Often when families come into our office they know just what they want, but still, we know how important it is to ask and provide all the different options. We love asking about Gap years, traveling, and about attending university in a different country especially the United Kingdom. While many families will think instantly of Oxford or Cambridge, because this is what they know from books and movies, there are so many good options in London, (The London School of Economics and University College London, to name two!) and in the countryside of Scotland (St. Andrews and Edinburgh are the most well known to US students.)—it is a real adventure and a world that is so worth the time to explore!
Most people, whether international or domestic, seem to assume that attending university in the United States is the automatic choice because of that very word: CHOICE. However, there are some extremely good reasons to point a student in the direction of the United Kingdom, not the least of which is that the parents can visit.
The most important aspect of any student’s college search is to find the right match or fit, and if one wishes to start with an academic focus then the UK is a terrific place. Unlike the system in most schools in the US, from the very start (the application process), the UK requires that a student knows exactly what subject (called course) she wants to study. For many, being able to avoid the US system of liberal arts distribution requirements is a perfect way to pursue their undergraduate education. So, if a student knows she wants to study one subject whether it is art, economics, or French Literature, and only one, then the UK is an excellent choice.
Once this decision is made, the next positive aspect of the UK system is that the application process is streamlined and much easier. It is an automated system called the University and Colleges Admissions System (UCAS) to which every school subscribes, (as distinguished from the US Common Application to which only about 450 of a few thousand colleges subscribe!), and a student applies through this well-organized system. Some important points to note are that a student may apply to only five universities, which makes carefully choosing them very important. However, the admissions requirements are VERY clearly identified not only by each university but also by each course at each university so that a student will know whether or not she is a candidate even before applying. The application process is very systematic and there is only ONE essay that focuses only on why a student wants to study her chosen course and what she has done connected to this interest thus far in life.
The final benefits of attending university in the UK are price, length of degree (often generally three in the UK vs. four years in the US), and an increasing call in the work force for students with international experience and exposure. Of course, students may achieve this experience on some level by simply attending a US university and studying abroad for a term, but it is not nearly the same level of immersion and exposure that those who actually attend an international university for their entire university experience might have; and the way in which a student who has studied abroad for her whole career might speak about that experience is entirely different than one who has just one term abroad. Both are valuable to be sure!
For articles that make connections between a student’s employability and studying abroad see the links below: