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Going to university overseas?

SweetgumSweetgum 88 replies3 threads Junior Member
Does anyone have any experience with going to college overseas? My dd22 has expressed interest in going to university in the UK or Ireland. Not really sure about it right now, obviously, but we are supportive if she wants to try it. It's actually surprisingly affordable compared to private schools in the US.
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Replies to: Going to university overseas?

  • NJWrestlingmomNJWrestlingmom 1851 replies2 threads Senior Member
    I don't have specifics, but it's something my D has considered. A former co-worker's daughter is at Trinity in Dublin and absolutely loves. I was debating reaching out and get some info. Will let you know if i do!
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  • SJ2727SJ2727 2837 replies15 threads Senior Member
    There is a forum on UK admissions here https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/united-kingdom/
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 6827 replies2 threads Senior Member
    We have a daughter at university in Canada. Strictly speaking that is not "overseas" however (we can drive there from here). We never considered Europe.

    Compared to US schools she seems to take more courses in her major or closely related subjects, and fewer other classes.

    It has gone very well. There are a few nits such as opening up a bank account there, and then declaring it on her US tax return (which is required even though she has no US income).

    It is very affordable.
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  • SweetgumSweetgum 88 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Thank you all for your comments and especially the link to the UK forum. Not sure how I didn't discover it before.

    NJWrestlingmom we have a neighbor who went to Trinity and that probably opened up the possibility for my D22. I am not sure that she is interested in Trinity, but maybe NUI Galway. We have friends who are profs in upstate NY who have done sabbaticals/exchanges in Galway and they love it. Our neighbor (just graduated) loved loved loved Trinity.

    I don't think D22 would be interested in Oxford/Cambridge like a lot of the threads in the UK forum here, but she's not interested in Ivies either. She is not a competitive person, but she does have good grades and is interested in experiencing life in the UK or Ireland.

    I did find a group that offers free advice on getting into some of the UK schools — not Ireland and not Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews, but they work with about 40 other unis in the UK, so I told her about that and I think she might look into it. I'm not sure what we are allowed to link here, so I will just say if you search "study across the pond" it will come up. I found it through the University of Strathclyde's (in Glasgow) website, so it is legit and free. It is geared toward Americans who want to study in the UK so they know what high school is like here and what Americans need for applying as opposed to other International students from other countries.

    I will be interested to see if D22 keeps wanting to study in the UK or if she ends up somewhere in the US. Both are totally okay with us.
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  • SJ2727SJ2727 2837 replies15 threads Senior Member
    @Sweetgum , although most of the UK discussion here seems to be about Oxbridge/St A there are as you know a lot more options among both the Russel group and the redbricks and beyond, that are maybe not as “elite” but good solid universities. If your D22 hasn’t discovered **** yet she may want to start browsing it, it’s kind of like the UK version of CC.

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  • SweetgumSweetgum 88 replies3 threads Junior Member
    I doubt if my D22 has discovered whatever that is yet, but I'll nose around and see if I can figure out what it might be.
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  • happymomof1happymomof1 30952 replies199 threads Senior Member
    edited September 12
  • SweetgumSweetgum 88 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Thanks for the link happymomof1. We'll check it out.
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  • PikachuRocks15PikachuRocks15 515 replies2 threads Member
    @Sweetgum Keep in mind if your daughter is interested in med-school, some schools won't allow you to apply with a UK bachelors degree, or will require you to take pre-requisites/1 year of study in the US or Canada, which can pose an additional cost. If not, still make sure to apply to US universities as well, in-addition to UK universities (safeties, matches, and reaches, if applicable.) Medical school pre-requisites generally include courses in the humanities, social sciences, and the sciences, which could be difficult to take in the UK model that's more focused on specialization w/o much in the way of a general education.

    Some UK universities can be applied to via the Common Application, though if you're also starting a UCAS application and there's no additional documents to submit, there's probably not a huge difference between applying via one versus the other (maybe application fees though b/c there's no currency conversion?)

    While CC and other online threads can be helpful with general questions about admissions, each school's international admissions website (and more specifically the course pages in questions) has the final say about admissions requirements. Some schools (like Oxbridge) have very specific requirements when it comes to test scores and the tests taken depending on the course you're applying for, so keep this in mind while planning out Junior/Senior year schedules.

    Hope that helps! Good luck with admissions!
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8200 replies87 threads Senior Member
    edited September 13
    The university admissions process in the UK & Ireland is much more straightforward than in the US- and it is remarkably easy to organize. A couple of key points to consider:

    = Course lengths vary. In England most courses are 3 years, but some (esp STEM and language courses) are 4. In Scotland they are all 4 years, they are all called Masters- but they don't 'count' as Masters in the US sense- you need a 5th year for that. Ireland has a mix of 3 & 4 years (though Trinity -aka TCD- is always 4 years). So, the cohort is defined by the entry year, not the graduation year.

    = The courses are extremely focused and structured: you don't choose a major, you enroll in a subject (or a precombined set of subjects), and that is pretty much all you study. There is a LOT of info available on each unis website (esp in the UK)- right down to the courses you take each year. So, it suits students who are ready specialize right from the beginning- and does not work as well for students who either aren't sure yet or who want a more inter/multi-disciplinary approach

    = For the UK, US students can apply to many unis through the Common App OR they can apply through the UK equivalent, UCAS (not both). UK admissions is very stats-driven - they aren't typically much interested in GPAs, but they are interested in APs / Subject tests (in relevant subjects) - which ones, and required scores, are listed in detail on the international pages of each unis website (it is hard to overstate just how thorough their websites are!). For Ireland, US students apply individually to each university. If you get far enough along there is a whole conversation about predicted scores and conditional offers, but as long as she has at least 3 APs (or for many unis, 3 subject test scores) by the time she finishes HS that conversation can wait until you two are sure you are interested in pursing this.

    = In general, the emphasis is on final exams > continuing assessment. That suits self-motivated students who will keep up with their work throughout the term, and can be a real challenge for procrastinators!

    = The universities are much more hands-off than in the US, and there is an expectation that 1) you are an adult and 2) you will solve your own problems.

    = Universities are much less campus-centric and much less school-spirit-y than in the US. Although pretty much all of them have housing for international students (esp in the first year), housing for domestic students is a pretty new concept. In some cities (including London & Dublin) student housing can be through the university, can be shared between universities, or provided by outside providers (in addition to apts/share houses/etc).

    = I think that the site @SJ2727 was referencing is the student room (all joined up, with the usual co.uk ending). Although there are a few parents on it (mostly American moms who can't resist), and a couple of admin types (a couple of the Oxford tutors are on it to answer questions), it is almost all students- which is indicative of how the uni experience works over the way: because both parents and unis expect the kids to just get on with it- they do, and they watch out for each other to an amazing degree. Foxhole friendships turn into lifelong bonds.

    = UK & Irish unis love US$, and students who meet the stated qualifications typically get offers (with the major exceptions of Oxbridge, LSE & Imperial, some minor exceptions for particularly over-subscribed courses, and excluding medicine in the UK)

    = Glasgow, Edinburgh, Galway, Cork, Dublin and Belfast are all great university towns

    Although the conversation on CC does tend to hover around Oxbridge & London unis, there are several long-time posters on CC with useful info- so ask!
    edited September 13
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  • LindagafLindagaf 11306 replies603 threads Super Moderator
    In general, the immediate focus on major can be a big wake up call for American students. Even in high school, UK students begin specializing in their intended areas of study when they prep for their A levels. I am not sure about Ireland. And as @collegemom3717 so helpfully describes, your child will have to cope if she finds she isn’t quite as well prepared for her subject as the UK kids are.

    My husband and his whole family got their degrees in the UK. I remember once having a conversation with some nieces and nephews about kids who were studying abroad from the US. They all agreed that American students sometimes struggled to keep up with course work, both in the material being studied and in prepping for exams. If your child is self directed, it can be a great experience though.

    Quite a lot of weight is given to AP tests scores, depending on the college and they can boost an application. I believe quite a few UK colleges will require a minimum score and number of exams, but check. Probably most likely with Russell Group schools.

    There will be no housing assistance after the first year.

    I did study abroad in the UK many years ago and it changed my life. Great experience, and yes, can be very cost effective.

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  • CollegeMamb0CollegeMamb0 156 replies1 threads Junior Member
    I'd also suggest investigating how well, or not, UK and Irish universities handle the pandemic - if that is a concern of yours.

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  • HazeGreyHazeGrey 276 replies4 threads Junior Member
    My son is in his fourth year at Oxford and has loved the experience. Really liked not having core/gen ed requirements to satisfy. Went straight into what he loved. Has also loved the cultural experience of being in the UK. He does have a somewhat local family support network which helps (Aunt/Uncle & various family friends).
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8200 replies87 threads Senior Member
    I believe quite a few UK colleges will require a minimum score and number of exams,

    Yes, that is the norm. A-levels UK students take the final part of their A-level exams in June of the final year in HS. Their schools 'predict' their likely result (A*/A/B/C etc), based on their performance in the previous year, and universities make 'conditional' offers based on the student achieving those scores.

    Offers are always based on 3 exams, and each uni posts their 'typical' offer online (eg, "AAB"; frequently specifying subject/mark combinations such as "to include an A in Maths). "Unconditional" offers are made when scores have already been achieved (in the UK that is usually students on a Gap year).

    Without getting too far into the weeds, for US students APs, and in many (but not all) unis Subject Tests, substitute for A levels. Unconditional offers are more frequent for US students, as many have enough APs/Subject tests by the end of Junior year. Note that you have to include all taken and planned exams, so senior year APs/tests have to be reported (with predicted grades). Each uni gets to pick which 3 of a students achieved and predicted grades make up an offer.

    And yes, that means a place might not be confirmed until July after HS graduation. Fwiw, UK students don't know until August :-) If you apply by UCAS you get to "confirm" your first choice of your offers and "insure" a second choice (with easier/no conditions). Many US students put a deposit on a US school just in case.

    Ireland has a very different, somewhat more centralized system. Instead of specializing in 3 or 4 subjects, all students sit a series of at least 6 subject exams for the Leaving Certificate. The total number of points earned across your best 6 subjects are totted up and matched against your list of preferred programs (by subject and university) via the CAO (Central Applications Office). Then it's a matching process: highest scores fill the slots. For NUI Galway & UCC, US students can look at courses to see what 'CAO Band' the course is in, and cross-reference the table in the international section to see what scores are preferred/required. TCD has its own chart.

    Do not be fooled by the seemingly low requirements (by selective US college standards) for US students- the level of both the coursework and the peer group is plenty rigorous. For example, last year the points required for admission to PPES last year at TCD meant that a student had to score 92% + on the Higher Level exams in English (2 x 3 hour exams), Irish* (2 x 2.5 hour exams), Math (2 x 2.5-hour exams), a foreign language* (3 hours), plus 2 further subjects of the student's choice- putting them in roughly the top 12% of scores in the country. (*note that language exams include written and listening components)

    eeps...I really did get into the weeds here! pretty sure that's waaaay more than you need to know, esp as it's still only an idea...
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  • SweetgumSweetgum 88 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Thank you all so much! No worry about getting into the weeds. That's exactly what I'm looking for. With y'all's help I did find my way over to The Student Room. I also think Study Across the Pond will be very helpful for D22 so I encouraged her to sign up for a free advisor there. It looks like they specialize in walking Americans through the process.

    My D22 is not interested in Oxbridge. She likes the idea of U of Edinburgh, but I think that is mainly because we have been to the city of Edinburgh and she liked it. In the US she would not be applying to the top schools because she doesn't like a super competitive environment. She is smart, but appreciates a kinder gentler atmosphere. I have been trying to downplay U of Ed in favor of some of the other Unis like Strathclyde in Glasgow, told her she might check out Napier in Edinburgh, but I think she could probably do the work if she got into U of Ed, just worried about her being too stressed out. I think NUI Galway might be good instead of Trinity. We also looked at Lancaster and Bath Spa. She prefers a campus-based school rather than spread out through the city.

    She is a junior this year. Took the Pre-ACT last year and got a 27. Although I know UK and Irish unis are not that interested in GPA, for background she has a 4.03 GPA for this year, 4.13 for last year and was not that serious freshman year and had a 3.23, so you can see she is becoming more serious. Overall Powerschool shows her with an overall 3.75 (weighted), but that should continue to go up.

    She goes to a small charter school (graduating class size is around 40 or 50) and they do not offer very many AP classes and some of those are only offered senior year (like AP English Lit). She will only have three AP classes, APUSH, AP English, and now that she is seeing the UK requirements she will take AP Psych. I think there is a good chance she could get all 5s on the three APs, or at least 4s. She is not a math and science kid (so no worries on med school) and wants to major in Creative Writing. She does have some understanding of the practical limitations of this, but I'm okay with it.

    It is hard for me to compare unis in the UK and Ireland because I don't have much frame of reference except for Oxford and Cambridge. I have looked at the League Tables, but I don't really understand it very well. I don't want to steer her toward a not well-regarded place, but also don't want her in over her head.

    Right now she does not love analysing English Lit and Poetry, but would rather write it herself, so I would like to steer her to a program where the course of study is weighted more in that direction rather than analysis. Gotta do some more deep dives into the UK uni websites. I am really enjoying the research, though. Keeps my mind off current events here in the US. (2020 will you just go home already.)

    Uni in the UK really seems very affordable compared to costs in the US. We are in that sweet spot where we can't afford the $60k private schools here, but also are unlikely to get any financial aid from public schools, so we will probably be paying $15-$30k out of pocket anyway whether she is in the US or UK or Ireland.

    Thanks for all your help and please feel free to offer any other suggestions.
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  • PikachuRocks15PikachuRocks15 515 replies2 threads Member
    @Sweetgum @Lindagaf Referred to the "Russell Group" of schools which are some of the best schools in the UK (similar to the AAU here,) although they are ranked for research output IIRC.

    Russel Group Schools: https://russellgroup.ac.uk/about/our-universities/

    If your daughter has specific interests when it comes to course structure, then looking through university websites is likely the best course of action. She'll be living in Edinburgh, London, Cardiff, FILL IN UNIVERSITY CITY HERE for 3-4 years, so make sure that she also loves life there (much like US admissions, someone who likes a smaller town's not going to be happy in a larger city, and vice-versa.)

    Hope that helps!
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8200 replies87 threads Senior Member
    UK uni will be $45K+/year all in- but if it is a 3 year course that's comparable to $35K/year for a 4 year college.

    Students at universities in Ireland and the UK don't tend to be competitive with each other academically, and there is a cultural aversion to showing ambition (you hear a lot of 'I've barely cracked a book'' - including from people who were up half the night studying for the exam).

    "She prefers a campus-based school rather than spread out through the city."

    Most UK/Irish universities are in towns/cities, and while most of their buildings are reasonably centralized, but most students don't live on campus. Instead, the students live everywhere and socialize everywhere. In most cases, the university core of town is probably not that different in size to a large US university campus anyway :) . NUI Galway has on-campus accommodation for ~600 students- out of 16,000! Even suburban UCD (despite the name!), which has been aggressively building on-campus accommodation for the last decade+ , and is streets ahead of most UK & Irish unis in that regard, only has about 10% of students directly living on campus. Even in the collegiate unis (Durham, Oxford, Cambridge) aren't college-centric: you live in your college, but the university buildings are spread throughout the town- so the town *is* your campus.

    Tbh, the biggest challenge I see from here is that there are very few Creative Writing courses at undergrad level. Galway has one:


    It's a small course- less than 50 places. Tuition is about €13K, and university accommodation (a not too-long walk to main campus) is ~€4-7K (all self catering- ie, no meal plan).

    UCD has a BA in Humanities, that has an English with Creative Writing pathway:


    It's a 200 person course, which is a nice size. UCD is actually in a suburb of Dublin. The campus is not a thing of beauty (there are rather a lot of unfortunate 60's buildings), but it is a full-on campus, with a great sports center and on-campus housing. It's probably as close to a US setup as you will find. Her current stats would all but assure her entry. The course is ~€20K in tuition, another €7-9K in accommodation, + €2.5ish if you choose a hall with catering (12 meals/week- lunches & dinners).
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  • SweetgumSweetgum 88 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Thanks for all your comments. I will look into the costs for UK unis more, but it does look like some of them could be affordable for us.

    Lancaster is a campus-based uni and on some of the League Tables is top ranked in the UK for Creative Writing. The architecture is a bit 60s and didn't excite me too much, but it might not bother D22.

    Bath Spa University is another one I was looking at. It has a lot of creative courses for undergrads and a course just in Creative Writing (not combined with English or anything else), but I can't really tell if it is a well-regarded university. It seems to place sort of middle of the pack on Creative Writing in the League Tables (which I am still trying to get my head around). From the website it reminds me a bit of SCAD if y'all are familiar with that school.

    Course fees at Bath Spa are £14,700 for year one this year. Had to dig to come up with accommodation costs but they seem to be about £6500 for the year (39 wks), so somewhere around £21000($27000) for tuition and housing. Food and supplies and any other fees would be additional, but still comparable with US colleges and universities.

    I found a student budget calculator at: https://www.which.co.uk/money/university-and-student-finance/student-budget-calculator/ which allows you to plug in any UK uni and it will estimate your monthly budget outside of course costs.

    Collegemom3717, do you think the Which budget calculator is giving reasonable estimates?

    D22 was interested in Edinburgh, but I think she must've seen the postgraduate info on Creative Writing. It doesn't look like she's going to find the undergraduate course of study she's looking for there. The U of Dundee looks like a possibility, though, as does Aberdeen. Maybe Aberystwyth in Wales, too. These all have Creative Writing courses of study as undergrad, some in combination with English, but some some as just Creative Writing.

    Collegemom3717 where are you finding the number of places in the courses? I haven't found that info on the websites I've been looking at.

    Thank you all so much for your good advice while I get up to speed with all of this.
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  • 1Rubin1Rubin 56 replies9 threads Junior Member
    edited September 13
    We’ve erased that option after experiencing this pandemic, border closures, health aspects etc. I wouldn’t vote against junior year semester abroad, internship or graduate school but for a teen barely out of high school, there are lots of great choices right here within our own country.
    edited September 13
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  • SweetgumSweetgum 88 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Well D22 is just a junior now, so fingers crossed that by Sept 2022 the pandemic will be under control. Right now I feel like the UK (and esp Scotland) is safer in all ways than the US.
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