If you choose to study in an English-speaking country, you might turn your attention to the States and Canada. With top universities and colleges, high-ranking departments and a reputation for first-class lectures, it’s easy to see why. Inevitably, rising tuition fees and living costs in the UK have boosted the trend to go to North America for many students - either for full-time study or a year abroad. Although studying across the pond is not exactly chump change, with many colleges in the US charging upwards of $30,000 in private institutions and Canada marginally cheaper at $25,000 for international students, it is still an appealing option for many. Aside from the fact financial help is available through grants and bursaries and the bureaucratic paperwork studying abroad may entail, over 9,000 UK students decided to make the switch. The big question is: where should you study, Columbia, UCLA and Harvard or McGill, British Columbia or Trent? Read on to find out what are the pros and cons to each country and what they could offer you.
Fees and financial help
Studying in the US is seen as an investment by many, and understanbly so. You will be forking out a tidy sum of money yet in return benefit from stellar resources, from libraries, to seminars, to grounds and more, the USA offers quite the package for students at undergrad and year abroad level. You get to live in student halls, on campus, throw huge parties and oh, yeah, get some studying done too! As uni fees are so high for US schools, these in turn benefit from huge funding, meaning there are lots of activities and societies on offer for the visiting student. With more than 10 universities making it into the international top 20, studying in the US can seem like a very good investment. Of course, there are grants and scholarships awarded for UK students planning on studying there; as well as speaking to your school individually to check whether you could get additional funding, you should check out sites like the Fullbright commission for studying in the US and Commonwealth Scholarships if you plan on studying in Canada.
Sites such as Scholarshipexperts sort out scholarships for you in the USA as long as you sign up. You can get various grants through the Rotary organisation - to find out where click here. Open Society Foundations assign scholarships for students interested in social sciences and humanities. The IEFA offers scholarship information split up by state. Canada Memorial Foundation Scholarships offer UK students the chance to apply for help with fees, housing and more. There are a selection of general sites to help you discover your chances of being funded; our top picks are CEA and StudyAbroad for information about US and Canadian scholarships.
Many individual US universities, as well as Canadian colleges, also have funding for families coming from a lower income, meaning that your dream to study in X or Y university might be more probable than you had thought previously. Speaking directly via email or Skype to the head of study abroad or the head of department will give you the chance to see what your chances of funding are.
Canada has a host of sites dedicated to giving you an idea of how much it would cost to live out there: LivinginCanada offers comparisons with big UK cities, whereas studyinCanada has a grid of typical costs you may incur. Additionally, the latter has a list of schools and colleges around the country, with more information on scholarships and the size of each university.
Numbeo offers information on living in the US, with rent and electricity bills and such like included in their grid. You can choose the overall living costs or go by city, as well as changing the currency setting to suit your home currency, to get a better idea of what it would come up to if you were to study there for a year.
Studying in the US or Canada enables you to be a lot more flexible when it comes to your topic as university life there encourages a broader curriculum. As such, you will be able to take out modules from a wider range of subjects, as long as your home university is giving you the all-ok (generally speaking, it has more to do with credits than anything else). You will be marked differently, too - US tends to use letters, very much in the same format as A-Level marks did (A, B etc) and Canada uses a GPA system. To find out more, visit the university of Aberystwyth’s very purple page on the matter, with the compatibility derived from the UK-NARIC system.
There are also more contact hours in US and Canadian universities, meaning you will be a lot more involved with your department than, say, at a UK university where you are expected to do a lot of work on your own. Additionally, a lot of US universities expect you to be a well-rounded person, meaning that many (and we mean MANY) societies and groups are on offer, with the students being expected to join in. Canada is very known for its sports facilities, in turn giving sports enthusiasts amongst you the opportunity to play for internationally recognised teams and boost your CV, whilst having fun!
Generally speaking, however, the US and Canada are very similar in their course structure - you are expected to have quite a high level of flexibility when it comes to picking your modules and you will benefit from more contact hours than you would back home.
What the students say
“I found that studying for my year abroad in the States has really helped me to benefit from a more well-rounded education, with loads of societies on offer! Lecturers were aproachable, I loved living in halls and made some great friends!” AJ Smith, University of Massachusetts
“There are quite a few cultural differences here [in Boston], going out tends to be in people’s dorms and then onto a club, as opposed to heading to the pub with a large group of people. The teaching was demanding but well worth it and I got to choose modules that I wouldn’t have had the chance to study back home, which was a huge plus.” Sam Keele, Boston University
“Lectures can be up to 3 hours long and they can start at 8.30am and finish at 10pm. All lectures do have a 15-20 minute break about half way through, some have 10 minutes every hour depending on the lecturer. There tends to be a lot more work required than I guess most English students would be used to, but it is very common to get 80% or even 90%+ in exams, essays and homework. One of the things I loved most about Montréal was that it felt like a mix of Europe and America, and that one day you could wake up and decide to only speak English, and the next only speak French and you would be able to be understood exactly the same both days. Being in such a bilingual city is very rare and it is wonderful to experience if you get the chance.” Louise Wiseman, Université de Montréal
So if you’re looking to study in the Americas, remember that there’s plenty of financial help, either on home soil or at your chosen foreign university, you’ll benefit from more flexibility when it comes to your module choices, and you could even get to be in a bilingual environment if you choose certain parts of Canada! What more could you ask for?