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US universities - does anyone have DC applying/studying/intending?

(37 Posts)
CatherineofMumbles Mon 11-Aug-14 08:50:18

DS is interested in studying at a US university, but as a non-American I'm assuming that most of the financial assistance won't be available.
Would really appreciate any insights from DC currently involved in the process - the other threads seem to be several years old so would be keen to hear about recent experiences.
Do not want to dampen DS spirits, but kind of hoping he will decide for himself to stay in the UK - his school does not allow/support applications to both US and Oxbridge, so he would be cutting out the chance to apply to Cambridge if he went the US application route. Also, am not keen that US is a 4 years course and people have told us that Y1 is mostly stuff they have already covered in A level but that hey cannot skip Y1 as they need the credits for that year.

VegasIsBest Mon 11-Aug-14 08:56:38

Can't advise on US universities as thankfully my son moved on from that idea quickly once he discovered that there were no fee loans.

However it doesn't seem right that the school say they won't support applications to both Oxbridge and US universities. It's not their decision where your son applies and any decent school would be encouraging and supporting ambitious students. Is it worth a visit to the head of sixth form to discuss / challenge this policy?

mummytime Mon 11-Aug-14 09:05:57

I would suggest you look at the Fullbright website. There is also an online course (Coursera I think) about applying to US universities.

Studying in the US is usually for a Liberal Arts degree, and is much more broadly based than a UK one. For example he would quite probably have to take courses in English and Maths whatever his later major might be.
There is financial assistance at some places, but at others none is available for international students.
If you qualify the Sutton Trust run special programs to encourage youngsters to apply to the US. So you might also want to look into that.

CatherineofMumbles Mon 11-Aug-14 09:09:13

Vegas, thanks for you speedy and helpful response!
DS is just about to go into 6th form, so we will have more contact then - so far it was just a presentation last term to get the DC thinking over the summer - they told us that then - we will question further next term.
I don't see why they shouldn't apply to both - in any case presume they can just put on the UCAS form whatever they like grin.
Since posting have been googling a bit, and can see that the non-UK loan availability is significant. We could fund it ourselves, but I don't think that is appropriate for Higher Education - our view is that he will be an adult then, and so needs to make decisions based on what he thinks is viable for him to repay!

CatherineofMumbles Mon 11-Aug-14 09:10:52

mummytime thanks! ( I did tell DH that first port of call for any dilemma is MN - he is not wholly aware that have had our best advice on here over the years grin)

Eastpoint Mon 11-Aug-14 09:25:06

My dds school also discourages dual applications as the different systems are looking for different things. From what I understand the US colleges want you to demonstrate a broader range of subjects and prefer you to do 4 subjects to A2. You don't actually need 4 subjects at A2 to apply to Cambridge so why do 4? Also I think each US college has different entrance forms, there is no centralized admissions board and you have to write specific essays for college applications, this is also time taken away from your A levels. If you are offered a place by a US college I think you know before the actual exams as the places are not conditional on A levels, but sometimes they do ask for grades to ensure you don't coast from Christmas onwards. My dd is the same age so we haven't actually been through either process but I have seen a close friend's daughter's college application forms.

If your son is interested in history, Kings London has an option to spend one year in North Carolina, I know two students who have done this, one from a wealthy family, the other from a far poorer background. The latter's costs were covered.

CatherineofMumbles Mon 11-Aug-14 12:43:20

Eastpoint thanks - that does make sense

Leeds2 Mon 11-Aug-14 19:28:45

Just come back from a week on the Easy Coast looking at 9 different unis in 5 days! My head is spinning!!

The main difference seemed to me, as mummytime said, is that the degrees tend to be liberal arts ones and, depending on the institution, certain subjects are compulsory in the first year, regardless of what you intend to major in. Most seemed to require students to do an essay writing course, some required maths and some a foreign language. The language could be studied from scratch, but I don't think you got as many credits for that. Engineering was always said to be treated completely differently (I don't know how!), and geography never got a mention. In essence, if your DS knew he wanted to focus entirely on physics, or history, for example he might be better off in the UK.

Most places offered 4 years living on campus, and most students seemed to do this, which I think is different from the UK. There also seemed to be a lot of jobs offered by the colleges for the students.

Some offered some sort of programme in January where students had the month off, but had to do some form of focused activity. One tour guide had studied tae kwan do, another ski ing in the nearby mountains and another girl from Africa (Uganda?) had worked in a health centre in her home country.

I was very impressed with the places we looked at, much more than I had expected to be if I'm honest, but my worry for DD is that if she is trying to gain admission to both UK and US units, she may fall between the two. I didn't find anywhere that was bothered about A Levels (small sample, there may be such places) as the focus was on SATs.

Leeds2 Mon 11-Aug-14 19:30:17

They also didn't seem to interview, and admission was entirely dependent on the application form.

helzapoppin2 Mon 11-Aug-14 19:57:48

My son attended a US uni while we were living there.
He got no financial aid.
Degrees take four years, or can be spun out longer.
Fees for overseas students can be higher.
They can't get holiday employment, (big minus) although there was uni employment for some international students.
First year of uni is like 6th form here.
He had to re study a broad range of subjects.
You have to get their UK qualifications translated into US equivalents for application.
He wasn't made to sit the SAT test.
Summer hols very long, May to end of August.
Internships in public sector work can be difficult as you have to be a citizen of the USA.
Big book lists, but there are good second hand websites which save a lot.

The thing about 'A' levels- nobody will really understand what they are. In America they only really understand American qualifications.

Could DS do a course in the UK with an exchange year in the USA?

Leeds2 Mon 11-Aug-14 23:29:27

helza, can I ask where your DS studied? Particularly interested in places where you don't have to do SATs if you are an overseas student.

CatherineofMumbles Tue 12-Aug-14 09:46:57

Very interesting and helpful.
Reinforces my view, both academically and financially, that DS would better studying in the UK and maybe doing BUNAC in hols, possible exchange term/year or possible postgrad work in the US.

Needmoresleep Tue 12-Aug-14 10:56:41

As well as KCL you might look at UCL and Warwick, and I assume others. Warwick have a big tie in with University of California and so scope to spend a year at a campus in California. Similarly UCL offer an economics degree with a year abroad. Other Universities/subjects may offer the same opportunities.

In terms of applying for US Colleges things to consider might include:

1. Demand for places at the big name Universities (Ivies etc) has doubled in the past five years. Now seriously hard, in many cases harder than Oxbridge.
2. Really expensive unless you are a star candidate/athlete. Plus a four year degree, and travel costs.
3. US colleges tend, unless say you are a superb mathematician, to be looking for all-rounders with things like proven leadership skills. Eg people who will contribute to the college community rather than just being brilliant at their subject. What they may be getting instead, based on observing some London based Americans, is kids who for a decade have been whisked around from academic tutors, to sports coaching to music lessons with no chance to stop for breath.
4. SATS. I was amused to discover that the initials dont stand for anything. And according to a recent New Yorker article, don't test much except ability to do SATS. That said prep for SATS seems to start 2/3 years in advance and seems to involve stuff like learning long lists of obscure vocab. You can apparently sit the tests multiple times until you get a decent score, which suggests that those not playing the game seriously are at a disadvantage. It means also that you are better off doing quite a broad range of A levels. One example is a boy doing a MFL, Maths, English and RE. Great for the US but less useful if applying for a more specialised degree in the UK.
5. Late specialisation. This suits those who are not sure what they want to do or prefer the idea of a broad based education. Those who want to get on a study their preferred subject might be better off staying in the UK for their first degree and then considering whether to do a Masters overseas. Several of the very very bright overseas students who joined my son at sixth form seem to be staying in the UK for this reason, even though they probably would have had their pick on US colleges.
6. Quite a cumbersome admissions process. The increasing demand for places means that if you are determined to study in the States you probably need to apply for 8/9 colleges. No UCAS and so possibly a different approach for each. The dates also dont fit with the UK system in that you would have had to accept your US place long before you get your A level results. Therefore the advice, particularly in the busy A level year, is to only apply to one system. The complexity and tactics mean that there is a booming consultancy industry. Apparently £10,000 a time for a consultant to hold your hand through the process.

If you really want to study overseas the Canadian application process is more straightforward and their colleges cheaper. Plus increasing numbers of opportunities in Europe as Universities there expand the range of courses taught in English. Or Ireland. Or perhaps South Africa which apparently offers some good degrees with relatively low fees and living costs.

Chennai Tue 12-Aug-14 11:14:41

My DS is at university in the US - two years into a four-year course.

He's there on an athletic scholarship, though, which thankfully covers his tuition fees (otherwise we wouldn't be able to afford it). There is also academic scholarship money available - some of it specifically for international students - but that's not guaranteed and you have to apply for it each year as far as I can work out.

He was HE so it didn't feel so much of a system switch but a massive life change! He loves it. Absolutely couldn't be happier.

He took the SAT - just did it once and luckily got a high enough mark. We bought a book on Amazon that gives lots of practice tests and tips, and that was enough to give him an idea of how to go about it. The SAT itself lasts about 4.5 hours and comprises a series of different sections.

We didn't use any of the agencies - I can only speak for athletic applications but it's navigable yourself if your son is willing to put the time in. You don't need to shell out lots of money to consultants. Having said that, lots of other athletes in his sport do pay agencies to help them through the process and feel that it's worth it so it depends on your son's individual preferences and circumstances.

He didn't need to declare his major for ages - which seems weird to people used to the UK system. The breadth of gen ed courses on offer is great, though. Again, it depends on what you want out of the course. The academic requirements at his university are rigorous, and they are tested constantly, with mid-terms and finals every semester, plus other frequent tests. How hard you have to work depends in part on which courses you choose, though, as far as I can see.

He's now looking into whether to apply to stay in the US for postgrad studies. Good luck to your son in whatever he decides to do.

weebarra Tue 12-Aug-14 11:18:21

I did my degree at Edinburgh (Philosophy) and won a scholarship to spend a term at an Ivy League college in the US. Might also be worth thinking about.

CatherineofMumbles Tue 12-Aug-14 12:07:03

Thanks so much for the replies - very helpful.
DS just called to say he has his first GCSE results today (igcse) French and Italian, both A*. Surprised us enormously as he is science thru and thru and we hoped he would manage to get an A-C (he was miffed at our falling off our chairs grin).
Sorry, I know this is not relevant to the thread, but am so proud of him and obv can't brag to anyone in RL grin)

Theas18 Tue 12-Aug-14 12:08:22

Anyone know about PHDs in the states? It's been suggested as good route for DD1 to look at .

Chennai Tue 12-Aug-14 12:14:40

Congratulations to your DS, Catherine! Great achievement.

helzapoppin2 Tue 12-Aug-14 21:30:41

Catherine, it was a small Catholic university. That's another difference, more private universities. His was about the size of a UK high school.
It's the long holidays and inability to get real life work experience that would be the killer for me.
I have to say, I think your DS would be better off getting his first degree in the UK, but I'm prejudiced!

Eastpoint Tue 12-Aug-14 22:41:10

I've now heard that some Scottish unis (Edinburgh & St Andrews) have a link with Stamford, this was regarding a geography degree. Might be part of the scheme needmoresleep mentioned up thread.

CatherineofMumbles Wed 13-Aug-14 09:08:07

Very grateful for all the replies - talking to DH last night, we both agreed that our own preference is for the UK - we haven't communicated that to DS - will drip feed him the bits of info... grin

mummytime Wed 13-Aug-14 10:50:10

Well if he does want to apply I would blind him with facts. So get him to research the Fullbright Trust, maybe attend College Day in September if he can. Research SATs and sitting them. Can he answer the question "Why do you want to go to a US rather than UK university?"
What does he know about them? Has he looked for the applying to the US course?

Unless he really wants to go, he probably won't put the required effort in. If he is just going into year 12, he's probably a bit late. The advise is to try to sit SAT at the end of year 11 beginning of year 12 - so it doesn't interfere with ASs too much, and things like Maths are still pretty fresh in your mind. (My DD going into year 11 is studying her vocabulary in order to sit SATs, even during the summer holidays.)

CatherineofMumbles Wed 13-Aug-14 11:01:30

mummytime - thanks? More ammo! grin
His school runs an intensive SAT prep session week in the week before the start of the autumn term, so he will be attending that in a couple of weeks and doing the PSAT in October. I am hoping that will put him off...

UptheChimney Wed 13-Aug-14 11:35:00

Have a look at UK universities which offer a year abroad as part of their degree programmes. Many of the best ones do, and the US colleges they offer as participants in the semester/year abroad are properly vetted ("quality assurance") to be of an equivalent standard to the home (UK) university the student is attending.

One of the issues in choosing a US college is the huge range & variety of college types. Does your DS or you know the difference between a State university and others? Do you know what 'top-tier' means? or the distinction between a liberal arts college and a community college? And so on ... It can be confusing and the chances of making the wrong choice are quite high.

Leeds2 Wed 13-Aug-14 21:09:39

There are, also, liberal arts degrees offered by British unis now. I know Bristol offers it and, I think, Exeter too. Probably more!

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