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 Post subject: US v UK university?
PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2018 8:08 pm 
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Joined: Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:28 pm
Posts: 102
DD2 has started making noises about potentially wanting to go to university in the US. I was wondering if anyone else out there has gone through any decision making on whether to apply to the U.K. or US university systems ? We are Dual Nationals US citizens and DD2 is very academic, so she is potentially eligible for funding or scholarship money. But from what I gather students won’t know how much they have to contribute / borrow until they have gone through the pain of the application process.
My main worry is regarding job prospects post graduation. So do U.K. employers prefer applicants with UK degrees do you think?
Also it seems like Liberal Arts can be a bit of a waste in the first couple of years before you declare a major if you already know what you want to study (granted - not everyone does know and many change their minds having started down a different subject path!).
DD1 decided not to apply to US universities for this reason. She didn’t relish the prospect of more Maths, foreign language and compulsory sports. And then she took one look at a SAT specimen paper and said no chance!!
Even a GCSE Maths A is just not enough preparation for the SAT (no such qualms for DD2 - she is a Maths lover).


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 Post subject: Re: US v UK university?
PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2018 12:11 am 
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There are some subjects that are just obviously better to study in the UK, particularly Medicine and Law, which can only be read as postgraduate courses in the US.

However, for many students, even knowing what you want to study is not necessarily sufficient. I went to university knowing exactly what I wanted to study. I was president of my secondary school's math club; I convened the school's week-long math-fest; I asked for International Mathematical Olympiad problem books for Christmas presents (I was truly that sad). I knew that I wanted to go to study to read PURE MATHEMATICS. Ahhh... the folly of youth. This lasted until I took my first pure mathematics course (Analysis I). We started the course spending two weeks and eight pages of Greek letters proving the existence of the rational numbers (fractions). Now this bothered me a little bit. From the time DD was age 2, I could say things like "You may eat half of that biscuit", and she understood. I wasn't completely convinced that it was a good use of my time to be spending 8 pages of Greek letters proving the existance of something that I accepted as a primitive at age 2. I realised then, what I still believe today, that while I am really glad that there are pure mathematicians out there, pure maths is too much mental masturbation for me to feel comfortable making it my life's work, and I needed something more real but which still utilised my love of maths in order to be happy. Now I was lucky. If I was at most UK institutions and realised 2 weeks in that I had made a terrible mistake, then my options would be to suck it up and get out with a degree vaguely related to what I enjoyed, or to withdraw and then to reapply the following year for a different course. But I was at a US institution where changing majors was trivial.

One advantage of the American approach (at most institutions) is that it does give you the chance to experiment. You may come to university loving Chemistry, but do you know whether you want to major in Chemistry, in Materials Science/Materials Engineering (which is basically inorganic chemistry), or in Chemical Engineering? Do you really know the differences between these at age 17. I did not. This is not including all of the subjects (e.g. Archaeology, Sociology, etc.) that you really never got to try in secondary school.

As to the logistics: Many UK institutions do not know anything about US applications. It can be difficult to get useful unbiased answers about the process and about selecting institutions. A good independent source is the Fulbright Commission, founded by diplomatic treaty in 1948, to foster intercultural understanding between the US and UK through educational exchange. They have an independent non-profit advising service (http://www.fulbright.org.uk/going-to-the-usa/undergraduate).

The SAT as you note mostly covers GCSE level maths (and the equivalent English). I would recommend getting it out of the way as soon as possible (year 11 or latest year 12) if DD knows she wants to study in the US. Be aware that there are some differences in curriculuum in the SAT II subject tests. For example the SAT II Physics test covers an introduction to general and special relativity, which does not appear in most UK curriculuums.

As to money, if you can get into one of the top US institutions, it will probably be cheaper than most UK institutions. Note that this probably only applies to the top schools. Princeton was the best of the schools last year. 76% of the class that graduated in 2016 finished with no school debt. The average debt for the 24% who had debt was some USD$5000 (around £3500). For Harvard, it was about 66% and some $18000 in debt (£13.3K). There is a key differential between the questions "What does it cost?" and "What will I have to pay?" as the sticker price is very high, but only the very wealthy pay it. The exact aid package will differ between schools, but as a rule of thumb, if the family income is less than around £55K, then tuiton will be free. If above £250K, then tuition will be full price and everything in the middle is a sliding scale.

You ask if there is a way for students to know roughly how much it will cost prior to application. On the website of any school that takes US government money (which is basically all of them), they have to have somewhere a tool called the "net price calculator". It should be easy to find on the financial aid pages (and if it is not then that is often a bad sign). The NPC takes some broad information (family income, any trust funds lying around) and spits out a rough estimate of costs. It is a crude instrument. You might have a large income but 3 children in independent schools, and hence no available disposable income. The full financial aid application will tease this out, the NPC will not, but it should give you a decent picture of likely costs. The full financial application can be completed at any time, but I would recommend completing it immediately after you complete the admissions application. You want the admissions decision and financial aid award to arrive at the same time, so you can make comparisons (DD could go to institution 1 which would cost this much or perhaps to instution 2 which offers this much aid) before making a decision as to where to attend.

As to post-education employment, that really depends on where you go. If you apply to a job in the US with a degree from Cambridge, Imperial, LSE, or some other school that they have heard of, then that is a very good thing. If you apply with a degree from (say) the university of East London, then that is less valuable. It works the same in reverse. Applying to a UK employer with a Stanford, Yale, or MIT degree means a lot more than one from the University of Oshkosh. However, I have rarely seen a strong preference for a UK degree in hiring. Your university degree is really only important for your first job, and after that it is your skills and experience that moves you up the ranks. After that the only important bit is that you have a degree.

Good luck.

[Note: Edited but only to fix spelling errors]


Last edited by Mr PerpetualStudent on Fri May 04, 2018 8:25 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: US v UK university?
PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2018 7:44 am 
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Hi avidskier!

We went through the same evaluation recently.

For funding, I found the web sites of the leading US (Ivy League) universities useful. They quickly gave a good indication of what it would cost and what the financial support would be. For some UK families, although the US is much more expensive, the support means it will actually work out cheaper.

There is a US Universities Fair each year which we also found useful. A web search should help you with details.

In the end, though, my daughter decided not to apply to the US. She didn’t want to do the mandatory four years for ‘just’ an honours Bachelors degree; the US would start at too low a standard and the UK needs only three years. And she didn’t want to be so far away from home. And the SAT prep would have started soon after GCSEs in Year 11, effectively two lots of Uni application prep. And Cambridge (UK) had her favourite course, as well as being her favourite Uni overall.

Hope this helps. … And good luck to your DD2!


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 Post subject: Re: US v UK university?
PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2018 12:43 pm 
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Fullbright also runs lectures about this in London, at least, all about US universities and you can ask questions. I've been to US uni myself and worked in UK unis, and I thought is was pretty helpful.


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 Post subject: Re: US v UK university?
PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2018 9:48 pm 
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Joined: Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:28 pm
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Thank you all for the detailed replies! It is just so unbelievably complicated and tuition seems very much linked to your parents’ income. I feel a bit sorry for kids whose parents can afford to pay but refuse to do so (my grandfather was a plumber and didn’t believe in university education - they never spoke again after my Dad decided to move to California to enroll at Stanford).

We will see what the next year or two brings.. and make a decision then.

We are relocating to Northern California (close to Stanford) in the summer and so DD2 will have plenty to occupy herself with for a year. After that she will need to start thinking about making some decisions. I am hoping her new school will help her with this also - and me with understanding the financial jungle. (Although their knowledge of the U.K. system is very limited they have had 1 or 2 students over the past few years apply). She will probably just apply to both systems and see what happens.
The U.K. will definitely be more expensive for us if we end up having to pay overseas student fees. I do wish they would assess home student fees based on nationality rather than residency!

Thanks again for your help!
Avidskier


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 Post subject: Re: US v UK university?
PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2018 10:03 pm 
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Joined: Sun Mar 12, 2017 9:58 am
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Quote:
and tuition seems very much linked to your parents’ income.

Actually tuition is fixed, and usually higher than in the UK. Financial Aid/Bursaries are tightly linked to family income. As such you end up with a real gap between the price (what it costs), and effective cost (what you have to pay after financial aid).


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 Post subject: Re: US v UK university?
PostPosted: Tue May 08, 2018 9:08 am 
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Location: Warwickshire
It's certainly a bit of a minefield but the UK youngsters I know at university in the US will graduate without any debt while their contemporaries will have significant debts, running into 5 figures, which is a signicant difference!

In my opinion, one of the main issues is whether DC is absolutely set on a particular subject. In our household, DH is definitely not a Liberal Arts person and would have hated the compulsory language element, for example. I, however, am sure I'd have been much happier with the spread of subjects at a Liberal Arts college!

Regarding funding - if you are on a low income (which the US universities consider to be around $100,000 or less) and able to get into one of the top universities then the chances are you'll be able to get decent scholarships. In the case of the few 'needs blind' universities this can mean full funding, including food, accommodation, travel etc. This is normally linked to doing paid work while you're at college, so you're seen to be doing your bit!

However, if you're in the 'middle bracket' in US terms then things can be more challenging. To put things in perspective, a typical Ivy League annual cost can be around $80,000 for a year, all in, and you don't know the size of a scholarship offer until the place has been allocated and all your financial circumstances have been taken into account, although each college is obliged to put a financial aid calculator on its website so it's worth checking a few. At the college I know best, around half of students are paying the full amount - which is pretty mind blowing!

This is the invaluable US College Day, which should help if you're still in the country then!

http://www.fulbright.org.uk/events/usa-college-day-2018


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