young people carrying and waving american flag

Ultimate Guide to Studying Abroad in America for UK Students

Huge, leafy campuses, party-hard fraternities, and some of the best-known schools in the world – American college life is the stuff of movies. The appeal for UK students is clear, it’s just like the higher education offered at home, but supersized. 

Whether you’ve been seduced by the ultra selective Ivy League Schools of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, or the sunny climate and concert halls of the University of California – we’ve got you covered. In this guide we’ll talk you through what you can expect from studying abroad in America, what programs are on offer, how to apply, and how much it costs. 

young people carrying and waving american flag

What is it like studying abroad in the US? 

Student lifestyle 

What your new life looks like will depend on where you decide to study. In the cultural capital of New York there is a drama school just off Broadway and on your morning coffee and bagel run you’ll pass iconic brownstone buildings and yellow taxicabs. This is bustling, busy cosmopolitan living at its best. Expect plenty of restaurants and bars, theatre shows, and shopping streets.

In complete contrast, if you’re doing an agricultural study abroad program in America you might be based somewhere like Oklahoma where prairie plains run into cattle farms. Life here is noticeably slower, with similarly hardworking locals, but city trappings are replaced with rural nature. 

So there’s the city and countryside, but what about the coast? If you’re studying abroad in America because of your interest in marine life, Maine is a great place to look for schools. Weekends here are spent sampling local eats in seafood shacks by the water and farm-to-table restaurants on attractive streets. 

Culture shock

The great thing about studying abroad in America from the UK is that there’s no language barrier to contend with. For students who are worried about finding accommodation and uprooting their lives, not having to communicate in a second language is a huge plus point.

But that’s not to say there won’t be any kind of culture shock. America is a huge country and to ensure you integrate and settle in, you’ll want to research where you’re headed first. The things to look into are the climate, which will be essential for packing, and also the local state laws. This will give you an idea of the do’s and don’t and local attitudes and politics at play. 


Being clued up about transport links will help you have a positive lifestyle and avoid choosing the wrong school in the wrong location. In city centres the subway is a no brainer, and for longer travel between states look into the Greyhound bus routes. These are a cheap but time-consuming way to get around. Alternatively take a look at internal flights if you’re planning to get from one end of the country to the other.

Flights from America to the UK can be expensive. Set flight alerts to make sure you get the cheapest deals when you do want to head back to the UK. 

new york subway

Where shall I study? 

Choosing a course

Before you start applying to American universities from the UK, choose a course, or at least narrow down your options. This will help with step two, which is choosing a school

This part of the decision will involve you thinking about what subjects you were good at or particularly enjoyed. 

If you had a passion for the sciences, which discipline or topic within your lessons did you find most engaging? There’s the chance to go really specific with what you study in America because of the breadth of programs on offer. 

Documentary filmmaking? Modern art? Go niche if you want to make the most of the scope of schools in the US. Or, you can keep it broad with subjects like English Literature, that way you’ll get the chance to dabble in contemporary fiction, historical writings, and poetry. One of the best things about studying abroad in America is the amount of course options you have. 

Choosing a school

Studying abroad in the USA for international students is made really easy. Just like the extensive list of courses, there are loads of institutions to choose from. What you’ll want to consider is the lifestyle factors we covered earlier. 

City, coat, countryside? And do you want to be a cultural hub or an arty enclave? Consider how you want your life to look and which part of the country matches this – that will give your search a jumping off point.

Or you can start from your course. If what’s most important to you is studying at the best of the best, research which colleges have the best program that you’re after.  

How to apply

Go direct

Unlike in the UK, all the applications in the US are handled directly by the universities rather than a central body like UCAS. When applying to American universities from the UK, reach out to the admissions team at your chosen school and they’ll get the ball rolling. 

Exams and documents

If you plan on studying abroad in America, the majority of schools will want you to sit an entrance exam. These are called SATs or ACT exams and they can be taken at a UK test centre for a small fee. 

Next up are documents. These can also vary but on the whole you’ll need to submit an essay, which is basically the US version of a UCAS personal statement. This is where you’ll talk about any extracurricular activities and volunteer work you’ve done in order to support your statement. 

girls taking sat exams


This bit isn’t as stressful as you’d think! Once you’ve been accepted by your chosen school, you can apply for a student visa. Your school will send you a form and then you’ll need to complete an application online. Once that’s done you can head into a US Embassy for an interview where you’ll be asked basic questions and how you propose to fund your stay. 

How much does it cost to study abroad in America? 


The US-UK Fullbright Commission and Program offers funding to UK students looking to complete a Masters course in America. The award can help you with some costs in your first year of studying and also mitigate some visa application costs. Applicants that have a keen interest in the US who plan to complete a course that could benefit both countries are looked upon favourably.

Another option, which can seem unattractive, is finding a job. Student jobs should be easy enough to come by on campuses. Whilst the drawbacks include less time to study, getting a job will mean you have less or no money to pay back at the end of your course. It also shouldn’t be overlooked that this can be a good way to meet new friends and socialise outside of your course.  

If you are happy to get a loan, there are a couple of ways to go about it. Your first option is to approach your university directly and see if there is any grant available for athletic or educational excellence or those from lower-income backgrounds.

Alternatively you can look for online scholarships separate to your school of choice. There are also some private international student loans up for grabs too. 

How to study in the USA for free 

The scholarships mentioned above are a way to study for free, without any repayments at all. It follows that because they’re free it’s much more competitive that securing a loan or a student job.

Beyond that there are some US universities that have free tuition for international students. The eligibility criteria ranges for each one but most involve internships or short working weeks to cover costs. Start your research by looking into Alice Lloyd College, Berea College, Webb Institute, College of the Ozarks, Curtis Institute of Music, and Deep Springs College. 

Shipping costs for students

The cost of studying abroad in America can increase hugely once you factor in shipping costs. Even more so if you have to replace mishandled and broken items and pay excess baggage fee charges

Besides the cost, there’s the hassle of arranging your personal items to be shipped across the world whilst also navigating student accommodation and the visa minefield.

Ship with Sherpr to send your items without the headache. Simply pack your things in sturdy boxes and complete the customs paperwork. We’ll pick your things up and transport them to a pre-agreed location of your choosing. You can even track the items in transit for added peace of mind. Get in touch today for a personalised quote.