Myths and assumptions made by expatriates
So, the UCAS application is in at last and now you are receiving emails from individual universities asking you to fill in a Fee Status Questionnaire (FSQ). In this blog we tackle some of the myths that expatriate families may have about fee status.
Universities are part funded by the UK Government. They have to undertake due diligence in identifying students who have a right to UK/EU tuition fees (and subsequently student loans). Particular scrutiny is given to students applying for costly degrees such as lab-based courses, veterinary, dentistry and medicine. Fee status forms are sent to students who are based overseas and some who are based in the UK to establish which category of student they are and whether they are entitled to UK/EU fees. The FSQ forms are for prospective undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Myth: a UK/EU passport is enough to entitle my son/daughter to Home/EU fees.
No, British or EU citizenship is just one of the factors for consideration. It is not enough to have a British or EU passport, you also need to show that you maintain your ‘ordinary residence’ in your home country by visiting as a family often enough and for long enough each year.
Asylum seekers, ‘Leave to Remainers’ and Refugees may also be entitled to UK/EU fees.
Myth: being overseas on a visa means that I have to return to my home country and therefore should be entitled to UK/EU fee status.
Thousands of expat families are based overseas on a visa which is re-issued every two years or so. Being on a visa does not mean that your son/daughter is automatically entitled to UK/EU fees when starting university in the UK. Universities want to know how you maintain your connections to the UK/EU – do you return to the same place, as a family (at least one parent, student and siblings) for a number of weeks each year?
The actual time recommended to spend in the UK/EU is not specified – this is one of the many questions open to interpretation by a Fee Status Admissions Team. While one admissions person may think that six weeks a year is required, another may be of the opinion that three weeks a year is sufficient.
Myth: owning property in the UK/EU should ensure Home/EU fee status.
No. In actual fact, you don’t have to own property in the UK to be eligible for Home/EU fees at a UK university. It does help though if you do have a property and even better if you have a property that is vacant for sole family use each year.
Myth: returning to the UK for long enough each year for the three years before the university application will ensure UK/EU fee status.
Simply returning to the UK may help but it is important to show that you have a single ‘home base’ in order to establish a pattern of ‘ordinary residence’. The universities may also ask for evidence of visits back to your home base before the three years prior to university entry. Some may want to go as far back as the student’s birth.
Establishing UK/EU fee status is not a simple tick box exercise. It is necessary to demonstrate commitment to your home country, showing that you maintain strong family links with a clear intention to return at some point in the near future.
Applying to a postgraduate course in the UK is very different to applying to an undergraduate course. For a start, very few universities use a generic application system such as UCAS. Instead, most universities require you to apply directly to them and they differ widely in terms of admissions process and entry requirements. Therefore, when applying, it is crucial to really do your research. Look at each postgrad course separately and understand what they are looking for in a student. You’ll need to tailor everyone of your documents (CV, personal statement, entry essays etc) to each course. You might think this is a lot of work, and it is! But it is necessary to compete at postgrad level where the stakes are higher. Having worked on Admissions Teams for some of the UK’s top universities, the UKSO team is trained to guide you through these demanding application processes and maximise your chance of success.
The other major difference between undergrad and postgrad is the expectation that you will be accomplished in a number of areas. Universities expect you to have used your undergraduate time wisely. They want to see, not only academic achievement but some work experience (have you completed an internship or held a weekend job?), extra-curricular activities and responsibilities (are you the treasurer of a society or have you dedicated a lot of time to learning a skill?) and volunteering and projects (are you passionate about a certain cause?). Accomplishments outside of your degree show motivation, dedication, commitment, time management skills…the list goes on! What university wouldn’t want that kind of student?
When we work with you, UKSO takes time to learn about you and uses that information to help you develop a competitive profile that universities will take notice of.
Top business schools in the UK such as Imperial, UCL, LSE and LBS are extremely competitive. Business courses at these institutions are often individually ranked which means that they attract 1000s of applications each year and therefore, the entry requirements are high and very strict. So how do you compete with the 100s of candidates applying for the same position on the course?
Apart from ensuring that you meet the basic entry criteria detailed on their websites, you need to present yourself as the right ‘fit’ for the institution and the course. There are some general characteristics that business schools are looking for which you need to demonstrate in your personal statement and CV:
- Leadership – business courses at postgraduate level are designed to develop the leader in you but they need something to work with. You have to show them that you already have the hallmarks of a leader and that they merely have to tap into this to bring it to fruition.
- International exposure – business schools are international places just like the world of work. They want to see that you are not phased by the mixing pot of ideas and approaches that come from multiculturalism and that you can thrive in such environments. By drawing on some of your international experiences you demonstrate that you can contribute to their diversity. But note: they are not interested in your beach holidays; your international exposure must have purpose!
- Self-awareness – business school courses often focus on developing your soft skills (team-work, communication, project and time management etc) but to develop in these areas, you need to be able to observe yourself, take criticism and improve. A lack of self-awareness inhibits this goal so show the admissions teams your ability to self-assess, overcome challenges and learn from your mistakes in education, work or life.
- Give back – Business schools don’t give something for nothing. They are looking for students who ‘give back’ to the school by immersing themselves in the student experience (societies, conferences, research groups, networking events), encouraging the next cohort of students to join the school and ultimately, becoming an accomplished alumnus/a who will go on to do incredible things. In a way, you have to pitch yourself to them through your career aspirations, your personal goals, your future achievements and give them something that they want to put their name on.
UKSO knows what business schools are looking for. We will help you pitch yourself successfully and get a place on a world-leading masters course.
UK v US applications – the Application Schedule and Process
The vast majority of UK universities are publicly funded to some extent and subscribe to UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) – the UK’s ‘common application’ process for all university applications. Students can do a course search through the UCAS portal to identify suitable degree courses but you should also check the actual course requirements, grades and information about your course on the individual university websites.
The UK – UCAS applications
- UCAS opens each year on September 1st.
- Students apply to five institutions or courses on one UCAS form
- There is only ONE Personal Statement of 4,000 characters for all applications
- You can only apply to either Oxford OR Cambridge in any one academic year
- Competitive institutions or subjects have an early application deadline of 15th October – a year before entry – this includes Oxbridge, Medicine, Veterinary and Dentistry
- Medical applicants can only choose four medical schools and one other non-medical choice
- Most other applications have to be submitted by the second deadline of 15th January.
- Art and Design applicants can apply until 24th March.
- Applications received after the 15th January deadline will be marked as LATE and may not even be considered.
- Students who have applied by January 15th deadline, may receive offers as early as 24 hours following their application but also may not hear until early May.
- Offers are usually conditional on students achieving grades specified by each university.
- Students then have to accept or decline their offers: usually accepting one FIRM choice and one INSURANCE choice – deadline 7th June for the January deadline applicants.
US – Early Decision 1, Early Decision 11, Regular Admissions, Common App applications
US Universities are either Public or Private institutions. Applications can be on a financial needs base as well as academic and extra-curricular. US students can apply via the Common App or a Coalition Application or to an individual institution.
- Application portals open on 1st August
- The US Early application season is usually between November and January each year
- Regular application deadlines are between January and March
- Students apply to the University, College or School as an undergraduate, not to a specific degree
- Common App students can choose between 7 essay prompts and submit two or three essays
- Essays can be much more Personal than the UCAS Personal Statement
- Students need to register for SATs, ACTS or any other tests they are expected to take
- Offers are not specifically conditional and will not specify grades.
- Students need to accept their offers by March
Fundamental differences between UK and US university degrees – Two
Making an application for any competitive university worldwide needs consideration, forethought and preparation, perhaps for a year or two before actually submitting your application.
- What do I want to study?
- Where do I want to study?
- Have I got the right qualifications; level, grades and subjects?
- How do I enrich my application?
- How important are my extra-curricular activities?
Applying to study in the UK can be very different to applying to study in the US. Students in the UK are admitted on their academic record. Studying is more intensive, it is likely that you will be applying for one subject and expected to study that subject for three years or more. There are combined subjects that you can apply for but generally there is less flexibility in the UK, so you need to be sure of your commitment and passion for the subject before you apply and definitely before you accept your offer and begin your studies!
US degrees offer flexibility, so students don’t need to be certain of their subject choices before they enter. It’s quite common for students to change their major in the first year and they may not have to commit to their course of study until part way through their four-year degree. Students studying in the US accumulate their grades through each module they take, they can take a break from their studies at strategic times and even move between faculties or institutions.
Before you apply to the UK you will need to check the entry requirements and subjects. High ranking universities will expect you to have the equivalent to three A levels – grade requirements can vary, typically from A*AA to AAB/ABB. So, for instance an A*AA subject may require a US student to have a good High School Diploma with 3 APs plus one SAT subject scored at 720. Some degrees may require specific subjects to be studied beforehand. For instance Economics often requires students to have high level maths. Engineering will require Maths and Physics and Medicine will require Chemistry and often Biology. There may well be additional tests to take and you may need to register for these before the application is submitted so make sure you check all the requirements first.
It’s always a good idea to get ahead and start to think about enriching your application a year or two before you apply. In the UK most students are encouraged to do some kind of work experience in order to gain an understanding of any careers that they are considering and to gain some skills and attributes before attending university. If you cannot get work experience, try voluntary work or do them both! Volunteering helps you to help the community and you gain skills and experience at the same time! Compassion, time management, communication skills, leadership, empathy, tolerance, patience and understanding are all valuable attributes to take with you to university. Enrichment activities can include some in-depth reading, (it’s important to go beyond the school curriculum), summer schools, debating events and conferences. Anything that can improve your confidence and help you to articulate your interests and passion for the subject and discover more about yourself.
What about your extra-curricular activities? US institutions are more interested in your extra curricular activities. The UK view is that they are important for your health and wealth being – universities in the UK have excellent Student Unions offering sporting and social activities but Admissions Tutors are looking at your academic abilities rather than your sporting prowess. As a rule of thumb, your UK application should include a Personal Statement of which 75% is about your academic ability and 25% about your extra curricular. There are of course exceptions depending upon your course of study.