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Studying in the UK

RedPoppy9RedPoppy9 3 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
My daughter is currently studying in the UK and enjoying it immensely--lots of international friends, 11 week semesters, travel around Europe, low tuition, friendly and supportive faculty, top 10 university in the UK in her major, beautiful park-like campus, great athletics, fantastic study abroad programs. The only downside we can think of is the weather...

Feel free to ping me if you have any questions regarding the application process or campus life. Hey, it is pretty great over there and I urge everyone to apply...
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Replies to: Studying in the UK

  • cloudysmomcloudysmom 733 replies20 threadsRegistered User Member
    Where is your daughter? Mine is there too, at Durham, she loves it!
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  • RedPoppy9RedPoppy9 3 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    She is at the Univ. of Exeter. She was accepted at Durham and Edinburgh, but chose Exeter for its sublimely beautiful campus and courses. What college did your daughter get into? My daughter stayed overnight at St. Hild and Bede...
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  • cloudysmomcloudysmom 733 replies20 threadsRegistered User Member
    She is in St Cuthberts, on the Bailey right near the Cathedral, like few mins walk, its just gorgeous & she really loves it! Mine was accepted at Edinburgh & St Andrews but those are 4 yr schools & they would not transfer enough from her 1st yr here at Univ of Richmond so she would have 4 yrs, which means we would have paid for 5 so she chose England. UCL and KCL proved too $ but she loves Durham, I think its a more manageable fit for her & the collegiate set up was perfect for my introvert kid - she has more friends than she ever has. She finds the kids over there so much more accepting, not cliquey & there are a lot of international kids who don't know anyone so she isn't left out. I have heard of Exeter but not seen pix, will look it up!
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6597 replies54 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @cloudysmom, glad to hear that your girl has settled happily at Durham!
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  • bear19bear19 5 replies3 threadsRegistered User New Member
    hi there... how did you start the process? decide which school to apply to? my daughter loves the idea of diving down into specific topics/courses. It seems so hard to get a sense of each school in England given how far away we are. Also, do you know if any UK schools have the tutorial system other than Oxbridge? She really doesn't want to be in huge lecture classes. Thanks so much!
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6597 replies54 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @bear19, the full-on tutorial system is unique to Oxbridge, but most universities have a tutorial / small group component- the way that US universities will have a lecture / discussion group pairing.

    The good thing about the UK is that they put an astonishing amount of detail on their websites, including: pretty specific admissions requirements, what classes you take each year of the course (and what options there are-typically few if any options in the first year, esp in England; more each subsequent year), how you are assessed (typically most weight is on final exams or other large elements; homework/quizzes/participation not so much), accommodation, etc.

    UK unis are typically much more hands-off than US unis, and even at Oxbridge it is rare for undergrads to know their tutors outside tutorials. You are expected to be full-on adult when you arrive, and students look to each other to navigate the system.

    Admissions is almost entirely stats based (plus an essay about why you are suited for the course you are applying for and one LoR). For most unis the stats that matter are APs / subject tests; GPAs and ECs typically don't matter or matter only minorly. Many courses will have specific pre-requisites- these are necessary not just for admission, but b/c you need to be ready for the level of work. You can cross check the requirements by looking up the usual "offer", which is usually something like A*AA or ABB, etc, and the international requirements. Typically an A= 5 on an AP, B= 4, etc., but some places an A = 4. If the uni accepts subject tests they will specify what the equivalency is. If math at A level is specified, most of the time they mean Calc BC.

    Note that the usual language is 'offer': most UK students apply with 'predicted' A level results- their GC provides predicted grades in the winter, the uni makes an offer based on those predictions in the winter/spring, the student sits the A level in June and results come out in August. A US based student with enough achieved APs /SATs (or a UK student on a gap year, who has their A level results) can get an 'unconditional offer'.

    If you post your daughters AP/subject test subjects, score ranges and course interests, there are lots of us here on CC who can suggest matches. Usual suspects include Oxbridge, Durham (which is collegiate, like Oxford & Cambridge- that is a University where you belong to a constituent College), Exeter, UCL, KCL, Imperial (for *very* strong STEM students), LSE, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, etc. Note that most of the English courses are 3 years (modern languages and some sciences are 4) and the Scottish ones are 4 years.




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  • Twoin18Twoin18 1526 replies17 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Worth noting that even at Oxbridge (which are relatively small in US terms at ~3000 students per year) you have large lectures in most subjects for the first two years, because the lack of choice in classes means everyone is attending the same lectures. A large subject (e.g. math, natsci, engineering) will have 200-300 students in the first year lectures, many others 100-200 students.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6597 replies54 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    ^^agree, though would add it's a feature not a bug: the idea is that you deliver the broad info in a broad format. And at least in many humanities subjects, for example, lectures cover material that is not necessarily specifically formally assessed, but rather material that is meant to augment and enhance the more specific learning being done at tutorial level. A fair number attract students across discipline divides (particularly when it is a 'name' in the field- sometimes there are actually limits set, to be sure that there is room for the students on the course).
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 1526 replies17 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited February 15
    Yes, I certainly don't see it as a problem. The largest lecture course I ever attended (500+ people, and it was optional) was Stephen Hawking's "Brief History of Time" lectures (before he published the book). And they are the only lectures I still remember 30+ years later.

    In sciences the lectures cover the syllabus and the lecturers generally give the problem sets. So you do actually need to attend. In arts subjects, attending lectures is not always necessary.
    edited February 15
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  • HedgePigHedgePig 27 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @bear19 My daughter is also in her first year in the UK. I’ll outline her/ our experience although I’m sure everyone’s is different.

    Although she was born in the US, she’s spent the majority of her life overseas but did attend a US curriculum international high school. We had talked vaguely about the possibility of her going to university in the UK but her focus was definitely in the US. However, almost at the last minute, she decided to she wanted to go to the UK instead. She had already visited a dozen or so colleges in the US but didn’t seem super keen on any of them. I think this was partly because the ones she did like, she felt she had very little chance of being accepted. Her academics were very mixed - a really mediocre GPA of 3.1 but decent SAT (1540) and decent AP scores (55544 at the time of applying, followed up with 5554 in her senior year.) Since the UK universities are generally much more focused on standardised test results and most don’t even ask for GPA, she seemed to have better chance of getting into a good university in the UK than in the US. Fortunately, her counselor at school was reasonably familiar with UK applications and he definitely felt she would do better there as well and encouraged her to apply. Although she denies it, albeit not very convincingly, I think what really made her mind up was that the whole UK application process was much more straightforward than the US one. However, she claims that she wanted to go to the UK because she just wanted to study her major and not have to be bothered with “core curriculum nonsense.”

    In terms of how she / we chose what 5 universities to apply for (you are limited to 5 in the UK), it was very much looking up rankings and what their requirements were for US students. What was surprising was how different rankings could be - depending on whether you are looking at overall university ranking or undergraduate ranking for particular subject. It was a bit difficult convincing mom that some of the places with greater international recognition were actually not the best choice for her subject. And conversely, some of the places without an international “brand name”, were actually very highly rated.

    My daughter ended up applying to Birmingham, Edinburgh, Durham, UCL and Cambridge. (In retrospect, Cambridge was an Big overreach as they do want your GPA. She didn’t even get an interview. But in the rush to meet the Oxbridge deadline, this was overlooked!)

    She was accepted unconditionally by the first three. For UCL she didn’t get into her chosen course but they suggested she change her application to Comparitive Literature. However, by that time she’d heard she’s been accepted at Durham which she much preferred.

    Overall the process seemed much less up open to chance than the US. She was the first from her school to have an acceptance, and was the most relaxed person in her year at the time everyone else was rushing to complete applications and for the December deadline (She did ask if she even needed to graduate high school since she had an unconditional offer....) Having said that, the UK universities acceptances can take a very long time to arrive. I believe that all applications received by 15 Jan have to be treated equally, meaning that even if you apply in the prior September, you might well hear only after 15 Jan and as late as mid May, I think. (Note, the Oxbridge deadline is much earlier than everywhere else.)

    Now that she’s actually at university, how are things going? Before starting she was very concerned indeed about making friends and fitting in. However it took all of 24 hours for her to settle in and feel at home and start making friends and for her worries to evaporate. She is also thoroughly enjoying the course itself and generally very happy with both lecturers and tutors. So overall a very happy choice in her case. Having said that, most of her friends who are in the US are also extremely happy at their colleges as well.

    Apologies for a rather roughly written response- I’ve typed this on my cellphone.
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  • RedPoppy9RedPoppy9 3 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    Bear19,

    Aside from courses, it would be helpful if you daughter decide between a city or campus university. If she likes big cities, then LSE, Edinburgh, KCL, Imperial, UCL, Glasgow would be a more appropriate place for her. Otherwise, Oxbridge, St. Andrews, Exeter, Durham, Bath are excellent alternatives. Statistically, students tend to be happier at a campus university....

    My daughter, who is studying Spanish and German, at Exeter is reporting 12-16 students in her classes and seminars. Other majors, like business, have more students though.

    Also, if your daughter is into sports, Exeter, Durham, and Bath have excellent teams and facilities.

    I would say, apply to 5 schools, and select 3 to visit over Spring Break. Serendipitously for us, both Exeter and Durham had their "open days" during our Spring Break week and we were able to get a lot of information. Durham even has an program (on open days) where you get to stay overnight at the college that you got accepted into.
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  • bear19bear19 5 replies3 threadsRegistered User New Member
    wow! thank you all so very much. I truly appreciate the time and information you all have provided. What a wonderful community of people on this board! Thank you! My daughter is a junior now and goes to a private school where there are no APs until junior year. She took human geography online her sophomore year and received a 5. She has a 4/1 gpa and will be taking french, 2 history, and 2 English APs in May. I expect she will do well. She is a strong student in English and history and a strong writer. She has a split profile ... not as strong in math and science and has no interest in further studying those topics. In a perfect world she'd be able to study history and philosophy or history and literature. She would definitely want to be on some kind of campus but city access would be great. I think it would be too overwhelming to her to drop into the middle of london with no campus to speak of other than the classroom buildings. She is introverted and not into sports/athletics at all. Definitely more a life of the mind kind of kid. Anyway, thank you all so very much for your help and the information. I feel like I have a lot more to go on now to start some research.
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 12668 replies29 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    You generally have to choose only a subject or two to study in the UK (you have a little more time to decide at the Scottish unis).
    However, Durham and Warwick (neither in a big city) do offer a degree in Liberal Arts.
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  • RedPoppy9RedPoppy9 3 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    Bear 19,

    My daughter was in exactly the same position as yours--she didn't want to study in London or a big city and was not at all interested in math. Fortunately, UK and Canadian schools only look at test scores relating to the chosen course. With mediocre scores in math/science but high scores in humanities, she was accepted at Exeter within 2 days (applied in mid Oct.) and Durham within 2 weeks. For Canadian schools, after reporting her first trimester grades, she got accepted to McGill and Toronto by early Dec. Needless to say, this took a lot of pressure of the whole admissions process and she didn't even bother to apply to some of the American schools.

    The absolute best part about Exeter is that they are on 11-week semesters. (Durham is on a trimester basis, but relatively short too.) This means that she'll be home for the ENTIRE month of April and then return in May for finals and fall semesters don't start until late Sept. with a 3-week break for Christmas. With texting, WhatsApp and relatively low airfares to London, I don't feel at all disconnected or removed from her.

    On a random note, Exeter Uni. is also a registered botanical garden. The pictures on the Web do not reflect how green and beautiful the campus really is. Set on rolling hills with landscaped gardens and centuries-old trees, it is just pure bliss...We haven't confirmed this, but heard that there are tiny bunny rabbits hopping around in the spring...

    So, if you still need help with schools to look at, I would suggest Bath, Exeter, Durham, Lancaster, St. Andrews and perhaps McGill, Toronto (big school but it has a college system), and Queen's in Canada.
    Hope this helps...

    It is my humble opinion that everyone in America should be considering Canadian and UK universities...

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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 12668 replies29 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Note that McGill and Toronto have huge lecture classes, though. You can think of them as UMich/UW-Madison except in big cities instead of college towns, with bigger average class sizes, more underfunding, and no Big Ten sports.
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  • ThreeToCollegeThreeToCollege 3 replies0 threadsRegistered User New Member
    @cloudysmom
    I'm so glad to hear that your daughter is enjoying her experience at Durham so far. Assuming the CAS letter and visa stuff all come through in a timely fashion (this is stressing me out a bit), my daughter is scheduled to start at Durham and in Cuth's this fall! Even in advance of her paperwork being finalized, I'm trying to make plans and I'm having a hard time finding enough information to schedule anything, especially my travel dates since I'm planning to take her to school. I see that international students arrive the week before induction week, so I have a start date. But when is it reasonable/desirable for me to leave? Keeping in mind that I know she won't actually *need* me, I nonetheless want to be there long enough to help her with the practical tasks of getting settled (bank account, decor, transit passes, whatever), but I don't want to be that parent who is lingering too long. Advice or recommendations?
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6597 replies54 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @ThreeToCollege, a lot of those things the students do together- and frankly other students & the relevant orgs will be able to be more helpful than you will be, as they know the local options/systems. The banks will be on campus to help students set up accounts.

    Also, be aware that UK students don’t “do up” their rooms the way US students do. Bring as little as possible, and (after seeing the room) spend a day getting *essentials* that you didn’t bring (at M&S, Argos, etc) and leave it be. Depending on your D, (if it would be a happy thing) spend a day exploring. Plan to disappear at the end of move-in day so your D can start bonding with her staircase/floor. She might want to have dinner or breakfast with you (partly depends on how many students have moved in) but then get gone :-)
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  • cloudysmomcloudysmom 733 replies20 threadsRegistered User Member
    @ThreeToCollege Hi - so excited for your daughter! yes - I found the waiting & the process VERY STRESSFUL indeed! I booked a trip longer than I should have, and I took her over there as well. (no idea why this is double spaced, can't fix it, sorry!). I recommend the Marriot Country Hotel as you can easily walk everywhere, however, the Castle has hotels too, which would be interesting! Is she staying in Cuths on the Bailey? If not, and if she is in Parsons, its too far to walk from town. The international student days are VERY important! Make sure she attends those as well as the freshers week activities. I didn't see my daughter for dinner once after International Days began, they have lots of scheduled events & while my introvert kid was concerned, it went well as no one really knows anyone. The older kids in St Cuths check her in the room & are in charge of all the activities. I never saw a professor or adult the entire time, which was weird to me but I went with it, lol. No good place to buy things unless you take the train to Newcastle & walk to Primark - about a 15 mins train ride, Tesco in Durham barely has anything & no stores like Target, etc.
    I would stay through international days & leave when freshers wk started. I wanted to explore the area so I did that, mainly alone, for a day or 2. I had an early flight out of Newcastle so stayed there my last night. There is a hotel next to the train station, big and old but priced right & rooms were renovated - so easy to get to from the train to Durham. They ordered me a taxi the night before.
    They can't set up a bank acct until they get some form (forgot the name) from the school. The lines were sooo long so she waited until the end of freshers week & went w/ a friend she met during International Days. There was no real hurry to set up the acct. Can't think of anything else but let me know if you have any questions! I am not going with her this yr & pretty sad about that but it was too $. Oh, I found that changing airlines was the only way to make the ticket much less $ but you have to get your bags & recheck them, so sort of a pain. Pay for the extra suitcase, much cheaper than mailing things. She won't need many warm things at all until May so can get at Xmas break. Oh and you cannot fly in thru Dublin the 1st time she gets he VISA stamped, FYI, although you will find later that those seem to be the least $ tickets! So excited for your daughter!
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6597 replies54 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I never saw a professor or adult the entire time

    This is normal in the UK- the kids really watch out for each other, right from the beginning.
    Ahhhh....Primark...think JCPenny's & the Dollar store have a baby!
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  • ThreeToCollegeThreeToCollege 3 replies0 threadsRegistered User New Member
    @cloudysmom Thank you so much for all that very useful, practical information! Helps me tremendously. Was planning to leave at the beginning of freshers week--and assumed I'd have some time to explore (I mean, I'm going to England! Have to do a little tourism, right?)--so it's very helpful to know that that timing works out. I certainly don't want to hang around unnecessarily (we are not very clingy people at a baseline--she told me years ago that she would laugh at me if I cried when I dropped her off at college lol), but I didn't want to take off if my presence would be appreciated for some reason. Thanks also for the travel tips!
    @collegemom3717 Appreciate your comments too! Re dorm rooms: My daughter spent the spring semester at Univ of Burgundy and lived in the dorm there and has visited her friend at UCL, so she has a pretty good sense of European dorm rooms. And she scoffs at the hyper-decorated American dorm rooms anyway--not her style at all. Looking forward to experiencing Primark!
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