A Guide to Studying in the US for UK Students

The Fulbright Commission reports that there are approximately 11,600 students from the UK studying at US universities. The US is ranked as one of the world’s best education providers and has been attracting increasing numbers of students from the UK each year.

If you decide to study in the US, you’ll have a choice of thousands of degree programmes and institutions. Popular cities for students include San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston, but you’ll find fellow international students throughout the country. A lot of factors will enter into your choice of where to study in the US, and there are many universities that are not necessarily well-known internationally that will still provide you with an excellent education and a fantastic overall student experience.

American Universities

With over 4,500 academic institutions, the US has one of the world’s largest educational systems. Overall, universities are usually referred to as colleges in the US, and there are two main types.

  • Public colleges. These are large institutions that are funded by the US state in which they are located. Tuition fees are somewhat lower, but international students pay higher tuition fees than state residents.
  • Private colleges. These are smaller universities that are funded by tuition fees, private donations and grants. Compared to public colleges, they have fewer students but higher tuition fees. The tuition fees for international students are the same as those for state residents.

According to the QS World University Rankings 2019, the top four universities in the world are located in the US: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, Harvard University and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). In addition, the publication ranked the University of Chicago as the ninth-best in the world.

The academic calendar in the US consists of two semesters. The first lasts from mid-August to December, and the second goes from January to May.

Undergraduate Degrees

Universities in the US offer two types of undergraduate degrees.

  • Associate degrees. It takes two years to complete the coursework for this degree, which usually is offered at community, technical or junior colleges. After receiving an associate degree, you can transfer to a bachelor’s degree programme, which will require you to complete two additional years of coursework to earn a bachelor’s degree.
  • Bachelor’s degrees. It takes four years to complete the coursework for this degree. Typically, you would take courses in a variety of subjects before deciding which will be your major area of study. You could also choose to have a minor area of study by completing courses in an additional subject area simultaneously with the coursework for your major area. You’ll need at least five GCSE passes and two A-levels for acceptance into a bachelor’s degree programme.

Graduate Degrees

Master’s degrees are often called graduate degrees in the US, and approximately 1,700 universities offer these programmes in a variety of subject areas. It usually takes two years to earn a masters’ degree, and the programme usually consists of both traditional teaching coursework and independent research. You will need the minimum equivalent of a 2:2 undergraduate degree from a recognised university for acceptance into a master’s degree programme.

PhD Degrees

A doctoral degree is the highest academic qualification you can earn in the US, and it usually takes four to six years to complete the process. To receive a PhD, you’ll have to pass a series of comprehensive examinations and document original research, usually in the form of a written dissertation.

Tuition fees and other costs It’s expensive to study in the US. The average annual cost (including tuition, room, board and other living expenses) is about £33,000 for a public college and about £41,000 for a private college, although the cost can vary greatly depending upon where you choose to study. However, needs-based financial aid, merit scholarships and sports scholarships are usually available, and many universities have financial assistance programmes designated for international students.