In the last several years, students have shown a keen interest in studying in the UK for their higher education. What is this draw? A lot has to do with the ability to start studying one’s major immediately rather than waiting for the obligatory two years at the majority of schools in the US. What else is appealing to students is that courses are three years as opposed to four years. Though, schools in Scotland are four years (our higher education system is actually based on the Scottish system).
How Should Students Academically Prepare for Study in the UK?
Because the US does not have a standardized curriculum like other countries (ie A Levels or GCSEs in the UK, French Baccalaureate in France, German Arbitur, etc.), students need to plan ahead. In the US, the closest we have are our AP exams, ACTs or SATS or students taking the International Baccalaureate path, an international curriculum.. What is important is how students choose their course work because in the UK students choose their path of study in order to apply to university. In other words, if a student wishes to study Biology, then obviously, a student would take AP Biology and perhaps other courses to enhance this course of study and at the IB level, take IB Higher Levels.
Often, students come to me at the beginning of their senior year with the idea that they wish to study abroad. Sometimes, they know what they wish to study, sometimes, they don’t. So, what is important is to know what you want to study as well as having some Advanced Placement (AP) courses and exams taken (at least three). In addition, SATs/ACTs are paramount in this trajectory.
When students sign on for their course work each spring, it is best to think about what AP exams they would like to add in order to enhance their studies for this particular post secondary path. For example, if a student hopes to ‘read’ (study History) History, then the best choice of study would be to take as many history courses as possible along the AP track. Generally speaking, three AP exams are needed, and on the websites of each university of interest, the school will list their requirements. For example, if you look at the University of Bristol, they have a page for US students: www.bristol.ac.uk/media-library/sites/international/documents/USA%202022-23pdf
If you wait until your senior year to take AP exams, then you will receive a ‘conditional acceptance’ based on your results. I recommend that you have your US schools as a backup (meaning you will have to put a housing and university deposit down on the US school, which is fine).
There are other pathways to the UK, those being through two years of Community College, or a Foundation Year with various requirements. For these recommendations and others, feel free to contact World Student Support
The Application to the UK
Some of the universities in the UK are using our Common Application, but the details can really be found on the UCAS website:
The UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) www.ucas.com
The Application Process
Compared to our Common Application, the UCAS application is less complex. There is one tedious bit and that is placing your course work into the application. You will write one Personal Statement- Why This Course with a few other added pieces of information to enhance why you would make a good candidate as well as one recommendation (known as a Referee Statement). You have five schools you may apply to and for a mere cost of approximately $35 USD you submit your application. The most difficult part is determining the five you universities choose to place on your application.
Generally speaking, the application opens up in September and the deadline for this year was January 26th, 6 pm UK time.
Regardless of whether you are using the Common Application or UCAS application, the total choice of universities is five. That means if you use the Common Application for three of those choices, then you can only use UCAS for two.
Key Elements in Planning Ahead
- Lay the groundwork for your studies
- Research UK schools
- Take the required AP exams for your determined future studies
- Take your College Board (SAT) exam or ACT
- Timeline: think about this ahead of time so you as a student can complete your AP and other standardized tests in your junior year, that way, you can have a firm offer sooner than later (students taking the obligatory AP exams senior year will receive conditional offers based on the results of their exams and won’t know their standing until July)