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Old 17.04.2008, 12:54
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Evaluation of US high school diploma

I would really appreciate if somebody can share their experience evaluating a US based high school diploma in Switzerland. My son is in grade 11 of a american secondary school and we are relocating to Vog soon. He wants to go to a university in Switzerland and is worried if his secondary school diploma will be enough for university enrollment. We would like to compare his school program and requirements for Certificat de Maturité as he still has some time to adjust his current set of subjects to get it closer to European standards.
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Old 17.04.2008, 13:09
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Re: Evaluation of US high school diploma

I can only give you my expierences here. . . . and they have not been good. The Matura is an extreamly advanced degree that is to some extent specialized and from what I have heard, it is far more advanced in content and intensity than a high school diploma from the US.

As I came here I had finished my bachelors studies in a top tier school in the US. As I went to get my diploma recognized by a university in Switzerland they said that I would have to start again at the bachelors level because the difference was so great. Basically saying that a matura is equal to high school + 4 years of college. While this is not the case, it is still difficult to get things to work here the way that you want them.

At the moment they are doing a lot of reforms in the university system (Bologna reform). I was lucky enough to find another university to that would take my qualifications and I am doing fantastically. So there is hope that you can "haggle" qualifications as it were. The thing that I had going for me that your son does not have was that I was completely finished with my studies and was not trying to start them in the middle.

My advice:
1) If you son is offered something much lower than you think he deserves then fight for it. Don t take no for an answer. Offer to have him take whatever tests or assessments necessary to prove his level of education in a certain subject.
2) Ask around. Don t go to one school go to many. They are not so standardized here and many principals can make their own decisions regarding child placement.
3) Look for an international school in your area. They are likely to take his qualifications from the States with little or no problem.

I hope that helps and good luck.
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Old 17.04.2008, 13:17
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Re: Evaluation of US high school diploma

I went to the University of Texas to study mechanical engineering. I had a Swiss Natural Science Matura (Type C). This allowed me to place out of the basic college chemistry and physics classes (1 years worth). So I would definitely say that a high school degree does not come close to a Matura.

I seriously doubt that a principal could overrule the requirement to have a Matura or equivalent education for college, but then again I do not know.
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Old 17.04.2008, 13:41
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Re: Evaluation of US high school diploma

Thanks for your replies! I see that we misinterpreted meaning of Matura Certificate.
Ok, than the question is: if a student has a completed hight school diploma from the states where he can apply? Does universities accept those student strait from the school or it should be something in between?
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Old 17.04.2008, 13:55
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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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Old 17.04.2008, 14:03
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Re: Evaluation of US high school diploma

I agree with a lot of what PKV has to say.

You also have to keep in mind that to study in switzerland (depending on where) you need to be able to speak/understand etc either German, Italian or French. If he can do that fantastic then the highschool credit translation is the only thing you have to worry about.

http://www.uzh.ch/studies/applicatio...elor_en.html#6

You can check out this website, it will give you an idea as to what the universities are looking for.

Since the system is changing it may be possible for your son to start a bachelors program once he is finished with his high school education.

The whole switching in the middle of highschool bit is anybodys guess as to how it will turn out. Be prepared for people to tell you that he has to start in a lower grade etc.

It does not hurt to talk to a few schools and to get all of the paperwork ready. I would even get recommendations from teachers saying that he is a top student etc. Everything helps.
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Old 17.04.2008, 14:10
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Re: Evaluation of US high school diploma

Thanks guys! Your info helps a lot!
Another question: if he will take some university level courses online, for example from Open Uni in Geneva, or a similar place, would that help him to be accepted?
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Old 17.04.2008, 14:13
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Re: Evaluation of US high school diploma

The experience of a friend of mine. She is Swiss, but she
went to high school in the US. She had to learn a high
level of high German by passing the "Zentraloberstufenprüfung"
from the Goethe Institut.

After that, she was accepted to a "Fachhochschule" which
is similar to a University except that it is more specialized
in the area of study.

Basically, learn a really high level of German and apply
to a University.

Or go to a university in the States and apply here
for grad school.

Here is the link for the Goethe Institut

http://www.goethe.de/
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Old 17.04.2008, 14:15
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Re: Evaluation of US high school diploma

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Thanks guys! Your info helps a lot!
Another question: if he will take some university level courses online, for example from Open Uni in Geneva, or a similar place, would that help him to be accepted?
No clue. I would say that every little bit helps.

Even though the government is trying very hard to standardize things Universities are still independent entities. You should call the appropriate offices and ask there.
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Old 17.04.2008, 14:20
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Re: Evaluation of US high school diploma

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No clue. I would say that every little bit helps.

Even though the government is trying very hard to standardize things Universities are still independent entities. You should call the appropriate offices and ask there.
You have to keep in mind that the universities coordinate their requirements through the Conference of Rectors, which is the steering committee for Swiss-based universities. As such their requirements are similar, except of course for language fluency.

As far as the US high school is concerned - the high school diploma does not allow direct access to the Swiss universities. Two successful years in a Swiss recognised US university are required. Furthermore you cannot just study anything for two years - it has to be a Swiss-recognised programme as well.
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Old 17.04.2008, 14:21
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Re: Evaluation of US high school diploma

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The experience of a friend of mine. She is Swiss, but she
went to high school in the US. She had to learn a high
level of high German by passing the "Zentraloberstufenprüfung"
from the Goethe Institut.

After that, she was accepted to a "Fachhochschule" which
is similar to a University except that it is more specialized
in the area of study.

Basically, learn a really high level of German and apply
to a University.

Or go to a university in the States and apply here
for grad school.

Here is the link for the Goethe Institut

http://www.goethe.de/
Universities in the French part of switzerland teach in french, but as you pointed out the same kind of language requirnement applies.

I did not have to pass the Zentraloberstufenprüfung to study at a german speaking university here though. There is a test given for foreign students to test their German that is administered by the university. I do not know the name of it but it is much easier than the test you mentioned. If you pass that then you are allowed to study. The Zentraloberstufenprüfung is only one of the many ways you can meet that language requirnment.
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Old 17.04.2008, 14:29
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Re: Evaluation of US high school diploma

What DarkPhoenix is saying is probably true. I am relating
a specific instance of a friend of mine.

She had no university at all in the US, but she had high school
in the US. She had to prove her German at a certain level
to be admitted. It probably depends on the University and
the specific subject that you want to study.

Cheers!
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Old 17.04.2008, 14:32
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Re: Evaluation of US high school diploma

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After that, she was accepted to a "Fachhochschule" which
is similar to a University except that it is more specialized
in the area of study.
Not really. They rank below both in depth/ difficulty of curriculum and employer perception. Equally so in admission requirements. There is currently a trend to institutionally equate both, especially in the Socialist canton where I reside, which in my opinion is plain wrong.
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Old 17.04.2008, 14:35
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Re: Evaluation of US high school diploma

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What DarkPhoenix is saying is probably true. I am relating
a specific instance of a friend of mine.

She had no university at all in the US, but she had high school
in the US. She had to prove her German at a certain level
to be admitted. It probably depends on the University and
the specific subject that you want to study.

Cheers!
Yeah the swiss system is anything but standard at the moment and it is fighting tooth and nail to stay as wild and crazy as possible. Did you know that I have heard of people (swiss actually) who studied at the University of St. Gallen and then tried to get into the University of Zurich and were not given full credit for their degree?????? Is that nuts or what to have studied in the same country, speak the language etc and still not have acceptance of your university degree.

You would think they are past that by now. . . . . . I still question it
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Old 17.04.2008, 14:42
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Re: Evaluation of US high school diploma

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Not really. They rank below both in depth/ difficulty of curriculum and employer perception. Equally so in admission requirements. There is currently a trend to institutionally equate both, especially in the Socialist canton where I reside, which in my opinion is plain wrong.
Universities are seen a bit higher, but it depends on the field
of study. In IT, they don't really care whether it is from Uni
or Fachhochschule. In Universities, you learn many useless
subjects that don't translate into real world skills.
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Old 17.04.2008, 14:54
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Re: Evaluation of US high school diploma

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In Universities, you learn many useless
subjects that don't translate into real world skills.
That is a very weak argument since you could say the same about everything (except your current field) you learn from first grade onwards....

Name some useless stuff you've been through while in University?

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In IT, they don't really care whether it is from Uni
or Fachhochschule.
Except when it comes to the pay cheque.
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Old 17.04.2008, 14:56
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Re: Evaluation of US high school diploma

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Yeah the swiss system is anything but standard at the moment and it is fighting tooth and nail to stay as wild and crazy as possible.
Actually I wonder what gave you that impression, as they actually turned everything upside-down to be Bologna hence EU compatible?
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Old 17.04.2008, 14:59
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Re: Evaluation of US high school diploma

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That is a very weak argument since you could say the same about everything (except your current field) you learn from first grade onwards....

Name some useless stuff you've been through while in University?



Except when it comes to the pay cheque.

Latin..................
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Old 17.04.2008, 15:02
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Latin..................
In which curriculum?
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Old 17.04.2008, 15:10
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Re: Evaluation of US high school diploma

At a University....

The point is that Latin is useless. French would be useful, or
German would be useful. Latin, however, is not.
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