If you’re thinking about continuing your studies – or indeed returning to academia – at postgraduate level, you might be considering the USA as an option. Here are some key tips to keep in mind as you start researching courses, supervisors, institutions and locations.
Reputation, reputation, reputation.
From the World University Rankings by Times Higher Education and the QS World Rankings to a host of student-led forums and advice from friends and family, it can be difficult to know where to start when thinking about a university’s reputation. Many US universities rank highly in the official rankings, but it’s worth keeping in mind that their scores and ranks can differ and that they predominantly measure a university’s performance based on teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. There are, however, other criteria to consider and ranking shouldn’t be the only factor you consider. What was the student satisfaction rating on your proposed programme? What are a graduate’s employment prospects after leaving the university? What you’ll need from a university both academically and personally will be different for everyone, so take time to research and keep in mind what your priorities and expectations are of a university.
Money on your mind?
Studying or researching away from home – whether it’s in the USA or elsewhere in the world can be…well expensive. But don’t let the higher price tag associated with studying in the USA put you off! Many US universities, however, provide extensive funding and support for eligible applicants. This could take the form of assistantships, fellowships, financial aid or scholarships and there is also a range of external funding bodies such as charities and trusts, that offer funding for international students. Don’t forget there’s also the option of working part-time whilst you’re studying both on and off-campus.
Campus, city or something in between…
The location of your university – and where you choose to live – can change your whole experience whilst you’re studying. Whether you choose a campus university where everything you need is housed on-campus or pick a city university, where buildings and services are more dispersed, you need to consider the pros and cons for each. Campus life can be vibrant and offers the opportunity to – very quickly – be a part of a community. Studying and living in a city gives you chance to explore and get to know (you guessed it) a new city! Both are exciting and you’ll no doubt meet new people, be introduced to new cultures, foods and experiences – but what’s right for you? Moving away from home to an unknown city can be overwhelming for some but, the idea of being too far from a city and spending most of your time on campus could be another student’s nightmare! Think about what you enjoy and want you’d like out of your university experience. Many universities offer virtual open days and will also have stands at postgraduate fairs in London, so there’s also an opportunity to hear and see first-hand (without having to travel too far) what a university is like.
Grades, exams, assessments, applications?
The UK postgraduate system and the US system are quite different so it’s worth keeping in mind that your timeline for UK applications and US applications will vary. In the US, alongside an undergraduate degree, applications and references, you’ll most likely have to take a graduate examination. This may affect when you submit your application and will also require additional time to prepare and practice so factor this into your application schedule! There are also visa applications to think about but there are charities and trusts who can help you with these.
Studying and researching abroad is an exciting adventure that will help you grow personally and academically. Not only will you have the opportunity to extend your network and make new connections, but you’ll also be increasing your employability (because employers love graduates with international experience!).
We hope we’ve got you thinking about studying in the USA and what you’ll need to keep in mind. We at LSE Careers are always happy to help with applications, practice interviews or even just a conversation about your aspirations and goals and how to go about achieving them. All you need to do is book an appointment on CareerHub.
Here are some other useful resources to help you with planning your future studies in the USA: