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Undergraduate in UK then graduate in US?

andyccandycc Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
Hello community,

I am a student in Singapore who attends a "feeder" school to top US/UK universities.

My end goal is to do a master's degree/MBA in the US, and if possible, work there for a few years. However, I'm torn between these 2 paths:

Path 1: both undergraduate and graduate in the US (say, Chicago and then Columbia)
Obviously, by the time I attend the graduate school, I will become familiar with the country/culture, and I will have more network/contacts.

Path 2: undergraduate in the UK then graduate in the US (say, Oxford and then Columbia)
This way, I will have more international experience (Asia/Europe/USA), as I also get to travel the whole Europe.

My problem with this approach, is how do Americans view UK schools? If by chance I could get into Oxford/Cambridge, will people recognize these institutions? I have friends in Cornell, UCLA who say that their peers don't know what LSE is, and they thought Cambridge refers to Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Which do you think is a better path?

Replies to: Undergraduate in UK then graduate in US?

  • TomSrOfBostonTomSrOfBoston Registered User Posts: 14,443 Senior Member
    edited May 2018
    I have friends in Cornell, UCLA who say that their peers don't know what LSE is, and they thought Cambridge refers to Cambridge, Massachusetts.
    Your friends' peers at those schools are clueless. Oxford, Cambridge, LSE etc. are well known by those who count: grad school adcoms and corporate recruiters. All top MBA program in the US require a minimum of two years work experience after receiving a bachelor's degree.
    Post edited by xraymancs on
  • milee30milee30 Registered User Posts: 1,666 Senior Member
    Top notch American grad schools and employers will all know Oxford, Cambridge and LSE as will most informed Americans. Currently US colleges are making a large effort to admit first generation students (meaning the parents of the student do not have a college education), so it's possible the people that your friends talked to at Cornell or UCLA are fairly new to the college scene and that could be why they aren't familiar with Oxford, Cambridge or LSE.

    The biggest risk for you regarding the US colleges is going to be potential changes to the US work visa situation. Under the current system, you'd be allowed to work in the US for a small amount of time after graduation (how long depends on what type of degree you obtain), then you'd either need to leave or find employment where the employer is willing to try to get another type of visa for you (such as an H1B). Over the past few years, the number of H1Bs and other visa has been continually decreased and it's getting harder to find employers who want to take the risk and hassle of going through that to hire nonUS employees. This could continue or the visa situation could get worse - no way to accurately predict.

  • MandalorianMandalorian Registered User Posts: 1,754 Senior Member
    The top UK schools are well known in the US, especially to people in academia/admissions. It really depends on what program you want to go into and the strengths of those programs at the different institutions.
  • Twoin18Twoin18 Registered User Posts: 930 Member
    The UK rates the rigor of Singapore exams very highly, whereas US schools look more holistically at applicants, so its quite plausible you'd have a better chance of getting into Oxbridge than equivalent schools in the US (HYPSM). After all Oxford and Cambridge admit more undergraduates from Singapore than from the US. And even here almost everyone would rate Oxbridge more highly than UCLA and Cornell, and most would put Oxbridge above Columbia and Chicago. Though the Oxbridge alumni network is fairly poor compared to what you get from US schools.

    So unless you have a burning desire to do a liberal arts degree, you might want to play to your strengths and go to the UK for undergrad if that means you get into a better school (you also could be done in 3 years not 4). However, as noted above, one wrinkle is that you do have to think about where you would work between undergrad and grad school. I suspect that might be easier in the US, especially given the H1-B1 provisions in the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, but you'd need to find a sponsor and that might be simpler if you are already in the US for school.
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 39,160 Senior Member
    American undergraduates in New England would logically consider that Cambridge = city where Harvard is unless the context makes it clear the person means "a UK university".
    All in all, with 3,700 universities in the US and thousands more in the world, most people know the college they/their parents attended, whichever university is nearby, and the universities they see on TV for their favorite D1 sport (plus the occastional Sweet 16 competitors, etc.)
    However, professionals and academia will know most of the top UK universities - and you will be able to add a couple explanations on your resume if need be.
    If you wish to work in the US after your degree and you're not a US citizens, having a US degree means you can get a 12-month paid OPT (job training/degree application program) if you majored in something other than STEM, and if STEM it's 27 months.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,616 Super Moderator
    Yeah, I agree with MYOS1634 here. Most Americans won't know or care about the top UK universities - they may have heard of Oxford and Cambridge; they may know that they are very old. But few of them will be familiar with the prestige level compared to U.S. universities, and even fewer will be familiar with other UK universities (more people now may know St. Andrews, but only via knowing that's where Kate Middleton and Prince William met!). And that's not limited to first-generation students. Even many multi-gen students won't be familiar, and it's because they don't really have a reason to care.

    But to be fair, most Americans also will be unfamiliar with many prestigious American colleges and universities too - your average American doesn't know much about Williams or Swarthmore, won't be super familiar with Washington University in St. Louis or Rice, and/or couldn't name all 8 Ivy League universities.

    The important part is that graduate school admissions committees and top corporate recruiters will know the best schools in the UK, because it's their job to know. Those are the only people you really need to worry about.

    My advice is that you shouldn't try to plan out your entire life right now as a high school student. In the future, you may change your mind and decide that doing a grad degree in the UK or somewhere else is the best choice; you may decide not to do a graduate degree at all; you may decide to work for several years before the graduate degree. You can't forecast the future, so try to pick which one makes the most sense to you and which will provide you with the kinds of opportunities you want.

    I have lots of colleagues and classmates who

    1) did undergrad in the U.S., their graduate degree in the UK and then came to work here (and the reverse)
    2) did undergrad in the UK, their graduate degree in the UK and came to work here
    3) did undergrad in Asia, their grad degree in the U.S. and came to work here
    4) did undergrad in Asia, their grad degree in the UK and came to work here
    5) did undergrad in Asia, grad degree in Asia and came to work here

    And probably a bunch of other configurations I haven't mentioned. There's no "better" objectively; there's just better for you.
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