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Old 17.04.2008, 13:55
PKV PKV is offline
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Re: Evaluation of US high school diploma

Is your son taking Honors/AP-level courses? I would say that this would be a great advantage in convincing authorities of the similarity between HS diploma and the Matura, but it will nevertheless require a lot of push and pull. If he is not taking these courses, I'd say your chances are slim.

Since American HS is so all-encompassing, from face value I'd say it's not equivalent at all to the Matura. In the US, everyone goes to high-school, whereas only ~13% of students reach the Gymnasium and are eligible to take the Matura, so the exclusivity is built into the Swiss system, while you have to prove through coursework that you're an excellent student in the US.

However, having experience in both HS systems, I'd say that AP/Int'l Bac, etc are to a certain extent equivalent, the intelligence levels are relatively the same, as are the workloads and expectations. As one of the previous posters noted, his/her Matura allowed him/her to skip several 1st year courses at the university, which is the exact same thing that AP coursework prepares students for (and the end tests do).

That being said, I think the more important point is whether a European university is right for your son. I've also had experience in both university systems, and for someone raised with US education, switching systems is quite a shock. Quite honestly, if I had been a regular student instead of an exchange student in Switzerland, my grades would not have made the cut and I would have most likely been kicked out. That's not to say that the Swiss/European system is more stringent, it's simply different, and places much more emphasis on theory than practical exercises. European universities, in my experience, are still very focused on a Bachelors (or equivalent)-->Masters-->Doctorate/Job career path than the typical American Bachelors-->Job/Career path, which means that the equivalent to a US bachelor's is a European masters (in terms of being able to get a job in each respective market). This also determines, to a large part, the nature of lecture material in the bachelor's stage.

Quite honestly, say what you will about the US secondary education system, but the universities are among the best known in the world and prepare students for more practical situations (and allow an earlier start to one's career) than European ones.

Keep in mind that this is just my experience, and apologies if it is overly opinionated. However, you should really sit down and discuss with your son the potential challenges of entering a new education system at such an advanced level where one has little chance for adaptation and/or failure. It's not like it's 5th grade, where one wrong move just means you have to study a bit harder for your final or do extra credit work.
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