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International student (UK), need some advice

thatllbemethatllbeme Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
I'm a Year 11 student studying in the UK (that's 10th grade for you guys) and I want to apply to the US for college. I'm hoping to study Computational Linguistics, with Physics or German. There's a few problems, though, and I was hoping you guys could help me out.

First: I'm pretty poor, and I won't be able to afford college without financial aid. As far as I know, there's only 6 colleges in the US who would be need blind for internationals (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Darmouth, Amherst) and they're very selective, moreso than Oxbridge in the UK.

Therein is the second problem: selective admissions. Due to long term illness, I find it really difficult to do extracurriculars. I've helped out with my school's Drama department for a couple of years, but that's pretty much it. I'll be moving schools at the end of the year for Sixth Form, so hopefully I'll have more access to extracurriculars there, but I still doubt I'll be able to do many. ECs are also different in the UK than in the US: you can't be president or anything like that for school clubs. I know I could volunteer, but I live in a very rural area where there are next to no opportunities, and the volunteering that is generally expected (in a hospital, old people's home, etc) is taken up by people who are applying to medicine.

I do a lot of self study at home though; I read a lot of textbooks - currently, two college level linguistics textbooks. Would colleges consider self study to be an extracurricular, or put any weight on it? I also do some coding, and I've recently been spending a lot of time on it, but I struggle with having no one to help me out, so I'll be doing a lot more of it once I start computing next year.

Third, my grades. Academically, for GCSE's, I'm currently at the top of the year, with the best grades possible (12A*). There's only around 100 people in my year, though, so not much competition. Next year, I'll be taking 5 A-Levels (Double Math, Physics, Computing, German), which is above what is expected (3 A-Levels is the average for schools in my area, with grades of B/C). I don't know if my A-Levels will give me extra credit, but as far as I know they're considered to be more difficult than AP exams.

I also don't have any experience with SAT exams, so I don't know when to start studying, what to study, etc, and I'm completely unfamiliar with their format - I've never taken multiple choice exams.

So, in summary, my questions to you guys:

Which colleges should I apply to, and which ones would even accept me? Are there any others I should consider?

What ECs could I do?

How can I improve my applications?

How will colleges view my academic record?






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Replies to: International student (UK), need some advice

  • happymomof1happymomof1 Registered User Posts: 28,745 Senior Member
    Start reading here: https://www.educationusa.info/ Then get in touch with the advising center in London https://www.educationusa.info/Fulbright-UK EducationUSA is a not-for-profit organization that receives funding from the US government for the express purpose of providing international students with accurate, unbiased information about higher education in the US. The counselors there are expert at helping students like you determine their best options. You do not have to struggle through this on your own.
  • thatllbemethatllbeme Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
    Thank you! I've been looking through their website, but I was also hoping that someone on this board could provide EC advice, since it's more of a topic which can be answered (I assume) by those going through the application process.
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 39,654 Senior Member
    We can't tell you which colleges you should apply to, it's too early. You'll need SAT scores (both Reasoning and Subjects) or ACT scores.
    Depending on those, you'll know whether you can target merit aid - some schools provide full tuition or even full rides for excellent scores.
    You can register with Question of the Day and see what Khan Academy offers (both are free). You can't really practice yet because you'll be taking "new" SATs - the first prep materials will be released this Spring.
    Your course rigor and academic performance are excellent, keep up the good work!
    12A* is indeed perfect (like a string of 800s on SAT subjects :p) and 5 ALevels is also an impressive number, although if you mean 5 AS, less so (6AS is common for competitive candidates to top universities, with 3 or sometimes 4 at A2).
    ECs: find something you love and pursue it. See if you can be a research assistant for a teacher or a professor at a university who may be living or working nearby. The year you were ill won't be held against you, but even taking into account the fact you live in a rural/isolated area, there has to be something you can be very very good at and wouldn't mind doing/practicing a lot to achieve a level worthy of a national award.Or see if you can make money with a business, or be awarded money for a project...?
  • thatllbemethatllbeme Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
    Thanks for your reply. I'll look into getting practice materials as soon as they're released. I've also looked at some of the College Board practice questions for the subjects I'd need to do for subject tests, and, assuming they stay the same, they look pretty easy so I've got that going for me.
    I'll be taking the 5 A-Levels to the full two years, as well as an Advanced Extension Award in Math and an extended essay qualification. I've never heard of anyone taking 6ASs - schools don't allow it by timetable, and Oxbridge only ask for 4.
    I'll look into being a research assistant, though - I live about 45 minutes away from a University which has a very large Computational Linguistics department, and maybe they'll take me.
    The problem with national awards is that none will be accessible to me until mid-next year, as my school won't let me take them early. I'll probably be doing a Math and Physics Olympiad if I get in to my school of choice next year.
  • N's MomN's Mom Registered User Posts: 2,212 Senior Member
    ECs aren't just school clubs. An EC can be a job or it can be child-care responsibilities at home if your parents work or are incapacitated. It can be an individual activity that you are passionate about: photography, art, music. (I interview for an HYPMS and one of my more memorable candidates was an avid gardener with an interesting specialization and a lot to say on the subject.) Do you play any sports? It doesn't have to be with a school team - just something you do regularly and have developed some skill at.

    People tend to get very emotional here on CC about it needing to be something that you are ranked in, or that is organized by a school, or has an 'official' governing structure - but it doesn't. Anything you love and care about will do. If linguistics is your private passion, and you self-study it, I would consider it an EC. Let the adcoms decide if what you do with your free time is of value and interest to them.

    As for the academic advice, there are many schools besides those you mentioned that provide generous financial and merit aid to top quality candidates as a way of increasingly their diversity. Contact schools like Grinnell and Macalester (12% of their student body is international) and find out what they want to see.
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 39,654 Senior Member
    ^I second Grinnell, Macalester, etc.
    But that'll be for later.

    Youmay want to get a copy (even a used one, as long as it's 2008+) from the Princeton Review's Best Colleges, Insider's Guide, or Fiske Guide, or buy one now, another one next year ;-) Then, start familiarizing yourself with these colleges "personalities". It's a unique aspect of American colleges that they have their own "culture" and their own "personality".
  • AlfonsiaAlfonsia Registered User Posts: 825 Member
    Is your illness in the past tense? The USA Is not really the place to be sick with a chronic illness as a foreigner. Frankly, volunteering doesn't need to be structured or in a club, be an after school tutor for the kids that need help in school, read to old people in your village. Frankly, would you take a non ivy over Oxbridge/Imp? I am not sure I would advise that for my kid.
  • thatllbemethatllbeme Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
    The illness is ongoing, unfortunately, and with the 'efficiency' of the NHS I doubt it will be resolved by the time I start studying, which is why I'm putting a preference on colleges which have good healthcare. I won't be applying to UK universities because the cost (£9000/year + accommodation) would be prohibitive. I'll be applying to a couple of German universities though (Tuebingen, Stuttgart, Bremen) so I don't really care about how prestigious the college is - the most important things are that my education is good and cheap.
    I never thought about tutoring kids - I might ask about that when I get back to school, thanks.
  • AlfonsiaAlfonsia Registered User Posts: 825 Member
    Erm, do you understand that you pay for healthcare in the USA? You can't afford a UK education but you are hoping for a US education/? If you are poor enough to get FA here you would get it in the UK for a top student, no? You need to look at financials. If you are purely aiming at lower tier schools for a full tuition scholarship based on merit, you will still need to pay to live, to fly, to eat, to pay for your medical condition. You will need to get your visa, fill in and satisfy international student financial documentation. What kind of money do your parents earn?
  • Conformist1688Conformist1688 Registered User Posts: 1,046 Senior Member
    "If you are poor enough to get FA here you would get it in the UK for a top student, no?"

    The UK doesn't do FA in the same way. Loans are available for all as standard for the tuition fee - not means tested at all. The OP wouldn't be paying that £9000 up front, just incurring debt. He/she may not be aware that a component of FA in the US is often in the form of loans, which may have less generous payment schedules than the UK govt loans.

    Healthcare costs: there's some useful info here, including another warning about checking details for coverage of pre existing conditions: http://www.fulbright.org.uk/pre-departure/practical-information/us-healthcare-system

    Germany could be a sensible option for you, though, OP, especially as you're doing German A level.

    Just how isolated is your area? Can you use a bus service, or are your parents/friends willing to give you lifts? Can you get to somewhere with a drama group, for instance? Or are there any job opportunities - if it's rural, are there farms or rural businesses around?
  • thatllbemethatllbeme Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
    I assumed that FA, at least at the schools I mentioned in the original post, would be a no-loans kind of business (at least, as far as I know, MIT has this), and includes health insurance (once again, MIT). FA doesn't exist in UK Universities, even for low income students - sometimes they get slight reductions in tuition, but I haven't seen it to exceed £1000/year.
    To be honest, Germany looks like a much better bet for me right now, although there are a few caveats (still have to pay for healthcare, can't work term time, some trouble with A-Level/Abitur equivalency, and my lack of either English or German as a first language...)
    I live in a very rural part of England - all busses out of the village were cancelled some time ago, and all my friends live at least 30 minutes away. Farming jobs are sparse because a lot of the school leavers here go straight into farming after leaving school. I hope my new school (if they accept me) will have more ECs.
    If US Colleges end up being unattainable because of my circumstances, I'll be disappointed, but at least I have backup plans.
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 39,654 Senior Member
    Look into Berea. It sounds like exactly what you're looking for.
  • Conformist1688Conformist1688 Registered User Posts: 1,046 Senior Member
    I had a look at the MIT medical plan, and it doesn't mention pre existing conditions, so you may be Ok with that, but if you have ongoing medications, the copays may add up - it's more than UK prescription charges: https://medical.mit.edu/learn-about-health-plans-student/prescriptions
    it looks as though you'd be required to take out the extended insurance as well, which would be a bit over $2000 to add to your budget calculations: https://medical.mit.edu/learn-about-health-plans-student/waivers
  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan Registered User Posts: 11,783 Senior Member
    It's wrong to assume.

    Plus, even the most generous schools still gap some with their fin aid.
  • AlfonsiaAlfonsia Registered User Posts: 825 Member
    Again, what do your parents earn? You would have to fill out all sorts of paperwork with all these details. Just because you have decided UK uni is too expensive does not imply the schools here would consider you too poor to pay for school.
    If you go to some small rural school UK you must be a superstar that is getting attention from the teachers and guidance staff, what do they say about your financial situation? What is this thing about moving schools for upper 6th? Where do you actually live in the UK? Define rural but within 45 mins of a university?
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