PASS4Soccer featured in the Telegraph
PASS4Soccer featured in the Telegraph in article about students heading to the USA to study. Please see below the contents of the article
Go west: why British students are heading to America
As fees rocket and places shrink, it's little wonder the appeal of studying in the States is growing, says Christopher Middleton.
Once upon a time, the sole purpose of American universities was to frighten British parents. We’d take one look at the monstrous dimensions of transatlantic tuition fees, and it would instantly quieten our grumbles about how much we were asked to pay for our children’s higher education. We also got a warm, comforting feeling from knowing that while our offspring were tucked up in bed, sleeping off another night of excess, their American counterparts were out flipping burgers and waiting on tables, in a bid to pay off their debts.
How quickly it’s all changed. With the cost of a British university set to triple, we are no longer sneering at the price Yanks put on education. Instead, we’d quite like a slice of that ourselves.
It was revealed this week that the number of British students applying to top American universities has risen by one third in the past year. The news was greeted not with outrage, but with resigned nods of the head.
“There’s no question the fees increase has opened up the whole US market,” says Norman Renshaw, whose firm InTuition Services helps find American scholarships for British undergraduates. “The question parents are asking is whether the increase in UK fees will mean increased investment on the part of those universities. And the answer is no. So they’re coming to the conclusion that they should look elsewhere.”
More and more their gaze is heading westwards. According to the Fulbright Commission, which facilitates the flow of students back and forth across the Atlantic, there has never been a greater British interest in American colleges.
“The number of UK students in the States is 8,861, two per cent up on the previous year,” says the commission’s senior adviser, Lauren Welch. “And that’s just for the year 2009-10, which is before the fees increase became a big issue. Plus, we’ve had a 30 per cent increase in web traffic, and at our last US College Day, in London, we got 4,000 visitors in one day, which was 50 per cent up on the previous year.”
While British universities are turning down more applicants per year, American universities are making strenuous efforts to harvest this sudden, abundant crop of young Brits.
“More British citizens come to Florida than any other nationality – only now we want to import not just holidaymakers, but students,” says J Robert Spatig, of the University of South Florida, in Tampa, who has been on four fresher-hunting trips to the Britain in the past nine months.
“In fact, your £9,000 fee mark is pretty much the same as the amount we charge,” he says, “which is $15,000 [£9,375 at current exchange rates]. The cost of living is much lower in the US, and on top of that, we are in a position to extend scholarships that start at £4,000 per year, and go up to £6,000 for your most able students. All of a sudden, we have become less expensive than your University of Manchester… plus we have better weather.”
Not all American universities are as fee-friendly as South Florida, however. According to the US College Board, average undergraduate tuition rates are £12,000 at state-funded universities and £16,800 at their private counterparts. And that’s not including living costs of around £5,500 per year. The top institutions charge higher fees, around £23,750.
“It’s very likely that you’ll end up applying to a university you’ve never heard of,” says Welch. “That doesn’t mean it’s not top-notch. There are 4,000 universities in the United States, of which 70 are ranked among the world’s top 200.”
True enough, the choice is astonishing: there are 700 universities in California alone, as opposed to 300 universities and further education colleges in the United Kingdom. So where do would-be applicants start? And how do they know they’re applying to the kind of institution that appears in Social Network, rather than Animal House?
A good place to look is one of the university ranking guides, such as those compiled by US News (America only) or software firm QS (worldwide). Things to consider are size of student population (from 4,000 to 40,000) and level of academic requirement (the lower it is, the better your chance of a scholarship).
But that’s just the start. In terms of prestige (and cost), you need to know if your intended alma mater is one of the eight north-eastern Ivy League universities such as Yale, Harvard or Brown, where Emma Watson, of Harry Potter fame, went to study; one of the 30 “public” Ivies (less famous, but still top-notch, for example Michigan, North Carolina at Chapel Hill); or one of the 62 Association of American Universities colleges (membership by invitation only). Private universities tend to be smaller and more expensive than state-funded ones. Liberal arts colleges have a broader curriculum, and are geared more towards undergraduates, while research colleges are more graduate-orientated.
After finding some possible colleges, a student must take a Sat, or scholarship aptitude test, which is like a grown-up 11-plus, incorporating maths, writing and critical reading. The Fulbright Commission offers limited hand-holding, but you can expect a warmer embrace from organisations that specialise in finding places and scholarships for Brits.
The boldest claims are made by InTuition services, which guarantees 10 academic scholarship offers, or a refund of your fee (£1,560). It also runs a sports scholarship trip to Florida, on which you spend 10 days trying to impress US college coaches (£2,340). For a more modest fee (£995), Pass4Soccer puts on a showcase event, during which young British footballers attempt to catch the eye of American coaches.
“Getting a US soccer scholarship was the best thing that ever happened to me,” said PASS4Soccer employee, a former ESFA U18 footballer, who went to the USA in 2005. “The facilities are tremendous, and you get treated like a real professional. I got to play against lots of guys who went on to play for the US national team, and at the end of it all, I came out with a degree, which I might not have got if I’d tried to make it as a pro in England. You’re a student first and an athlete second; the coaches would actually go round the lecture halls in person to check you were attending the classes.”
There’s one thing that all British students acknowledge: you’re expected to work much harder at an American university. “You take five subjects per semester, and in each you have to attend two lectures and one discussion per week, or you get marked down,” says 24-year-old Edward East, who went to the University of Virginia, at Charlottesville.
“You’ve got to keep your grade point average up all the time,” says Lauren Hewett, who is on a tennis scholarship at the University of Tampa, Florida.
“I was never entirely comfortable with idea of continual assessment for every piece of work you do, and for every class you attend or don’t attend,” says Adam Alfandary, who, instead of reading history at Cambridge, chose a liberal arts degree at Amherst College, in Massachussetts. “But you learn early on that you’re in a place where people are uncompromisingly serious about education.”
Ask any of these students whether it was worth the hard work, and they all respond in the affirmative.
“I’ve been offered a world of opportunities,” says 21-year-old Laura Tunbridge, who was rejected from all her first-choice universities in Britain, but won a scholarship at Yale. “I’ve been to Ecuador to study Spanish, to Vermont to ski, and to New York to see the City Ballet. Because Yale is a liberal arts college, you study such a wide range. I’m majoring in film studies, but I’ve studied Spanish, philosophy, astronomy, English, applied mathematics and theatre.”
As well as broadening minds, it seems a transatlantic degree strengthens character, too. “He’s so much more mature and confident than when he left Britain,” says accountant Barbara Allen of her son Will, who has just finished a degree in nano-physics at McGill University, Montreal.
“His time there has given him a truly international perspective. He’s still only 22, yet the idea of going to live and work in a foreign country leaves him undaunted. I’m in no doubt that it’s been money well spent.”