Brazilian Universities vs American: What Are the Differences?

Have you ever wondered what going to college is like in other countries? Universities are pretty much the same, right? A place we go to study and learn skills to help us with our future careers. But do they all function the same way? Hi, I’m Lu, a Brazilian college student, and today I will be sharing with you a little bit about what Brazilian universities are like… and there are some major differences.

Free Universities

How about we start with the first step? Choosing what university you want to go to. In a previous article, I mentioned how Brazilians tend to study in their hometowns (that means: no dorms on campus), but that’s not all. Here we have two university options: Federal and Private. 

The Federal universities are run by the government and are 100% free. Yes, you read it right. Totally free. Private universities are very much like most American institutions. You pay fees according to your course charges. However, private colleges and universities in Brazil aren’t nearly as expensive as U.S. schools (unless you decide to be a doctor, in that case, you should be ready). To help people who cannot afford private university fees, we have a system called FIES, which is similar to U.S. federal financial aid.

One Test to Rule Them All

How does the application process work? In the U.S., your academic history, extracurricular activities, sports, behavior, and more are all taken into consideration and can help get you into colleges. In Brazil, there are only two ways to do so, and the options above have nothing to do with it.

To enroll most private universities, the student only needs to write an essay on a specific topic as instructed by the school’s admissions department. That’s it. Almost too simple, right?

But the ‘Game of Thrones’ stress really begins if you want to enroll in a federal university. Students must take a test called ENEM (much like the SAT or ACT, but this test is mandatory), and the ENEM score determines which majors you can enroll in, and what courses you can study.

For example, if you want to study medicine, you’ll need to score at least 780 out of 1000 points. To study psychology, you’ll need at least 650 points. If a student scores over 800 points, for example, they can study medicine, psychology, and any course that has a lower score demand.

One test. One score. And it decides your future.

Also, the points change depending on the institution, and spots are limited. That means even if you have a great score, there might not be a seat for you at your favorite school. And there’s your ‘Game of Thrones.’ Daenerys herself could have a hard time fighting for a spot.

No Sports Scholarships

While Brazilians love their sports, they aren’t nearly as important when getting into college. They won’t get you a scholarship, there won’t be big stadiums full of fans screaming and cheering, no university merch with the team mascot, and no cheerleaders with pompoms matching players uniforms. It’s just not part of the university life.

Some universities do have a few athletics clubs managed entirely by students and some can get pretty popular. Some even produce their own merchandise and throw “tailgate” parties, but nothing like in the U.S. The good thing about this system is that students have the freedom to start their own projects and clubs, and it can be a great way to bond and meet new people.

I hope these differences maybe made you interested in studying in my home country of Brazil! You never know… Brazilian universities might be a perfect fit for you. Good luck!

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