US or UK Universities?
Which one is right for me?


You’re a high  school student with an eye towards the future and higher education, but the choices are seemingly endless and you’re paralyzed! The first important question you want to ask yourself is will you stay in your home country? Or will you go abroad?

Going abroad is fantastic for a number of reasons–to become a more global citizen, experience unfamiliar environments, broaden your perspective, and attend internationally renowned institutions to earn a world-class education. When students and families come to us, the most frequent question that comes up is which is better: the US or the UK?


However, ‘better’ is highly subjective depending on what kind of person you are and what you want for your future. Do you see yourself living and working in either country? Do you know exactly what you want to study right now? Are you trying to finish school as fast as you can to work? 

Here are some important considerations:

1. Tuition


For US universities, the average cost of tuition will be anywhere from about $40,000 – $50,000 USD per year. UK university tuition will range anywhere from approximately $14,000 – $53,000 USD per year. These figures are both for international students. On the face of things, UK university does appear cheaper overall, but there are some other caveats you should consider.  As an international student, in the US, your tuition will be higher because you pay ‘out-of-state’ tuition rates. If you are hoping to attend a state or public school, like the University of California schools, you will NOT be eligible for any financial aid. As a government-funded school, aid cannot be legally distributed to international students, only domestic students. 

However, private schools and liberal arts colleges in the US do not have such restrictions and are much more generous to international students, especially liberal arts colleges. This can cut down your overall cost of attendance, the total cost you will pay to attend the school, by half if you secure aid and scholarships. For UK schools, the cost varies widely because their course fees are dependent on your major or field of study. In general, social sciences will cost less while science courses will be on the higher end to pay for laboratories and clinicals. Remember that this is tuition, and not the cost of attendance to these schools. Imagine that you are studying at a school in London and how the cost of living will add up.


2. Length of study

Typically in the US, your undergraduate degree will take 4 years to complete. On the other hand, in the UK, your degree will take 3 years to finish. That’s another important consideration when thinking about how much money you’re spending on school. However, you would be missing out on an extra year of the college experience. If money isn’t a problem for you, having an extra year in college can be a valuable time to expand your social circle, take advantage of university resources, and continue exploring your interests. After all, you have the rest of your life to work, but you’ll probably only attend college once!



Related to the previous point, another major difference between UK and US universities is how and when you choose your major or primary field of study. In the US, most schools still have a liberal arts philosophy to their schools and require students to take a broad range of general education classes before you officially declare your major, usually in your 2nd year. Additionally, it’s very normal for students to change majors multiple times throughout college as they experiment and explore different interests.

In the UK, however, you are required to choose and commit to a major during your application process. When you are applying for a UK school, you are applying to a specific program or field of study. Instead of taking a broad range of classes, you will begin to study your specific major immediately. Consider your life. Have you already decided on your field of passion and want to get started right away? Or are you looking to wander for a little bit and see what life has to offer you?

Consider that if you choose to transfer majors in the UK, you will most likely have to restart your entire educational journey, while in the US, changing majors is much easier, especially if you haven’t declared anything yet.



This may be stating the obvious, but both countries have their own application systems and differences in what they emphasize when considering applicants. 

A) The US and Common App



In the US, for most colleges, you will use the Common App portal to apply to universities. While there are independent systems, like the University of California, or the Coalition for Access application, most likely, you will use the Common App. 

The Common App is like most other forms, but some important sections are your activities, honors, test scores, and academics. Additionally, there is the Common App Personal Statement and every school will usually have 1-3 supplemental essays. Americans love a good story and leadership, and your application and essays should be communicating a compelling story and narrative about who you are. Personal Statements aren’t just a retelling of your resume, but a personal narrative about your life, who you are, your worldview, and what you’ve learned throughout life. Every piece of your application should come together like a beautiful puzzle revealing aspects of your character and personality.

B) The UK and UCAS

In the UK, you will use the UCAS system for the application and it is a much more straightforward affair in many ways compared to the US. While UCAS also asks for activities and experience, it is a much smaller part of the application. While you are also asked to write a Personal Statement, they aren’t looking for a creative essay necessarily. Instead, the entire application process places a higher emphasis on academic and theoretical knowledge, and your essay should clearly speak to your strengths in those areas.

Similarly, your A-Levels and transcripts of your academic performance will hold much more weight overall in the application consideration. In the US, on the other hand, sometimes lackluster grades can be justified if you excel as a leader in your community.

Here’s the timeline you are supposed to know when applying for universities and college in the US and the UK.

Timeline for US university application

Date Details
1 November
Early Action or Early Decision
15 November
University of Washington Schools
30 November
University of California Schools
1 December
University of Texas Schools
1-15 January
Regular Decision

Timeline for UK university application

Date Details
15 October
Oxbridge (Oxford and Cambridge) Deadline
15 January
UCAS deadline

If you have more questions about your specific situation, please reach out to us and ask away!


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