University and Careers

Applying to Non-UK Universities

In recent years, a number of students have opted to study in the USA, EU countries or further afield. Whilst this remains a relatively small number of students, we provide help and advice to those who choose to go down this route. The application processes can be very different from those used in the UK, and the whole system may at first seem a little daunting. As part of the HE team, Ms King is on hand to advise and assist students who wish to apply to study overseas. Independent research of different universities and countries, attendance at information events and university fairs, and careful preparation and collation of application materials are all important steps when applying to study at non-UK institutions and this can often mean extra work for the applicant (not to mention the additional logistical demands of living abroad, such as visas), yet the rewards can be great and applicants often find that they enjoy all kinds of opportunities and experiences that their UK-based peers do not.


The Fulbright Commission has an easily accessible abundance of information and guidance and organises regular seminars and information events, as well as an annual Universities Fair where you can meet and learn more about over 150 US colleges.

The main differences between applying to study in the US and the UK are:

  • There is no centralised body like UCAS, so students must submit their applications directly to individual universities. The exception to this is applying via the Common Application, which centralises applications and includes over 650 US colleges.
  • College degrees in the USA tend to be broader than in the UK, with students choosing a major after they have started their degree. Some subjects, such as law or medicine, can only be studied at postgraduate level.
  • Each university will set their own application deadlines and fees, as well as admissions requirements.
  • Students apply to the institution, rather than to a specific department within a university. Often, the university will be assessing how an applicant will 'fit' with their ethos or community and will look at the whole person, beyond academic results, i.e. "holistic admissions".
  • Offers (also known as admissions decisions) are not usually conditional upon achieving a particular set of grades.
  • Rolling admissions - Students can apply over a set period of time (typically August to spring)
    • Regular decision - Students typically apply by 1 January
    • Early action - Students typically apply by 1 November
    • Restrictive early action - Students typically apply by 1 November (if accepted, students are committed to attend here)

The admissions system

In the USA this can be rather convoluted and usually has several components to it:

  • An academic transcript (giving grades since Year 10 and contextual information on your school) - prepared by the school
  • Admissions essays - usually two or three short essays will need to be written from a list of possible questions. These usually ask candidates to draw upon their personal experiences but there are no definite parameters on what questions can be asked - sometimes they can be quite bizarre!
  • Letters of recommendation - adults who know the candidate well will be asked to comment upon what they have to offer in support of their application. It is the candidate's responsibility to ask suitable people to do this (whether a sports coach, favourite teacher, part-time job manager, etc.), although normally the school's HE department will put together one of these.
  • Admissions tests - the SAT or ACT tests will normally need to be taken and the scores forwarded as part of an application. These are both four-hour long general aptitude multiple-choice tests focusing on Reading, Writing & Language and Mathematics, although questions within these can be on broader content from science, social science, history, etc. and the ACT test includes a science section - based upon High School subject content. Candidates are sometimes required (or can choose) to sit additional subject-specific tests too. These tests can be sat multiple times (2-3 in a year is normal) and the best scores forwarded. Candidates will need to prepare for and sit these tests alongside their schoolwork, with several tests centres located in the south of England.
  • Some universities will also invite candidates to interview. For international students this will often be with an alumnus of the university based in their country.


There is no centralised grant or student loan system available as there is in the UK, so attending university in America can be very expensive (upwards of £60,000 is not unusual). However, there are numerous sponsorship and scholarship opportunities available:

  • Over 600 universities offer international students scholarships of $20,000+; 250 offer a ‘full ride’, although this will normally include an ‘expected family contribution’. Many university websites will have financial aid calculators as well as details of the any renewable merit scholarships on offer. It is a good idea to apply well above a university’s SAT average if you are going for funding; this is where researching universities that are less well-known in the UK can really pay off (remember that the top 1% of colleges in the USA will be upwards of 40 institutions!)
  • Scholarships are available from external organisations, e.g. Fulbright Commission, British Morehead-Cain Foundation, as well as niche scholarships for a particular course or students from a particular background, etc. - these will vary from college to college.

A number of our students who have applied to universities in America have been successful in gaining 

  • Sports scholarships are granted by the university athletic department, normally for the Varsity (inter-college) teams. Athletic directors and coaches play a central role in award decision-making. Scholarships are generally awarded for the following sports: baseball, basketball, crew (rowing), cross-country, fencing, football (American), golf, gymnastics, ice hockey, indoor track, lacrosse, skiing, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball, water polo, women’s field hockey and wrestling.
  • Scholarships are provided on a yearly basis, generally renewable for four years, (if performance is maintained) the normal time required to complete a US undergraduate degree. Award amounts vary and can be anywhere from a few thousand dollars to full funding. Scholarships are often offered on a percentage basis (i.e. a 75% scholarship will cover 75% of the total cost for one year), and universities have strict limits on the total amount they can award each year.
  • It is a good idea to demonstrate interest to the university or coach through contacting them and asking questions. Alternatively, one can work with a sport scholarship agency or placement service (such as Sporting Elite USA or College Prospects of America) to connect with US universities actively seeking international student athletes and offering scholarships. These organisations will charge a fee for their assistance, but generally offer a comprehensive service that can make navigating the often complicated recruitment process clearer and offer student access to their network of coaches, e.g. through a 'showcase' event. See for more information.

Yvie Lock: University of California, Berkeley (KES 2009-2016)

To be a student athlete in the USA is a life-changing experience. None-the-less, the application process takes time and I strongly recommend starting early. Not only will you need to collect a decent amount of footage of you playing your sport, you will also need to take an SAT [or ACT] test and send in your academic records to every institute that recruit you. Once recruited by a few colleges, they will often pay for you to take a trip to each college, including meals and overnight accommodation. This is all free. Meeting the team and spending time at the college will really give you a feel about the institute that is right for you. Each college is extremely different, with the number of people ranging from 5000-30,000. The facilities are second-to-none and the coaches, physio and care you will receive is nothing like you can imagine. If you are serious about the sport and want to be treated like a professional athlete, I strongly recommend considering the US. I tore my ACL in the first week of being here and the help I was given to ensure I recover quickly has been incredible. For an ACL rupture the recovery time is normally a year, but 5-and-a-half months into my recovery I was already running, training and lifting again. This is down to the excellent (free) support and medical care that has been provided to me by the university.

Australia & New Zealand

Studying in Australia or New Zealand is an attractive proposition for many, with a different climate, excellent study facilities and broader and more flexible courses than in the UK adding up to an appealing package. Applications are either direct to each university (research through their web-page and download the application forms) or through an Australian Education Agent, which allows for a greater degree of centralisation and convenience – most UK students apply via Study Options, who also provide a wealth of information and supporting material. In most cases application is based purely on A Level results (except, for e.g. Medicine), with their semester system and a later start (February or July) allowing for a post-qualification application. Antipodean study can, however, be relatively expensive, with tuition fees of £11,000 - £22,000 p/a for Australia & £11,500 - £17,000 for New Zealand, yet there is huge variation between and even within institutions depending on one’s course (lecture-based courses, such as humanities degrees, are often cheaper). The cost of living estimated average is around £13,000 in Australia and £10,500 in New Zealand, with the South island being cheaper. However, financial aid is available in the form of scholarships, normally based on academic merit, although some general schemes do exist as well, e.g. the Australian Government Endeavour Awards. International students can also work to help fund their degrees (20 hrs per week during semesters; 40 hrs per week at other times).

European Union

Studying in Europe offers the opportunity to improve skills in another language and to experience the many different European countries and cultures.  As with the USA, there is usually no central system for applications and students will need to apply separately to their chosen universities, whilst admissions criteria vary from country to country. Happily, European universities offer an increasingly attractive and popular option, as tuition fees and grade requirements are often comparatively low and many courses are offered in English, with international students warmly welcomed. Employers often value the wider experience, independence and initiative that studying overseas represents and this can often help candidates to stand out from the crowd when applying for graduate jobs. 

The Netherlands

Whilst countries such as Germany, France, Spain and Italy proffer a good number of excellent courses and institutions, it is the Netherlands that has become an increasingly popular destination for British students in recent years, with Dutch universities offering over 2000 courses in English as well as easy access to central Europe and a very cosmopolitan culture. Applications to either research or applied science universities, or to liberal arts colleges (University Colleges), is often centralised through studielink, whilst tuition fees are substantially lower than the UK, usually 2000-4000 Euros p/a, plus living costs of 800-1100 Euros per month. Financial aid is available, either from individual universities or sometimes as a loan from the Dutch government. The Dutch approach to HE is different to the UK, with more of an emphasis on teamwork, self-study & interaction in class, whilst many students in Holland also complete an internship as part of their studies. Admissions criteria is often lower than the UK (equivalent to three grade Cs at A Level), with more emphasis on how a student performs once they have started university, whilst some course will require subjects at A Level (such as Maths) that equivalent courses in the UK would not - careful research of university web-pages is needed here. For very popular or demanding courses (such as Medicine or Business) the number of students admitted to study is fixed (so-called numerus fixus degree courses), with applicants academically ranked and only the number required to fill the places accepted. Admissions procedures can vary but normally include an application form, a motivational letter (equivalent to a UCAS personal statement) and sometimes an interview. For more information on how to apply, to find a course, to research scholarships, etc., consult studyinholland

Whilst still a member of the EU it is possible for UK students to study in some European countries without paying tuition fees. However, although fees may not be hugely expensive everywhere, living costs can be high. The situation is likely to change post Brexit and we will up-date the information on the School website accordingly.

It is possible for students to apply to study abroad in addition to putting in an application to study at a UK university through UCAS APPLY.

An HE session on attending university outside the UK will be held later this term for any students interested in learning more about studying abroad.  A copy of the most recent powerpoint will be made available here after the talk. 

For more information and links to further resources see :