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College In America Vs. College In France

Our libraries may stay open 24/7 here in the US of A... but that costs more.

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1. In the Unites States, college campuses are like little towns within a town.

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Dartmouth College, New Hampshire

They have roads, housing, gyms, stores, laundromats, cafeterias, parks, and often fast food chains like Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell... the list goes on and on. Getting from one side of campus to the other can sometimes be a real trek.

In France, it is rarely a "campus" in the strict sense... but rather a set of buildings.

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There is of course a cafeteria or a library here and there, but nothing even close to the excessiveness of American campuses.

2. In the United States, admission is much more selective than in France.

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We have to put together all our application materials, which include several essays and supplements, and we also need to have excellent grades and a good score on the SAT.

We also often apply to several colleges in the hopes of getting into the one we want. Showing motivations, extra-curricular interests, and personality is crucial to getting into our college of choice.

In France, there isn't really any selection process for entering; it is sufficient just to apply.

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There is a selection process, but it's less official: you have to have the means to live on your own and to pay for your own food, you have to know how to study with little supervision and monitoring, and you have to pass your end-of-year examinations. Nearly half of French students give up in their first year of college.

3. In the United States, class participation is very important and highly valued.

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Everyone is encouraged to speak up in class and it is often essential to speak as much as possible in order to not get a bad grade at the end of the semester.

The ~problem~ with this system is that us American students sometimes speak just for the sake of speaking — even when we don't have anything all that interesting to say.

In France, speaking up is more intimidating.

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In French culture, you only raise your hand when you're certain that what you are going to say is intelligent and accurate. And when they do speak, they stick to analyzing the relevant texts or materials, whereas us American students don't hesitate to make a parallel with our personal lives.

4. In the United States, most universities have a gym (and sometimes even two or three) on campus.

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The University of Texas at Austin, Texas

Access is free* for students, who can work out on the machines, swim, run, or just pretend we're working out at any time of the day (or night).

*of course, this is included in the tuition, which is very high.

In France, gyms are much less common and they're rarely free.

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To work out in France, students have to join their university's sports association (when there is one), and/or pay for access to the gym.

Oh, and sports at French universities are nothing like at American colleges.

Dave Wilson / Via Flickr: dawilson

The University of Texas at Austin, Texas

There's no need to like sports in order to like American colleges' sports culture. Everyone has clothing, cellphone cases, pencil cases, notebooks, and the like with the university team's colors on it. And everyone gathers for the games, whether it is football, baseball, basketball, or even volleyball. Not the case in France.

5. In the United States, social life is central to university life.

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Students join sororities and frats, clubs, and various other social groups, all of which constitute a big part of our lives at college. And the parties aren't half bad, either.

6. In the United States, many students have a fake ID to purchase alcohol and get into bars.

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Since the legal drinking age is 21, having a fake ID is fairly common. And this is why parties are often held in apartments or dorms rather than in bars.

There are also some American campuses called "dry campuses," which means that alcohol is forbidden, no matter what age...

7. In the United States, three quarters of students have a job outside of their studies, and some even take on two or three small jobs.

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Seeing as the price of college is so high, this is often necessary in order to pay back those ridiculous student loans and live comfortably.

9. In the United States, the choice of classes is very diversified.

NYU

You can spend your freshman and sophomore years trying out a wide variety of courses and subjects, and then focus in on one later on.

And even once you've chosen your major, it is still possible to major in astronomy whilst having a minor in Spanish, for example. And during the first week of class in each semester, we can also "try out" classes to see if we like them, and then drop them if we don't.

10. In France, students have to know very early on what career they would like to pursue, and specialize in the relevant field of study from their first year in university.

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That is also why, for example, one can sign up for law school right after the "bac" at the end of high school, whereas in the United States, the "real" law school only begins at the "master's" level, after college.

11. In the United States, the graduation ceremony is a real event, pretty much like it's portrayed in TV and movies.

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Caps and gowns, pictures with the family, speeches... the ceremony can take hours, and it is an essential ritual to mark the end of the student's college career.

In France, some universities organize ceremonies, but most often, receiving one's diploma is much less grandiose than in the United States.

Humm quand je repense à la Fac, tu valides les année jamais de remise de diplôme digne de son nom. Alors que t'as transpiré comme jamais.

They look at the results on the Internet, get their diplomas at the administration office, and that's that, it's done. Even though more and more French colleges are now trying to hold ceremonies. And generally, French parents don't really care, as long as their kids get their diplomas. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

12. In the United States, winter break lasts super long, but not summer break.

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Winter break, in between semesters, can last between one and three months, depending on the college. Even Spring break lasts about ten days in the spring. However, college classes start very early here in the United States, in August or early September, so our summer vacations are much shorter than in France.

In France, classes begin in October and they have shorter breaks, between one and two weeks at a time.

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But their breaks are more frequent. And seeing as they often finish classes in May, they get roughly 6 months worth of vacation.

13. In the United States, having to read 500 pages before the next class is kind of normal...

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Each week, students must read an incalculable number of texts each week, as defined in the syllabus, and be ready to discuss them in class.

Oh, and American textbooks are very expensive.

In France, they are given bibliographies at the beginning of the semester and they do with them as they please.

14. In the United States, libraries are open all days of the week. They are often open 24/7, or they close very late.

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Columbia University, New York

And most American universities have several libraries. For example, Harvard has more than 70.

15. In France, libraries are kind of a pain.

Logique de la fac de droit: nous foutre des partiels le 2 janvier et laisser qu'une seule bibli ouverte ...

Many libraries close on Sundays, during vacations, between noon and two, at 7pm... And it's often a struggle to find empty seats.

16. But, all the many perks of going to college in the US does have its price: in the United States, college tuition costs tens of thousands of dollars per year.

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Which makes it nearly impossible to get an education without going into debt (even though several scholarships do exist). Barack Obama himself said that he was only able to pay back all of his student debt at the age of 42.

This post was translated from French.

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