UK vs US: Which is Better for International Students

    Updated on: 11 Sep 2023

    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.

    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: 

    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


    University of Oxford


    Imperial College London


    University College London (UCL) 


    The University of Edinburgh


    The University of Manchester


    King's College London


    The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)


    University of Bristol


    The University of Warwick


    Eligibility for US universities

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

    • A duly filled application form
    • Application fee paid receipt
    • A valid passport
    • An F-1 visa (full-time undergraduate and graduate applicants)
    • DS - 160
    • Form I-20
    • Language requirements - IELTS (minimum 6+), TOEFL (minimum 78+), PTE (53+), Duolingo (120+), Cambridge C1 Advanced (180+) and C2 Proficiency (200+)
    • Applicable entrance test results - GRE, GMAT, SAT, ACT, LSAT, MCAT
    • SOP (Statement of Purpose) 
    • Letter of Recommendation (LoR): At least 2 - 3 letters of recommendation from your professors or employers (if you have work experience) are required.
    • Resume or CV
    • 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
    • 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. 

    Check Your Education Loan Eligibility Apply Here

    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 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.
    • 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.

    • 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. 


    • 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.


    • 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


    • 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. 


    • 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. 


    • 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. 
    • 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. 


    Get Guaranteed Best Loan with GyanDhan
    Find a Better Loan Offer Elsewhere & We Will Cover the Difference in Interest
    Get Guaranteed Best Loan with GyanDhan

    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


    Application period


    Most popular intake with more course openings

    September - December


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

    January - May


    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. 

    Eligibility for UK universities

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

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

    Application process for UK universities

    1. Find your university and course: Be clear about your university and course to complete the application process timely. 
    2. 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. 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. 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. 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


    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.

    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


    61,910 USD

    27,565 USD


    44,550 USD

    21,245 USD


    48,674 USD



    Calculate your Education Loan EMI Click Here

    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:


    Monthly cost in the US

    Monthly cost in the UK

    Room rent 

    800 - 1,030 USD

    520 - 727 USD


    50 - 60 USD

    57 - 67 USD


    400 - 700 USD

    270 USD


    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


    1,635 - 2,345 USD

    1,094 - 1,351 USD

    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 

    • 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
    • Average annual on-campus rent in the US: 6,000 - 11,000 USD
    • Average annual on-campus rent in the UK: 9,000 - 10,000 USD 

    Off-campus housing

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

    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


    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

    UK: Top scholarships

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

    UK Scholarship


    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

    US student visa

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

    • 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.
    • Pay the SEVIS fee (350 USD) and get Form I-20 from your university.
    • Apply for a student visa by filling out Form DS-160 and paying the US visa fee of 160 USD.
    • Schedule a VAC (Visa Application Centre) appointment and give your biometric data, such as fingerprints and webcam face capture
    • 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

    • Passport valid for at least 6 months
    • Form DS-160 confirmation page.
    • Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before your interview.
    • 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.
    • Entrance test results (IELTS/TOEFL/GRE etc.)
    • 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.

    UK student visa

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

    • Get an offer letter from a UK university (which must be a licensed Tier 4 sponsor).
    • 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
    • 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

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

    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

    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. 

    • You can get a Green Card through employment, which means that you should find a permanent employer in the US. 
    • 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.


    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. 

    • The salary requirement combining annual and hourly rates is known as the ‘going rate’ and varies with various departments offering jobs. 
    • 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: 

    • 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. 


    • 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


    • 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


    • 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. 


    • 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


    • 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:

    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. 

    First published date: 04 Aug 2023

Gd icon

About author

Sahil Sahil khan

Gd icon
GyanDhan is India's first education financing marketplace.

Kickstart Your Study Abroad Journey with our FREE counseling
Kickstart Your Journey Abroad

Help our experts understand you better by filling our 2-Minute Form,
to find the right education loan

Get instant loan offer suitable to your profile !

Upcoming Events

Will Canada Relations Impact Your Study-Abroad Dream?

  Sat, October 07, 2023    19:00 IST

Looking For Help in Foreign Education Loan? Arrange a Call From an Expert:

Enter Mobile no. Without Any Prefix.
By entering my phone number here, I hereby authorize GyanDhan to contact me through call, message or WhatsApp. \ It will override my registry on the NCPR/NDNC

Help our experts understand you better by filling our 2-Minute Form,
to find the right education loan

Get instant loan offer suitable to your profile !