The main differences in admission: USA vs UK

The experience of living and studying abroad can change the outlook on life. The USA, of course, is an attractive place for future students, where there are so many of the world’s leading universities, and there is no language barrier. If you are thinking of applying to one of the universities of the United States this year, there are some major differences between the admission process to universities in the UK and the US, which you need to know, because, unfortunately, the same application form is not suitable for both universities countries. Even if you don’t enroll in a US university, this article may still be useful to you, as it explains the main difference in applications for admission to British and American universities. Subject to a misconception perpetuated by folk culture, some students submit applications to American universities in the American manner, afterwards wondering why they are not sent many offers. With this guide, you will know exactly what to do in order to adapt your application for admission accordingly. Let’s first start by looking at the differences, and at the very end you will find a brief summary of the things you need to remember to write a statement on one side or the other of the Atlantic.

Examiners evaluating your application

One of the first things that differs from the British tradition, which must be remembered when applying to a US university, is that examiners in both countries are very different. In the United Kingdom, the faculty of the university has the right to vote, deciding which applicants will be accepted for study. Thus, your application will be evaluated by a member of the university faculty at the faculty where you enter, and these will be the people who, if you are enrolled, will teach you. In the United States, decisions for the entire university are made by the admissions committee, which is nothing more than administrative staff. In the case of Britain, such staff will only work as support for faculty members who make decisions. The result of this difference is that you have to turn to two completely different audiences.

At universities in the UK, you write your so-called “personal statement”, referring to people who are experts in their field of activity; you must impress with your knowledge of the subject and the views that you have formed on this matter (they know their stuff, and therefore will notice everything that is actually wrong or misunderstood), and perhaps you should try to show them your knowledge of less well-known knowledge or topics of your subject. As experts, they can notice your insight in obscure areas of your subject. In the US, on the contrary, you write to people who do not have extensive and special knowledge in this subject, but, instead, they will focus more on what you can be valuable to the university community.

The degree of attention on the non-educational side

Perhaps due to the difference in who evaluates your application, there is a significant difference in the degree of attention focused on the non-teaching part of your application. In the United Kingdom, a great deal of emphasis is placed on that part of the student’s application that is related to studies. Out-of-class activity in your application is only icing on the cake, whereas science is in the foreground. Such activities are good to have in a statement, as they show your unboundedness in this subject, and also indicate the fact that you have achieved impressive learning results, despite being engaged in other things in your life. But this is definitely not the most important aspect of the application or the fact that it will change the decision of those evaluating in favor of the student.

However, in the United States, extracurricular activities and other non-academic virtues are considered more important and crucial in order to describe the situation with your academic achievements. Remember, the fate of your application is not decided by the academic staff, but by the administrative staff who are trying to create a student community that can actively contribute to the life and soul of the university. Thus, sports, music, and other talents that are not related to the curriculum will be viewed with admiration, as well as part-time work, leadership roles, or volunteering. Moreover, they will look at your family background. If you have it varied and / or your relative studied at this university, then you are more likely to be enrolled. This may seem dishonest, but if you had someone in your family who donated money to the university, you will have even more chances to enroll (although this hardly applies to foreign students).

Different expectations in the curriculum

The United States and Britain have their own approaches to higher education. This circumstance was reflected in the difference in expectations put forward by universities with respect to student statements. Universities of the United Kingdom assume that students will be sufficiently specialized in their field of study, paying tribute to those who are exceptionally talented in a particular subject and who have put their efforts to increase their knowledge and skills in this particular discipline. At US universities, students are welcome to fall into both extremes of the educational spectrum: either they are very specialized and incredibly strong in a specific one subject, or they are comprehensively developed, that is, they have knowledge in many subjects, but at a lower level. This is due to the fact that the American university system allows for a wider range of subjects than the British system concentrating on one thing. You will need 4 years to complete your degree in the United States, while you will need to study in the United Kingdom for a standard 3 years. And, although your main focus will be on your “specialty”, you will probably also learn a certain amount of additional subjects not related to your main subject. As a rule, you really do not make a decision on what to focus your main attention before completing the second year of study at an American university, and after studying a lot of subjects, you can finally concentrate on completely different things than you would expect. initial application. In the UK, the situation is very different, since from the very beginning you are focusing exclusively on one subject. To summarize, British universities value the depth of knowledge, while American ones value a range of knowledge.

“Admission to the university” and “admission to the specialty”

Applications for admission to British universities are focused on your desire to study a specific subject. You write a personal application, without specifying which universities you enroll, and then it is sent to everyone through the organization UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) – the service of admission to universities and colleges. In the USA, your applications are adapted accordingly with each university to which you enroll. You explain in detail why you are applying to this particular university and why you are a suitable candidate specifically for this institution – so there is a focus on the university, and not on the faculty. This means that you need to be extremely attentive and make sure that you are sending the right application to the right university! Perhaps this method of action motivates you to think more thoroughly about which university you enroll in. Instead of simply filling in the space on the form submitted to UCAS, you will need to clearly explain why you chose this university and why you are a suitable candidate for admission. You will need to carefully conduct a kind of research work, as well as having the full opportunity to convincingly describe the reasons for which you are applying to be accepted.

“Advanced examinations” against “Academic test”

Another difference between university statements in the United States and Britain is how your academic success is assessed. In the United Kingdom, your academic performance lies in the results of examinations for a general secondary education and advanced level examinations, the latter being the initial means for confirming the academic level with which you work. You may have to sit in preparation for the entrance exams in some subjects, if we are talking about such leading universities in Britain as Oxford and Cambridge, but they will be in the minority. In the US, you are evaluated through an exam called the “Academic Assessment Test” – “Scholastic Assessment Test” (SAT). This is a mandatory part of the admission process in most American universities, which, regardless of the subject-specialty, tests your skills in mathematics, writing and “expressive reading”. It also reflects the aforementioned difference in university education, which is a wide range of knowledge for the United States, compared with the British depth of knowledge. Entrance tests focus more on testing general academic skills than on controlling your abilities in the field of special subjects that you demonstrate in advanced exams. If you are a foreign student, you will have to pay $ 91 to complete SAT, which lasts 3 hours and 45 minutes. For more information about SAT, you can find in our article “Useful tips and tricks: how to pass SAT with the best result.”

“Personal statement” against the “collegiate entrance essay”

So, given these differences, we can summarize the main difference between your “personal statement” submitted to British universities and the “collegiate introductory essay” provided to American institutions of higher education. If you hope that you can use the same text everywhere – think again!

Motivation letter

Key feature of a good motivational letter

1. Concentrated on a specific subject, demonstrates your interest in him, your scientific knowledge and the ability to think correctly in this direction;

2. Shows what you did outside of school hours in order to satisfy your interest in this subject;

3. Explains your desire to study the subject and how it fits with your long-term goals;

4. Does not contain jokes and hackneyed phrases;

5. The name of the university is not mentioned, instead – the focus on the subject;

6. The maximum amount is 7000 characters;

Collegiate introductory essay

The “collegiate introductory essay” is the equivalent of an American personal statement designed to determine your writing skills, as well as to identify your personal traits of character. Universities will provide you with two or three topic questions that you will need to answer in your essay, as well as set your vocabulary limit for you. Someone will be inclined to pay attention to your personality, someone – to your academic achievements, and someone can often ask you such a question as “why exactly we?” Besides, there can be a “creative” question calculated to test the student’s ability to think properly and write beautifully on intellectual topics.

This essay contains the following key differences from the British personal statement:

1. Much more reveals the identity of the student, his origin and non-academic achievements, showing the student in a rainbow light, as well as the kind of person that the university would like to see among his students;

2. Demonstrates interest and ability to a number of subjects;

3. Has a more interesting and entertaining form, showing more self-confidence than a British personal statement (and for a student of the United Kingdom it may seem more arrogant than they used to);

4. Often can contain jokes and stories describing the student’s personality and his motives, relating certain life episodes and making it clear what he felt then, and even told how the student overcame some troubles. It is recommended to mention the specific details that give these stories liveliness: names, places, emotions, etc .;

5. Attention is paid to why you want to study at the specified institution;

6. The limit of words is set by each university individually;

The significance attached to this essay in relation to other parts of the statement (such as academic results and feedback) varies from university to university, but it’s certainly important — a good essay can change the decision in your favor, so it’s worth the time spent on adequate writing. You will not be able to copy a personal application to a British university and paste it into an American application, since the expectations of universities are very different. Although you can reuse some places, adapting them to the American audience and taking into account the differences described in this article.

Higher education in the United States is significantly different from education in the UK, and this difference is naturally reflected in the university admissions process. Being aware of these different modes of action is necessary if you want to make the same good impression on the other side of the Atlantic as in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

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