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American interested in applying at U.K. schools this fall, looking for advice

CBWTHD101CBWTHD101 11 replies1 threads New Member
Hello, I am an American junior who has been researching and looking into pursuing an undergraduate degree in the U.K. for a couple months now, and I have a couple questions. I am researching schools like Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, St. Andrews, Durham, Royal Holloway, Aberystwyth, Cardiff, and some others. I'm considering applying for either English, History, Classics, or something in that realm, as I have been interested in those fields for years. I am home-schooled through an online accredited school due to prior health reasons. Because of this, I will not get a high school diploma; instead, I get a home school affidavit that certifies I've done a high school education or something along those lines. I completed the SAT in March and got a 1290, although I bombed the essay portion with a 626 but I've heard most schools don't consider the essay. Most of the schools seem to want a combination of a good SAT or ACT score, which I think I have, although St. Andrews wants a 1320, and 2 or 3 SAT Subject Tests in a relevant subject or AP scores, along with a good high school GPA, I think mine is like a 3.75 unweighted. One of my worries is that I have not taken any AP classes due to concerns over the exams. I could take some next year, but I have completed US History and World History already, both in honors I think. I have also done English classes and am currently dual enrolling at my local college taking a College Composition class for my English requirement, and will probably take the second year of that next year giving me four years of English. This means that unless I take AP Latin or something, the AP class or classes won't be related to what I want to study and probably won't count for them. This means I should probably take some SAT Subject Tests, but now with this virus they're canceling all the tests. So do you guys think the schools I am interested in will take me with my hopefully decent SAT score and a bunch of honors courses completed with mostly As and some Bs? I'd imagine a couple classes taken at my local college will also help? I understand they do conditional offers, would an offer be conditional on getting like a 650 or something in an SAT Subject Test? If you don't do that well on the test are they real likely to cancel their offer?

I've also heard that the British schools want Americans because of the tuition fees, what are the chances of getting an offer and then enrolling if you're an American? For the personal statement, I understand they want to see that you're interested in the course you are applying for, I am unsure of how to prove this interest besides the fact that I like to read about it. I applied for some summer internships but they are likely to get canceled now. For English and History what kinds of things do they look for in the personal statement? In addition, I am concerned they won't like my homeschooling, I could transfer my credits to my local high school to get a diploma, but I would prefer not to do that since I work during the school year. Sorry for such a long post, it's just that the system seems so complex for applying internationally and I want to ensure I get an offer. I might register my interest at some of the schools online, maybe that'll show I am interested. I'll probably contact some of the advisors at the schools in a couple months, but figured I would get some early advice. If anyone can answer any of my questions or even direct me to people who can (UCAS agents?), that would be much appreciated.
Thank you
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Replies to: American interested in applying at U.K. schools this fall, looking for advice

  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7740 replies82 threads Senior Member
    edited April 7
    the system seems so complex for applying internationally
    Actually, it's pretty straight forward- it's just complicated for you b/c you have a bunch of things that make your situation atypical :)
    I have not taken any AP classes due to concerns over the exams
    What is your concern about the exams? that is an important question, b/c the main way you are evaluated in UK unis is through a single (or very major) exam at the end of the course. Be aware that they do not care- at all- about the class. All they care about is the actual AP exam result.
    So do you guys think the schools I am interested in will take me with my hopefully decent SAT score and a bunch of honors courses completed with mostly As and some Bs?
    Absolutely not
    I'd imagine a couple classes taken at my local college will also help?
    Most UK unis will take a year at your local uni instead of APs/SATstest. It would be useful for most of your classes to be relevant to the subject you are applying to study.
    If you don't do that well on the test are they real likely to cancel their offer?
    Absolutely. Seen it happen.
    I've also heard that the British schools want Americans because of the tuition fees, what are the chances of getting an offer and then enrolling if you're an American?
    Very high- IF you meet their requirements.
    I might register my interest at some of the schools online, maybe that'll show I am interested
    You misunderstand what they mean by interest- they don't really care if you love the university- they care that you love your subject.

    One thing that is important to understand about UK universities: admission is by department, not university. The people who make the decision about whether to admit you are the people who will be teaching you, and they want people who really are interested in- and good at- their subject. So, in the PS, you don't say 'yeah, I love English' - you write about what you love about English, giving examples of where you took your interest well beyond the classroom.

    Here's where being a homeschool student is an actual advantage- you have had the opportunity to delve more deeply into the things you love. Think about it: if you really like something, you spend a lot of time with it. "English, History, Classics, or something in that realm" is a starter point. But then you take it farther- "I kept reading things that had Latin phrases, so it was great that as a homeschooler I could just start studying Latin, and the more I did the more I found that....". Look at the module info on the courses you are looking at- they will be super specific about what you will study (expect few if any choices in the first year, and not that many the second). Many will have example reading lists for prospective students to learn more about the subject.

    Relevant tests for your subject areas are essay based subjects, so Latin, English and any/all of the histories. If your history interest is in a specific area that language can be relevant. Note that not all of the UK unis accept subject tests- be sure to check!
    edited April 7
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  • CBWTHD101CBWTHD101 11 replies1 threads New Member
    Thank you for answering my questions. For the AP exams we were worried about scheduling conflicts as we like to travel, and I had thought honors classes were just as good as AP classes, so I've been taking honors classes instead of APs.

    You mentioned that most unis would take a year at a community college instead of the subject tests, do you think they would take like two or three classes plus a good EBRW score? If this virus stops me from taking the subject tests do I still have a decent chance at admission? I've taken film appreciation at the college and passed with an A, and will soon be completing college composition 101. I was planning on take composition 102 in the fall, should I add another history or English class? I have most of my English and History credits but if it looks good I could always probably add another and it just might count as an elective.

    I completely understand what you're saying about the personal statement.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7740 replies82 threads Senior Member
    They really don't care much about the SAT score- as long as it meets their requirement, you don't get extra points for having a higher one.

    Can you late-register & sit a couple of APs next month? They will be easier than usual b/c of Covid- just 1 essay question for the History ones I believe- no MC.

    Without standardized tests OR third level coursework, NO they will NOT accept you. And for third level coursework you will have to get an OK on a school by school basis- send them a SPECIFIC question (as in 'will these {link to syllabus} classes at this CC/uni be sufficient for an offer?). Be kind: they do not have much staff and if you send off seventeen broad / vague / hypothetical questions they will just want you to go away.

    Understand that they want to be sure that you are ready for the level of work required in their particular program. They know exactly what the UK students will arrive with- b/c they know what the level of material & mastery is in the A level curriculum*. They build their course structure with that as a baseline. While they would love your $$, they also don't want you to fail, and they know that there is no hand holding: you will arrive and you will be expected to be up to the level of the UK students. If you go into a History course and discover that everybody else knows a ton of history that you don't, you will just have to make it up on your own- while doing the regular coursework. "College composition 101" at your local CC very well may not be comparable to UK A level standard -and note that I did NOT specify CC would be ok! (I said "local university"). This is a distinction that any given UK uni might or might not care about. You are thinking in terms of credits, when it is content than care about.
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  • Conformist1688Conformist1688 1219 replies29 threads Senior Member
    First of all you need to decide what subject or combination you want to study.

    Homeschooling in itself is not a problem, but you will need those AP or SAT Subject Tests scores - AP are better but some places will accept SATSTs. It's OK if you plan to take them next year, but any offer would be conditional on getting the scores they want.

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  • Twoin18Twoin18 2092 replies21 threads Senior Member
    UK universities are fully aware that the average US student is not at the same level as UK students, who have a) had an extra year of schooling (they start at the age of 4 not 5) and b) specialized in only three subjects for their A levels (the last two years of high school).

    AP courses (with high scores in the test, 4 or preferably 5) are seen as demonstrating that you have gone some (but not all) of the way towards the depth that a UK student will have upon starting university. A full year at a US university taking college level courses in your major is another way to demonstrate that. It doesn't mean taking random general ed/elective courses with no relevance to your major, it means taking specific courses that are as hard or preferably harder than the equivalent APs.

    For example, I would expect a student with a 4 or 5 in AP English Lang to place out of a CC "college composition 101" course and perhaps 1 or 2 subsequent courses in the writing sequence (my D got to skip to the junior level writing course in her college with that score), and getting a 4 or 5 in AP English Lang is *much* easier than getting an A or B in A level English (which is what UK students will likely have achieved).

    All in all, APs are probably the easiest way forward for you. And then take some more advanced college level English and/or History courses next year as well (or Classics if that is what you are interested in, but be aware that it is *extremely* hard for a US student to gain the depth needed to be competitive with British kids who have done Latin since the age of 11 - I would be very cautious about applying for any course that assumes applicants have done A level Latin, though a few UK universities do offer ab initio classical languages).
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  • CBWTHD101CBWTHD101 11 replies1 threads New Member
    Collegemom,
    We called Collegeboard and registration is closed to the AP exams now. I was not aware that you could take the exams without taking the course, I wish I knew that earlier.

    For the University of Aberdeen, their website: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/study/international/inmycountry/united-states/entry/
    states that they require a GPA of 3.0 plus an SAT score of 1250, with a minimum of 600 in the EBRW section. Does that mean I have a decent chance of getting an offer?

    I understand what you're saying about the classes. It sounds like the A-levels are pretty high level, so it's hard for them to gauge requirements for internationals.

    Conformist,
    Thanks for the response, I understand.

    Twoin,
    I'm not sure I could place out of that class, that's what my guidance counselor advised me to take, so that's what I took. I did well on the placement test though. I understand what you're saying about the classes though, thank you for responding.
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 43085 replies470 threads Senior Member
    See if you can take Intro to Philosophy+Classical Philosophy (1 semester each); Ancient History+ European History (1 semester each); Latin and Greek at the appropriate level (1 each per semester); Comparative Literature or classical literature in translation or British literature - at a college or university. Get A's or B's. See if you can start with online classes from your flagship, some universities will have Maymester or Summer sessions starting in a couple weeks.
    Getting A's(or Bs) in these college classes would definitely help you.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7740 replies82 threads Senior Member
    I am torn about how to answer your question, @CBWTHD101, so I am going to tack in a very different direction.

    As you have learned, UK students sit 3 or 4 A level exams in subjects related to what they plan to study at university. Sometimes realize too late that they really want to study Y, even though their A levels have been focused on X. Sometimes something went wrong during the A-levels & their results were disappointing. Other times they have been, say, slow to mature, and have only started to take their studies seriously. And, often, they are international students whose academic background doesn't meet the requirements (or whose English needs work). Enter the 'Foundation Year' (notfoundation degree, which is a different thing altogether).

    For example, you are interested in something in the English/History/Classics line (you really do have to get more specific btw). Kings College London has a 'Foundation Finder' online:

    https://www.kcl.ac.uk/study/foundations/kings-foundation-finder?utm_campaign=findertext&utm_source=direct

    You apply for a relevant Foundation Year, do the course (think of it as a 1st year) and if you do reasonably well you will go on into the actual course- well prepared. B/c the course at King's is 3 years, it's still just 4 years of university.

    There are a LOT of foundation courses, and some of them are mainly international students learning english. Your best bets are the ones directly tied to a university that promise direct entry to undergrad on completion of the course. Look also at Durham, Exeter and Warwick for example.
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 13430 replies31 threads Senior Member
    edited April 9
    Think of UK (especially English) uni undergrad admissions as grad school admissions for undergrads where they would already expect you to have covered the foundational classes for the subject(s) you plan to study during what would be the Gen Ed phase of American college undergrad. At top English unis, you would be covering about as much material in 3 years as a major+1 of grad school in the US if you focus on a single subject (more like a double major if you cover 2 subjects). For the Scottish unis, it's similar except they allow about a year's worth of electives early in undergrad as their undergrad degree runs 4 years.
    edited April 9
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  • CBWTHD101CBWTHD101 11 replies1 threads New Member
    So it sounds like unless you've taken a lot of very high level rigorous courses, then you'll probably struggle a lot if you try to get your Bachelor's in the UK. I guess I'll have to see the kinds of classes I take next year.

    I've read about those foundation years, but they made it sound more like they were meant for internationals from Asia and other places where their English isn't very good and they don't have a lot of standardized testing. I was born and raised in America, so my English is pretty good. I do like the idea of the program though. Have many Americans done a foundation year? How would it work if you did it but decided against studying in the UK? Do you think American unis would like it?
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7740 replies82 threads Senior Member
    Not many Americans do foundation years, in part b/c they don't know that they exist & in part b/c most Americans interested in doing undergraduate in the UK know what they want to study & take APs. You are right that a lot of them are for English as a second language- but not all. Check out some of the ones that I listed above. Given your mix of classes you might find that it helps pull it together- and may help you focus on what course you want to follow.

    I would not expect US unis to give a UK foundation course any weight, but I don't have any direct data.
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  • CBWTHD101CBWTHD101 11 replies1 threads New Member
    That makes sense. I checked a couple of them out, it seems like if your English is bad then you do a summer term before the foundation year. It does seem like a cool program that would probably make for a much easier adjustment, plus the guaranteed admissions and stuff is nice. I would have to see if I qualify since I don't think I will technically be getting a high school diploma due to being homeschooled. One program mentioned completing a full set of courses or something along those lines, so they would probably be okay with it.

    I'm a little hesitant about spending so much money on a year's worth of classes that aren't worth credit at colleges, and I'm not sure how aid and scholarships would work for foundation years. I'd also be worried about maybe not fitting in if there's a big language and cultural barrier. And I'm not sure what would happen if you decided to go to college in America after you completed the year, I doubt colleges would take credit for it like you said, but how they would consider it in an application is mostly what I'm worried about. It might look pretty good as a gap year kind of thing that would probably set you apart from other applicants. Then you might still have to pay for four more years of American college.

    I think I need to continue to think about it and research it and maybe mid to late summer contact some admissions advisors at the UK unis and see what they think of my situation, and if they would advise I take a foundation year or just straight enroll. I need to see what happens with this virus though. May I ask how you know so much about the system? I've seen you commenting on the UK forum before. You've offered a lot of help and I really appreciate it.

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  • CollegeMamb0CollegeMamb0 31 replies0 threads Junior Member
    I see you mentioned aid and scholarships. Note that there is no financial aid for internationals in the UK. Scholarships are often amounts like £500. You can take the US Federal loan of $5.5k per year I believe - but the rest is on you.

    UK degrees are popular with American students who know what they want to study, and who want to focus on that particular subject only. They CAN also be cheaper at 3 years v 4, but it depends what you compare it to and what your finances are.

    Make sure you can afford it before applying.
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  • CollegeMamb0CollegeMamb0 31 replies0 threads Junior Member
    Oh - and if you go to college in the US you could spend a whole year at a UK university on exchange. A couple of girls my daughter knows spent junior year at Leeds Uni, living with British and other international students in a flat, attending regular classes - and having that UK experience - all for the same price as their US college (plus flights and travel etc). Another person we know is attending a UK uni for their Masters. So it doesn't have o be UK or bust now :-)
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7740 replies82 threads Senior Member
    I'm not sure how aid and scholarships would work for foundation years.

    whoosh, that went right by me- good catch, @CollegeMamb0! I made some financial assumptions upthread and never dealt with that aspect.

    @CBWTHD101, @CollegeMamb0 is entirely correct- your fee status is your friend when it comes to admissions, but the whole point is that you are bringing money to the table. Scholarships from outside organizations are few and hard to get in the US, and even less likely in the UK.

    (as for my background, it's complicated, but I have spent a lot of time working in 3rd level institutions in the UK & Ireland, and most of our collegekids have spent at least part of primary/secondary/third level in those systems.)
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 13430 replies31 threads Senior Member
    BTW, why undergrad in the UK? Rather than the US or elsewhere?

    And it's not so much that you've taken rigorous classes as much that you've gained a good amount of foundational knowledge and shown academic aptitude to prepare for the subject(s) you will study. They don't actually much care _how_ you've gained that foundation (because, yes, good UK unis will be rigorous and challenging). They're arguably more meritocratic that way. Show you have the goods via tests (whether it is through self-study or classes, or whatever) and you're in at the vast majority of UK unis (and yes, you'd have to be able to afford them).

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  • CBWTHD101CBWTHD101 11 replies1 threads New Member
    The financial aid is another major question I have for studying in the U.K. . Do foundation years qualify for student loans? And I've heard for student visas they want to see you can pay for your college, which means they want to see you can pay for tuition plus living expenses. For example, King's College London's foundation year course is in London so they want to see about 1600 US dollars a month, so 9 months would be 14,400 dollars. Plus the tuition which is about 25000, so about 40k. Now say the money I get from scholarships, working, government loans, and college funds brings it down to 10k, I would have to cover that 10k with private student loans? How does it work if you plan on working while in the UK to help pay for it, will they account for that in the student visa application? If I am not reading this right let me know.

    Chances are, I am either going to go to college in America or the UK. If I go to college in America I am definitely going to consider a semester abroad or year abroad kind of thing. I like the UK because for what I want to do, they have a lot of very specialized courses. I don't know of too many schools here that have such a range of humanities courses. I do plan on narrowing it down this summer though.

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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7740 replies82 threads Senior Member
    So idk if you can borrow for foundation year, but the max you can borrow is $5.5-7k / year. After that your parents have to co-sign. There is a limit as to how many hours you can work as a student in the U.K. Do you have a specific scholarship that you have good reason to think you can get? That is a longer, harder & less fruitful path than you might be realize.
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  • Conformist1688Conformist1688 1219 replies29 threads Senior Member
    In the UK on a student visa you can work no more than 20 hours a week during term time. If you stay during the vacations you can work unlimited hours.

    However, you or your parents must have the first year's funds in hand when you apply for the visa - guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tier-4-student-visa-checklist

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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 13430 replies31 threads Senior Member
    edited April 10
    In the US, you just have to find colleges with very few/no gen ed requirements and then you can study the subjects you want to your heart's content. Even the colleges that have gen ed requirements may not have a ton of them (you'd want to avoid schools with a required core curriculum and ones with many gen Ed requirements).

    And plenty of American colleges have a large range of humanities courses. Where have you looked?
    edited April 10
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