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Studying in the United States, how to make the dream a reality.
Picture yourself on an American college campus, with the vibrant campus life going on around you. The engaging class discussions, hundreds of student organisations to join and a greater focus upon sport, music and artistic prowess.
If this is a vision that appeals to your son or daughter they are in good company. A Daily Telegraph article recently noted that a record number of UK students are now studying at US universities. New research shows that more than 10,000 bright British students now study at universities in the United States, attracted by liberal arts degrees and generous grants.
It is interesting to see how many students from this island also have a dream to go to US. This is often fuelled by scholarships in golf, tennis, volleyball, football and many other sports. Here at MTA we have weekly enquiries from hopeful students who are trying to understand the process and options they have.
So why are so many students making the leap across the Atlantic?
Firstly, students have a choice from a large selection of institutions; over 4500 offer undergraduate degrees. With so many universities there is bound to be one that is a great fit for almost any student.
US universities are known for their vibrant campuses; student government, clubs, sports and music to name but a few activities that are actively encouraged.
Students studying in the US cite the flexibility to explore their academic interests as another motivation. Under the ‘liberal arts’ philosophy undergraduates take classes from a variety of subjects during their first year, before specialising in their major field of study.
For us parents who have made the choice to expose our own children to a different and wider education; by studying here in Spain we are endorsing the belief that studying and working abroad can make them stand out. At graduate level this is vital if they are to succeed in an international job market. Think about it, in many cases here on the island, students are trilingual at least and have gained valuable international experience, adding to this positive mix can only be an advantage.
Funding is of course a consideration. However in the US there are many funding opportunities. Many students are able to fund their studies through scholarships from US universities and external funding bodies. Scholarships to study in the US at the undergraduate level are often offered to students based on merit, extracurricular achievement, financial need, talent or personal characteristics.
At Mallorca Tutoring Academy we have been delighted to support a significant number of exceptionally talented individuals gain entry to universities to pursue their dreams in sport and academic goals.
So how do you get the ball rolling?
Start early – For those who wish to join the ranks of students taking the long commute preparing early is vital. International students often underestimate the amount of time required to apply for admission to a college or university in the United States. You can avoid this mistake by setting a schedule that begins well in advance of the time that you plan to begin your studies.
Lisa Montgomery, chairman of Edvice, an education consultancy specialising in US university admissions says ‘Starting early is key; the best time is year 11, when students are thinking about the next step.’ She advises students to carefully consider their A level or IB choices and to think more in line with the liberal arts curriculum. She comments ‘ If you want to be competitive for a UK university, you need your subject choice to show commitment in certain areas. The US is not seeking that, so think of a broader path.’ A more holistic approach which looks at extracurricular pursuits.
Understanding what academic requirements are needed should be also part of the initial planning. Most U.S. colleges and universities require that you take one or more standardised admissions tests in order to gain entrance into their programmes; SAT, ACT, GRE, MCAT, LSAT, TOEFL, IELTS – it’s like alphabet soup!
The most competitive institutions ask for the main SAT aptitude paper plus two or three subject specific examinations. It does depend upon the university and it is important to do your research.
Additionally, considerations need to be made as to where and when to undertake the examinations. We have sent students to examination centres in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia and Martyn even accompanied a young man back to the UK recently.
Martyn, our SAT /ACT expert, has spent a considerable time ensuring that he fully understands the nuances of the application process and the examinations themselves. His advice matches that of Lisa Montgomery to start early. The examination is difficult, especially for second language students so a plan that starts 18 months before you wish to study is advisable. Of course, if you don’t have that much time you can still jump in and catch up – but the earlier the better.
Going to an American university will take your child outside their comfort zone. It’s daunting but should be the most incredible and rewarding experience.
If you wish to know more, please feel free to talk to our expert.