Should I stay in the US for college or attend Oxford? Watch

ardlard
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Hi there,

I'm an American student who applied to school in the UK as well as in the US. I applied to the UK mostly as a backup in case scholarships or other aid didn't come through for me in the US (I mean I had state school but still). However, the only school I ever considered to attend in the UK over the US was Oxford.

A week or so ago, I was fortunate enough to receive an offer from Oxford to read Human Sciences. Before this, however, I was accepted into a pretty prestigious school in the States (BU) with a generous merit scholarship. And now I'm torn.

I am still obviously thrilled that I got an offer from Oxford and it would be such an honor to study at that type of venerable institution. But I also recognize that BU is a really good school (even if the old boys may rally against that). And moreover, what worries me about attending Oxford is the academic rigidity and extracurriculars. In the US, my school wouldn't care whether I took classes in interpretive dance, microbiology or classics, but in the UK I recognize how structured and set I would be. I also want to do a lot of extracurriculars like being on the school paper, mock trial, Model UN etc. etc. As an American student, I am fortunate to be spoilt by academic liberty and do think college would be such a great time to explore different parts of academia. But I wonder whether I should capitalize on all the benefits that Oxford could offer me (and whether Human Sciences being such an interdisciplinary degree will still let me pursue an array of passions).

I already recognize this is such a privilege-ridden debate to have, but any feedback would be insanely welcome.
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ajj2000
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What is the price difference and what are your career plans?
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ardlard
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(Original post by ajj2000)
What is the price difference and what are your career plans?
I plan on going to law school and becoming a public servant. The price difference would be that BU is 50,000 USD cheaper for the overall degree (also I assume Oxford will add up my travel spending a bit).
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ajj2000
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(Original post by ardlard)
I plan on going to law school and becoming a public servant. The price difference would be that BU is 50,000 USD cheaper for the overall degree (also I assume Oxford will add up my travel spending a bit).
Ah, does that $50k include living costs? I think its difficult to remain in Oxford accomodation over the holidays but at least you have an excuse to go home or somewhere else in the world!

Interesting price difference. I guess with the course at Oxford being a year less it might break pretty even?
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ardlard
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(Original post by ajj2000)
Ah, does that $50k include living costs? I think its difficult to remain in Oxford accomodation over the holidays but at least you have an excuse to go home or somewhere else in the world!

Interesting price difference. I guess with the course at Oxford being a year less it might break pretty even?
So for me yearly BU is around 25k a year including accomodation, food etc. That would be 100000 for the 4 years. Oxford is 50-55k a year including accommodation and other living costs. For four years, BU will cost me 100k and Oxford for three years, 150k. That's the 50k difference for the entire degree.

I do agree that travel could be exciting for sure.
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ajj2000
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(Original post by ardlard)
So for me yearly BU is around 25k a year including accomodation, food etc. That would be 100000 for the 4 years. Oxford is 50-55k a year including accommodation and other living costs. For four years, BU will cost me 100k and Oxford for three years, 150k. That's the 50k difference for the entire degree.

I do agree that travel could be exciting for sure.
I guess there is the downside the you have to pay to go somewhere in the holidays (have you checked flight costs?) but it does open possibilities.

Interesting equation! Normally when I read threads like this at least one of the options is financially crazy - in this case I'd guess studying abroad, plus at Oxford, plus saving a year (so earning a year earlier) makes it a really valid option.
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ardlard
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(Original post by ajj2000)
I guess there is the downside the you have to pay to go somewhere in the holidays (have you checked flight costs?) but it does open possibilities.

Interesting equation! Normally when I read threads like this at least one of the options is financially crazy - in this case I'd guess studying abroad, plus at Oxford, plus saving a year (so earning a year earlier) makes it a really valid option.
I too was surprised by how generous my American school ended up being (they effectively gave me 200k over the course of 4 years) but I also see the way Oxford can be a reasonable option. For me, I think I'm more worried about how different the education systems are and how that will impact law school admissions and my own experience. Additionally, I'm definitely a sucker for the American education system thus my bias but I'm also aware to just what an Oxford education means.
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A Rolling Stone
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(Original post by ardlard)
Hi there,

I'm an American student who applied to school in the UK as well as in the US. I applied to the UK mostly as a backup in case scholarships or other aid didn't come through for me in the US (I mean I had state school but still). However, the only school I ever considered to attend in the UK over the US was Oxford.

A week or so ago, I was fortunate enough to receive an offer from Oxford to read Human Sciences. Before this, however, I was accepted into a pretty prestigious school in the States (BU) with a generous merit scholarship. And now I'm torn.

I am still obviously thrilled that I got an offer from Oxford and it would be such an honor to study at that type of venerable institution. But I also recognize that BU is a really good school (even if the old boys may rally against that). And moreover, what worries me about attending Oxford is the academic rigidity and extracurriculars. In the US, my school wouldn't care whether I took classes in interpretive dance, microbiology or classics, but in the UK I recognize how structured and set I would be. I also want to do a lot of extracurriculars like being on the school paper, mock trial, Model UN etc. etc. As an American student, I am fortunate to be spoilt by academic liberty and do think college would be such a great time to explore different parts of academia. But I wonder whether I should capitalize on all the benefits that Oxford could offer me (and whether Human Sciences being such an interdisciplinary degree will still let me pursue an array of passions).

I already recognize this is such a privilege-ridden debate to have, but any feedback would be insanely welcome.
i actually wrote up a list of US vs UK university experience, post #617:

https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/sho...1#post86764906

This was in the context of my university, but all applies to Oxford too, except the part about hard work: Oxford has both a high physical workload and requires hard studying, albeit the physical workload will still probably be lesser than American universities
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ardlard
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(Original post by A Rolling Stone)
i actually wrote up a list of US vs UK university experience, post #617:

https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/sho...1#post86764906

This was in the context of my university, but all applies to Oxford too, except the part about hard work: Oxford has both a high physical workload and requires hard studying, albeit the physical workload will still probably be lesser than American universities
Thank you, this is a pretty helpful list. The only things I question are- I'm not sure I would say the professor are coddling, the difficulty level, and your part about the treatment. I know a lot of American undergrads (I'm the sibling of one) who can go for an entire course without even speaking to their professor and just take notes and do the quizzes, tests, project and exams- from what I understand, you take the initiative to see them if you want support and you want them to know who you are. I agree that American intro level classes are pretty easy, but I'm not sure that would apply to me. I took a lot of AP Classes and I plan on taking the most rigorous classes (my dream is to be take graduate seminar classes) if I stay in the US. And finally, I think the US university treatment is less like treating you like a kid but more like treating you like an American if that makes sense. From what I've been told, US postgrad schools and even jobs wants you to show extracurriculars/employment, they want you to have your own scheduled classes and they want you to take initiative and form bonds with your professors so they can write recs for you. And personally, I like this idea of self-initiative and self-reliance over having everything given to me and then I'm expected to do what I want with it.
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A Rolling Stone
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(Original post by ardlard)
Thank you, this is a pretty helpful list. The only things I question are- I'm not sure I would say the professor are coddling, the difficulty level, and your part about the treatment. I know a lot of American undergrads (I'm the sibling of one) who can go for an entire course without even speaking to their professor and just take notes and do the quizzes, tests, project and exams- from what I understand, you take the initiative to see them if you want support and you want them to know who you are. I agree that American intro level classes are pretty easy, but I'm not sure that would apply to me. I took a lot of AP Classes and I plan on taking the most rigorous classes (my dream is to be take graduate seminar classes) if I stay in the US. And finally, I think the US university treatment is less like treating you like a kid but more like treating you like an American if that makes sense. From what I've been told, US postgrad schools and even jobs wants you to show extracurriculars/employment, they want you to have your own scheduled classes and they want you to take initiative and form bonds with your professors so they can write recs for you. And personally, I like this idea of self-initiative and self-reliance over having everything given to me and then I'm expected to do what I want with it.
so by coddling, i mean multiple choice questions, formative assignments and close-ended questions, vs more open-ended and ambiguous questions.

quizzes are partly to check whether you are keeping up with the course, whereas in the UK your lecturers couldn't give a toss about how you are keeping up... not because they don't care about you, but because they are a lecturer - their job is to give a clear lecture on the material, not to tell you how to study. in the US i hear that attendance is often taken and teachers actually teach the material you need for the exam, rather than in the UK where they just provide a basic foundation upon which you need to read around the subject.

the US system of breadth over depth means it is impossible to get into as nitty gritty detail as in the UK, even with a 4 year course.

"US postgrad schools and even jobs wants you to show extracurriculars/employment, they want you to have your own scheduled classes and they want you to take initiative and form bonds with your professors so they can write recs for you."

UK postgrad schools just want your money lol. and the most competitive ones want your research interests to be aligned with your prospective supervisor. so very different systems!
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ardlard
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(Original post by A Rolling Stone)
so by coddling, i mean multiple choice questions, formative assignments and close-ended questions, vs more open-ended and ambiguous questions.

quizzes are partly to check whether you are keeping up with the course, whereas in the UK your lecturers couldn't give a toss about how you are keeping up... not because they don't care about you, but because they are a lecturer - their job is to give a clear lecture on the material, not to tell you how to study. in the US i hear that attendance is often taken and teachers actually teach the material you need for the exam, rather than in the UK where they just provide a basic foundation upon which you need to read around the subject.

the US system of breadth over depth means it is impossible to get into as nitty gritty detail as in the UK, even with a 4 year course.

"US postgrad schools and even jobs wants you to show extracurriculars/employment, they want you to have your own scheduled classes and they want you to take initiative and form bonds with your professors so they can write recs for you."

UK postgrad schools just want your money lol. and the most competitive ones want your research interests to be aligned with your prospective supervisor. so very different systems!
I've heard this about UK postgrad a lot and I'm not very surprised. I think one of my main concerns is getting American job experience and extracurriculars because based on what I've researched, most clubs or "societies" in Oxford are with paid membership and don't seem to be an important part of student life. Is this actually true or am I making assumptions? I also wonder whether it's better for me to stay in the US for the domestic connections, because frankly, I'm not interested in moving to the UK for employment.
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A Rolling Stone
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(Original post by ardlard)
I've heard this about UK postgrad a lot and I'm not very surprised. I think one of my main concerns is getting American job experience and extracurriculars because based on what I've researched, most clubs or "societies" in Oxford are with paid membership and don't seem to be an important part of student life. Is this actually true or am I making assumptions? I also wonder whether it's better for me to stay in the US for the domestic connections, because frankly, I'm not interested in moving to the UK for employment.
no i wouldn't worry about this. for some reason Oxford grads, unlike Cambridge ones are treated like gods in the US, like Harvard. Strange as I personally feel Cambridge students are smarter. Anyway everyone knows about Oxford educating world leaders of the past like Bill Clinton, but what I didn't realise is how even to this day how many Oxford grads are in congress and even the supreme court, you'd think that sort of history would be long gone.

anyway, my uni was not as prestigious as oxford but 'all' of the rich Americans there who went onto postgrad ended up at the top US universities, Ivy's etc. so you would get those connections at postgrad level anyway.

and in answer to the other part of your question, this again comes down to the kids vs adults difference in our cultures. societies in the US are seen as getting involved, showing leadership etc. whereas societies in the UK are seen as 'kiddy', especially when you can be down the pub or studying. I actually have a fantastically written article on Oxford vs Yale you will like. ironically the author criticises 'purple prose' whilst using purple prose the whole way through, but it's amazingly accurate https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2010/...yales-breadth/
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hoixw
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(Original post by A Rolling Stone)
no i wouldn't worry about this. for some reason Oxford grads, unlike Cambridge ones are treated like gods in the US, like Harvard. Strange as I personally feel Cambridge students are smarter. Anyway everyone knows about Oxford educating world leaders of the past like Bill Clinton, but what I didn't realise is how even to this day how many Oxford grads are in congress and even the supreme court, you'd think that sort of history would be long gone.

anyway, my uni was not as prestigious as oxford but 'all' of the rich Americans there who went onto postgrad ended up at the top US universities, Ivy's etc. so you would get those connections at postgrad level anyway.

and in answer to the other part of your question, this again comes down to the kids vs adults difference in our cultures. societies in the US are seen as getting involved, showing leadership etc. whereas societies in the UK are seen as 'kiddy', especially when you can be down the pub or studying. I actually have a fantastically written article on Oxford vs Yale you will like. ironically the author criticises 'purple prose' whilst using purple prose the whole way through, but it's amazingly accurate https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2010/...yales-breadth/
Oxford has a better reputation due to the Rhodes scholarship. Although Cambridge has equivalents, they're just not held in as high regard. I would say that Oz's article, although pretty accurate is also biased. He misses out a lot of information which highlights the benefits of American universities (e.g. undergraduate research being much more available at American Unis compared to somewhere like Oxford). I guess Oz is writing from an English degree perspective, not from a STEM degree.

Note: I'm probably biased as I got rejected from Oxford but I'm Yale-bound.
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hoixw
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(Original post by ardlard)
I've heard this about UK postgrad a lot and I'm not very surprised. I think one of my main concerns is getting American job experience and extracurriculars because based on what I've researched, most clubs or "societies" in Oxford are with paid membership and don't seem to be an important part of student life. Is this actually true or am I making assumptions? I also wonder whether it's better for me to stay in the US for the domestic connections, because frankly, I'm not interested in moving to the UK for employment.
Most societies' joining fees are like £5-£10. Although they get some funding from the university, they are often financially independent (compared to clubs at US unis being financially dependent on the funding they get). They definitely aren't too important in terms of student life, but most students are in a few. I can't comment for Oxbridge, but my sister went to an RG uni and was encouraged to take part in societies very often (she ended up editing for the main student publication).
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ardlard
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(Original post by hoixw)
Oxford has a better reputation due to the Rhodes scholarship. Although Cambridge has equivalents, they're just not held in as high regard. I would say that Oz's article, although pretty accurate is also biased. He misses out a lot of information which highlights the benefits of American universities (e.g. undergraduate research being much more available at American Unis compared to somewhere like Oxford). I guess Oz is writing from an English degree perspective, not from a STEM degree.

Note: I'm probably biased as I got rejected from Oxford but I'm Yale-bound.
Hey sorry for how late this is. I agree with your point about the benefits in America for sure, but I'm still in a pretty tough spot because there are different aspects of both schools that I really like. And I often switch between the two, though I am regretting not applying to a few more competitive American schools because I'm now worried that BU is not a great social fit for me.

Also congrats times infinity on Yale. Oxford lost a great applicant clearly, but New Haven's lucky to have you.
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willtherap22
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Sorry, I know this thread has sort of ended, and this may sonud stupid... What is BU? Boston U? Brown U?
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ardlard
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(Original post by willtherap22)
Sorry, I know this thread has sort of ended, and this may sonud stupid... What is BU? Boston U? Brown U?
It's Boston University, thankfully. No judgment on Brown (I know how landmark it is to go to an *Ivy*), but I don't really vibe with the open curriculum and rich hipster liberal culture.
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ardlard
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I know this thread has somewhat died, but I would just like to put a question out there- If I'm not 100% sure about my chosen degree, would I be miserable at Oxford?
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DCDude
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Every single thing you have posted says 'I want to go to BU' but I don't want people to judge me for it.

Just go to BU

Seriously. Oxford is not a happy place for people who don't genuinely love their subject and want to marinate in it for 3/4 years. It is much, much more hard, intense work than you can imagine.

(but just to clear up a few of the more egregious points above....)

"US postgrad schools and even jobs wants you to show extracurriculars/employment, they want you to have your own scheduled classes and they want you to take initiative and form bonds with your professors so they can write recs for you" Based on what you have heard? it's largely wrong- even for US schools. They don't "want" most of that stuff.

Grad schools do want recs from people who can speak to your relevant abilities, but it's not about the 'bond' with the prof, it's about what they know about how you think, etc. Spend an hour or two every week discussing your work with a prof one or two - on -one (as you do at Oxford) and they know plenty about you to be able to write great LoRs. Every single person I know who has applied to grad school in the US has gotten in to at least 1 of their top choices..

Employers rarely want LoRs. They do want experience that demonstrates that you have some idea how to do what they are going to hire you to do, and there is much less interest in ECs that don't relate to your subject. ECs that do relate give you experience to add to your internships, etc.

And nobody, but nobody cares about how often you go to class, scheduled or otherwise. (really? did you grow up with attendance awards?).

Societies are basically clubs, and their relative importance depends on what you enjoy and what you want to do next. I don't know why you think that you can't write for the paper (I know somebody now in the press office at #10 who did) or do Model UN at Oxford (OXIMUN.org).

But...none of the above matters. Your heart isn't in it, so don't do it. Tell everybody you had 50,000 reasons.
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