The Reverse Revolution: US Students going to the UK as Undergrads

For some, a reverse educational revolution is in full swing.

For those with a strong idea of what they want to study, the UK can be an attractive destination for undergraduate study. If that sounds like you, fab. But, how exactly do you operationalize the UK admissions process?

1. Understand, at least basically, that the UK is a complicated place.

England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland all are distinct countries within the UK and have national educational identities that make their respective universities somewhat unique.

This video is a VERY fast history lesson for you:

Not all UK universities are the same, in fact, the country you choose to go to will impact if you’re studying for three years or four! If this is news to you, it might be time to do some more research. For example, English degrees are traditionally three years and not flexible.  You study in your chosen subject from day one. Scottish degrees are traditionally four years and offer more flexibility in that students can alter their study plans somewhat, although, student will still need to enter into a chosen field of study from day one as undeclared isn’t really possible. Learning and understanding these differences will help you pick your course.

Here’s some information from

And for comparison, this video from

2. Instead of the Common Application, there is something called UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admission Service).

Like the Common App, UCAS is one online application that is sent to all of the universities you select.

3. Some deadlines are earlier than you might think.

October 15th, to be exact. That’s if you’re applying to Oxbridge (Oxford or Cambridge, you can’t apply to both!), medicine, or dental programs. For most others, the deadline will be January 15th.

4. You can only apply to five universities using UCAS.

Yes, only five. But, you can use the Common Application at Bath Spa, Durham, Keele, King’s, Newcastle, Northumbria, Plymouth, Regent’s, Saint Mary’s, Aberdeen, Bristol, East Anglia, University of East London, Glasgow, Huddersfield, Sheffield, St Andrews, Stirling, Warwick, and University of West London. So, you could apply to universities with the Common Application – although, many students will find that UCAS is a more simple application and do that if they’re only applying inside the UK!

5. You only get one Personal Statement.

This is kind of like your Common Application essay and supplements, all wrapped into one – but not at all. This piece of writing should be no more than 47 lines. Use your Personal Statement as a space to explain to your reader why you want to study your chosen course and detail how that particular course is a good fit for you. Get help here.

6. You only will only get two choices after you get your acceptances.

Within the five universities applied to with UCAS, as many as five will return a positive response. Of these positive responses, you will need to pick only two choices: one is conditional, the other conditional assurance. Basically, most students from the USA will be asked for certain SAT or ACT scores, along with the AP scores in their offers as shown through UCAS. However, if students are waiting for AP scores from senior year, it is likely that their offers will be conditional until those AP scores are confirmed during the summer. If you meet the conditions of your top choice, you will attend that university. If not, you’ll go to your conditional assurance choice (assuming you’ve met those conditions).

Top UCAS Application Tips:

  • Follow the directions.
  • Double check that all of your answers are correct.
  • Ask questions of admissions officers at the universities you’re interested or search on the UCAS website if you aren’t sure about anything. There is a lot of vocabulary that might confuse you if you’re not reading carefully!
  • Research your chosen subject and read each university’s prospectus to get a better understanding of what you’re applying to study.
  • Make sure that you have the necessary pre-requisites required and that your test scores meet the university’s entry requirements and the departmental requirements.