Expat kids off to University by Metrice Weedman

In the blink of an eye, our little ones are no longer ours to protect. Our role as parents changes and, if lucky (really lucky), the relationship with our children evolves into something even better. Perhaps the new adults in our lives will turn to us for guidance from time to time or even learn from the stories we tell of our own mishaps. Many of our children are considered third culture kids; meaning their experiences and understanding of the world around them may be uniquely different from our own. Some of us have memories of American style graduations or other culture specific rites of passage we’re reminded of when thinking of our cultures of origin. Our children, in however way they choose to culturally define themselves, potentially have access to multiple worlds on top of all of what France has to offer.


When it came time for my son to start thinking about his future, he dreamed of going to University in the US. We moved heaven and earth toprepare him for that experience (which also meant getting up to speed on all of the changes that have occurred since my husband and I ourselves last applied to an American University). While the SAT was still a dominant college admission test, still a dominant collegethe scoring process had changed, and the ACT is used in different parts of the country.


University and college program details are accessible on-line and terms like Common App become your teen’s new best friend. A large majority of American Universities are registered in the CommonApp system creating a more streamlined process. The student fills out one on-line application to apply for multiple Universities. Each University can stillhave its own unique process in the form of essay submissions or additional letters of recommendations. Plan on emptying out your bank account just to cover application fees and sending test scores! Financial Aid forms were filled out (FAFSA and CIS) and we held our breath for Early Decision notifications and the General notifications in March. We learned (the hard way) there was no use getting excited about acceptance letters until financial packets were administered. If your children are American citizens they can have access to Financial Aid (based on household income) and many scholarship offerings. American Universities can be prohibitively expensive which is why we came up with a more affordable option should his ‘dream’ school prove too expensive to access. We were surprised to discover that some parts of the American financial aid package can even be used for UK Universities.


EU citizens enjoy the privilege of having a wide net of University options at their disposal. While my son also chose to apply for schools in Scotland and elsewhere in Britain, many EU member countries enjoy equally competitive university programs. Unlike American schools, these programs are affordable (music to parents’ ears). Instead of Common App, my son had to acquaint himself with a similar application process called UCAS, which allows for five applications under one fee. Scottish Universities offer free tuition to EU students, enjoy excellent reputations and have some similarities to the American University Higher Education system.


As your child gets closer to making these types of decisions, I would highly recommend exploring International Baccalaureate degree programs in their lycée (if available). Diploma graduates tend to describe getting a competitive edge in the admission process and being well prepped for college once they arrive. This edge can even extend to get advance college course credit for IB classes. When making admission decisions, American Universities typically evaluate applicants from a holistic perspective. This means extracurricular activities, social engagement and special circumstances can impact the decision process. British Schools seemed to concentrate on academics and test scores. Each system has advantages and disadvantages dependent on your teen’s individual needs.


Hound your teen, if need be, to research and apply for scholarships. Merit Scholarships usually get offered early in the process, however, other scholarships are available with a little bit of research and industriousness. For both parents and students, I highly recommend College Confidential, which is a comprehensive forum for American students and parents.


US World & News Report provides a college and University ranking system along with a short overview of each school. The Complete University Guide provides League Tables and rankings as well.


Below is a list of resources we found helpful on our journey:


For students who want to hone their English skills or want to find a back door into highly competitive schools but lack the academic requirements investigate: