or SAT scores, financial aid, letters of recommendation, and any number of additional steps, which even when fully completed does not guarantee your acceptance. Whether you receive a congratulatory or “better luck next time” letter, the university’s registrar may never clearly explain their decision. Now take this vicious cycle and multiply by the number of colleges applied to and it’s easy to see how America’s system is contributing to the current mental health epidemic among this generation. 

If you are one of the lucky ones to receive a congratulatory approval, there’s still the looming presence of tuition. In America, yearly tuition has continued to rise at a rate only rivaled by rockets heading to space. Far too many young college graduates are stepping into their careers with thousands upon thousands of dollars in debt from their American degrees.

The European Advantage

Europe offers world-class affordable programs, taught in English, at truly affordable costs. For every admissions stressor in America, European institutions have an answer. Beyond getting a top-notch academic education, students gain extremely valuable, personal and professional, life experience while ensuring their financial future is manageable after graduation. 

Top 5 College Admission Stressors

Stress #1: Good Grades and a High GPA

In America, when it comes to college admissions your student, for better or worse, is defined by their grade point average. An arbitrary number that in no way defines your child’s intelligence. Yet, GPAs in America are the proverbial sorting hat of higher education. American colleges use a number to define your child’s “education” level, even though it may be fueled by bias. 


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Do High School Grades Matter?

This arbitrary metric in the United States is a core component of college admissions. Even worse, it’s a flawed ranking system that robs talented, bright, and creative students from even being given a chance to apply to universities. Many colleges soften the official GPA requirement, but are transparent that if you’re not at the top of your class, don’t waste their time. 

Is Getting All A’s worth it?

Not in Europe. Your student’s GPA is not weighed against other student GPAs. Even if considered mediocre grades by US standards, poor grades, so long as they pass the minimum requirements, aren’t a defining component of their acceptance.

Europe’s answer: 

Grades still matter in the European system, but the goal posts don’t move. The European higher education system provides a specific mark for admissions, and that’s it. 

Europe sets a standard (goal posts) and that’s it. There’s no subtext or trap doors. No need for you or your student to “read between the lines” or experience the stress of a college registrar phone call where they allude to your kid “meeting the requirements” but not being competitive enough in their high school classes.

Stress #2: AP Classes

Originally, Advanced Placement classes were offered to students requiring more of an academic challenge than their current curriculum. A wonderful addition for certain students, but their function has changed. AP classes have simply become another data point to define your student. Essentially, American universities look to see if high school students can already complete college-level classes. 

Traditionally, your student was expected to complete their high school education to prepare them for collegiate-level courses. But now, American colleges are expecting high school students to complete college-level courses before being accepted to college.

This stress just compounds other admission stress regarding GPAs and transcripts. 

Europe’s answer: 

Beyond the States has a database of college programs taught in English in 29 countries. From that gigantic database of programs, do you know how many require AP classes for admissions? 

Only 16%! This means that there are 2,738 bachelor degree programs in our database that do not require AP courses.

Those programs don’t require your student to guess either! In the program descriptions, they tell you which courses are required and the score your student needs. Instead of wondering if this AP class will help or not, your student knows exactly which classes to attend and exams to pass. There’s no need to keep retaking them to achieve the maximum score or spend money studying to raise it a few points. 

European universities are far more transparent than their U.S. counterparts, making them a better option for your future college graduate. 

Good grades, compounded with the stress of SAT scores that top universities demand, leads to mental health issues.

Stress #3: SAT/ACT Scores 

In addition to your student worrying about their GPA, taking college-level courses, and passing college-level exams, they may need to study for two different lengthy standardized college entrance tests because their academic existence depends on their score. 

Here’s the kicker: In a recent study, ACT and SAT scores had little to no correlation to how well students did in college! These all important tests didn’t factor in students’ long term academic success. But families in the US feel compelled to spend thousands of dollars helping their children prepare for a test that provide little-to-no return on investment. 

Europe’s answer: 

An overwhelming majority of European schools do not require an ACT or SAT score for admission. The few schools that do establish it as a clear requirement for admission. Again, no subterfuge or reading between the lines. 

If your student chooses a program of study in Europe that requires either the SAT or ACT, they will know the exact score required for admissions. Also, their score will not be weighed against fellow applicants putting them into a ranking system. 

Your student is given a clear goal and once they achieve it, they’re done! 

It’s that simple and efficient. 

The obsession with higher grades get worse once you start considering extracurriculars, sometimes a requirements for scholarships.

Stress #4: Extracurricular Activities 

In the United States, college admission requires more than just good grades. Admissions officers consider a student’s well-roundedness, including their extracurricular activities, which can range from sports to community service. It’s important for students to pursue interests and activities they’re passionate about, rather than just what looks good on a college application. Unfortunately, the focus on grades and GPA can cause stress and limit students’ ability to explore their interests and discover their passions. This can contribute to a lack of direction after graduation. The requirement for extracurricular activities in college admission can also widen the gap between the rich and poor, as many students need to work during their school years. However, the focus on extracurricular activities can be viewed as just another factor in the complicated college admissions process.

Europe’s answer: 

European universities prioritize the quality of their students’ lives in a way that their American counterparts currently do not. 

Beyond the States has reviewed hundreds of programs across Europe and we’ve discovered a core philosophy in the European system. European universities are more interested in finding the best fit for the student, not themselves. They prioritize the students’ needs because the student, not the university, is the real priority.  

This philosophy gives your student the freedom to pursue whatever they’re truly passionate about and pivot to something new if they’re so interested, without worrying about how that looks on their college application. This is really what every parent ultimately wants for the children and European universities are there to help. 

Stress #5: Tuition & Scholarships

College tuition may be the biggest stressor of all. The cost of education in America keeps climbing with no end in sight and American students or parents are being burdened with exorbitant debt. College graduates across America are “starting” their lives with six-figure debt that often will require decades to pay off. 

America’s created a system that requires students to take on massive debt for entry- level jobs within their industry. You always hear older, usually financially well-off, generations tell other generations to save, but those are people out of touch with the financial realities for college graduates now. 

A significant number of graduates move back home because they can’t afford their loan payments and cost of living on the salary of their new career. American higher education systems are not only enslaving the next generations with debt, they’re hindering young adults’ independence, and increasing financial strain on the previous generations who try to retire by 65 years old. 

When balancing the scales of higher education against personal growth and financial health, it’s clear the American system has few pros and a mountain of cons. 

Europe’s answer: 

Across the board, tuition at European universities is deeply affordable when compared to the US. Instead of mortgaging your future, there are hundreds of high quality programs where a 4-year degree at a European university costs less than a single year in the United States. 

Your student can attend a top European university, learn in English, and gain valuable life experience living abroad for a fraction of the cost in the United States.

How to Get Into College with a Low GPA

Access to truly diversified student bodies, world-class professors and curriculums, without incurring large debt or jumping through the ridiculous admission hoops, makes studying in Europe the absolutely best option for higher education!

“There’s nothing wrong with kids working hard or having full lives. But spending time and money on busywork – taking activities and classes not for the sake of learning or developing, but for the sake of playing the high stakes admissions games – isn’t how most people want to operate. And with the option of college in Europe, students and parents no longer have to.” – Jennifer Viemont, Founder at Beyond the States

Have you considered college in Europe? There are over 3400 bachelor’s degrees available for international students, and they’re taught entirely in English. Here’s how to get into your ideal European college with a low GPA:

1 – Stop Stressing Over Grades

College shouldn’t be stressful. Okay, getting into college shouldn’t be stressful, and therefore, high school shouldn’t be stressful either. You or your student’s path to higher education shouldn’t be paved with landmines and shackled by thousands of dollars in debt. In Europe, grades are just a number, and you’re not defined by them.

2 – Seek Options Where Grades Don’t Define You

We created Beyond the States on the belief that anyone who wants a top-tier education should be able to get it. It’s also built on an acclaimed database of college programs in Europe without foreign language requirements. We give you all of the data and insights in one place to make your search for English-taught programs as easy as possible.

3 – Find Your Best Fit Colleges in Europe

The European path to higher education is resoundingly simple and transparent while being truly affordable. Their system is truly founded on the principles of unequivocal academic equality for every person. From college to grad school, we make it easy to discover and connect with the best ones for you. Find your best fit European college today.

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