With the current academic lifestyle, living in another country and engaging in a foreign culture makes us more adaptable to our new environment. Our learning curve gets steeper, and we gain more know-how in a shorter amount of time.

For example, studying in Europe versus going for a Master’s degree in the US is truly a fantastic experience! The two occasions will have a very different impact on your development. Your skill-set and, most importantly, your mindset will be shaped differently by the various style influences and ideas that you will find on your journey.

So, should you pack your bags for the US or gear up for some time in Europe? In the end, the best way to understand if you would like to study on one continent or the other is to compare the two options. That’s where we at Pulse can help.

Here are the top 6 differences between studying for a Master’s degree in Europe versus the United States:  

1. Admissions:

Admissions to US universities require more effort from the student’s side than most European institutions. They generally have more requirements and ask for more documents during the application process.  

Especially if you are an international student, you’ll need to add specific documentation and extra-language exams to your application to-do list. If you’re thinking of applying for a US study programme, start looking at exams such as the GMAT, GRE, TOEFL or IELTS. Most US universities consider these exams and documents as must-have prerequisites.

European universities usually require less documentation for their application phase. Some universities simplify the admission process so that everyone who applies gets into the programme without a formal interview.

In that case, the student selection happens throughout the programme, depending on the programme difficulty and the student’s capacity to keep up with the coursework. If you are applying for a highly specialised programme (ex., an MBA), you will need to bring in more papers requested explicitly by your institution or pass an entrance exam. 

2. Tuition fees: 

The quantity of money one needs to pay for studies abroad is often the make-or-break factor in selecting a university. In the case of American and European universities, tuition fees convey an essential differentiator for international students.

US universities are famous for their hefty price tag. The United States is one of the most popular study destinations, but it’s also one of the most expensive. Tuition costs typically range between 5,000 to 50,000 USD per year for international students. 

In the case of European universities, two essential factors play a role in the final price tag of your Master’s degree:

  • Whether you are a European Union citizen or not? 
  • What country do you want to study in? (Hopefully not Vatican City)

European universities’ most noteworthy advantages over US institutions are the price distribution and the diversity of tuition fees. You can find universities with a $0 tuition fee, like those in Austria or Denmark. Or you can choose a Master’s programme at a considerably higher cost, for example in the UK.

The flexibility in terms of your wallet offers a more extensive selection pool for your choices. It makes you feel less forced into a particular decision, based only on your spending possibilities.

3. Campus life:

Student life in the US is marked by the importance of living in a dorm. Everything is centred around the campus. All sports activities, university facilities, extracurriculars are conveniently set up to be close to where students need to go for their courses.

That means that when you apply for a US university, you pay extra close attention to the kind of campus culture that your university harbours. Do you want a more study-focused campus, a very sporty one or just a place to make friends and have fun? Campus life focuses more on relationship connection-building and informal experiences in the US. That’s also the case because of campus location, usually sufficient on its own, rather than being part of a city. 

In Europe, even though campuses are made to cater to every student-related need, they are not necessarily the only or best hotspot for student activities. Cities that harbour universities offer more diversity when it comes to places that students might find interesting.

Campuses in Europe focus more on the academic experience and extracurricular support. If you are considering going to an EU university, you should consider if the city you will be moving to is vibing with you. It’s more common to find your campus closer or in a town, which means that students experience decentralised student life. 

4. College interactions:

US universities focus on relationships and supporting students, while European institutions are a place for wisdom and critical thought. These two approaches can be easily seen in how professors interact with students. Courses and grading in the United States are made to foster a granular learning style. That means that students have far more touchpoints with their teachers and peers than in a European university. Professors have also more office hours dedicated to students who need help with their assignments and course material.

In Europe, universities employ a more individualistic learning style. You can find courses that sum up hundreds of students simultaneously, lectures can be viewed online, and the examination usually takes place at the end of the system. Also, European institutions pride themselves on teaching their students ways of thinking rather than focusing only on knowledge-sharing.

It would help if you reflected on your learning style and needs. Are you a person who values managing their own time, or do you work better on a fixed schedule? Do you learn faster when you are constantly stimulated by assignments, or do you like taking your time to study? 

5. Course structure: 

When you enrol at an American university, the probability that your courses will be structured based on a major and a minor are very high. In this way, US higher education institutions emphasise the importance of self-exploration and ownership.

European universities tend to take a more traditional approach to their course structure. Masters at most European institutions have a predefined list of mandatory courses that one needs to follow.

That is because there is more emphasis on laying the foundation for students and allowing them to take ownership of expanding their horizons, primarily via research projects. Many European universities offer one-year academic programmes on a Master’s level. This aspect contributes to a solid base for the available curricula.

6. Exams: Bald eagle shining! 

European universities practice a more individualistic learning style. Taking exams at these institutions also reflects this attitude. Most universities have a one-major-exam-per-course that usually decides or weighs in heavily on the final grade for that course.

These kinds of exams try to evaluate your knowledge of the course material in one swing. In case there is an oral exam, that usually lasts for 20 minutes.

The upside of this approach is that it gives students more flexibility to learn according to their learning style, rather than imposing it on them. Most professors also provide auxiliary materials that complement the course. This helps students get more depth on the subject that they are following.

In comparison, US institutions pride themselves on a steady, slower-paced support system throughout the whole semester. A student in the US usually has multiple grading points throughout the semester, such as quizzes, individual and group projects, presentations, and tests.

The professor in charge of a teaching assistant (TA) must grade each intervention and add it to the student’s general contribution to the course. This supportive approach permits the professor to give timely feedback to the student. It also allows the teacher to comprehend better what needs to be covered again in future lessons.

Good luck with your applications to the universities! Hope this helped 😊