Having grown up in a mix of both cultures, I have become familiar with both the French and American university systems. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. The French system is great – if you know exactly what you want to study. There is usually no double-majoring, or core curriculum, and for instance, if you are studying medicine, you can’t decide to add on an art class. Although the American system allows more flexibility and doesn’t require an immediate declared major, they lack the usually mandatory year abroad and internships that immerse students in the working world.
Furthermore, the process of applying is completely different. American universities expect superman- well-rounded, perfect, Nobel Peace Prize winning students. They require students write several essays and take into account not only grades and test scores, but extra-curricular activities and students’ personalities. On the other hand, French universities either simply demand a transcript or require “concours”, competitive tests where the best students are picked. Students have the choice of either going to a “fac”, public university, or going to “prepa”, a two year program that prepares students for more “concours”, in order to get into the most prestigious French schools.
by Lucy J.