University in the US?

(24 Posts)
misstiggywinkle21 Tue 06-Aug-19 18:52:58

Anyone in the UK with DC's that have gone to university in the US? Interested to hear feedback/learnings.

OP’s posts: |
bpisok Tue 06-Aug-19 19:33:52

I think that @leeds2 has a DD in the US.

...mine considered it but has decided to wait until post grad

MissConductUS Tue 06-Aug-19 19:56:01

I'm a Yank mum, with one in uni now and one applying. I'm happy answer questions about how things work here, application process, etc.

BubblesBuddy Wed 07-Aug-19 04:29:10

Mine was offered a place but declined as we all decided it was too much money in terms of cost/benefit. No loans available and at a cost of $40,000 pa for 4 years just for tuition it’s not a cheap option. Living costs, flights home and course costs will be on top. DD received a minor scholarship but it was still ultra expensive. It’s only really viable for undergrad if you are very rich or very clever and get a needs blind place which, of course, is hugely competitive. Otherwise, it’s for the rich only at undergrad level or sports scholarship can be an option.

katmarie Wed 07-Aug-19 05:33:32

I studied for two years over there doing an associate degree, not quite the same but the Visa process was the same and so were a lot of the classes. Happy to help if I can smile

bpisok Wed 07-Aug-19 07:25:11

An Bubbles said it's expensive.

The Ivy Leagues generally do a need blind admission where they don't look at your finances before making a decision. They commit to offering scholarships to ensure that those offered can attend. If you have savings then they will assume that you can spend them on education. If you don't they will pay (the end cost for me was roughly the same as private school fees in the UK).
Until recently I didn't think the lesser Unis did this but it transpires they do (I thought they only offered tiny scholarships)
In the last couple of weeks DD has been offered a variety of places with SAT/CAT exams waived and in one instance 100% scholarship (fees and board) ....she does have very good GCEs and 3 x A* predictions at A Level though. She's in year 12 and the offers are unconditional (mainly to start this year without completing A Levels).
The Unis making the offers are apparently due to her registering an interest in US Unis In Unifrog (which has her exams etc in it) and being registered with Fullbright and College Board. She has not made contact with these particular Unis before and they are around rankings 50-80 in the US.
It's worth mentioning that they are very keen on extra curricular (head girl, sports, volunteering etc) and many US pupils start building their 'CVs' for several years.

...that's the end of my knowledge!!! I am 99% certain that she won't take any of the offers or apply to the Ivy's she looked at.

Loopytiles Wed 07-Aug-19 07:29:23

Financially complicated! living costs are much more expensive than the UK even if you manage to get financial help with fees.

I studied at a US university for a year many moons ago. much preferred it to my (high ranking) UK university: lecturers seemed happier and were better, facilities, “rounded” education. But huge cultural differences and I disliked living so far from family and friends.


Needmoresleep Wed 07-Aug-19 07:59:18

DS is taking a Post Grad degree at a good University, well actually two. A Masters followed by a PhD, luckily both fully funded. (The Ivy league is a football league! Though Ivies are some of the most established of US Universities, there are just as many equally well regarded places such as Stanford, MIT and so on.)

The big difference he has noted is exams. They seem to happen every four to five weeks. Mid terms, end of terms, end of year. All are important because of GPAs, and in some places, class placement. It is a bit of a grind to those used to finals and not much else, but seems to be something that Americans are used to.

These and the fact that under 21s can't buy alcohol, means that campus life is more sober. I am sure inventive students find ways around this, but alcohol is not the bedrock of social life that it can be in the UK. Wetherspoons would not be the same if you were carded.

That said the level of resource is impressive. The campus is beautiful and there is space, some amazing sports and drama facilities, and seemingly more money to recruit international staff etc.

He took quite a specialist degree and Masters in the UK. It means he is one of the youngest on his programme, and one of the most technically proficient. His US educated peers will have taken much broader first degrees. DS dropped English at 16, and has barely written an essay since he was 18. It will be interesting to see if, and how, this shows.

Boulezvous Wed 07-Aug-19 08:19:42

I went to do my Masters many years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had a tuition waiver and was a Graduate Teaching Assistant so paid to do the degree. It was brilliant.i went with a good friend who won the scholarship too. It was sometimes hard to be far from home but it certainly was character building for me - I was much more resilient as a result.

A good friend of mine has a son in the US on a soccer scholarship. It's very hard as he can't afford to come home often and now is planning to stay there and marry his GF. She feels like she lost him a bit - though is very glad her DD is still here.

MissConductUS Wed 07-Aug-19 14:22:12

If you have savings then they will assume that you can spend them on education. If you don't they will pay (the end cost for me was roughly the same as private school fees in the UK). Until recently I didn't think the lesser Unis did this but it transpires they do (I thought they only offered tiny scholarships)

Let me see if I can clarify this a bit.

There are two categories of financial aid, need based aid and "merit" aid. Need based aid is pretty straight forward. They look at student assets, parental assets and income and calculate an Expected Family Contribution (EFC). If your EFC exceeds the cost of attending you get no need based aid. If your EFC is less than the cost of attending, you are expected to take out the federal government loans on offer, which don't add up to all that much. Then the university will fund the rest with a grant and in some cases, a part time job on campus. University money is always "the last dollar in" as they say. I don't know what they do with foreign students who obviously don't qualify for US federal loans.

The EFC can be really big. We're sort of upper middle class and our EFC was over $70k, so no need based aid for DS. He still had the option of taking out an unsubsidized federal loan, which we managed to avoid. When DD starts in 2020 and we have two attending at the same time the EFC for each will be $35k, but then the kids would have to take out loans for the next layer of the cost, and we'd like to avoid that if possible.

Merit aid is much simpler. Uni's are ranked by all sorts of services and publications and a big part of the ranking is the average Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores of the students who attend. The SAT is given in secondary school and has two components, English and maths. Each section is scored from 400 to 800 and the results added together for a total score. A total score of over 1200 puts you in the upper half of the results.

Universities seek students whose SAT scores will raise their average and thereby improve their ranking. They effectively "buy" high scoring students by offering them merit aid packages that make attending more affordable. So less selective uni's will offer a high scoring student a lot of money. There are other factors as well, like athletics or musical ability, etc. that can increase your merit aid offer. The merit aid will be taken away if your grades fall below a certain level, then restored when your grades come back up.

I read an interview with a university admissions officer who likened the process to casting a movie. You eliminate those who are clearly unqualified then have to bring in a certain number of football players, German students, and the odd French Horn player.

We were fairly fortunate in that DS had very solid SAT scores and is an accomplished crew rower. His uni is giving him $12k per year in merit aid, which brings his total cost per year (tuition, room and board, fees, etc.) to about $40k per year. Other, less selective schools offer about double that, but didn't offer as good a program or facilities as the one he now attends.

Part of what is driving the competition is a demographic drop in the number of university aged kids in the US. There are about 300k fewer of them then there were 5-10 years ago. The really top schools aren't affected but the mid range ones find themselves really competing more sharply for the students they want. Quite a few lower tier uni's have either closed or are downsizing and laying off faculty, closing dormitories, etc.

If you want to lower the cost of attending a university in the US it's pretty easy. Have your child apply to schools where they will be in the upper third of the applicant pool. You will very likely get substantial merit aid if the uni offers it, and most do.

Sorry this is so long. I'm happy to answer any questions. smile

misstiggywinkle21 Sun 11-Aug-19 20:13:57

Thanks all for the really helpful insight. This would likely be on a sports scholarship. I heard they are given on an annual basis - anyone know how likely they are to be repeated /rescinded?

OP’s posts: |
growlingbear Sun 11-Aug-19 20:15:53

I have two friends with DC doing undergraduate degrees in USA. But both have one US parent (living in UK) which I think reduces the fees a bit. DS2 is very keen so I'm following with interest.

namby Sun 11-Aug-19 20:21:42

I would investigate the colleges carefully, the quality and standard of education can vary massively, I went to a highly regarded college for a semester and it was quite shocking the level of education vs the UK, set lower than GCSE I felt. But obviously HUGE variety, so that's why I say investigate. It was an easy ride for me to get my grades up so depends what they're after! In terms of teaching, I loved the variety of the US system vs the rigidity of the UK, especially useful if they're not entirely sure what they want to study specifically.

Textbooks are very, very expensive.

ealingwestmum Mon 12-Aug-19 12:42:00

Another parent here with a DC considering under-graduate studies in the US (or possibly Canada). Still at early stages, entering Y11 but her school try to start the students prep from Y10, to at least think about the areas of development needed for application. They had circa 60 international offers in 2019, most of which were North America so there's fortunately a robust system in place, should we pursue.

I tend not to discuss publicly, as US apps are often met with derisive comments in RL, such as do we have more money than sense; our DC's Head thinks it's now easier to get into Ivy than Oxbridge (she doesn't aspire to study at Oxbridge!); there are Liberal Arts degrees now in the UK etc etc. I'm not overly sensitive to it, as the reality is, it IS potentially expensive (especially with all the extras of flights, insurance, books, not being able to work outside of term other than on-campus jobs as part of visa rules). Even on full ride/scholarships/financial aid or whatever the support, there are extras that won't have been budgeted for with the same ease as studying in the UK.

Many of the DC applying from DD's school are from US parentage, but not all. There are colleges that have financial aid calculators that give a rough indicative figure to financial support which is useful start point. Also if from state school but nearly independents that have a strong US division, worth contacting them for outreach support, that includes being invited to US visiting college talks, transcript and SAT/ACT support, as ours and a neighbouring school provides locally.

The point about the varying standards of US students vs UK has been openly discussed by the various US visiting college talks we've attended. They really like British students that can make US students up their game, and our exam system is seen as a robust indicator of academic potential. They don''t mind if A levels of IB. The numbers nationally are still small from the UK, and being part of the wider international pool, if successful will still be out-weighted by American domestic undergrads. But if you are an all-rounder with no idea what you may want to do yet, enjoy participating in extra curricular stuff and are pretty sociable, then the US can be a more appealing place to study.

DD has ruled out anything but east coast due to travel times, prefers large, city type campus vs smaller, rural colleges, and if able to improve on her sport, will try and get on the radar for athlete recruit status. I don't know the answer to the T&Cs attached to a sports scholarship, once accepted, but I don't believe it's as rigid with athlete recruit status, albeit the expectation is to contribute to the sport across the 4 years.

Sorry that was long! In summary, if she knew what she wanted to do now such as specific industry/profession, I would recommend she sticks to UK as I do believe the degree quality is better here, but as she wants to remain as fluid as possible with interests across many subjects, the US, if successful may be better value and be a more enjoyable experience for her. She can always submit a UCAS application if she changes her mind, but would prefer to have an earlier US outcome if possible. It's also a lot of extra work, and unless she's prepared to manage her diary, relationships for teacher references, prep for SAT and so forth, there's no point in pursuing. I believe lots of applicants at her school drop out in Y12 when they realise how much extra work is needed.

Good luck to those going down this route!

MissConductUS Mon 12-Aug-19 14:04:55

Thanks all for the really helpful insight. This would likely be on a sports scholarship. I heard they are given on an annual basis - anyone know how likely they are to be repeated /rescinded?

If the student can't play due to injury they will lose the scholarship. They will also need to maintain adequate grades. Other than that, it will depend on the uni. This is a discussion to have with the admissions department. I think if he plays well and can continue he would likely keep the scholarship the whole four years.

BubblesBuddy Mon 12-Aug-19 14:42:21

A substantial merit aid is still going to mean it’s more expensive than here. Is a mid range university better than, say Durham or Edinburgh in world rankings? Not necessarily so. Choose very wisely and be prepared to dig deep.

Masters and post grad are completely different but undergrad really does need to be weighed up regarding costs and benefits. Plus they are 4 year degrees so would an undergrad plus a maters here be a better bet? I think it also depends on career objectives but coming back to work here with a degree from a mid range university in middle America might not be all that special.

BubblesBuddy Mon 12-Aug-19 14:44:05

Also: there are no loans for uk students. If you have to pay 60%, you pay up front. Federal loans are for US citizens. UK citizens don’t qualify.

MissConductUS Mon 12-Aug-19 15:26:07

Also: there are no loans for uk students. If you have to pay 60%, you pay up front. Federal loans are for US citizens. UK citizens don’t qualify.

While this is unfortunate I think it's understandable given that most students would move back to the UK and the federal government would have no way of collecting on the loan if it wasn't paid back.

Since the federal loans are capped at an amount less than what many students need there are many private student loan options available, but here again the citizenship question may be an issue. I'd email the financial aid office at any uni's you're interested in and ask them for advice on borrowing options.

ealingwestmum Wed 14-Aug-19 11:38:43

Regardless of the rank of US institution or location potential DC are aspiring to go to, I think it's great to have first hand knowledge from the likes of MissConductUS (thank you) and others who are on hand to help, should any wish to pursue a different route to undergrad education other than applying to the usual suspects in the UK.

I don't disagree that one needs to weigh up the perception of a college in the work place, cost/benefits etc but the actual value derived is individual to each student and family, and how they may leverage this. The UK degrees offering a year in US is also a good option if cost is too prohibitive.

I may be wrong, but for international students, I believe that you need to demonstrate the ability to pay for 1st year's fees to conform Visa requirements, with fees due for payment (minus any financial aid/grants) prior to each semester start.

BubblesBuddy Wed 14-Aug-19 13:31:31

We did all the emailing and there are no loans. The Fulbright Commission will substantiate this if you go to their seminars. I think it is fair there are no loans from the USA. Look at the debt that would involve! Far more than here and many students here (70%) will never pay it all off. It is also a grad tax here, so different. A loan from the USA would not be on the same terms. We really did not expect one.

I trawled through pages and pages of possible funds but we did not qualify for anything and DH has a substantial income. So we made a decision based on value for money. I would look at a UK degree with a study option for a year in the USA. That is far more cost effective.

BubblesBuddy Wed 14-Aug-19 13:35:32

The value derived may be individual but the cost must be taken into account if the student's family have to pay and they are not rich. Most students want a job at the end of studying and it is valid to ensure $40,000 a year buys you that, especially if you have a massive loan to pay off that is not a UK loan. Choice is great if miney is no option. The "usual suspect" universities here are, of course, world leaders in many cases.

ealingwestmum Wed 14-Aug-19 15:57:24

Wasn't sure if your posts were in response to mine Bubbles, I myself am not referring to, nor trying to access loans. If support is approved on Needs-Blind applications for those colleges that support this, the financial aid is not 'loan' financing. Full ride terms for talent scholarship applications (such as sport) to non-Ivy are also not loans. Not all non-Ivy are mid range in Middle America. Some are, but many are not, and the workplace still manages to create jobs for employees who have not all come out of the top world ranking institutions.

we did not qualify for anything and DH has a substantial income

There is a cut off for everything, in the same way that not all households would qualify for bursary funding in the UK, if that's a route they wanted to go down.

The "usual suspect" universities here are, of course, world leaders in many cases

No disputing this either. But some students may wish to study in world leader institutions elsewhere too, if the circumstances all add up.

The OP is showing an interest in DCs that have gone to the US. It's not for everyone, lots to consider but a valid question re obtaining feedback as part of their due diligence to explore all options open to their DC.

MissConductUS Wed 14-Aug-19 21:07:12


Regardless of the rank of US institution or location potential DC are aspiring to go to, I think it's great to have first hand knowledge from the likes of MissConductUS (thank you)

You're quite welcome! I learn a lot here on MN so am happy to give back when I can.

But some students may wish to study in world leader institutions elsewhere too, if the circumstances all add up.

I think it's too easy to focus only on the uni's "brand" or reputation. Some of the MN'ers I've discussed US uni options seen to think that if they can't get the DC into Harvard or MIT there's no point, as most others won't be recognized by potential employers in the UK.

I understand that perspective, but you're not just buying a name to put on a CV. You're finding a place where the DC will thrive and succeed academically and socially. That place might or might not be in the US. For my DS we found a uni that is not a big name even here in the US but is well known regionally and it ticked his boxes for size, location, academic support services, friendly culture, great crew program, etc. He's really thriving there and given his major, will have no problem whatsoever finding employment when he graduates.

I think that the university experience here is less structured and more varied, with a wider range of choices. I think that's especially valuable if your DC isn't sure what they want to study when they start. Most US uni's don't require you to declare a major until your second or third year and many allow you do design your own course of study.

More choices and more options is a good thing. That's how you maximize the probability that all of the circumstances will add up.

ealingwestmum Thu 15-Aug-19 11:01:05

All makes sense MissConduct; and we're under no illusions here with such low acceptance rates to the more prestigious 'brands'. DD also looking at Canada which will have a different cultural feel to the US I suspect, but gets good feedback from those she knows who attend.

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