Thinking of studying at a university in the UK? Good on you! There’s never a dull moment at a British university thanks to fantastic campus activities and world-famous student nightlife – some of the best academics in the world don’t hurt either. To help you get started, here are six things you need to know about the university system and student life in the UK.
1. You’ll need to apply through UCAS
For foreign students applying to undergraduate courses in the UK, the application process isn’t that different from domestic students. You’ll need to apply through UCAS which regulates and organizes applications for all students across the UK. UCAS works out your score using the grades you’ve achieved in your own country and you’ll also have to write a personal statement that the universities you’re applying for will take into consideration.
The UCAS application deadline for the academic year starting in the autumn is in January of that same year, although you’ll have to apply in October already for Oxford and Cambridge. Places are then assigned based on your grades and other factors in the spring and early summer. It’s important to remember that the offers you’ll get if you get accepted will be conditional if you’re sitting your final high school exams that spring or summer; if you already have all your grades when you apply, you’ll get a firm offer or a rejection. Worried you won’t get in? Extra places in universities get assigned later in the summer through a so-called ‘clearing’ system which allows many of those that have gotten rejections to get a place in university come autumn.
You can find out exactly how the process works on the UCAS website, www.ucas.com. They even have some handy videos there that explain the application system really well.
2. There’s help if you need it
Don’t panic if it all seems a bit daunting or if you don’t fulfill all the requirements, especially on the language front. There are organizations that can help you choose and apply to your dream university – whether you’re aiming for an undergraduate, master’s or PhD course. These include individual universities themselves as well as language schools that offer programmes that focus on getting your English level to where it needs to be and help you apply to your dream uni.
3. Choose your uni wisely
There are hundreds of universities in the UK and your experience will depend on the area or city your university is in. Want cheaper living costs but colder weather? Head to the North. Want a beach lifestyle but the price tag and student volumes to go with it? Check out the South Coast. Feel like living the big city life and don’t mind paying a little extra for it? London‘s your best choice. Want the prestige and cozy atmosphere of an old university city? Oxford or Cambridge will suit you perfectly.
Once you’ve applied, gotten an offer, accepted it and moved to the UK to start your new life at ‘uni’ (as the Brits call it)…
4. Get to know the system
Teaching methods and styles might be different in the UK than in your home country. UK universities tend to place a lot of emphasis on independent study and personal responsibility over your learning and give you more freedom to choose exactly what courses you’ll take. Unlike university study in the US (which operates on the basis of a main subject with several general ‘minor’ subjects on the side) your UK study programme will focus solely on one subject for the entire three years – so best to make sure you have a clear idea of what you want your future career to be before you select your course. Grading and exams might also be a bit different; grades go from ‘First’ (the best grade, equivalent to an A in the US) to a ‘2:1′ or ‘2:2′ to a ‘Third’ which means you’ve passed but gotten the lowest grade. Essays, final exams and your degree will all be graded like this.
5. Embrace the culture…
Prepare to become fluent in English! Living and studying in the UK is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the language as well as British culture. Not only will you hear and use English in all your classes and with your teachers, you’ll probably end up speaking English all day long with your new, international group of friends! The London School of Economics, for example, boast students from over 140 countries so you’re guaranteed to meet people from literally all over the world there.
6. …And all those student offers!
Students in the UK tend to buy a lot of stuff – from books to tech gadgets, which is why brands love them so much. How do these companies show their love? With free stuff, of course! Student vouchers give you incredible discounts off everything from clothes to travel to furniture and most universities run fresher’s fairs for new students during the first few weeks of school with lots of freebies on offer. Although it’s harder to get deals on books, you can always chase up second-hand textbooks, share them with your classmates or sell your new books when you’re done to get some money back (just remember not to write in them so they’re in mint condition when you do!) To save money you should also hit up the university library as often as you can; many textbooks can be borrowed and you won’t need to buy them at all.