Considering UK Universities: Pros and Cons

By: Annabelle Castillo, Assistant Director of Counseling, Northern California

If you are considering applying to UK universities, there are a few things you need to know to help you make a well-informed decision about what your college list looks like and how to prepare.

Students can apply to UK schools through the Common Application or through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). There are approximately 20 UK schools that use the Common App. Students can apply to a maximum of five UK universities through UCAS and Common App combined. Though the applications themselves are structured a bit differently, the priorities for college admissions remain the same regardless of which application is used.

UK universities differ from schools in the US in how they evaluate applicants. The focus is more on preparation for major and career, and UK schools expect students to have clear-cut goals related to their majors. This is not a problem for students at HS2, since counselors help students build strong evidence for their major throughout high school to showcase on their college applications senior year. However students who are undecided or do not have a specific focus, or those who intend to change their major in college may not benefit as much from the education system in the UK.

That being said, the UCAS application has fewer requirements than US applications, and this could be better for high school students who prefer a simpler process. This includes needing only one reference letter and only one essay (“personal statement” is major-specific and colleges are very clear about what they want in this essay). Current and former UK students have also expressed other advantages of attending UK universities. They have mentioned how coursework is focused only on their specific interests since there are no GE requirements, communicating with contacts is easy and straightforward, they feel well-supported (emotionally, socially, and academically), they are treated as adults and are expected to be more independent, the healthcare system (National Health Service) is easy to navigate, the tuition is more affordable, and they can complete their higher education in three years versus the typical four years it takes in the US to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Despite the general pros and cons of UK universities, the best way to decide if it’s a good fit is for high school students to look at their personal goals, circumstances, and preferences. HS2 counselors assist students with every step of the process of creating an ideal college list, which may consist of both US and UK schools. Working with a counselor is beneficial if a student is unsure, and at HS2 we discuss and help students research what specific UK universities have to offer, then assist with the entire application process if students decide to apply.

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