US or UK Universities: Which one is right for me? - Point Avenue

US or UK Universities: Which one is right for me?

You’re a high school student with an eye towards the future and higher education, but the choices are seemingly endless and you’re paralyzed! The first important question you want to ask yourself is do you stay in your home country? Or will you go abroad?

Going abroad is fantastic for a number of reasons–to become a more global citizen, experience unfamiliar environments, broaden your perspective, and attend internationally renowned institutions to earn a world-class education. When students and families come to us, the most frequent question that comes up is which is better: the US or the UK?

However, ‘better’ is highly subjective depending on what kind of person you are and what you want for your future. Do you see yourself living and working in either country? Do you know exactly what you want to study right now? Are you trying to finish school as fast as you can to work?

Here are some important considerations:

1. Tuition & fees

~$40,000 - $60,000 USD per year. UK university tuition will range anywhere from ~$14,000 - $53,000 USD per year. These figures are both for international students.

On the face of things, UK university does appear cheaper overall, but there are some other caveats you should consider.

As an international student, in the US, your tuition will be higher because you pay ‘out-of-state’ tuition rates. If you are hoping to attend a state or public school, like the University of California schools, you will NOT be eligible for any financial aid. As a government-funded school, aid cannot be legally distributed to international students, only domestic students.

However, private schools and liberal arts colleges in the US do not have such restrictions and are much more generous to international students (especially liberal arts colleges). This can cut down the total cost you will pay to attend the school by half or more if you secure aid and scholarships. Of course, you will need to prove yourself a worthy investment.

For UK schools, the cost varies widely because their course fees are dependent on your major or field of study. In general, social sciences will cost less while science courses will be on the higher end to pay for laboratories and clinicals. UK schools also don’t have a common financial aid policy or platform, and give out very limited scholarships for undergraduate programs.

Remember that this is tuition, and not the total cost of attendance to these schools. Depending on the location of your university, additional fees, cost of living, and your personal spending can range from $10,000 to as much as $25,000 per year. Big cities like New York, Los Angeles, and London will be considerably more expensive than Dallas or Liverpool.

2. Length of Study

Typically in the US, your undergraduate degree will take 4 years to complete. On the other hand, in the UK, your degree will take 3 years to finish.

That’s another important consideration when thinking about how much money you’re spending on school. Finishing school early means you save money and can start working and making money earlier. However, having an extra year in college can be a valuable time to expand your social circle, take advantage of university resources, and continue exploring your interests.

After all, you have the rest of your life to work, but you’ll (probably) only attend college once!

3. Choosing Your Major

In the US, most schools have a liberal arts philosophy to their curriculum and require students to take a broad range of general education classes before officially declaring a major, usually in your 2nd year. Additionally, it’s very normal for students to change majors multiple times throughout college as they experiment and explore different interests. Students are also allowed to pick a minor and second or even third major.

In the UK, however, you are required to choose and commit to a major during your application process. Instead of taking a broad range of classes, you will begin to study your specific major immediately.

Consider your life. Are you already decided on your field of passion and want to get started right away? Or are you looking to wander for a little bit and see what life has to offer you?

4. Application Systems, Strategy, and Timeline

Both countries have their own application systems and differences in what they emphasize when considering applicants.

The US and Common App

In the US, for most colleges, you will use the Common App portal to apply to universities. While there are independent systems, like the University of California, or the Coalition for Access application, most likely, you will use the Common App.

In the Common App, you will fill out your personal information, activities, honors, test scores, and academics. Additionally, there is the infamous 650-word Personal Statement and every school will usually have 1-4 supplemental essays. Americans love a good story and leadership, and your application and essays should be communicating a compelling narrative about who you are. The Personal Statement is NOT a retelling of your resume, but a personal narrative about your life, who you are, your worldview, what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown.

US universities and colleges practice “holistic admissions,” meaning they evaluate a variety of factors, from academics, test scores, teacher evaluations, essays, to financial situation, ethnicity, and demonstrated interest in the university. Every piece of your application should come together like a beautiful puzzle revealing aspects of your history and personality.

In the UK, you will use the UCAS system for the application and it is a much more straightforward affair compared. While UCAS also asks for activities and experience, it is a much smaller part of the application.While you are also asked to write a Personal Statement, they aren't looking for a creative essay necessarily. Instead, the entire application process places a higher emphasis on academic and theoretical knowledge, and your essay should clearly speak to your strengths in those areas.

Most UK schools have minimum academic entry requirements depending on the major, and the more popular or scientific the major, the higher the requirements. For example, to be considered for the Economics program at the London School of Economics and Political Science (commonly known as LSE), students will need to have one of the following:

  • A-levels: A*AA with an A* in Mathematics
  • IB: 38+/45, including 766 in higher level subjects, with 7 in Mathematics
  • AP: five APs at grade 5 and a minimum GPA of 3.7

Remember, this is just the minimum academic requirements to be considered. Accepted applicants usually score higher than this.

There’s a lot to think about, so here’s a handy chart to go over some of the biggest differences:

But not everything! These are some important factors to consider when considering schools between the US and the UK, but like most things in life, it is highly dependent on you as a person and your goals and preferences.

If you have more questions about your specific situation, please reach out to us and ask away!