Class Dismissed

Peter Blakely / Redux for TIME

Hall pass: The east gate of Tokyo's Keio University, one of Japan's top private schools

Hisashi Kubodera could have had his pick of universities. But the Japanese student, who speaks three languages and has an aptitude for applied mathematics, knew that getting a degree in his home country was the last thing he wanted — Japanese schools are just too easy, he says. Now a freshman at Yale, he recalls sitting in on a lecture at a Hokkaido-based college to get a feel for the place. The class was "so boring and terrible," Kubodera says, he can't even remember the lecture topic. "In Japan, if you get into college you can graduate no matter...

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