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Think beyond Oxbridge to secure a world-class education

Many of us will be currently travelling the country, teenager in tow, hoping to find the perfect fit for the next few years of their lives at University.  But have you ever thought about looking somewhere not quite so close to home?  More and more students are finding amazing opportunities further afield these days in the US.  Carina Cunha from Crimson Education gives us the low-down on the global education opportunities that could be awaiting your child…


In our competitive world, students and their parents increasingly view a world class education as a good return on investment.  Securing a place at a top university can lead to better job opportunities, higher salaries and professional and personal fulfilment. And today’s future graduates are increasingly looking beyond the UK’s shores to explore what the USA might have to offer.  So, what is it that makes the US such an attractive option?



A world of opportunity 

Students in the UK are permitted to apply to a maximum of five universities, and they can only apply to either Oxford or Cambridge, not both.  The US system is less limiting in that students can apply to 10, 20 or more US universities. So, applicants can split their choices into three categories – aspirational universities, where there’s a high level of competition to get in, choices which they have a good chance of getting into and safety options, where admission is virtually guaranteed.

You will need to encourage your child to start planning a US application much earlier than they would in the UK though. That’s because US admissions teams evaluate students on much broader criteria than is typical in the UK.  A UK application focuses heavily on academic ability whereas in the US, 40% of an application is based on academic achievement, 30% on extra-curricular activities and 30% on personal essays and an interview. Interviews there are both non-academic as well as subject-based questions.

A broad choice of study options 

While both UK and US universities offer a huge range of subjects and courses, there are some important differences in the way these courses are delivered.  The UK higher education system is designed to focus on the specialised study of one subject in depth from the outset. So, when students apply to Oxbridge, for instance, they usually select a single course of study, or a small number of related disciplines, from the sciences, humanities or arts.

This is advantageous for those students who have always known they want to follow a career in medicine, for example, or who have particular strengths in one area, such as music. It may not be the right approach for everyone.

US universities allow students to select a variety of subjects which they study in the early part of their degree, before specialising in their chosen subject later on.  So, your child could choose to study politics, economics and social sciences in their first two years, even though they have applied to study for a degree in English literature.

Most US universities don’t require students to choose a major area of study until the end of their second year. This approach might benefit your child if they’re unsure of what subjects they want to study and gives them time to explore their options.

Champions of sporting talent 

UK universities don’t support their athletes in quite the same way as they do State side.   The US college system is the only system in the world which blends academic excellence with athletic brilliance so skilfully.   Support for athletes includes access to some of the best facilities in the world, Olympic standard coaching, on-site physiotherapy and timetabling that allows for a healthy mix of sport and academia. There is also funding available for athletes who compete in competitions and events.

However, students on athletic scholarships are expected to keep up with their academic work – an aspiring gymnast will only be allowed to stay on the team if they maintain a good grade point average.

Financial support 

US university fees are perceived to be expensive compared with those in the UK. It can cost upwards of USD $60,000 a year to study at a top tier university in the US with tuition fees and living expenses factored in, so it is a sizeable investment for many families.  However, many full-time college students in the US receive some form of financial aid – around 75% of Harvard students are supported financially.  Financial aid is available for international students in the form of loans or grants, some of which do not need to be paid back.

A global pattern for success 

What the top universities in the States are looking for is all-rounder students with a wealth of qualities and heaps of potential.  So by choosing a university across the pond, your child could find themselves studying alongside the elite athletes, aspiring politicians, creative geniuses and future movers and shakers of the world.


Crimson Education helps students get into Ivy League and other globally recognised higher education institutions. Read Beyond Oxbridge – A parent’s guide to US universities or contact europe@crimsoneducation.org for more information.

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