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:

Studying abroad – what you need to consider

Darllenwch yn y Gymraeg

Studying abroad, whether it is a full three- or four-year course or for a year as part of a UK-based degree, can be an incredible and potentially life-changing opportunity.

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As well as all the traditional benefits of attending university, such as furthering your academic career, meeting new people and generally expanding your horizons, studying abroad also offers the chance to experience a completely different way of learning and an entirely new culture at the same time.

However, while there are many sources of information available (see below) and plenty of people to turn to for help and advice, studying abroad comes with an extra set of considerations, some of which are not immediately obvious.

Studying abroad takes a huge amount of planning and preparation, much of which you must do yourself.

Here are some of the things you need to consider:


  • Passports To travel abroad you will need a passport at the very least, even if you plan to study within the European Union.You will also need to make sure your passport is not due to expire while you are abroad, and some countries will insist on a minimum period of time left on your passport (often around six months) for you to travel.
  • Visas You may also need extra documentation or accreditation to travel to certain countries, such as a Visa or an online electronic travel authorisation. You should check with the national website of the country to which you plan to travel for the most up-to-date information.

UCAS has some general visa and immigration information here.

Insurance and health

  • Insurance No matter how long you plan to travel abroad for, insurance is essential. Luckily there are many different student insurance options available, so make sure to shop around for a good deal. However, this does not mean you should compromise – always pay for the most comprehensive cover you can get, because you can never be sure when you will need it.
  • Health Some countries will require you to have vaccinations before you travel, while others will have their own specific medical or healthcare requirements. Again, you should check with the country’s national website for the latest information.


  • Tuition fees Student life can be expensive at the best of times but studying abroad can prove particularly costly. If you are studying a full course abroad you will have to consider the cost of tuition fees, which can be very high for international students in certain countries. There are various scholarships and bursaries available that can help reduce the cost depending on the country, the institution and the course of study.
  • Cost of living This can vary considerably depending on the country. Some countries will require you to prove you have enough money to meet your living costs as part of your visa application, so diligent financial planning and detailed budgeting is essential.
  • Working You might be able to find employment to supplement your income but again this varies depending on the country, with some restricting the number of hours student visa holders can work and others banning it altogether.

More information and resources

Make sure to keep an eye out for our studying abroad blog series for more helpful advice, testimonials and top tips on studying overseas.

You can also find out more about funding for studying abroad and travel grant information on the Student Finance Wales website in addition to advice from UCAS.

“I can’t thank the Seren Network enough for providing such opportunities to me” Former Seren student who is now studying at Cambridge


Elliott Manwaring

As the Seren Network enters its third year, we’ve been able to catch up with some of the Network’s talented former students to help answer some of your own burning questions about studying at university.

This week, we speak to former Seren student Elliott Manwaring, a medicine student at Cambridge.

Tell us a little about yourself

I’m 18 and originally from Pembrokeshire. I went to Ysgol-y-Preseli and was part of the Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire Seren hub.

What are you doing at university?

I’m now in my second term at University of Cambridge, in Peterhouse College, where I’m studying medicine.

I applied to study medicine at Cambridge because of the scientific emphasis placed on the course. I felt that it would set me up to make a much better doctor if I had a strong grounding in the basic medical sciences.

Applying to Cambridge was the best choice I’ve ever made. The campus is such an amazing environment to be in, and the tutors really help encourage me to learn more about my subject.

I would definitely recommend applying to a university where you enjoy the atmosphere and environment.

Having other people around you who are just as keen to learn is really inspiring.

How did Seren help you in your journey to university?

Seren hosted a university access day in Carmarthen where I was able to speak to several universities about applying to study medicine, asking them what the course entailed. It was really helpful in terms of understanding the application process and the structure of each course.

I spoke to an admissions tutor from Cambridge University who motivated me to look further into their course. He urged me to apply after seeing I was passionate about studying on a traditional medical course and explained that it was something that was genuinely achievable, as long as I worked hard enough for it.

That was the day that I really set my heart on studying at Cambridge.

I can’t thank the Seren Network enough for providing such opportunities to me, without it, I doubt I would have applied and I would never be where I am today.

What’s your advice for current students applying for university?

A-levels are a lot of work and everyone finds them tough. Doing small, manageable study sessions is the best way to get things done.

My other main piece of advice would be to make sure that you’re really passionate about the subject you’re applying for.

To get into a top university, admissions tutors want to see that you genuinely love your subject. Allow some time every week to have a read around your subject, to get a feel for what is outside of your A-level syllabus.

Once you’ve found the subject you love, use it as motivation to work hard to get to where you want to go.

I’d never have believed I’d be where I am today, but because of my motivation to get to that end goal. I’m here, and you could be too!

What are your goals for the future?

In the short term, I’m hoping to complete my pre-clinical training in medical school and take an intercalated degree in physiology in my third year. I hope to take part in some medical research projects over the summer and get involved with some medical aid work in third world countries.

In the long term, I hope to finish my training in medical school and work towards becoming a consultant surgeon, while having a role as a fellow at a university to help teach medical students in the future.

Welsh Government announces £3 million of funding for Wales’ brightest pupils

Darllenwch yn y Gymraeg

You may have seen in the news this week an announcement about additional funds from the Welsh Government to support the brightest and most talented students in Wales.

Here’s what it means…

Funding worth £3million will benefit More Able and Talented (MAT) learners in Wales, and will enable the extension of the Seren Network to benefit younger pupils.

Over the next two years, the Welsh Government aims to:

  • Better identify and support schools at regional and national levels
  • Increase opportunities to inspire the highest levels of achievement
  • Develop evidence to support further investment

What will this mean for the Seren Network?

This new plan will also include the extension of the Seren Network so that it reaches younger pupils. From September, Seren will also target talented students before their GCSEs, connecting pupils from different schools and communities and building on our existing links with leading global universities.


Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams said:

“Further encouraging a culture that supports high aspirations for all learners, teachers and schools is crucial to the delivery of our national mission for education.

“It is clear from PISA, previous Estyn reports, Sutton Trust and UCL research that Wales must do more to identify, support and stretch our more able learners.

“The investment I’m announcing means that we will be able to reach these learners at a much earlier stage, ensuring they have the support and opportunities to reach their full potential.

“The Seren Network already makes a hugely positive contribution to raising aspirations, boosting confidence and encouraging post-16 students to be ambitious.

Expanding the programme will help us to build that confidence in our younger leaners and show them that there are opportunities they may not yet be aware of.

“We have to look at this as a long-term investment; this is about how we create the next generation of entrepreneurs, teachers, scientists and public servants that will drive Wales’s future prosperity and success.

“Getting it right for these learners, and those with the potential to be these learners, therefore means getting it right for everyone.”

Stay tuned on the blog for further information about how this announcement will impact Seren.

You can also keep in touch via our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Welsh Government Student Finance Campaign


The Welsh Government has announced a new student finance package for students starting a first-time undergraduate course in 2018/19. It means you could be eligible for up to £11,250 per year through grants and loans, to help with your living costs.


Why has the Welsh Government offered this support?

The Welsh Government believes money shouldn’t be a barrier to going to university and that it should be an option for everyone, regardless of their household income. The new policy is designed to enable students to focus on their studies and spend less time worrying about making ends meet. By supporting living costs, it means students don’t have to work long hours to earn money alongside their studies to cover living expenses, freeing up time to concentrate on their studies.

Who is eligible?

All eligible first-time undergraduates who are starting a part or full-time course and are from Wales can apply, no matter where they plan to study in the UK.

How much can students get?

  • Those studying full-time as an undergraduate could be eligible for up to £11,250 a year, through a mixture of grants and loans towards living costs, if they live away from home and study in London, and up to £9,000 per year if they live away from home and study anywhere in the rest of the UK.
  • Those studying a full-time undergraduate course and living at home could be eligible for up to £7,650 a year.
  • Grants will be means-tested to support those who need them most – those from a lower income household will receive the highest grant.
  • Students can also take out a maintenance loan to top up what they get. The maximum loan amount will depend on how much grant they receive.
  • Students can also get up to £1,500 towards reducing their maintenance loan when they make the first loan repayment under the Welsh Government partial cancellation scheme.

What about tuition fees?

  • Students can apply for a separate loan to cover tuition fees. In Wales, tuition fees have been capped at £9,000 per year but in other parts of the UK they could be up to £9,250 per year for a full-time undergraduate course.
  • Student Finance Wales provides a loan to cover tuition fees, which will have to be repaid once the student starts earning over £25,000. Loans to cover tuition fees are not means-tested.

How to apply:

Applying for student finance is done directly through the Student Finance Wales website. Full-time students can apply for this support from early spring.

Where can I find out more?

For more details on student finance including information on repayments and extra support, visit:

Also, follow Student Finance Wales on:

Twitter: @wg_education




UPDATED DEADLINE: All your questions about the Seren-Yale scholarship answered*


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*Welsh blog to follow

How do I apply to the Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) summer 2018 programme?

All students should follow the application process on the YYGS website. Please click on the following link:

What is the deadline for applying to the YYGS summer 2018 programme?

For this application cycle, the application deadline has been extended by one week for Seren Network students. The closing date for applications to YYGS summer 2018 is 04:59 GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) 7th February 2018. To apply, go to:


What if I miss the deadline?

If you miss the application deadline, your application to YYGS will not be considered. All parts of the application must be complete for consideration for admission to the YYGS summer 2018 programme.

Who should apply to the YYGS summer 2018 programme?

The Yale Young Global Scholars Programme is designed to challenge top performing high school students with fast-paced, university-level material. Prior to arriving at Yale, students are required to do several hundred pages of preparatory reading and during the programme will spend the majority of each day in lectures, seminars, and small group discussions. Participants also complete a major writing and presentation assignment in which they are asked to collaborate with a team of students. The academic work in the programme is intense and each session covers a wide variety of material in two weeks.

A student in the programme must have:

  • an excellent academic record
  • demonstrated leadership potential
  • strong written and verbal communication skills
  • a desire and ability to work cooperatively with peers
  • a good work ethic
  • an ability to read, analyse, and reflect on large quantities of difficult material in English
  • high standards of personal and professional conduct

Students must also be mature and able to engage respectfully and civilly in discussions over controversial intellectual, moral, and political issues.

Students who participate in the programme often go on to attend very selective colleges and universities, including Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Oxford, UC Berkeley, and University of Chicago.

How long is the Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) summer 2018 programme?

The YYGS summer 2018 programme is two weeks long, with sessions commencing from mid-June through to the end of July.

Will I be travelling to YYGS summer 2018 independently or will there be a Seren representative with me?

YYGS summer 2018 has different start dates ranging from mid-June through to late-July. Sessions are also delivered in different locations (New Haven, USA and Beijing, China). As a result, there will not be a designated party of Seren Network students or representatives travelling together. Students applying should be prepared to travel independently and this should be a consideration before applying. Of course, any Seren students admitted to the same session (in the same location and with the same start date) are welcome to travel together and Seren will endeavour to help facilitate this where possible, but this cannot be guaranteed.

Most of the summer 2018 sessions for YYGS are in New Haven (USA) but there is one in Beijing. Can I apply to the session in Beijing?

Applicants to the YYGS summer 2018 programme should list their preferences on the application, and Beijing is definitely one of the options.

Please remember that the Yale-Seren scholarship does not currently cover travel expenses. Please note, however, that the Welsh Government and Yale’s alumni representative in Wales are working on raising sponsorship for travel costs, but this cannot be guaranteed.

What does the Seren-Yale Scholarship cover?

 Tuition for each session of the 2018 Yale Young Global Scholars Programme is $6,000 USD, which includes instruction, housing on one of Yale’s historic residential colleges in New Haven or a hotel conveniently located near the Yale Center Beijing in China, three meals per day, and optional health insurance. Travel is not included in programme tuition.

The Seren-Yale Scholarship covers this $6,000 USD. This has been made possible jointly by Yale University and The Welsh Government.

How likely is it that my traveling costs will be covered?

The $6,000 USD Seren-Yale Scholarship does not currently cover traveling expenses.

However, the Welsh Government and Yale are currently working on raising support from Welsh businesses to help fund traveling costs. Progress in this area has already been made. E-Qual Recruitment Education has committed to sponsoring travel expenses for one student and other commitments have been made by various parties but final total funding figures have not yet been established.

Until this is established, students are encouraged develop their own fundraising  plans or initiatives for traveling expenses. Students should also consider the costs of miscellaneous expenses while participating in the programme.

As a Seren student, will I be guaranteed a position in the YYGS summer 2018 programme?

No, Seren cannot guarantee the success of any individual application to YYGS. YYGS’s application process is highly competitive. Whilst the Seren-Yale partnership has identified 11 places that can be funded for Seren students in 2018, the standard of applications must still be high enough to be worthy of an offer of admission independently of the partnership, so only the strongest applications will be offered a space. Applications will be considered by the YYGS admissions team and final decisions for admission to the YYGS summer 2018 programme will be made by the YYGS admissions team.

How will Yale know that Im a Seren student and how do I notify them?

All applicants are advised to mention their membership of The Seren Network in their applications to the YYGS summer 2018 programme. As well as demonstrating an applicant’s success in gaining admission to this exclusive network, mentioning Seren membership will draw an application to the attention of admissions staff at YYGS who will be expecting applications from Seren students.

In order to ensure that all competitive applications to YYGS from Seren students are considered for this scholarship, applicants are also advised to notify their regional Seren hub coordinators of their application to the YYGS summer 2018 programme. Seren hub coordinators will then collate a list of applicants from their region, which will be passed on to Yale’s alumni representative in Wales.

When will I be notified whether my application to YYGS summer 2018 has been successful or not?

Applicants will be notified electronically of admissions decisions by late March or early April 2018.

Can students who are not members of The Seren Network apply?

Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) summer 2018 programme is open to applications from anybody who meets the eligibility criteria described on the YYGS website. Please see the following link for details:

However, the Seren-Yale Global Scholarship is only available to Seren Network students who are successful in their applications to the YYGS summer 2018 programme. The application process is highly competitive and so only the strongest applicants will be made an offer of admission.

Do I need to complete the financial aid portion of the application?

Yes, all applicants to the Seren-Yale Scholarship for YYGS summer 2018 must complete the financial aid portion of the application to be considered for this scholarship.

Students who do not applying for financial aid will not be eligible for the Seren-Yale scholarship, and should therefore also pay the application fee. Please note that any admitted students who do not apply for and qualify for financial aid will need to raise funds to cover their tuition independently of the Seren-Yale scholarship.

How do I pay the $60 application fee? Is this covered by the scholarship?

Applicants should complete the financial aid portion of the application to be considered for        this scholarship. Applicants can submit a fee waiver form:

Students who do not apply for financial aid will not be eligible for the Seren-Yale scholarship, and should therefore also pay the application fee. Please note that any admitted students who do not apply for and qualify for financial aid will need to raise funds to cover their tuition independently of the Seren-Yale scholarship.

I have more questions relating to YYGS, where should I go?

For answers to other questions, please refer to YYGS’s FAQ by clicking on the following link:

Applicants can also seek guidance from their school’s university guidance counsellors and Seren hub coordinators. We do, however, advise that guidance in this FAQ document and from the YYGS website is followed and prioritised above other advice you might receive.

Due to the short timescale for completing applications, we also advise that applicants prioritise completing their applications in full and do not delay doing so due to uncertainty over a single aspect of the application process or the YYGS programme. Any incomplete applications and those submitted after the deadline for Seren students (04:59am GMT 7th February) will not be considered.

UPDATED DEADLINE 4.59am 7th Feb: New opportunity for Seren students through new Yale University partnership

Yale pic
Seren students: do you fancy sampling life at a US university this summer, at no cost?

What is the Yale Young Global Scholars Programme?

The Yale Scholars Programme is a highly selective academic leadership programme taking place this summer (2018). The programme offers students the opportunity to take part in a two-week summer school at either the Yale University campus in the US or the Yale campus in Beijing, depending on the course they choose to apply for. The programme offers seven intensive, interdisciplinary courses:

  • Applied Science & Engineering – June 17 – June 30 (US)
  • International Affairs & Security – June 17 – June 30 (US)
  • Frontiers of Science & Technology – July 8 – July 21 (US)
  • Sustainable Development & Social Entrepreneurship – July 8 – July 21 (US)
  • Politics, Law & Economics – July 27 – August 9 (US)
  • Biological & Biomedical Science – July 27 – August 9 (US)
  • Asia in the 21st Century – July 26 – August 8 (China)

When’s the deadline?

The deadline to apply for the programme is 4:59am GMT on Wednesday 7th February. DON’T MISS OUT. Apply here today:

Sounds great, but isn’t it really expensive? 

No, this year it’s completely free for 11 Seren students. The programme normally costs $6,000 USD per student, plus travel costs. However, this year Yale is partnering with the Seren Network to offer 11 Seren students the opportunity to apply. One student from each of the Seren hubs will be selected for the programme, based on a competitive application process. Additional travel expenses may also be supported by sponsorship from regional welsh businesses; this will be confirmed in due course.

Why should you apply? 

This is a rare and exciting opportunity for Welsh students and it’s the first ever government partnership that Yale University has established. The Yale Young Global Scholars programme is a unique opportunity to get a taste of what it’s like to study at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. 48% of students admitted to Yale in 2017 were international students so, as Wales’ brightest sparks, there’s nothing stopping you joining this figure!

What are they looking for in the application?

Yale is looking to accept students onto the programme who prove academic capacity and intellectual curiosity. Make sure to include any independent pieces of work or research you have conducted as this demonstrates an ability to work independently and beyond what is required of you as A-level students.