Interested in studying in the US? What you need to know about life ‘across the pond’

american flag

The USA is one of the most popular destinations for UK students looking to study abroad, with more than 9,000 making the trip across the pond every year.

With more than 4,500 higher education institutions to choose from, including 15 ranked among the top 20 in the world according to the THE World University Rankings 2018, it’s no wonder so many UK students choose to study in the USA.

Though the higher education system shares some similarities with the UK, there are differences of which you should be aware when considering whether to study in the USA.

As well as reading our previous blogs from Welsh students Thomas Burr, Ben Roberts and Raphaelle Soffe, who each secured a place at a top American university, we’ve pulled together a list of things you need to know about studying in the USA.


  • American universities are known as colleges, and there are two types, public and private.
  • Public colleges are large, state-funded institutions with lower tuition fees and large numbers of students, while private colleges are smaller, privately funded institution fees with higher fees and fewer students.


  • There are two types of undergraduate degree courses offered in the USA, two-year associate degrees and four-year bachelors degrees.
  • Associate degrees are usually studied at institutions known as technical, community or junior colleges. Bachelors degrees are different to their UK equivalent because students study a range of subjects before deciding on a ‘major’ subject to focus on. They may also study another subject at the same time to gain a ‘minor’ qualification.
  • Medicine and law are not taught at undergraduate level in the USA, instead you will have to complete an undergraduate degree then apply to a graduate school.

Fees and funding

  • Studying in the USA can be expensive at first glance, with annual tuition fees costing on average £25,000 at public colleges and £33,500 at private colleges.
  • The good news is that financial support is available. Some institutions will provide funding for international students, from a variety of scholarships covering part or the whole cost of the course to needs-based support with fees and accommodation costs.
  • There are also sources of funding available in the UK, including the Sutton Trust US Programme for state school students. The Fulbright Commission has a list of external funding bodies that help international students study in the USA.


  • Applications can take longer to US institutions because of the various stages of the process. The Common Application system allows online applications to hundreds of institutions, but otherwise you will have to apply directly to your chosen institution.
  • You may need to sit an admission exam and complete essays covering the admissions criteria. You will also have to provide documents including a personal statement, transcripts of academic records and recommendation letters.


  • Full-time students will need an F-1 student visa. Application forms will be provided by the university you will be attending, which you must complete and take to the US Embassy in London in person.

For more information see the US Embassy website.

More information and resources

As well as Student Finance Wales’s guidance on studying abroad, you can also find useful information on the following sites:

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