Top Four Reasons to Consider Attending “Uni” in the U.K.

Top Four Reasons to Consider Attending “Uni” in the U.K.

Do you crave international experience? Are you a serious student who knows what you want to study? Do you think finishing your undergraduate degree in three years sounds great?

If you answer yes to some of these questions, then you should consider going to university, commonly called “uni” in the U.K. If you aren’t sure what the differences are between U.S. and U.K. higher education, or how to navigate the admission process, here are some tips to help you.

The U.K. remains the leading destination for U.S. students studying internationally. And for good reason! British universities are world-renowned for offering intellectually rigorous and stimulating academic programs. Many students are drawn to the research-based, independent-style of learning and the opportunity to dive into their course of choice. Furthermore, the shorter period of study (three years as opposed to four in the U.S.) means the degree not only takes less time, but also costs less money.

Before you head across the pond, here are four reasons why studying in the U.K. might be for you, as well as six key facts to note about the admission process.

Why study in the U.K.?

1) Length of time: In the U.K., it usually takes three years to complete undergraduate study. The exception is Scotland, where it takes four years, as it does in the U.S. (The Scottish system is a hybrid of the traditional U.K. and U.S. systems.)

2) Breadth versus depth: The general emphasis of higher education in the U.S. is breadth, or acquiring knowledge from different disciplines, even after selecting a major. In the U.K., the emphasis is on a narrower but deeper focus, on getting a thorough understanding of your chosen subject. There is not as much academic flexibility in the U.K., which works well for a student who knows what he or she wants to study.

3) Value for money: Because undergraduate courses in the U.K. are generally shorter than those in the U.S., the amount of money you will pay in tuition fees and living costs is reduced. Please note, however, that financial aid is quite limited for international students.

4) Culture and people: With big cities as well as small villages, modern as well as historical architecture, the U.K. is a diverse and exciting place to attend university.

U.K. Admissions: Six Key Facts

1) Timeline: Key deadlines include mid-September, October 15, and January 15. In mid-September, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), begins to review applications on a rolling basis. The UCAS is the organization responsible for managing applications to higher education courses in the U.K., quite similar to the Common Application used in the U.S. Applications to Oxford or Cambridge are due October 15 (you can only apply to one, not both). Other universities have a January 15 deadline. There are some exceptions for specific programs, so applicants must be aware of all deadlines.

2) Academic versus holistic review: The U.K. admission process is a much more straightforward, academic read of your profile than the American admission process. In the U.K., they are most interested in your classes, grades, AP scores, and demonstrated interest in your particular subject of study, as highlighted through your UCAS personal statement. Extracurricular activities, leadership, and who you are as a person and community member are less important in the U.K. university admission process.

3) UCAS personal statement: The personal statement for U.K. universities tends to be an outline of academic accomplishments, focused on the course to which you are applying. What interests you about this subject, including specific topics that inspire you to want to study it in more depth? What have you done – in and out of school – that is relevant to this chosen course of study? What do you hope to get out of studying this subject? What career plans do you have, if any, for when you complete your course? Why do you want to study this course in the U.K.?

4) Lack of academic flexibility: In the U.K. system, you apply for a specific course of study, which means you must be happy studying what this course covers, for the next three years. Compared to the more flexible majors in U.S. colleges and universities, this is a narrower and deeper focus. However, some U.K. institutions offer more academic flexibility, including interdisciplinary courses, such as Liberal Arts, which are focused on the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

5) Standardized tests: The most important standardized tests for U.K. admission are AP tests and Subject Tests. As one admission officer recently told me, a U.S. student’s application to a U.K. university is like fitting a square peg into a round hole, due to the vast differences between the secondary school educational structures. So, U.K. universities are looking for the closest thing to A-Levels. They want to know that you have taken advanced courses in the most relevant subjects you plan to study. If your school does not offer APs, some universities will accept Subject Tests instead, but some will not. It is important to know whether APs are an absolute requirement. Most U.K. universities have minimum SAT and ACT scores, but they do not give either of these tests much weight in admissions. The entry requirements (both tests and scores) will vary from course-to-course within the university.

6) Foundation Programmes: If you do not have all of the requirements for a U.K. university (for example, a university that absolutely requires APs when you do not have any), many universities offer a one-year Foundation Programme, which usually segues into admission to that university for the remaining three years.

For additional information on going to university in the U.K., the UCAS web site is a fabulous place to start. There is a section for international students, which goes into great detail about finding courses of interest, entry requirements at universities, as well as when and how to apply.

The Complete University Guide is also a helpful resource. A few other web sites and blogs, which include reviews and other more subjective information, include the following:,,,, and To schedule an initial consultation or advising appointment about university options in the U.K., please visit our web site at or e-mail Maureen Hamilton at


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