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UK vs US: Which is Better for International Students

UK vs US: Which is Better for International Students

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UK vs US which is right for international students? GyanDhan brings you a complete guide on best universities in UK vs US, requirements, cost, scholarships, job opportunities and more.

GyanDhan
Rohit Gidwani
Updated on:  21 Oct 2023  | Reviewed By: 
Aman 
| 1.81K | 23  min read
UK vs US

According to the US government’s report, 1,65,000 visas were issued to Indian students in 2022, whereas the same to the UK was 1,40,000.

While it is positive to study in the US or the UK and explore academic and professional goals, it is crucial to check whether the post-study situations are favorable or not amidst the changing global economy. Studying in these countries is a costly affair, but sadly, many students often miss this necessary crosscheck and end up in chaos once they are graduated. 

As more students are likely to choose the US and the UK in the upcoming years, this blog attempts to answer intriguing questions for aspirants right from the beginning of the study to obtaining citizenship.

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Top universities in the US

The US houses some top universities in the world in all fields of study, such as STEM, Humanities, Social Sciences, etc. According to the QS World University Rankings 2024, 27 US universities feature in the top 100.

Here are the top ten US universities with their global rankings: 

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Top universities in the UK

Similar to the US, the UK is home to world’s reputed universities. It has 17 top universities under the top 100, according to the latest QS World University Rankings. 

Top Universities in the UK QS World University Rankings 2024

University of Cambridge

02

University of Oxford

03

Imperial College London

06

University College London (UCL) 

09

The University of Edinburgh

22

The University of Manchester

32

King's College London

40

The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

45

University of Bristol

55

The University of Warwick

67

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Eligibility for US universities

International students must meet the following requirements to study in the US: 

  • list items A duly filled application form
  • list items Application fee paid receipt
  • list items A valid passport
  • list items An F-1 visa (full-time undergraduate and graduate applicants)
  • list items DS - 160
  • list items Form I-20
  • list items Language requirements - IELTS (minimum 6+), TOEFL (minimum 78+), PTE (53+), Duolingo (120+), Cambridge C1 Advanced (180+) and C2 Proficiency (200+)
  • list items Applicable entrance test results - GRE, GMAT, SAT, ACT, LSAT, MCAT
  • list items SOP (Statement of Purpose) 
  • list items Letter of Recommendation (LoR): At least 2 - 3 letters of recommendation from your professors or employers (if you have work experience) are required.
  • list items Resume or CV
  • list items Generally, a GPA equivalent to 3.0 out of 4.0 in the US is required to get admission to top US universities, and 2.0 for other US universities, for undergraduate and graduate courses
  • list items Having 2 years or more of work experience is an added advantage for many programs.

 

Note: An applicant for MS in the US must have a minimum of 16 years of formal education. If your study comprises only 15 years (10+2+3) before going to the US, you must pursue any pathway programs or short diplomas to complete the year requirement. 

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Application process for US universities

The application process for US universities is lengthy and spans throughout the year. Here are the steps for the US university application process:

  • list items List your university/ college preferences: Your first step is finding out your course and potential US universities or colleges with more chances of getting admission. While listing, consider various factors like the institution’s academic standards, job prospects after study, total cost of study, etc.
  • list items Evaluate your transcripts per the US formats: US universities require your academic and financial documents to be translated to US formats which you can do through WES (World Evaluation Services). Learn more about WES Evaluation

 

Convert your grades to the US scale. Use the Grade Convertor.

  • list items Get your documents ready: Get your academic, financial, and entrance documents required for US admissions handy before applying, as some of these documents would take more time to reach you. 

 

  • list items Apply for a university: US universities have an easy and convenient online application. You must apply to your desired university in the relevant intake on time.

 

  • list items Apply for scholarships: Once you get an offer letter from the university, you can apply for scholarship options. However, not all scholarships have the same application period, and there is no need to apply separately for some scholarships. Explore the scholarship page for more details

 

  • list items Gather money to fund your studies: Your visa application will be completed only if you can afford your studies in the US. Before applying for a student visa, you must gather enough funds to be shown as proof in the visa application process. At this stage, you can apply for an education loan to show proof of funds. 

 

  • list items Receive Form I-20: If your application is accepted, the university will send you the Form I-20, which provides supporting information regarding your student status in the US. You need this document when you attend the US consular visa interview. 

 

  • list items Apply for a student visa and fill out DS-160: You can apply online and fill out the non-immigrant visa application, known as the DS-160 form, to get a US visa. 
  • list items Attend US consular interview: Schedule your US visa interview at the nearest US embassy or consulate once your visa application is accepted. You need to bring relevant documents like I-20, DS-160, passport, etc., to the visa interview. 

 

Common App: Your undergraduate application can be sent directly to the US university or through Common App, a non-profit membership organization for centralized UG applications. It covers 1,000 US academic institutions across 50 states and 20 countries and is known for US admission applications. 

 

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Application timeline for US universities

The application process must be aligned with a timeline according to your course and institution, considering factors like relevant intakes, the time required for completing the application process, etc. 

Yearly intakes in the US are regular, but deadlines for US universities vary (sometimes, the same university may have different course deadlines). It is crucial that you refer to your university’s website for deadlines applicable to you.

Here are the US admission intakes and application period:

US admission intake Details Application period

Fall

Most popular intake with more course openings

September - December

Spring

Second-most popular intake with a good number of course openings

January - May

Summer

Less popular intake known for short-term courses

May - September

 

Find out the relevant intakes for your application and plan your application at least before 6 months - 1 year. Remember, you have actions in line to be done, such as applying for a US visa, attending the visa interview, etc. There might be delays for various reasons, so apply early as possible.

See here to learn more about securing admission to US universities.

Did you know?

Early Decision and Early Action: US universities have options called Early Decision and Early Action that allow applicants to apply early. It is mandatory to enroll in the college if selected in Early Decision, where there is no obligation in Early Action. 

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Eligibility for UK universities

In general, the following documents or requirements are mandatory for UK admissions:

  • list items A duly filled application form
  • list items Application fee paid receipt
  • list items Passport
  • list items Tier 4 (General) visa
  • list items CAS letter (Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies)
  • list items For graduate courses, an undergraduate degree with a minimum GPA of 3.00 - 3.70 
  • list items For undergraduate courses, +2 with a minimum GPA of 2.50 - 3.50 
  • list items Language requirements - IELTS (6.0+), TOEFL (78+), PTE (53+), Duolingo (120+), Cambridge C1 Advanced (180+), and C2 Proficiency (200+)
  • list items Entrance test - GRE, GMAT, BMAT, LNAT, UKCAT
  • list items A valid ATAS certificate if asked for
  • list items An SOP (Statement of Purpose) 
  • list items Letter of Recommendation (LoR): At least 2 - 3 letters of recommendation from your professors or employers (if you have work experience) are required.
  • list items A resume or CV
  • list items Having a minimum of 2 - 3 years of work experience is advantageous for many programs
  • list items Other course or university specific requirements, if any
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Application process for UK universities

  1. list items Find your university and course: Be clear about your university and course to complete the application process timely. 
  2. list items Register and apply online: UK universities have a convenient online application process. Register on your university’s website and apply easily. Get the required documents handy at this stage. 
  3. list items Accept your offer letter: You will get an offer letter if your application is successful. Accept the offer and revert to the university within the deadline. 
  4. list items Gather funds to show as proof: You must gather your funds at this stage as you are obliged to show enough money while applying for a visa. You can apply for an education loan and get the sanction letter to show proof of funds. 
  5. list items Apply for a UK visa: Initiate your visa application once you receive all the documents. After receiving your visa, you can book your flight ticket and land in the UK within one month.

 

UCAS: Applications for undergraduate admissions in the UK can be through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service), a famous private company for coordinating application processes for UK universities. 

Application timeline for UK universities

The standard academic year in the UK is from September or October to June or July, with postgraduate courses running from September to September. Many courses are flexible and offer more options for a start date. 

UK universities have three annual intakes as you can see below:

UK admission intake Details Application period

September intake

Popular intake with openings for most courses. More scholarships are available in this session.

December - July

January intake

Second-prominent intake with course availability lower than the September intake. 

September - November

May intake

Popular courses usually do not have openings. If your course has an opening in May, you are more likely to get an admission. 

October - November

 

It is better to consider an interval of one year to complete the whole process and start studying at your UK university since you have to apply for a UK student visa after receiving your CAS. Plan your steps considering possible time lagging in between the steps. 

See the blog for details regarding the UK admission process. 

Did you know?

Clearing: In UK universities, after the main application cycle, a process named Clearing takes place (usually in August) to admit students to remaining vacant seats. Those who couldn’t get an offer letter get seats as per availability.

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US vs. UK: Cost of studying

Application fee for the US: The average application fee for international students to undergraduate and graduate programs in the US is 45 USD.

Application fee for the UK: The undergraduate application fee for UK universities is 76 USD, whereas it is 32 - 64 USD for postgraduate courses. 

The cost of studying in the US and UK depends on various factors like course, university, location, etc. Generally, the study costs for various degrees are as follows: 

Program of Study  Average annual fees in the US Average annual fees in the UK

Undergraduate

61,910 USD

27,565 USD

Graduate

44,550 USD

21,245 USD

Doctoral

48,674 USD

31,880SD

 

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US vs. UK: Cost of living

One can expect 1,635 - 2,345 USD as the living cost in the US, which varies significantly across the states. As per the US government data, the price for living categories differ by around 27% across the states.

Similarly, the price differs for London and other parts in the UK. One can expect an average monthly living cost between 1,094 - 1,351 USD, and the UK government instructs international students to have at least 1,660 USD per month to live in London and 1,273 USD outside London. 

The table below compares major living costs in the US and the UK:

Category Monthly cost in the US Monthly cost in the UK

Room rent 

800 - 1,030 USD

520 - 727 USD

Travel

50 - 60 USD

57 - 67 USD

Food

400 - 700 USD

270 USD

Electricity

100 - 120 USD

50 - 70 USD

Internet charges

35 - 60 USD

25 SD

Phone bills

50 USD

22 USD

Water, Sewage, Trash

50 - 75 USD

50 - 70 USD

Personal expenses (clothing, laundry, cinema, gym, etc.)

150 - 250 USD

100 USD

Total

1,635 - 2,345 USD

1,094 - 1,351 USD

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Accommodation in the US and the UK

There are two types of accommodation available for international students in the US and UK: On-campus and off-campus. The stay on campus is allocated by the university, depending on the availability of space, and the off-campus stay is managed by the students themselves. 

On-campus housing 

  • list items On-campus stay will help you reduce your overall expenses since the monthly fee will be lower, and you can get food at a lower price from the university mess
  • list items Average annual on-campus rent in the US: 6,000 - 11,000 USD
  • list items Average annual on-campus rent in the UK: 9,000 - 10,000 USD 

Off-campus housing

  • list items Shared houses or flats, homestays, and private rentals are the top off-campus housing options for international students in the US or the UK
  • list items It is better you share the house with someone and cook your meals to save big in rent and food
  • list items Average annual off-campus rent in the US: 11,000 - 20,000 USD
  • list items Average annual off-campus rent in the UK: 12,000 - 14,000 USD
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US: Top scholarships

In the US, there are numerous university/college/course/nationality-specific scholarships to students based on academic merit and financial needs. 

US Scholarship Amount Application Deadline

AAUW International Fellowships

20,000 - 50,000 USD

15 November 2023

Cornell University Tata Scholarship

80,000 USD

15 April 2023

Fulbright Foreign Student Programs

64,000 USD

17 July 2023

The Next Genius University Scholarships

1,20,000 USD

01 October 2023

Yale University Undergraduate Scholarships

50,000 - 70,000 USD

15 December 2023

Zolve Global Scholarship

5,000 USD

15 June 2023

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UK: Top scholarships

International students can apply for scholarships in the UK specific to the course, university, country, financial status, etc. 

UK Scholarship Amount  Application Deadline

Charles Wallace India Trust Scholarships

1,300 USD

February 2023

Clarendon Scholarship

21,937 USD

January 2024

Chevening Scholarship

22,342 USD

November 2023

Commonwealth Masters Scholarships

30,500 USD

December 2023

Felix Scholarship

77,000 USD

January 2024

GREAT Scholarships

12,410 USD

May 2023

Ms. Agatha Harrison Memorial Fellowship

37,153 USD

January 2024

Rhodes Scholarship

1,880 USD

October 2023

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US student visa

To get a US student visa, you need to follow the steps below: 

  • list items Get admission to a SEVP-approved school in the US. You will be registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), the electronic system by the US government to track international students.
  • list items Pay the SEVIS fee (350 USD) and get Form I-20 from your university.
  • list items Apply for a student visa by filling out Form DS-160 and paying the US visa fee of 160 USD.
  • list items Schedule a VAC (Visa Application Centre) appointment and give your biometric data, such as fingerprints and webcam face capture
  • list items Book and attend the consular interview 

 

A US student visa is valid for up to 5 years, after which you must return to your home country within 60 days unless you get an employment visa. 

You can work up to 1 year after the completion of your studies if you are eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which can be extended to one more year. 

US student visa: Documents required

  • list items Passport valid for at least 6 months
  • list items Form DS-160 confirmation page.
  • list items Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before your interview.
  • list items Photo – You need to upload your photo while filling out Form DS-160. If you can’t upload it successfully, you need to bring it for the visa interview. See the photo requirements for the US visa.
  • list items Entrance test results (IELTS/TOEFL/GRE etc.)
  • list items Bank statements as proof of funds to study in the US

 

You can apply for a US visa 120 days before the course start date. It will take approximately 21 working days to process your application once it is received, plus 2-3 days will be required to return your passport.

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UK student visa

Follow the steps given below to obtain a student visa for the UK:

  • list items Get an offer letter from a UK university (which must be a licensed Tier 4 sponsor).
  • list items Receive a CAS letter (Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies) from your university, a crucial document for your visa application. Learn more about the CAS letter to study in the UK
  • list items Apply for the UK student visa online and provide biometrics data and photographs to a visa application center. The UK visa application fee is 363 GBP (INR 38,425)

 

Student Route is the new points-based visa system for international students to study in the UK. International students must obtain a valid Student Route visa to study in the UK, which allows them to stay up to 5 years.

After the completion of studies, students can apply for the Graduate Route visa to stay in the UK for 2 years (3 years for Ph.D. graduates) to explore professional opportunities. 

UK student visa: Documents required

  • list items A valid passport
  • list items A Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from your course provider
  • list items Proof of money to study and live
  • list items A valid ATAS certificate if asked for
  • list items Your tuberculosis test results
  • list items Entrance test results (IELTS, TOEFL, etc.)

 

Note: You need to show the money to study and live in the UK while applying. The course fee will be what is documented in the CAS, and living costs will be 1,334 GBP (INR 1,41,065) per month (for up to 9 months) for courses in London and 1,023 GBP (INR 1,08,187) per month (for up to 9 months) for courses outside London.

As a reminder, a timely application can avoid chances for last-minute disappointment. You can apply for a UK visa 6 months early, and it takes nearly 3 weeks to make a decision on your visa.

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US vs. UK: Post-study work opportunities

National Association of Foreign Student Advisers (NAFSA) report states that international students in the US got enrolled in 3,35,423 jobs in the US, contributing 33.8 billion USD to the economy in 2021 - 2022.

Similarly, one in every three international students gets employment in the UK. According to the UK Office for National Statistics data, the number of vacancies from April to June 2023 was 1,034,000 across various levels. Job opportunities rose significantly after 2019, and more vacancies are expected for international students. 

The table below shows career prospects and median yearly salary for professions in popular study areas, according to data gathered from multiple sources:

Career Opportunities Average Annual Salary in US Average Annual Salary in UK

IT (Data Scientist, AI Researcher, Cybersecurity Analyst, Systems Architect, Research Scientist, IT Consultant)

62,006 USD

51,372 USD

Management (Management Consultant, Manager roles - Marketing, Business, Operations, etc.) 

1,02,450 USD

70,220 USD

Biotechnology (Research Scientist, Biomedical Engineer, Genetic Counselor, etc.)

48,140 USD

40,744 USD

Engineering (Engineer roles - Software, Mechanical, Biomedical, Systems, Renewable Energy, etc.)

1,00,640 USD

53,010 USD

Healthcare (Physician, Nurse, Pharmacist, Health Counselor, etc.) 

75,040 USD

40,880 USD

Finance (Financial Analyst, Risk Manager, Fintech Professional, Accountant, etc.)

90,317 USD

57,257 USD

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Path to permanent residency in the US and UK

Like many students, if your concern is working and getting a PR in the US, obtaining a Green Card will pave your way to becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) in the US. 

  • list items You can get a Green Card through employment, which means that you should find a permanent employer in the US. 
  • list items There are three priorities for workers:  EB-1 (first preference) for jobs in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, college teaching, certain multinational management, etc. EB-2 (second preference) for jobs for professions holding advanced degrees or who have exceptional ability (including requests for national interest waivers) EB-3 (third preference) for skilled workers, professionals, or other workers.
  • list items EB-1 (first preference) for jobs in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, college teaching, certain multinational management, etc.
  • list items EB-2 (second preference) for jobs for professions holding advanced degrees or who have exceptional ability (including requests for national interest waivers)
  • list items EB-3 (third preference) for skilled workers, professionals, or other workers.

 

For a PR in the UK, you must have 5 years of work experience with a minimum salary of 31,887 USD per year or 13 USD per hour. 

  • list items The salary requirement combining annual and hourly rates is known as the ‘going rate’ and varies with various departments offering jobs. 
  • list items For a job, you will be switching your student status to Tier 2 (T2) or Skilled Worker status, as every year, the UK government publishes job roles having skill shortages in different areas.

 

Concluding remarks

While studying in the US or the UK is advantageous for your academic, professional, and settling goals, it is crucial you meet the eligibility requirements applicable to your targets. For MS in the US, check out the admit predictor and see the list of colleges that match your eligibility. For other courses in the US and admission in the UK, reach out to the discussion forum or book a counseling session to learn in depth about the processes. 

Having compared the US and UK in terms of academic and professional concerns, here are the key differences summarized for you: 

  • list items Academic preference: The US and the UK excel in academic opportunities. Both countries house top-ranking universities and are excellent in integrating the most modern studies into the academic curriculum and offer flexible study options. If you are curious about courses related to a sustainable environment across various industries, the US or the UK can be your preference. The US and the UK top the QS World University Rankings for sustainability, with 30 and 20 universities in the top 100, respectively. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future Job Prospects Report - 2023, structural market changes will affect job roles across various industries, but the vacancies where green skills are required raise by 8% annually. 
  • list items If you are curious about courses related to a sustainable environment across various industries, the US or the UK can be your preference. The US and the UK top the QS World University Rankings for sustainability, with 30 and 20 universities in the top 100, respectively. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future Job Prospects Report - 2023, structural market changes will affect job roles across various industries, but the vacancies where green skills are required raise by 8% annually. 

 

  • list items Course duration: The UK offers short-term postgraduate courses compared to the US. Many MBA and other courses in the UK take only 1 year, getting the real value for money and letting you work sooner. 1.5 - 2 years is the duration of postgraduate courses in the US. Undergraduate courses in the UK take 3 years to complete, while it takes 4 years in the US

 

  • list items Post-study stay: You can stay in the US for 1 year and in the UK for 2 years after your studies. To work in the US, you can change the visa status to H1-B by getting Form I-129 and, in the UK, by changing the visa status from Graduate Route to Skilled Worker visa

 

  • list items Cost of study and living: The study and livings costs are higher for New York, compared to London. However, the median salary is also higher in the US than in the UK. 

 

  • list items Quality of life index: According to Numbeo, the US ranks 16 in the Quality of Life Index, and the UK stands 22nd in the list

 

  • list items Job opportunities: International students have ample job opportunities in the US and the UK, according to the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers (NAFSA) in the US and the UK Office for National Statistics data

 

Choosing the US or the UK to study abroad can be tougher, but possible if you weigh the pros and cons. List down and consider discussing your concerns with us on the discussion forum to make an informed choice, as your decision will have sway in your career journey ahead.

Read also:

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Frequently asked questions

 

Which is better for international students, the US or the UK?

Deciding the better option between the US or the UK to study abroad depends on your concerns. While the UK has a comparatively lesser cost of study and living, the US houses more top-ranking universities and high-paying jobs. It is better to weigh the pros and cons to make an informed choice. 

Which country is better to live in - the UK or the US?

According to Numbeo data on the quality of life in countries, the US and the UK have better living standards. The US ranks 16th, and the UK ranks 22nd on the list. 

What is the average salary in the UK and the US?

According to Statista, the average annual earning of full-time employees in the UK in 2022 is 42,409 USD (INR 34,88,600), and the average annual earning of full-time employees in the US is 91,931 USD (INR 75,81,457). 

Is it better to settle in the US or the UK?

The rules and regulations for working professionals differ with organizations and the type of work in the US and the UK. In general, since the UK offers more vacation time (5.6 weeks a year) compared to the US (11 days), many find the UK as offering a better work-life balance than the US due to this reason. However, while 40 hours is the average working time in the US per week, it is 48 hours per week in the UK. 

Also, the tax rate in the UK is higher than in the US, but the UK offers many social welfare programs, which is costlier in the US. 

Is Master’s better in the UK compared to the US?

You can choose to do your Master’s in the US or the UK, depending on your personal preferences. Many students find the short-term courses in the UK as beneficial over the US for a Master’s. 

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