With a hot labor market, growing economy ripe with opportunity, wonderful weather and beautiful scenery, who wouldn’t want to go a Brazilian University to round off their education?
How about if we tell you that there are no tuition fees in Brazil’s top universities – because they are public universities? Great examples are the Universidade de São Paulo, the Universidade Estadual de Campinas, and the Universidade Federal do Rio De Janeiro, all public, tuition-free institutions that are in the Top 4 of 2014 QS University Rankings in all of Latin America.
What you need to know about applying to a Brazilian University
#1 – Career decision is an early one
Contrary to what happens in most US colleges, you don’t freely pick courses and figure out later which major you want to work towards as you go along. You have to pick the job you want to pursue (lawyer, economist, physician, engineer, teacher, etc.) before you even apply, and the courses that you will need to take (and when you need to take them) will be mostly determined by the University.
#2 – There are 3 main types of undergraduate degrees in Brazil
Bacharelado – takes between 4 and 6 years to complete, and allows you to become a professional in a specific area – medical doctor, lawyer, engineer, economist, etc.
Licenciatura – takes between 3 and 4 years to complete and allows you to become a school teacher in a certain subject (Math, English, Biology, etc.)
Tecnológico – takes between 2 and 3 years to complete. It is obtained more quickly because it’s designed to provide very specialized knowledge in a certain trade (e.g. Agriculture, Tourism Management, etc.)
#3 – There is a myriad of grading systems and no unified academic credit system in Brazil
Contrary to what happens in the US, each University has their own grading system (that can vary from a % system, to a 0 to 10, to a A to E system). You can’t accumulate credits for each course you take that you can transfer to other Universities.
Having said that – transfers are possible, but the process is not straightforward or objective.
#4 – Candidates must take a public open examination called the Vestibular
This exam is somewhat comparable to the SAT or ACT tests, although there are important diferences, covered in the Wikipedia article. As with the US, Universities have a limited number of places available. The fundamental difference in the selection process however, is that your Vestibular grade used to be the only factor taken into consideration for your entrance into a specific University.
However, recently, some universities in Brazil began accepting students according to their high school performance and as a result the Ministry of Education designed a new entrance examination known as ENEM (“Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio”). ENEM has now been adopted by most public universities. In the future, both ENEM and the Vestibular will co-exist.
#5 – Brazilian universities may require foreigners to pass the Celpe-Bras proficiency test
The CELPE-Bras (CELPE stands for “Certificado de Proficiência em Língua Portuguesa para Estrangeiros” — i.e. Certificate of Proficiency in Portuguese for Foreigners) is the single certificate of proficiency in Brazilian Portuguese as a second language that is officially recognized by the Brazilian Ministry of Education (MEC). The Celpe-Bras exam can be taken either in Brazil or in many other countries, including the United States, Colombia, Germany, Chile, and Japan, with the support of the Brazilian Ministry of International Relations (MRE). The exams take place twice per year — in April and October. Registration may be done over the Internet in February, March, August, or September.
If you interested in studying in Brazil, read more about our Celpe-Bras preparation classes!
*by Afonso Infante. Afonso Infante has been a professional writer for 22 years, certified by Pragmatic Marketing Foundations. He was born in Lisbon (Portugal), raised in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), and has lived in the US for the past 12 years.