Courtesy of infinite Hollywood movies, most of us probably feel like we've already spent some time at college in the United States, perhaps drinking out of those ubiquitous red cups. But what about the reality of going to study Stateside? According to the Fulbright Commission some 9,000 Brits take the plunge every year, so we've put together a few reasons to consider joining them...
Plenty of choice
If you thought that American diner menus were extensive (who knew there were so many ways to cook eggs?), wait until you see the variety of institutions available to you. There are more than 4,000 of them, each with their own unique identity and location, so there's a university to suit every kind of student, whether you like your studies sunny side up, scrambled, or – if you've really got the smarts – hard boiled.
Unrivalled campus life
One of the defining characteristics of a US uni is the campus experience. Leo Mackenzie is beginning his first year at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, where he's already signed up for clubs including the Squash Club, Student Govt., Tennis Club, and the International Students Association.
For Leo, campus life is the perfect fit. “I love being in a small bubble community where your classes, various eating facilities, news outlets, gym and friends are all on your doorstep,” he says, “yet also being just a short walk from a town with even more to offer.”
Flexible degree programmes
Not ready to specialise yet? The liberal arts philosophy of US unis means you can study a range of subjects in your first year, then choose which one you want to focus on (or 'major' in) later.
“For me, the main draw was the liberal arts education the U.S had to offer,” says Leo. “If I had stayed in the U.K. I would have had to make a forced, uninformed decision on what I wanted to study over the next three years. Studying here has meant I can test the waters on what interests me the most, in addition to physically giving me more time to decide.”
Good financial support
There's no getting away from the fact that US degrees are expensive. Happily, there are a lot of scholarships and funding options available to UK students, though according to Leo, the availability of funding actually made US study a better bet for him than staying here in Blighty. “Because of the large endowments, needs-aware policies and scholarships the universities have, I knew if I was admitted, the financial burden would be less than studying in Britain.”
Boost your employability
Here's more good news: employers love people who have studied abroad. It helps you gain confidence, get experience of another culture and improve vital skills such as communication or maybe even languages, all of which look great on a CV.
Plus, international students in the US have the chance to gain work experience during their studies and can work there for a year after graduation (science and engineering students can stay on for up to two years). This isn't to be sniffed at, as a recent survey by the Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) found that one in three employers value job applicants with international study experience, while 65% of employers favoured applicants with overseas work experience.
An awfully big adventure
Finally, and it's a big one, you'll be in the USA. The USA! It's a vast, varied, magnificently beautiful and wonderfully weird place. Lucinda Denney, entering her second year at Yale, says that her best moments of overseas study so far have come from meeting people from all over the world and travelling around the country.
“The diversity at Yale has opened my eyes to new cultures, religions and ideas and there isn't a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new from one of my classmates,” she says. “During the holidays I've visited New York, Boston and Colorado - I certainly try to make the most of my time in America and explore all that the country has to offer.”
In other words, US study is about more than beer pong. Check out the Fulbright Commission site or visit their undergrad study day to find out more and begin your American adventure.