AAWE is proud to share knowledge with the Anglophone community through our publications, the recently updated, 2020 edition of “Beyond the Bac – Higher Education in France and Abroad” and the 8th edition of “AAWE Guide to Higher Education in France.”
This is a free event designed exclusively for secondary school students who aspire to study internationally.
Meet with admissions representatives from accredited universities around the world who are interested in the achievements, behaviors and skills that you have to offer their institution and who wish to support you with your transition to university.
The transition from primaire to collège is full of questions and decisions for parents and students alike. Our panel discussion with professionals and parents covers the factors to consider when choosing a middle school and offers practical advice to prepare your child for this next step on the education path.
Is your child about to start CP (1st Grade) at the rentrée or within the next few years?
Within the French educational system, the transition from maternelle or pre-school is an exciting and huge step for children. This year begins their formal education and learning to read and write in French. Our panel discussion with a CP teacher and experienced parents will offer developmental insights for this age group and practical advice for them to thrive during this next stage of their education.
FREE Admission. Open to the Public
"Which School Is Right for my Child?" Biennial School Fair
Directors and teachers from bilingual and international schools in and around the Paris region exhibit their programs and answer your questions.
Schools are grouped by location to facilitate your search.
If you are looking for your child’s first school, thinking about changing schools or investigating school options then don’t miss this event.
FREE Admission. OPEN to the Public
Education and Franco-American Children
The AAWE Education Survey
The AAWE Education Survey project spanned over three years and involved many AAWE volunteers. The authors would like to thank all those who worked on the earlier stages of the project, including Sallie Chaballier, Margaret Ghiglione, Janis Kaas, Carol Pouchol, Barbara Sprzeuzkouski, Deyi Tcherdakoff, and Carolyn White-Lesieur, with a particular thanks to Janis Kaas for her editorial assistance. Most of all, we thank the AAWE members who responded to the survey and generously shared their experiences.
-Helen Shavit, Sara Diska, Lise Ducrey, Wendy Leyland, Jude Smith and Denise van Veen
Education has always been a primary concern for parents and even more so for those negotiating a foreign language, culture and education system. Indeed, education has been a central theme of AAWE activity since its founding days in Paris in the early 1960’s, when American women married to Frenchmen often found themselves alone in transmitting their native English and American cultural heritage to their children. Questions about bilingualism, literacy training in two languages and education however are just as prevalent today as they were a generation ago. Furthermore, globalization has brought the topic of foreign language learning and bilingualism to the forefront of public policy debate, and these issues, which were once the concerns of only a minority, are now topics of popular discussion.
The AAWE Education Survey was developed in order to ascertain the education choices members have made for their children over time as well as the ensuing higher education and early vocational paths of their young adult children. Since resource sharing and support are the foundation blocks of AAWE, we also sought to establish an Education Registry of parents ready to share their personal experiences with specific schools and/or learning concerns with other members. Thus, the survey respondents who wished to do so provided their names for inclusion in the Education Registry.
The Education Survey elicited both factual and anecdotal information about the education or job status of AAWE member children aged 3 to 26 (in November 2007), as well as their education history. The survey was mailed to over 350 members, of which 138 completed questionnaires were returned, representing a 40% response. Data on a total of 294 children was obtained. While a wealth of information was revealed, the reader should keep in mind that the results reflect the experience only of those members who responded to the survey.
Languages Spoken in the Home
Before exploring education choices, we determined which languages were used regularly in our respondents’ homes. An overwhelming majority of our families live in households where both English and French are spoken regularly. A minority of members live in households where only English is spoken (8%) and even a smaller minority speak only French at home (2%). Not surprisingly, of the English-only households, one half of these families have fathers who are not French nationals (one father was American and the rest held other European nationalities). A very interesting finding was that 5% of our respondents reported that a third language is spoken regularly in the home in addition to English and French. The trends in language use within families in the context of a rapidly changing Europe will be important to follow over the next several years.
Languages spoken in the home.
At the time of the survey, 223 of the 294 survey children were enrolled in maternelle (U.S. preschool and kindergarten) through lycée (U.S. high school). The remaining survey children were post lycée. We broke down enrollments first by type of school: 31% of school-age children attended a bilingual school (either public or private), 29% attended a French public school, 25% attended a parochial school (for purposes of the survey, all private schools providing religion instruction were grouped under this umbrella term although most are Catholic), 11% attended another type of French private school (neither bilingual nor parochial), and 3% attended an international school (completely outside the French education system and following an American or British curriculum). When we pooled the parochial and other French private school enrollments (total of 36%), and added private bilingual school (17%) and international school enrollments, we found that 56% of the AAWE survey children were educated in the private sector. The percentage of AAWE children attending private schools was substantially higher than the figure for the general population (17%) in France.
Type of School
Public vs. Private School Enrollment
Investigating whether the distribution of enrollment in bilingual schools (either private or public) differed between age groups, we found that in the maternelle group, 16 % attended a bilingual school; in primaire (U.S. primary school) the figure inched up to 18%; while for collège (U.S. middle school), bilingual school enrollment jumped to 46%, only to drop in lycée to 36%. Greater bilingual school attendance during the collège years may partly be due to the fact that there are more bilingual programs available at this level. In addition, we found that discontent with the local public collège was an impetus for a number of respondents to switch schools at the level of 6ème (6th grade/first year of French middle school). The lower percentage of attendance for bilingual schools at the lycée level may reflect the selectivity of the bilingual programs, and more specifically, the greater demands of the OIB (French baccalaureate with international option) curriculum. When we analyzed the prevalence of French public school attendance for AAWE children (including those with bilingual English sections), we found that enrollment was fairly consistent at 40 – 45% across maternelle, primaire, collège and lycée groups. Parochial school was a more popular alternative during the maternelle and primaire years (around 30%) than during collège and lycée (18%). Enrollment in an international school was higher in lycée (6%) than in collège or primaire (3%). Furthermore, at the lycée level, a very small minority of students were enrolled in boarding school abroad or in a U.S. school while living with extended family. Hence, just over 10% of AAWE lycée level students attended schools completely outside of the French education system.
Bilingual School Attendance
Home Languages and School Choice
Since parents often wonder about the relationship between language practices in the home and formal schooling, we sought to learn whether different patterns of school enrollment would emerge if we factored in language use in the home. In doing so, we found that 70% of children living in homes where both English and French are spoken regularly were enrolled in French schools (public, parochial or other French private schools) while 30% attended bilingual schools.
In contrast, only 42% of children living in homes where English is the sole language spoken were enrolled in French schools, 42% were enrolled in bilingual schools and 16% attended international schools. Here, attendance at an international school was noted at the secondary school level only. The slight movement towards the international school system at the lycée level could reflect preparation for higher education abroad or dissatisfaction with the French system, or both.
The highest percentage of French school enrollment was found for children living in trilingual households (88%). Only 12% of these children attended bilingual schools, and none attended an international school. A French school may be chosen in a trilingual constellation as a means to reinforce the community language and culture when the two parents also choose to speak their respective native languages at home.
Only two families with children enrolled in primary or secondary school reported speaking only French at home and their children attended French schools. One of these children, however, who was enrolled in a French lycée, spent a semester in the United States in order to improve her English level.
Type of School Attended
English Only Households
Member Satisfaction with Schools
We asked members to rate their satisfaction with their child’s school at the time of the survey as very satisfied, satisfied, fairly satisfied, dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. The international schools garnered the highest percentages (57%) of “very satisfied” ratings followed closely by the bilingual schools (55%). An average of 42% of respondents were “very satisfied” with French private schools (including parochial and others), and 33% with French public schools. We found that a small percentage of members were “dissatisfied” with their child’s French parochial (5%), other type of French private (5%) or French public school (4%). The good news is that our survey showed no “very dissatisfied” school assessments. The bilingual (both public and private) and international schools had no reports of member dissatisfaction at the time of the survey.
Satisfaction Ratings by Type of School
French public and French parochial schools were attributed a wider distribution of satisfaction ratings, that is, members with children in these systems were more likely to report levels ranging from “very satisfied” to “dissatisfied”. This is not a surprising finding as many families are limited in their school choice by geographic and other practical constraints. Also, parents who are not satisfied with a school that they pay for or one that requires a lengthy commute would be more apt to change than parents who for practical reasons must stay with a local school.
We tallied satisfaction levels for children enrolled in maternelle separately. Most of the 30 children enrolled in maternelle attended French schools (83%) and 17% attended bilingual private schools. The vast majority of respondents (90%) were either “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their young child’s school placement. The remaining 10% who were only “fairly satisfied” had children enrolled in the French public system.
AAWE Parents are Proactive
Dissatisfaction with a school placement often leads parents to consider other options. The education survey sought to determine the reasons our members changed their child’s school as well as how often changes were made over time.
Looking at the reasons for changing schools, we asked parents to identify from a list of sixteen options, up to three factors which accounted for each school change. The five most common reasons cited for changing schools were (in descending order) : language of instruction, relocation, education philosophy, specific academic program and dissatisfaction with prior placement.
Language of instruction was given as a reason for school change 87 times and in the majority of cases this was cited as the primary reason. Switching schools for language of instruction (by and large, from a French to a bilingual school) occurred most frequently at the start of collège (6th grade). The second most likely grade for switching schools because of language of instruction was 2nde or 10th grade (start of lycée); this factor, however, was not as frequently cited as a first reason, and the change was more often from a bilingual to a monolingual program.
We then looked at the education histories of children who had already completed high school by the time of the survey. Of the post lycée children, 40 or (57%) had changed schools (for reasons other than the natural progression of moving up to another level) at some point during their primary and secondary school careers. Of the 30 graduates (43%) who had never changed schools, 27 were educated entirely in the French public school system with 2/3 in the regular French public and 1/3 in the bilingual French public schools. Only two students were educated exclusively in the bilingual private sector, and one attended parochial schools throughout.
Next, we studied the education histories of children who were enrolled in the class of 2nde (10th grade) at the time of the survey. We found that 73% of these students had already changed schools and that more than half of them had changed two or more times.
History of School Changes
The progression in increased school mobility continued for the younger children. Of those enrolled in 6ème (6th grade) at the time of the survey, 77% had already changed schools at least once. Thus we concluded that changing schools is more common now than for earlier generations of AAWE schoolchildren. This shift may be related to the wider palette of choices available, generally increased mobility of families, and possibly a decrease in the willingness of parents to keep their children in schools that they do not deem satisfactory.
School Enrollment for Children with Special Learning Needs and Talents
We surveyed particular education concerns, such as repeating grades and special learning needs. In France, children who do not meet the national standard, or a higher standard set by more selective schools, are not permitted to pass to the next grade, such that repeating a grade is far more common in France than in the United States. The grades most often repeated by survey children were 3ème (9th grade), 2nde (10th grade) and CP (1st grade). Skipping a grade is rare in France and usually occurs during the primary school years. Indeed, there were only a handful of survey children who skipped a grade and all of them did so in elementary school.
Most of the AAWE children who were reported to have repeated a grade also were identified by their mothers as having a special learning need. The most commonly cited special learning need was dyslexia, with an incidence of 7.6% in the survey group. This figure falls within the normal range of incidence for the general population. Fully one third of the children who repeated a grade were reported as being dyslexic. Virtually all of the dyslexic children changed schools at least once, mainly for reasons of education philosophy, dissatisfaction with prior placement and their special learning need.
Other education concerns reported by members included special talent, ADD or ADHD, and giftedness. Some children had more than one special learning need. Although the total numbers were small, we noted some interesting features of school enrollment. All seven gifted children in our survey attended a private school, whether bilingual, parochial, international or other private school. Three of these children began their education in the public school system but switched to the private education sector during the primary school years. Of the nine children with exceptional artistic, musical or sport talent, four attended public schools in which three were enrolled in a specific program geared to their talent. We did not find any significant common threads for the seven children with ADD or ADHD in regard to school enrollment or education history.
Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
AAWE members seemed to be generally satisfied with their children’s current school placement. If they were not, they tended to seek alternatives. Furthermore, AAWE members appeared prepared to go to great lengths to assure that their children receive an education that they perceived as good. We were curious about how our perceptions of the French schools compared to those of the wider French community. A September 2007 survey of French parents (TNS Sofres) revealed that only 57% were satisfied with the quality of schools in France and of these only 5% were very satisfied. Furthermore, a majority of parents (57%) felt that support for students with learning difficulties is unsatisfactory in the French schools. Perhaps if we asked our members to rate their satisfaction with the French education system in general, we would have obtained similar findings. Are AAWE parents more forgiving in their judgements or simply more proactive? In any case, our respondents attributed proportionally high satisfaction ratings to their children’s current school placement. Are we satisfied with the schools our children attend because we have more options available to us (largely thanks to our children’s bilingualism), have greater knowledge of alternative approaches to education and/or are possibly more willing to “go outside the box”?
English Language Support and Foreign Language Learning
English language support and foreign language learning are common areas of concern for AAWE members. The survey sought to determine if and when member children participated in extracurricular programs or activities in English, as well as the kinds of activities that were selected. We also asked about foreign language choices made by students enrolled in French (non bilingual) schools. Study of a first foreign language (LV1 or langue vivante 1) is required of students as of 6ème (6th grade) and a second foreign language (LV2) is required as of 4ème (8th grade). English is most often selected as a first foreign language option and in fact some schools offer only English as LV1.
We found that during the maternelle years, half of all AAWE survey children participated in an extracurricular activity in English. Some parents of younger children enrolled in bilingual or English-only schools commented that they did not especially seek out extra English programs or activities, as their children were already getting English at school. Perhaps those who attend French preschools are more likely to participate in extracurricular activities in English. During the primary school years, over half of the survey children attended an English language support activity (such as a Wednesday morning class, USA Girl Scouts, church program in English, etc.) and in collège and lycée slightly less than half participated at some point or another in such a program. It should be noted that many children enrolled in bilingual and international institutions participate in extracurricular activities in English through their school. In addition, a number of the survey respondents offered that their younger children attended the AAWE sponsored children’s activities specifically organized to expose children to American traditions and celebrations.
Summer camp attendance in the U.S. increased as children grew older. Less than 10% of the survey children took part in a summer program or camp in the U.S. during their maternelle years, about 30% attended a US summer program at some point during the course of primaire, about 40% during collège, and 50% during lycée. As children grew older, not only did they frequent more summer camps, they also participated in a greater variety of programs. This was particularly true for the lycée students. The high school group’s activities were more often academic in nature, such as university campus programs. This suggests that these U.S. summer experiences served as preparation for possible continuation of higher education in an Anglophone country.
US Summer Camp Attendance
It May Matter More Than You Think: Foreign Language Options
We looked at which foreign language options were chosen by AAWE children attending French schools. Of the children in French schools at the time of the survey (excluding bilingual schools), 62% studied English, 25% German and 13% Spanish as their first foreign language option (LV1).
A wider array of languages is usually offered to students for their second required foreign language option (LV2) in 4ème (8th grade) and hence we found the following: about 60% of the survey children took Spanish as LV2, 13% German, 10% English, 8% Russian and 11% chose other languages.
We then looked for possible correlations between languages studied by our older survey children during their secondary school years and the countries in which they were later employed or are currently working. We discovered that every survey child who worked in a non Anglophone and non Francophone country studied the language of that country as an LV1 or LV2. We do not know, however, if the reason they chose to study the language was because of a prior connection to that linguistic culture. In any case, the correlation is interesting, and it seems to confirm the belief that familiarity breeds comfort and knowledge invites opportunity.
1st Foreign Language (LV1)
2nd Foreign Language (LV2)
A Foot on Both Sides of the Pond
Of the 71 survey children who constituted the post lycée age group, information was reported for only 58 in regard to the type of baccalaureate earned: bac (French baccalaureate), OIB (French bac with international option), IB (international baccalaureate) or American high school diploma. Of these 58 young adults, 34 (or 59%) earned the bac, 18 (or 31%) earned the OIB and 6 (or 10%) earned the IB. In other words, 90% earned a French baccalaureate with or without an international option. If an American high school diploma was obtained, it was in addition to either the IB or OIB.
As to where these children pursued their higher education, if at all, we found that of those who earned the French bac (without the international option), 70% went on to study at institutions of higher learning in France and 15% in the United States. Not surprisingly, the majority of students who earned an OIB pursued their university studies in the U.S. or Canada (84%) while a minority continued their studies in France (11%). The IB graduates for the most part pursued their college studies in Anglophone countries.
Type of Baccalaureate Earned
Type of Baccalaureate Earned
When we tallied the total number of member children who obtained a bac, OIB or IB, we discovered that half stayed on to study in France and half went on to study in an Anglophone country (mostly in the U.S.). A small minority of these students also studied in a third country that was neither Francophone nor Anglophone. Of the young adults in our survey who had already embarked on a career path, about half were either working or had worked at some point in the U.S., and about half in France. Some had worked in both France and the U.S., and a minority had been employed in other countries, including Germany, Canada, Argentina, China, India and the UK. Almost a third had already worked in more than one country (and our survey only covered children up to age 26). We also found that the majority of AAWE children who completed university studies in the U.S. stayed on to work there and the majority of those who pursued higher education in France remained in France, at least to start their careers.
So What Do Members Think?
The last part of the survey solicited anecdotal comments from members about their experiences with education in France and reflections on what they would have done differently if they were to start again. On the whole, members felt that the French education system provides a solid education with high standards and the benefits of a national curriculum. In addition, many members opted for the French public school because of its proximity to home, the social advantages of attending a neighbourhood school, and the fact that it is free. Parents who chose a bilingual school for their child were generally very happy and some wished they had opted for it earlier in their child’s education. Others, however, felt that the bilingual curriculum was too demanding and some of the schools too restrictive or selective.
Parents of children with special needs were frequently dissatisfied and frustrated with the French education system as a whole. Members reported more success in meeting the special learning needs of their child within the private sector, while sometimes describing the search for the right placement as a trial and error process. Many children with special learning needs eventually transferred from public to private or from private to other private French or international schools in France or elsewhere. The harshest criticisms of the French education system came in regard to recognition of and intervention for special learning needs.
A common thread in a number of anecdotal responses was that there was not enough attention paid to the development and nurturing of creativity in the French system. While the emphasis on method and form in learning was perceived as positive to a certain extent, the lack of emphasis on imagination was considered a drawback. The valorization of conformity in French schools was observed and comments about needing to “fit the mold” in order to do well within the French system were fairly common. Teacher negativity was often offered as a criticism of French schools. The French education system was frequently described as demanding and competitive, especially in secondary school and the post-high school prépa (preparation) programs for entry into the Grandes Ecoles. Children who encountered significant difficulty within the French system often transferred, when possible, into the international system, usually during the collège or lycée years.
Discussion and Conclusions
A vast majority of AAWE survey respondents live in households where both English and French are spoken. This was not a surprising finding as most AAWE members are Americans living in France on a permanent basis with French or other European spouses. Most of the survey children were schooled within the French education system, in French or bilingual schools, both in the public and private sectors. Significant efforts were made to develop and maintain English language competency and use via various routes including a formal bilingual education, extracurricular English language classes and activities, and summer camps and visits with family in the United States. In addition, respondents’ younger children often attended AAWE children’s activities and parties which not only supported English language use but exposed them to American traditions and holidays. Enrollment in private schools was much higher for the AAWE survey children than for the general population in France. This could be related to the fact that many of the bilingual schools and most if not all of the international schools are within the private sector. Other factors may include the relatively high socioeconomic status of AAWE members as a group and perhaps a greater propensity of bicultural families to seek education alternatives outside of the public monolingual school system.
At the time of the survey, about 30% of school aged children attended a bilingual school, 65% attended a French (non bilingual) school and a small minority were enrolled in an international school. Bilingual school enrollment was highest for the collège age group. A bilingual education track, when taken, was usually embarked upon at the level of collège, if not earlier. Postponing entry to a bilingual program until lycée was rare due to the language level necessary for higher level academic work in English and the prerequisite coursework required for many of the bilingual programs. Some movement from the bilingual French system to the international school system however was noted at the level of lycée either with the intention of obtaining an international baccalaureate or because of dissatisfaction with the French system or both. While the international and bilingual schools seemed to be the most appreciated by our respondents, the majority of the survey children were enrolled in French (non bilingual) schools. The choice of sending one’s child to a French versus a bilingual French/English or international school depends on many factors including the needs of the individual child, the wishes of both the American and the French (or other non-American) parent, family history and philosophy, future education plans, geographic accessibility and cost.
It is apparent that AAWE members made significant efforts to educate themselves on the French system, and if and when necessary, to inform themselves of alternatives in order to find a school that would benefit their children. The survey shows a steady increase over the years in the frequency with which AAWE parents changed their children’s schools in the quest for the best possible educational placement. This may also reflect the greater variety of programs available, increased family mobility and a greater willingness to seek alternative solutions.
Overall, respondents said that if they were to start again they would not have done anything differently in regard to the educational choices they made for their children. Several said that, in retrospect, they made the best possible education choices given the available options at the time. Others expressed a variety of things they would have done differently, such as using more tutors, avoiding a mid-year move or opting for a bilingual education.
The adult survey children embarked on higher education and early career paths largely in France and the United States, but also in other countries to a lesser extent. There was a good deal of movement between the U.S. and France for many of the high school graduates whether they went through the French schools, attended bilingual schools or were educated in the international system. With the rapid development of Europe and changes in the global economy we may very well witness future shifts in where AAWE member children pursue their higher education, work and ultimately choose to live.
A Guide to US College and University Admission
Produced by the AAWE College USA Committee
This guide is designed to assist students who are enrolled at schools which do not have a guidance counselor for American college and university admission.
Students enrolled at schools which do provide a guidance counselor should follow the procedures established at their schools, but may find some useful information in this guide as well.
Click on the pull dwn menu below to access the guide.
Applying to U.S. colleges and universities is a somewhat complex and time-consuming process, and therefore requires careful planning and research. However, if you do plan ahead, carry out the research, and work regularly throughout the application process, there is no reason you cannot do it successfully.
Selecting the right schools to apply to is probably the most important part of the application process, and you will need time to explore the many possibilities. In addition, the application itself asks for information over and beyond secondary school records, and may require some documents which have to be translated into English, so planning well ahead is essential in order to meet deadlines easily.
This guide will give you an overview of the admissions and college application process, with explanations, suggestions, and a calendar of steps you will need to take to insure success in gaining admission to the right school for you. There is also a brief glossary of commonly used U.S. educational terms, and a list of sources of useful information. In addition to the items included here, colleges to which you have applied may request additional information which you should always provide immediately.
U.S. colleges and universities decide whether or not to accept applicants on the basis of a number of things. The school record alone, no matter how good, is not the only thing considered by admissions committees. Admissions committees will assess the following:
1. Academic record
All colleges give major importance to the quality of the student’s academic record. You should take the most challenging courses available to you.
2. Standardized tests
Standardized tests such as the SAT Reasoning and Subject Tests, the American College Test (ACT), and TOEFL may or may not be required. They are important but are evaluated in the total context of a student’s school performance.
3. Extracurricular activities
Activities, which show strong involvement or where a student has an unusual aptitude, are also advantageous. Attention: It is important to consider and enter extracurricular activities as early as possible in college and lycée. Admissions committees look for serious pursuit of one or more activities over several years, not just a scattering of activities picked up late for college admissions purposes. These can be in the areas of music, the arts, sports, community, club, or church activities, or many others . Real involvement in something one cares about is the key.
4. School or community service
Service is highly recommended as colleges are looking for evidence that the student will make a contribution to the school community.
College essays permit the student to come alive in a way that grades and test scores do not. They are a very important component of an application. See below.
6. Summary and teacher recommendations
Teachers who know you well should write your recommendations. Select carefully.
7. Individual factors
There are individual factors that can play a role in college acceptance such as unusual talents or achievements, alumni affiliation or ethnic background.
8. Individual flavor
Equally important to all of the above is evidence that the student as an individual will make a contribution to the total college community. Admissions committees value individuality, self-reliance, responsibility and a sense of commitment.
An admissions committee reads all the parts of a completed application, which includes the following:
1. The student’s personal application form (usually consisting of a several page summary of essential biographical information), and essays/personal statements on topics provided by the college. The student may also provide an additional resumé of extracurricular activities and /or portfolios of art work, or music recordings.
2. Scores of College Board SAT Reasoning and SAT Subject Tests or of the American College Test (ACT) sent directly at the request of the applicant to colleges to which he/she is applying. This can be done at the time of registration. (See the requirements of the colleges being applied to as to which test it would be preferable to take.) The TOEFL test of English proficiency is usually also required if a student goes to a non-English speaking school and has grown up in a non-English environment. You can register for all these tests online.
3. The official transcript of the student’s high school marks (grades 9 to12), sent directly by the school, (or it may be officially stamped and signed by a school official and forwarded by the student, if necessary.)
4. A secondary school report and summary letter of recommendation* by a school administrator or head teacher.
5. Letters of academic recommendation* by (usually) two of the student’s current or recent teachers.
6. An optional letter of personal recommendation from someone outside the school, usually in connection with the student’s extracurricular activities.
7. A personal interview (usually optional, occasionally required.)
8. For non-US citizens, certification of financial support (proof of the ability to pay for the costs of the university and living expenses)
The Common Application permitting application to over 500 U.S. colleges and universities is available on the internet at: www.commonapp.org.
NOTE: A Common Application Guide to help in preparing documentation from French schools is available at the Franco-American Commission (see below) or may be downloaded from its website at the following link:
The Guide is meant to be used by students, teachers, and administrators in completing the applications for students applying to U.S. colleges and universities. Among other things, it contains transcript forms and model letters with translations, along with explanations in French of these and other necessary documents. The same link provides a grade scale for comparing French marks to American letter grades, a copy of which should be sent along with each application.
You should apply online whenever possible. If this option for a college of your choice is not available, the application can be downloaded and completed.
The application fee, which must be paid in U.S. dollars and drawn on a U.S. bank, must be included with the application. For online applications, you may pay with a credit card.
It is your responsibility to see that teachers complete recommendations and send them in on time, or give them to the person in your school who is dealing with your application materials.
The essay: The essay is probably the single most important item. The purpose of the college essay is to provide colleges with information not found anywhere else in the application folder. While many students dread this task, it actually gives you an opportunity to “come alive” for the admissions team. It is the only place they can hear your own voice. An essay that really works will show you are a person worth listening to.
The essay should be taken very seriously. This does not mean that only serious topics are acceptable. As long as essays are grammatically correct, there is no set style or subject matter. If you are able to show imagination, humor, freshness of opinion or perspective, so much the better!
While colleges vary in the number of words required, the essay generally must follow specified guidelines. Remember that precision, clarity, and brevity are far more impressive than wordiness. As Harry Bauld says in On Writing the College Application Essay, “In every good essay, the sentences and words are simple, the thinking vivid, the images detailed.”
You should particularly avoid letting parents, teachers, or other adults interfere with the actual writing of the essay. Your best chance for showing spontaneity and enthusiasm is more likely obtained through your own language and method of expression. While teachers and parents may be consulted for questions of grammar, do not let anyone else write your essay! It must be a reflection of your own responses to the questions asked.
Don’t wait until the last minute to begin work. Remember that you should write at least two drafts before your final proofreading.
College/university application deadlines are those of the date of receipt of materials at the college/university in the US, not the date when you mailed the materials.
All correspondence by air mail takes at least a week each way. Although applications can be made online, school transcripts and recommendation letters may have to be sent by regular air mail.
Colleges and universities usually specify the date by which standardized tests must be taken to be considered for admission (SAT Reasoning Test and SAT Subject Tests or the ACT). The last acceptable test date by which the tests must be taken can usually be found on a college/university’s website. They are also listed with other information on colleges and universities on the Common Application website (see above). Registration deadlines for the exams are six to eight weeks ahead of the exam. For online registration, visit: http://sat.collegeboard.org/home
ALL DOCUMENTS NORMALLY MUST BE IN ENGLISH. Check the application instructions. Recommendation letters may need to be translated.
Note that the calendars given below do not include English proficiency exams. If you are a non-native speaker of English, or have attended a French school, you will probably need to demonstrate English proficiency on some kind of exam, even if you are fluent. The TOEFL and other English proficiency exams are offered regularly throughout the year.
Calendar for 11th Grade (Junior Year, Première)
This is in some ways your most important year. First of all, you are establishing your high school academic record. All U.S. universities look at your entire high school record (grades 9 -12), but the junior year is the last complete year you will have before colleges will be making their decisions about you. Especially in two-year programs like the lB and the French bac or OIB, you will be giving admissions people a first look at what you can accomplish as a more mature student.
Second, you must begin the process of choosing institutions to which you would like to apply. This can be an exciting and rewarding experience. It is also a demanding one as you will have to do quite a bit of research. This will, however, give you a chance to look at who you are, what you value, what you might want to do with your life. You will have to make some important decisions, and perhaps for the first time think about life on your own, outside the protection of family life.
A note about the “top” US schools: There is no single, official ranking of higher education institutions in the U.S. There are, however, many private rankings and surveys which are widely reported in the popular press. These rankings are usually based on such criteria as selectivity (defined by the average SAT scores, class rank or average grades in high school of students accepted to a school), professional qualifications of the teaching staff, success of graduates, etc. In spite of these seemingly objective criteria, the rankings can be very subjective. When referring to a ranking, make sure that you understand the criteria used. You can consult rankings to see groups of colleges similar in selectivity and other characteristics, but not for absolute individual hierarchical rankings. Never rely on a single ranking to determine your choice.
What all this means is:
A. You should be working seriously on your courses. For U.S. universities, the choice of courses you take (or your bac track) is not as important as how well you do overall in your studies. (This is not so in European or Japanese universities where the choice can determine which institutions and programs you can apply to.)
B. There are certain special exams which you need to take. In October, there is the Preliminary SAT (PSAT), which can be taken at several Paris school examination centers. This is very similar to the SAT (Reasoning Test), differing only in degree of difficulty. Thus it is an excellent opportunity to practice taking the multiple choice-type tests used in the U.S. under actual testing conditions. In addition, for U.S. citizens, it is the qualifying exam for the National Merit Scholarship Program. The SAT (Reasoning Test), the SAT Subject Tests, and the ACT are offered a number of times during the year, but as juniors, you will want to take SAT’s offered in January, May or June, or the ACT in December, April, or June.
C. You need to begin to identify those schools to which you will want to apply. This involves talking with people who have attended colleges which you are thinking about, looking at college web sites and catalogues, contacting colleges to obtain information which you cannot find, discussing choices with your parents, and possibly visiting colleges during vacations, or making virtual visits via the Internet. You can also attend the annual Paris College and University Day, sponsored by AAWE and the Council of International Schools, where representatives of about ninety U.S. colleges are available to give information and advice.
October – take PSAT exam.
December – review PSAT results
January -take the SAT (Reasoning Test), if desired
February – begin to look over college and university information.
March-May – consult college websites for information on schools which might be of interest to you.
April or June –take the ACT if desired, as alternate to SAT’s
May or June – take the SAT (Reasoning Test) if you did not take it in January
Summer – visit schools if possible. Begin thinking about essay topics, and try a draft or two to get a head start.
Information on the requirements for admission, and application forms, can be found on all of the college websites as well as on the Common Application website. For each institution to which you wish to apply (usually 6 – 8), you will be responsible for initiating the procedures which will insure that the necessary materials are sent to that institution by the indicated deadlines.
Calendar for 12th Grade (Senior Year, Terminale)
The first trimester is most important, because these are the last grades which the colleges and universities will see before making final decisions. So do your very best!
Summer GET A HEAD START !!
Begin drafting essays. Register for the November SAT (Reasoning Test). Set yourself a timetable for working on college applications on a regular basis from now on.
Note: The ACT Test is an alternate to SAT tests, and it is given in September, October, December, April, and June. If colleges you are applying to require the ACT, check the ACT website for dates and registration procedures.
– Continue drafting and revising essays.
– Contact those teachers whom you ask to write recommendations, and explain the online procedure or give them the necessary forms. Teacher recommendation forms all have parts at the beginning for you to fill out, including waivers of confidentiality (if you wish). Don’t forget to fill them out before giving them to the teacher.
– Contact the school official or head teacher whom you will ask to write the secondary school report and summary letter. You and your family may need to meet with this person to explain the application procedures you are following and the importance of the recommendation letter.
– Decide on a final list of eight to ten colleges to apply to. Find the application forms online on the Common Application website or individual college or university websites. (Colleges will no longer be sending application forms.)
– Attend the annual College Day held in Paris to meet representatives of about 90 colleges. (Usually held at the end of September or the beginning of October.)
– You should now have chosen the colleges or universities to which you wish to apply, and should have begun to fill out your applications.
– NOTE : Early Decision or Early Action applications must be made by earlier dates than regular applications. Check the college websites for the appropriate deadlines.
– Register for the December SAT Subject Tests.
– The SAT (Reasoning Test) is given on the first Saturday in November, and will probably be the last one you can take to have the results in on time to the schools to which you are applying. Plan to take the SAT Subject Tests in December. (Note: University of California schools have a November 30 deadline.) Early Decision application deadlines are usually November 1 or 15. Normal deadlines can be as early as December 15 but most are not until January 1 or later.
– If you are efficient and have followed these instructions, you should be able to have most, if not all of your applications ready by the end of November. You should be ready to send them in early December. There may be, however, earlier application deadlines to be considered for a scholarship. Check for special application deadlines for international students.
– Take the SAT Subject Tests, usually offered on the first Saturday in December.
– All of your application materials should be completed and submitted by the application deadlines.
– If you did not do well on your SAT Reasoning Test and SAT Subject Tests, you may be able to retake them in January and request that a rush notification be sent to the schools to which you are applying. This costs extra, and, of course, you will have to register to take the January tests by the December deadline.
– Take the SAT (Reasoning Test) or the SAT Subject Tests in late January.
Late March/Early April
– You should begin receiving letters of acceptance or refusal.
– You must respond to schools which have accepted you or placed you on a waiting list.
Here is how to apply, once you have decided to which schools you wish to apply.
BE SURE YOU RESPECT DEADLINES (especially those for international students)!
GET YOUR APPLICATIONS IN WELL IN ADVANCE IF POSSIBLE!
A. For each college or university, fill out an online version of the application form and go over it with someone to make sure that it is correct. This includes the personal essay. You should ask someone to read your essays and make general suggestions, but the essay must remain your own work in your own words. When you are satisfied that the copy is filled out correctly, fill out the real form online, and the financial statement if necessary. File your application online, following directions given by the college. Payment for applications made online can usually be made by credit card.
B. Arrange with two teachers to write recommendations and have them fill out the proper forms, either online or on the paper forms. Since it is likely that you will be asking the same teachers to write recommendations for several institutions, it is best to have them write a general letter of recommendation which can be copied and mailed, or included in an online application. In that way teachers only have to fill out the relatively simple informational part of the necessary forms, and not have to write several full length recommendations. They can write letters in English, or in French, in which case you should have the letter translated. Guidelines in French for writing academic recommendation letters can be found in the Common Application Guide, available on the Franco-American Commission website:
Note: Do NOT let the name of a college be included in the letter, nor in your own personal statements, since they will be used for a number of different colleges.
If any person is mailing materials for you, you should provide envelopes correctly addressed to the different colleges.
C. Do not forget the application fee, in U.S. dollars! Again, payment can be made with a credit card. Make sure that the teachers’ recommendations have been mailed directly to the universities, if they have not been done online, and that your transcript has been sent to each institution to which you have applied.
D. When you take the SAT (Reasoning Test) and the SAT Subject Tests, or the ACT Test, and if necessary, English language proficiency tests, indicate in the section provided that you want the scores sent directly to the schools to which you are applying. This can be done when you register for the tests, or on site, the day you take the tests. Test scores MUST be sent directly by the College Board or the ACT offices. Scores can be sent later as well. This can be done when you register for the tests, or on site, the day you take the tests. You will find instructions on the College Board and ACT websites.
E. Where appropriate, arrange for an interview. Interviews with alumni in France are usually arranged for students once applications are made. Individual personal interviews are not now generally available on campuses. If you are not contacted for an interview, you can get in touch with the university who will then notify the local alumni representatives in Paris. (Not all colleges/universities have representatives, but many do.)
Brief Glossary of Common U.S. Educational Terms
Bachelor’s Degree – This is the first degree one can earn at the higher education level. It requires I20 credits worth of course work. A minimum of 90 of those credits and sometimes up to 45 credits must be earned in a major subject. The rest of a student’s course work is divided up between general requirements which may be established by the college or university, and electives which the student may choose from the school’s catalogue. Depending on the academic discipline, a student earns a bachelor of arts degree (B.A.) or a bachelor of science degree (B.S.) in a specific area, such as a B.A. in comparative literature or a B.S. in physics.
Credit – A credit is given for each 15 hours of formal studies in a recognized higher education institution in the US. Most courses “carry” (are worth) three credits. That is, they meet for 45 hours, usually three hours per week for 15 weeks, 15 weeks being the length of a normal semester. At the undergraduate level, students take five courses per semester, or 15 credits (5 x 3 credits). Some courses carry only one or two credits, and some up to six credits, so the number or courses can vary. But it is unusual for a student to take more than 15 credits per semester. Thus, students normally earn 30 credits per year (two, 15 credit semesters), and it takes four years to earn the required 120 credits for a bachelor’s degree.
College – The post-secondary school institution where most high school graduates complete four years of college, with a B.A. or B.S. degree. In the U.S., this can be equated with university. Traditionally, colleges in the U.S. were small (300 – 2,500 students), four-year institutions where one went to get a well-rounded undergraduate education with a major in a broad area such as science or history or literature. This education prepared students either to enter the professional world, or to go on to do more focused and specific graduate work at another institution. Colleges tended to be small, although there are now a number of large ones. Most colleges now also offer a wide range of majors and many have graduate programs. Colleges generally emphasize teaching more than research.
Early Decision – a plan under which a student applies to the college of his/her first choice early in the fall, usually by November 1 or 15 of the senior year. The student agrees by a binding contract to enter that college if offered admission. Students are usually notified of decisions in mid-December. If not admitted in December, a student is often reconsidered for admission later in the year.
Early Action – This application plan follows essentially the same calendar of application and notification as Early Decision but does not include the binding contract. The college allows the accepted candidates until May 1 to accept or decline the offer of admission.
E.T.S. – Educational Testing Service – The center is Princeton, N.J., which handles all of the registration and score reports for the College Board tests.
Graduate level/degree – This refers to degree programs beyond the four-year bachelor level, generally called master’s or doctor’s degrees. There are many different kinds of degrees within these two categories, and the organization of studies varies greatly depending on the discipline and the type or design of the program. Most master’s degrees and all doctorates require an original, lengthy research thesis. To graduate also means to finish a degree program.
Higher education – Higher education refers to formal schooling after high school. This could be a college or university or a technical school or vocational school. It covers both undergraduate and graduate studies.
Major – In the four years leading to a bachelors’ degree, a student will normally take 40 courses, at least 10 of which will be focused in one discipline, or major. The idea behind this is that a well-educated person has been exposed to many different disciplines, and has studied at least one discipline in depth. A major may also prepare a student to go on to graduate level work in a particular field. Thus someone who wants to be an engineer may major in math at the undergraduate level and go on to do graduate work in an engineering school at a university.
Secondary Education – Secondary education refers to the four high school years, grades 9 – 12, usually called the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years. Normally these correspond to the ages of 14 – 17.
Social Security number- Identification number assigned to American citizens by the U.S. Government. Non-Americans who are intending to study in the U.S. should apply for a number at the U.S. Consulate in Paris.
Undergraduate level – This is the first level of higher education, leading to a bachelor’s degree in a specific discipline. It is usually organized as a four year program with two semesters each year from September to December and February to May. The four years are also called freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years.
University – A large (5,000 to 50,000 students) higher education institution composed of several coIIeges or schools, such as a School of Education or a College of Arts and Sciences. Unlike colleges, universities offer a wide variety of courses from engineering and agriculture to art and philosophy. Universities offer both undergraduate and graduate programs.
Sources of Information on U.S. College and University Admissions
Much information is of course available online. You may also wish to consult some college handbooks which provide factual information and some subjective comment on colleges and universities. Most handbooks present information by categories, such as: enrollment, curriculum, faculty, majors/programs offered, campus life, student body, costs, financial aid, admissions, selectivity, and profile of the first-year class. Handbooks are available in Paris in English-language bookstores, in the American Library of Paris, and at the Franco-American Commission. The following is a list of a few suggested handbooks which might help you in your search:
Barron’s Profiles of American CoIleges. Woodbury, NY: Barron’s Educational Series. Published annually.
America’s Best Colleges. Washington, DC: US News and World Report, Published annually. Available at U.S. newsstands as well as at English-language bookstores, and online at http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges?ref=home.
College Board Annual Publications: College Board Publications
The College Handbook
The College Handbook, Foreign Student Supplement.
Index of Majors and Graduate Degrees
College Costs and Financial Aid Handbook
Peterson’s Competitive Colleges
Peterson’s Guide to Four-Year Colleges: Peterson’s Guides.
GENERAL GUIDES OF EXPLANATION AND ADVICE
The Fiske Guide to College – Edward B. Fiske
The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges – Staff of the Yale Daily News
The Fiske Guide to Getting Into the Right College – Edward B. Fiske
Colleges that Change Lives – Loren Pope (visit www.ctcl.com)
Looking Beyond the Ivy League – Loren Pope
The College Finder – Steven Antonoff
Rock Hard Applications- How to Write a Killer College Application – Katherine Cohen
The International Student’s Guide to Going to College in America – Sidonia Dalby, Sally Rubestone, Emily Harrison Weir
Parents’ Guide to the College Admission Process – National Association of College Admission Counselors. NACAC Publications, 1800 Diagonal Road, Suite 430, Alexandria, VA
Beyond the Bac – Higher Education in France & Abroad, AAWE Publications, www.aaweparis.org, October 2011.
Your CoIlege Application – Scott Gelband, Catherine Kubale and Eric Schorr. College Board Publications.
Writing Your College Application Essay – Sarah Myers McGinty. College Board Publications.
On Writing the College Application Essay – Harry Bauld
FINANCIAL AID INFORMATION
Getting into College and Paying for It – Reecy Aresty Visit: www.reecysbook.com
Scholarships for International Students. Edited by Daphne Philos. Alexandria, VA: Octameron Associates. Published annually
Best College Buys Money Guide New York: Time Warner. Published annually.
College Costs and Financial Aid Handbook. Published annually by the College Entrance Examination Board.
Paying Less for College. Princeton, NJ: Peterson’s Guides. Published annually.
Financial Aid for College, USA Today. By Pat Ordovcnsky. Peterson’s Guides.
Much material is available online. Manuals and practice tests for SAT (Reasoning Test) and the SAT Subject Tests preparation are available from the College Board and from Peterson’s (see above). A number of other good ones are published, including those by the Princeton Review, Arco: Prentice HaIl Press, and Educators Publishing Service Inc., Cambridge, MA. Commercial test preparation courses are available in Paris and are also offered through some bilingual and international schools. Test preparation and mock testing and tutoring in Paris are available through Kaplan Test Prep (Tel. 01 45 66 55 33) (firstname.lastname@example.org ) and Bespoke Education (Tel. 06 87 20 09 00) Consult their websites for detailed information,
Although information on individual colleges is of course available online, catalogues and brochures from individual colleges and universities are easily obtainable by contacting a college or university directly at addresses and numbers given in the above guides. Many may also be found at the Franco-American Commission.
VIII. Internet / World Wide Web Addresses
The number of addresses and websites on the Internet grows faster than anyone can keep track of them. There are sites established by non-profit and governmental agencies providing general information on the application process and financial aid. There are private sites for help in choosing and applying to schools, including help in filling out applications and writing essays, exam preparation, and even arranging on-site school visits, as well as searches for financial aid. Finally, most American colleges and universities have their own websites or at least e-mail addresses where one can get information, see pictures or videos of the campus, “talk” with various staff or students, and in most cases, fill out an application.
The simplest way to get connected to the domains of U.S. colleges and universities is to Google the item you are looking for. Here are some of the addresses which will help you get started:
1. finaid.org for financial aid information
2. College Board online (collegeboard.org) This is the site of the College Board, the organization which administers the SAT exams, and which provides several services including help in writing essays, and in finding schools and financial aid.
4. College Prowler (collegeprowler.com)
5. College Confidential (collegeconfidential.com)
6. Unigo (unigo.com)
7. http://www.meritaid.com (information on merit scholarships)
8. Council of International Schools. (http://portal.cois.org/wcm/CIS/Directories/Universities/CIS/Directory/Universities.aspx)
9. U.S. Department of Education. (http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/index.html?src=mr) This has limited value for non-U.S. citizens, but the information is accurate and objective.
An excellent source of advice and information is:
Franco-American Commission for Educational Exchange
9, rue Chardin
75016 Paris, France
Tel: +33 (0)1 44 14 53 61
GOOD LUCK from the AAWE College USA Committee!
Financing Your College Education
AAWE’s recently published 2nd edition of Beyond the Bac, Higher Education in France and Abroad, which you can consult in the office or purchase online has a chapter on financing your U.S. education.
Resources listed in this chapter include:
Fastweb, leading online resource in finding scholarships to help you pay for school
Funding for US Study Online, an extensive database of scholarships, fellowships and grants organized and maintained by the Institute of International Education (IIE). Funding for US Study includes all types of funding programs, for all levels of post-secondary study, across the full range of academic areas.
Collage Board, a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success.
Another excellent resource for preparing to study in the US is the Franco-American Commission at As an AAWE member, you are also a FAWCO member. Depending on the area of study, you may wish to apply for the FAWCO Foundation Education awards. Details are sent out to members in December, or you can check the FAWCO Foundation website.