Think Getting into College is Complicated in America? Students in other Countries Have it Even Worse

Barry Lenson

Think Getting into College is Complicated in America? Students in other Countries Have it Even Worse

going to college in AmericaGetting into college in America is complicated. Admission to most American schools is based on grades, standardized tests, letters of recommendation, and lots of other factors. But as a recent article in The New York Times points out, students in India have it even worse in a lot of ways.

The article, “Squeezed Out in India, Students Turn to U.S.” tells the stories of several highly intelligent Indian students who will attend top colleges in America because they failed to score well on the high school exit exams that serve as the major determinant of who goes to college in India and who does not. One of the students profiled is Moulshri Mohan, who couldn’t go to a top Indian university because she scored only 93.5% on her exit exams. As a result, she is attending Dartmouth on a $20,000 scholarship. Clearly, Ms. Mohan is smart, and she wasn’t served well by her country’s educational system.

So that’s the craziness about getting into college in India. Grades don’t count for anything. It all comes down to a single set of exams. And India isn’t the only country that either admits or rejects students to college based on a single exam, or a set of them. In France, there’s the much-feared Baccalauréat (commonly referred to as “le bac”) that does pretty much the same thing. It was created by none other than Emperor Napoleon, and it is still in use today. In Germany, students have to pass the equally feared Abitur exam.  And the United Kingdom has a range of exams too, based on vocational areas that students have to pass before starting university work.

So much as we Yanks like to gripe about the SAT and ACT exams, they are not nearly as all-important as those that are required for university admission in lots of other countries. If you don’t do well the SAT or ACT here, you have many other ways to begin your college studies anyway. You can start studying online, for example, and then move to a regular college. Or you can apply to a test-optional college that doesn’t require the SAT or ACT.

And here’s another thought. If you are a non-U.S. student who wants to go to college in America, you can apply to college here – just like Moulshri Mohan did – and we will welcome you. Maybe it has something to do with the poem by Emma Lazarus that’s inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. It says, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  Sounds a lot like students, don’t you agree?

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