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American undergrad & military veteran applying to UK uni

vmar2018vmar2018 3 replies1 threads New Member
Hello, all!
I'm currently attending community college in America, while also being Active Duty in the U.S. Air Force. I get out of the Air Force in a little over a year, and I'm very interested in using my Post-9/11 GI Bill at university in the UK to study Politics and International Relations. My education has been a bit unconventional, so I desperately need insight on if I should continue to pursue university in the UK.

I've been out of high school for over 4 years now. I graduated from a home school in the United States with a 3.9/4.0 GPA when I was 16, however I did not take any AP courses. ( I did take them, but my family's financial situation rendered me unable to take any of the exams) I took the SAT when I was 15, and scored perfectly on the writing+reading portion, and TERRIBLY on the math portion. I was a Legislative Analyst in the Texas Legislature upon graduation of high school, andI then went on to work at a law firm for a short time, and then enlisted in the Air Force.

I am currently in a career field very relevant to politics and international relations, and I hope to work for the United States State Department, the UN, NATO, or relevant NGO's (possibly even international law, later on?). I'm actively enrolled in college and taking classes; I have about 13 credits (US hist 1 &2, Engl 101, Span 101) and a 4.0 GPA. Since I am Active Duty, I have only taken 1-2 classes at a time, and in a year I've only been able to take these 13 credits.

My questions are:
1. Do US community college credits transfer to university in the UK and what weight do they hold? Would it be better to complete my full Associates?
2. How much of a shot do I have to gain entrance to university in the UK? (I'm mostly interested in London)
3. Does my military experience count for anything when it comes to admissions? I've been in the military working with joint-partners and so on and I have a very academic career field.
4. My SAT scores from 2015 - will I still have to submit them? I understand those will severely impact admissions. Should I retake?
5. What are some good options for universities for average students? LSE is my absolute dream school, but I recognize that I may not be an attractive applicant because of my high school education. It's hard for me to distinguish what good prospects are vs. what is unattainable (Oxford, Cambridge, LSE).

If anyone has any insight, PLEASE comment down below. Simply put, I need help.

Thank you!
(Side note: I realize everything is weird with COVID. Let's ignore that fact for now.)
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Replies to: American undergrad & military veteran applying to UK uni

  • vmar2018vmar2018 3 replies1 threads New Member
    Also to add - I was obviously home schooled by my parents, and I'm enrolled in online school and have had little no communication with any of my professors. I have, however been in the military for 3 years; would a LoR from my commander, a Lieutenant Colonel with 2 masters degrees, suffice? I'm not quite sure reaching out via email to a college professor would yield me the best LoR. Thanks.
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  • 4mummy4mummy 100 replies1 threads Junior Member
    Others on this site will be able to answer some of your questions more fully. The London uni which springs to mind is Birkbeck. They offer full time as well as part time and distance courses. It provides many courses for people while they are still working. Their international entry qualifications page http://www.bbk.ac.uk/international/entry-requirements invites those with less orthodox qualifications to contact them for individual advice.
    I know of others with orthodox educational backgrounds who sought uni entry after UK military service who found differing responses to their experience. Suffice to say that there were enough in their chosen fields to give them a choice.
    Perhaps find the courses which fit your interests and contact the unis directly for information? Good searching.
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  • CollegeMamb0CollegeMamb0 178 replies1 threads Junior Member
    I will try to answer....in a nutshell however, I would identify some universities and call their admissions people and ask... that is pretty much the only way to find out. All unis will have information for 'mature students' as they are known.

    1. Do US community college credits transfer to university in the UK and what weight do they hold? Would it be better to complete my full Associates?

    There is no such thing as a credits transfer in the UK. You will take the full degree (3/4 years) starting with first year. You would need to call each university you're interested in and ask how your background stacks up against what they want to see. You can also ask them about the rec letter: ideally it should be from an academic source, but you can explain your situation.

    2. How much of a shot do I have to gain entrance to university in the UK? (I'm mostly interested in London)

    Admission decisions are made by professors, not admissions officers. They will want to ensure that you are capable of the work if they admit you. You can look at each uni you're interested in and see what the UK entry requirements are to see how selective they are, and if they require any subjects to have been covered at high school or equivalent.

    IR is a writing intensive subject so be prepared to show how well you read, research and write essays. A foreign language may also be useful, and some courses might require it. Some may also require some math/ stats/ data analysis.

    3. Does my military experience count for anything when it comes to admissions? I've been in the military working with joint-partners and so on and I have a very academic career field.

    UK admissions is not holistic. If they don't think you make the academic cut, your military background will not get you in. If you do meet the requirements, then it's a good thing to round out your application.

    4. My SAT scores from 2015 - will I still have to submit them? I understand those will severely impact admissions. Should I retake?

    I doubt it as you're taking college level classes already. But call and ask.

    5. What are some good options for universities for average students? LSE is my absolute dream school, but I recognize that I may not be an attractive applicant because of my high school education. It's hard for me to distinguish what good prospects are vs. what is unattainable (Oxford, Cambridge, LSE).

    Good for IR: St Andrews, Edinburgh, Aberystwyth, Warwick, Aberdeen, York, Queens Belfast

    In London: Kings, UCL, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Birkbeck above is a great suggestion too.

    Does the GI Bill apply to overseas universities? Is London affordable? Do you understand what London college life will be like?

    Have you considered a US university with a study abroad semester? Why the UK in particular? If you are planning on US law / school, I wouldn't spend all my money on a bachelors.
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  • Conformist1688Conformist1688 1292 replies31 threads Senior Member
    1. Do US community college credits transfer to university in the UK and what weight do they hold?

    No, you will have to apply for admission as a freshman. However, the CC classes will probably act as a replacement for APs in terms of qualifying you for admission, as long as they add up to a year's worth of classes, and you're applying for a humanities degree (which you are).

    Would it be better to complete my full Associates?

    No, I don't think so.

    2. How much of a shot do I have to gain entrance to university in the UK? (I'm mostly interested in London)

    You will be classed as a mature student: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/widening-participation/learners/mature-students


    3. Does my military experience count for anything when it comes to admissions? I've been in the military working with joint-partners and so on and I have a very academic career field.

    Not per se. You may like to incorporate how your military career fed into your interest in politics/IR in your Personal Statement.

    4. My SAT scores from 2015 - will I still have to submit them? I understand those will severely impact admissions. Should I retake?

    Yes, you must submit them. They will impact you less than they would if you had applied years ago. Might be worth retaking though.

    5. What are some good options for universities for average students? LSE is my absolute dream school, but I recognize that I may not be an attractive applicant because of my high school education. It's hard for me to distinguish what good prospects are vs. what is unattainable (Oxford, Cambridge, LSE).

    LSE is a highly academic university, almost as hard to get in as Oxbridge.

    I would look at Royal Holloway:
    https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/student-life/being-a-student/mature-students/
    https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/studying-here/2020/undergraduate/politics-and-international-relations/politics-and-international-relations/

    Also Queen Mary's: https://www.qmul.ac.uk/undergraduate/coursefinder/courses/2020/politics-and-international-relations/
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  • Conformist1688Conformist1688 1292 replies31 threads Senior Member
    "I'm enrolled in online school and have had little no communication with any of my professors. I have, however been in the military for 3 years; would a LoR from my commander, a Lieutenant Colonel with 2 masters degrees, suffice?"

    No, the LoR must come from someone who has taught you in an academic context.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8289 replies87 threads Senior Member
    @Conformist1688 is right on the money.

    @CollegeMamb0 has a lot of useful info, and tagged a key element: writing. Have you done any courses that require long-form essay writing? In many courses your grade will be based on a 2-3 hour essay exam at the end of the term/year. You are likely to write essays throughout the term (3-6 pages). If your haven't had practice doing that you will be at a severe disadvantage- even if you get in there is the tricky bit of staying in!

    Also, be sure that you research the programs in detail. LSE may be your 'dream' school, but have you read the year-by-year summary of what you study (on each uni's website)? UK courses are much more structured than in the US. It is important to compare the courses at different universities- they vary more than you might imagine, even when they have the same name.

    IME LSE is as much of a reach for US students as Oxford or Cambridge.

    As noted above, students over 21 are categorized as 'mature students' (MS) A few years ago I knew a MS applying in the UK. The info she gathered- partly first hand, a lot from other people's experience included:

    UK unis that are seen as particularly flexible/helpful for MS include:

    St Andrews (General Degree program, but you can transfer to others; 4 years), Durham (with a Foundation year, four years), Queens (Belfast), York (might be flexible on entrance requirements, will do an interview), York (not flexible on requirements, but they have a helpful admissions team), Exeter (can be flexible on entrance requirements, but in the past had a rep for being v slow), Nottingham, Kent, Royal Holloway (lots of good feedback on the MS experience), Strathclyde (have adjusted requirements for MS, good MS community).

    UK unis with a reputation for being *UN*helpful for MS:

    Edinburgh, Liverpool, East London (at least for science, dk about humanities courses), Manchester

    Both Oxford and Cambridge have colleges specifically for mature students, and used to have a 2nd deadline for MS (haven't checked to see if that is still true)- BUT most of their MS are UK students coming from Open University Access classes, which are not open to you.

    I get the attraction of London, but if you are going to use the GI Bill to pay for UK uni, you might want to check the math- London is a brutally expensive place to live! You might find your $ go farther in outside of London.

    Finally, a word on Foundation courses: there are a lot available. Most of them mainly serve international students who need to build their English and/or students who need to improve their grades for admission. Some, esp those that are tightly tied to a uni, are designed to develop skills. If you haven't done any essay-based coursework that might be a good path.
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  • vmar2018vmar2018 3 replies1 threads New Member
    Money is not an issue. The GI bill will pay 100% tuition up to $25,000usd, a $2,000 monthly housing stipend, my husband will be attending online school and getting a housing stipend, as well as a small part time job! I have looked into US university extensively. Since I am married and do hope to pursue a career in the international realm, I would rather not do a study abroad. UT Austin is my fall back if the UK doesn’t work out.
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  • vmar2018vmar2018 3 replies1 threads New Member
    Thank you so much for your insight! Also it seems like I was misunderstood as not having a good high school education so to clarify- I had a very rigorous Language Arts curriculum in high school (evidenced by my perfect reading+writing SAT score), and I’ve taken writing intensive courses in college, and like I said, I worked in politics which is 60% writing. Also, my career field in the military is extremely writing heavy. I’m definitely not unaware of the heavy writing that comes with politics or IR and I don’t see it as a huge issue since it is something I’m good at. :) I have taken writing-int naive classes in college; both of my history classes were 8 weeks long and required TWO 15-page papers, along with weekly short essays. So, I’m prepared for that. I have looked into the way degrees are structured, and I really like the rigid structure of them. You achieve a depth of study that you just don’t get in the US because you take so many general classes. I’m also pretty stuck on London- it’s such a hub for international politics, economics, and the culture of people is so diverse! I think the experience would be invaluable since I’m wanting a career in the international realm.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8289 replies87 threads Senior Member
    Thanks for the useful updates @vmar2018 - esp the points on $ & your writing background.

    So for London, the main choices are LSE, UCL, KCL, SOAS, Birkbeck, Queen Mary and Royal Holloway. You can apply to up to 5 *courses*- 1 at each of 5 universities, 5 at 1 university or any combination in between. IRL it is unusual to apply to more than 2 courses at the same uni. All 5 see the exact same app- you write 1 Personal Statement, which is about why you are a great fit academically for the course.

    Have you looked at KCL (Kings College London)? Their War College (properly known as Conflict and Security) offers 4 courses that you might be interested in: IR, IR + HX, War Studies and War Studies + IR. The program punches well above their weight, and has amazing guest speakers, helped by being the home for the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

    SOAS (mentioned upthread), has a good set of IR courses as well, are specific about welcoming mature students, and has a higher name recognition / prestige than it's rankings would suggest.

    I would rate KCL & SOAS over UCL for IR, and KCL over LSE for undergraduate.






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  • SweetgumSweetgum 109 replies3 threads Junior Member
    I am just a mom in the US researching UK universities for my daughter who is very set on going somewhere in the UK for university. I think you have gotten great advice here, but I did want to chime in.

    Do a deep dive on the websites of the universities that interest you. Some do indeed look at Community College and will accept an Associates Degree. The University of East Anglia was one that we found that does. I have no idea about the London universities.

    Also here are a couple of resources that may be helpful for you. There is a group called "Study Across The Pond" that helps Americans navigate the steps to applying to something like 40 universities in the UK. It is free. They have agreements with the universities and that is where their funding comes from. The UK universities like the American $$ so it works out well for them. Study Across The Pond does not work with every university (not Oxford or Cambridge), but my daughter has found it very helpful so far. Not sure if I'm allowed to link, but it's just StudyAcrossThePond with a dot com on the end.

    I also like the website "The Complete University Guide" for comparing universities and courses.

    Good luck!
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