Why Study in the USA?

Posted on 19th February 2021

It’s been a couple of years since I last wrote about why so many international students go off to study in the USA, and the world feels like a very different place now. Given everything that’s happened, is America still a popular university destination?

Unequivocally, yes. UK students are applying to the US in record numbers, and this year competition for places at the very top US colleges is the highest it’s ever been – applications were up as much as 102% at some places! How could this be? Well, let’s explore a few areas on everyone’s mind.

  1. Global experience

Firstly, the events of the past few years haven’t changed the fact that international education is a highly sought-after quality in graduates. Employers see a lot of graduates with the same universities on their CVs, and just having a degree is not particularly exciting. But a degree from an international college? That pricks the ears. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that employers are worried about universities they haven’t heard of – it’s not true. In fact, in many cases the name of the university is redacted in applications so as to stop prejudice, but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk in your interview about the international experience you have!

  1. Flexibility of subjects

The idea of studying lots of subjects, often referred to as Liberal Arts, is fundamental to education in the USA. At almost all colleges, you will take credits in lots of different fields, and get lots of choice over what modules you take, before you specialise. This is in contrast to most other university systems in the world, where you decide the subject you want to major in before you go. But who really knows what they want to study? And how many adults say they wish they’d studied this or that at uni? Well, in the US you get the freedom to choose and make your mind up later – and indeed to choose your mind.

  1. More than just academics

When you apply to university in America, you’re judged not just on how great you are at school and on tests, but also on your whole personality and background. Things like your hobbies and interests, your passions and your community involvement, are all highly important. Isn’t it nice for someone to care about that? Furthermore, once you get to college, you’re surrounded by people who are also like that – people who take part in things and seek out new opportunities to enrich themselves and others. This makes campus life fun, interesting and just as important a part of the university experience as lectures.

  1. Top Colleges

People often just think about the names they’ve heard of (the Ivy League, for example), and mistakenly think that means the best. But that’s very misguided; in fact, in the recent top 100 colleges in the world rankings, half of them were in America! How many do you think you could name? This means that there are dozens (probably hundreds) of world-beating colleges that you’ve never heard of. Students and parents are starting to realise this, and that’s why so many international students now apply all over the USA.

  1. Money

Yes, US colleges are expensive. But there is an astonishing amount of financial support available to international students across US colleges. This comes in the form of academic scholarships, sports scholarships, and mean-tested aid; in all cases the better student you are, the more likely you are to get access to support. In some cases these might even be “full-rides”, whereby you pay no tuition fees and your expenses are also paid for! This reward makes the US attractive to the very best students (and sports players!)

  1. Brexit

The UK’s exit from the EU has created a lot of uncertainty for UK students who might have been thinking about studying in Europe. Before, they would (in most cases) have been entitled to the lower tuition fees paid by Europeans, but that is not the norm now. If you have to pay fees, why not look elsewhere? What else can you get for your money? The US represents good value, and as per above there are a lot of opportunities to reduce those fees, so more people from the UK started applying to America, even when international applications had dropped as a whole.

  1. Covid-19

You wouldn’t think that the pandemic would drive up applications, would you? But they have in America, and that’s because of a major change: many colleges have gone test-optional, which means you don’t have to submit SAT or ACT scores anymore. This has allowed students to put in speculative applications to top colleges they might not have considered before. This has driven up the diversity of the applicant pool, but also the competition.

By the way, just because you don’t have to submit scores, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Good scores may well help your application at very selective universities, so you should go into the process assuming that you will need to prepare for them. (We can help with that!)

The US remains, more than ever, very popular with international students. Sound attractive to you? Then let us help you apply!

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