Studying abroad in America for UK students
Thinking about doing your degree in America but unsure if you have enough dollars to fund university across the pond? We've got you!
Embarking on a course in a foreign country can be daunting for the bravest of students, but it's a once in a lifetime opportunity that you may regret not taking! It might seem like an expensive adventure, but there are ways of buffering the toll it could take on your finances.
This guide will serve as an introduction to the different degrees on offer and how much each one costs, what kind of financial support is available for international students, how the American higher education system works and what you need to do to apply.
We'll also provide links to our other guides along the way which go into further detail about each of these topics as well as why a US degree could make you more employable.
What's in this guide?
Why study in America?
According to UNESCO, there are currently around 10,000 students from the UK enrolled at American universities.
America is home to many of the world's most respected universities, including the likes of Harvard, NYU, Yale, Brown and Stanford. Foreign students flock to these institutions for the high quality of teaching, learning resources and extracurricular activities.
However, a lot of the decision-making will factor in what you're looking to get out of studying in America. There are many universities and colleges which aren't as well known internationally, but still offer a great education and a fab overall student experience.
Most popular American universities
Harvard... Yale... Stanford... Princeton. Which university comes out top trumps?
If it's academic credentials you're after (or maybe a prospective employer only hires from a select few unis?), you'll want to know which American universities sit on the golden throne of international rankings.
We've put together a list of the top 10 universities in America based on rankings from US News, an internationally recognised leader in American university rankings.
But remember, ranking systems are based on a variety of statistics. Just because a uni ranks number one doesn't mean it's right for your chosen career path. Aim for one that's right for you and your course subject.
Popular university cities in the USA
We've made an alternative list of US locations you might want to consider if you're still stuck on which part of America you'd like to live in:
- Austin, Texas
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Chicago, Illinois
- Los Angeles, California
- New York City, New York
- Portland, Oregon
- Seattle, Washington
- San Francisco, California
- Washington DC.
And if you're still mulling over whether America is the right place for you, here's a list of benefits up for grabs if you do decide to take the plunge.
How much are American university fees?
We're not going to hide it from you. Tuition fees in America can be higher than in the UK, believe it or not, but there's a whole host of scholarships and bursaries available for international students, so don't fret!
The cost of American university fees varies depending on the type of degree you embark on, as well as your chosen institution. Here are the average going rates for each one:
- Public two-year college – £2,764
- Public four-year college (in-state) – £7,811
- Public four-year college (out-of-state) – £20,044
- Private non-profit four-year college – £27,688.
Find out which of these courses is right for you and how much you'll need to put aside for uni materials and accommodation in our guide to American university fees.
How do you fund studying in America?
Funding your US education is one of the most important things you'll need to consider, as this could ultimately decide whether or not you make the leap.
But don't let the high(er) tuition fees fool you into thinking that the Land of the Great is out of your reach. There are lots of options for international students, you just have to know where to look.
The best place to start is the university you're applying to. Lots of American universities offer scholarships to international students which will fall into one of the following categories:
- Needs-based scholarships: contingent on your parents' income
- Niche scholarships: awarded to targeted students according to a skill they possess, their background or their area of study
- Merit-based scholarships: awarded to students with outstanding results in a particular area of study
- Sports scholarships: awarded to students that excel at a particular sport.
According to Education Data Initiative, 86% of undergrads at American universities received financial aid in some form – you could be one of them. Have a look at our guide on funding degrees in the US to learn more about the organisations offering support to international students.
How does the American university system work?
If you are looking to study in America, then it really is a good idea to know how the US education system works over there. There are quite a few differences between the US and the UK's higher education systems.
For a start, it takes four years to complete an undergraduate degree in America. Courses tend to be very general during the first two years, and the specialism in your subject will come into play towards the tail-end of your degree.
Degrees in America are also heavily coursework-focused. This means that your overall grade is based more on the work you hand in throughout the year than on a cluster of exams organised at the end of a term (which translates to a slightly heavier ongoing workload as well).
We've got a full guide on the main differences between universities in the UK and the US if you want to learn more.
How do you apply for university in America?
Firstly, it's important to note that there is no central body (like UCAS) that facilitates American university applications. You will need to apply for each university separately on their website.
Visit each university's international student section to find out what documentation you'll need to provide as getting through the red tape can take longer than the application itself.
There's no limit to the number of universities you can apply to. However, it's worth bearing in mind that it costs $46 on average (or around £33 to you and me!) so only apply for the ones you're genuinely interested in.
Want to learn more about the application process for American universities? Good, 'cause we've only gone and written a step-by-step guide on how to apply for American universities for you.
Reasons to study at an American university
Wondering why you should apply to universities in America? Here are the top reasons to study in America:
- American unis have world-leading tech and academia – While Oxford and Cambridge consistently do well in the world university rankings, some of the top universities in America give them a run for their money and often have fantastic research opportunities.
- Degrees in America are longer and cover a variety of subjects – American degrees (like many Scottish ones) are generally four years long, giving you one extra year of student life before the uni bubble bursts. Plus, they give you the chance to study a range of subjects before majoring in one.
- American degrees can improve job prospects in the UK – Depending on your chosen industry, your overseas experience and connections could be very valuable to UK employers. Studying abroad also shows that you're driven, willing to take risks and able to adapt to a new culture – a definite way to set you apart from other applicants.
- Campus life is different in American universities – As we mentioned above, American universities are very different from those in the UK, including campus life. There's quite a different drinking culture in the US as their legal drinking age is 21 and you'll likely have to share a room with another student. On top of that, there is a big focus on fraternities and sororities.
- American employers recruit straight from university – There are strong alumni networks within American colleges, helping you to meet potential employers during and after your degree. American unis are also big on career fairs, where top employers are looking for the best students and graduates (a.k.a. you).
- Experience American culture – Studying in America is a pretty unbeatable chance to explore a new continent and culture. If you've got a burning desire to go out and see as much of the world as you can, this could be the ideal time for you to do so.
Ivy League universities in America
As mentioned in this guide, America is home to some of the most prestigious and selective schools in the world. There are eight Ivy League universities:
- Brown University
- Columbia University
- Cornell University
- Dartmouth College
- Harvard University
- The University of Pennsylvania
- Princeton University
- Yale University.
Already applied to your dream uni? Take a look at our top video interview tips to make sure you secure a place for the next academic year.