Admissions Abroad

By Stella Haffner   |   March 22, 2022

The air smells like printer ink and young people around the country are biting their nails. It’s that time of the year again: Admissions Season.

If there’s one thing I have learned from studying abroad, it’s that Americans truly have some cultural quirks. One of those cute little oddities is the way we handle college admissions. With a native familiarity of American college admissions, it may not be obvious to us why people from other countries find our application process to be so confounding. So, as a point of contrast, I thought we could explore the ways in which the American college admissions game, a process as much fortune as strategy, is understood from a foreign eye. Here to answer some questions is Danish person and thorough Americanophile, Kaja Andersen.

Q. You were born and raised in Denmark. Growing up, what was your first exposure to the USA?

A. The Disney Channel, actually. We had it on cable at home. I believed for a very long time that all American high schools had massive posters of their sports teams like they did in High School Musical.

Do you remember having an image of what college in America looked like?

As opposed to American high school, American university was not really represented in the media I was exposed to as a child. I was vaguely aware of the existence of sororities, and I knew university was a big deal and that American students had to do a lot to get in. Some of my exposure to American university actually came through Danish news, which had a period where it reported a lot on the rape scandals. I had a view of American university that was extremely social, competitive, and dangerous. 

How do you apply to university in Denmark?

There are two options for undergraduates, and you may do either. You can upload your high school transcript and be done; you will be admitted as long as your grades are high enough. If your grades aren’t great, you can apply the other route, writing a letter of motivation. As a postgraduate, however, you don’t usually apply. If you pass your undergraduate degree, you progress automatically.

To the best of your knowledge, what does an American student have to do to apply to college?

I don’t know what you actually have to do, but I’ve been watching high school students receiving their admissions letter on YouTube, and it’s extremely entertaining. When they talk about the process, it sounds like they have to do a lot of different things. They write a lot of essays, sometimes about why they want to attend the university, like one of our routes in Denmark. But sometimes the essays seem to be about topics that aren’t related to going to university at all. And they also seem to take a lot of tests. There’s a lot of talk about statistics. I guess they also have to get recommendations from their teachers. It sounds pretty exhausting.

Is it true that you don’t have teacher recommendations in Denmark?

Yeah, that isn’t a thing.

Now of course I have to ask about the money. How much is tuition in Denmark? 

If you are a Danish or EU resident it is free, and you also get a monthly stipend of 5,300 krone.

Do you have application fees?

Again, for Danish residents and EU residents there isn’t a fee. 

Final question: Is there anything about American college admissions that you would like to have in Denmark?

The bravado and drama! Danish college admissions are so boring in comparison – you simply log in to the system, fill out your personal details, and pick your top five programs from the list. Furthermore, all the universities are considered equally good in Denmark. In the U.S., where you end up going to university seems to matter a lot more, so the emotional involvement is at a whole other level. Watching YouTube videos of students from the U.S. receiving their admissions letters – the pathos is incredible. And the admissions letters are so much cooler too. We just receive an email, while American get confetti animation and videos. 


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