Study in the USA from the UK: visas, universities and costs

Gert Svaiko

Dreaming of studying in the USA? It’s a popular choice with UK students keen to experience American campus life.

There are 50 great states to choose from, each offering vibrant cities, staggering natural scenery and their own cultural attractions. And of course, the US has some of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world, in the form of the American Ivy League.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to go study in the USA from the UK. This includes visa requirements, universities, tuition fees and how to get UK funding to study in America.

We’ll even throw in a handy tip to help you manage your money while in the US. Get yourself the Wise card, for spending in USD from the moment you arrive. Your GBP is converted to USD automatically using the mid-market exchange rate.


Learn more about the Wise card

Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

Can I study in the USA coming from the UK?

There are over a million international students in the US¹, including many UK nationals.

If you’re considering moving to the USA to study, you’ll need to apply for a student visa. The most common type is the F-1 non-immigrant visa. The application process can be complicated, and requires a visa interview with the US embassy here in the UK.¹ We’ll look at this in more detail next.

Along with your student visa, you’ll need to sit and pass a multiple-choice admission exam for your chosen institution. This is most likely to be a SAT or ACT exam, and these can be taken in test centres here in the UK.¹

Other requirements include:¹

  • An application form and personal statement
  • Transcripts of academic records
  • At least two recommendation letters
  • Passing an English Language Proficiency Test, if English isn’t your first language
  • Proof of funding for educational, living and travel costs²
  • Evidence of your intent to depart the US after you’ve completed your course (such as a return ticket)²

What are the American student visa requirements from the UK?

Applying for an American student visa can be complex, requiring lots of documentation. It can also take a long time for your application to be processed, so it’s recommended to apply early.

Before you can apply, you’ll need to be accepted onto your chosen course. You’ll also need to register with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).¹

There are several steps involved in applying for a visa. The first is to complete an online visa application and upload a photograph of yourself. Next, you’ll need to schedule a visa interview at the US Embassy in London. There may be a wait time involved until you can get an appointment.

There’s a non-refundable visa application fee of $160² to pay before your visa interview. On the subject of fees, there’s also a $350 charge to register with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).¹

And then you’ll need to gather your documentation. Here’s what you’ll need:²

  • A passport valid for at least 6 months beyond your period of stay in the US
  • The confirmation page of your completed visa application form
  • Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - this will be sent to you by the university once they’ve entered your information into the SEVIS database
  • Proof of your academic record - such as transcripts, certificates and diplomas
  • Proof of funds
  • Evidence of your intent to leave the US once your course is finished

At your visa interview, biometrics such as fingerprint scans will be taken. The consular officer will decide if further administrative processing will be required. If not, your visa will be processed and approved.²

Fulbright UK program for funding studies in America

If you’re looking for funding to do a postgraduate degree in the US, it could be worth looking into the Fulbright Commission Award Programme. This offers around 20 scholarships a year to UK students, with awards ranging from medicine to journalism courses.¹

The Fulbright Commission also offers programmes, events and advice for UK students at most educational levels. Take a look at the Fulbright Commission’s website to find out more.

Popular universities in America for international students

Choosing a US university to apply to will depend on what you want to study, and where in America you want to go. But to kickstart your search, here are some of the most popular universities in America for international students:³

  • New York University
  • Northeastern University
  • Columbia University
  • University of Southern California
  • Arizona State University
  • University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
  • University of California San Diego (UCSD)
  • Boston University
  • Purdue University
  • University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)

However, there are more than 5,000 US universities³ which accept international students, including public, private and Ivy League schools.

How to apply for an American university?

To study in the US, you’ll need to apply directly to your chosen university. The bad news though is that this process can be almost as long-winded as applying for a US visa. In fact, it can take so long that it’s recommended to apply at least 12-18 months before your course start date

You may want to hedge your bets and apply to a few different universities. However, the Fulbright Commission recommends applying to no more than 6¹ so that you can concentrate fully on putting in a strong application for each.

To apply for an American University, you’ll usually need to pass a SAT or ACT exam. You can take it in the UK, and it costs around £50.¹ You’ll also need to submit academic records and transcripts, recommendation letters and a personal statement.

There’s also an application fee of around $50-$100¹ to pay to each university you apply to.

Can I study medicine in the USA coming from the UK?

You can study medicine in the US as an international student, but only on a postgraduate course. To apply to med school, you’ll need to have already completed a four-year degree in a relevant subject, such as biology or chemistry.⁴

The top universities in the US to study medicine include Harvard University, Stanford University, John Hopkins University, and the University of California.⁴

What Master’s degree options are available in the USA?

Master’s degrees, known as graduate degrees in the US, are available at over 1,000 institutions nationwide.¹ You can choose from two types of Masters in the USA, either an academic/research course, or a professional degree designed to prepare you for a career in a particular profession.

The most common types of graduate degrees in the US are Masters of Arts (M.A) and Masters of Science (M.S). Courses generally take 2-3 years to complete.¹

How to get a scholarship in the USA from the UK?

Tuition fees in the US can be pretty high (more on that later) but there may be the option to get a scholarship to cover all or part of the cost. There are lots of scholarships available for international students, including merit and sports scholarships, and needs-based financial aid.

To start searching for suitable scholarships, the Fulbright Commission’s website is a great place to start.

Which universities in America are offering scholarships for international students?

Here are just a few of the many US universities and programmes offering scholarships for international students:⁵

Scholarship nameHost universityEligibility
Fulbright Commission Award ProgrammeAny accredited US universityOpen to UK applicants only
Stanford University Scholarship - Masters/PHDStanford UniversityOpen to international applicants
Yale University ScholarshipYale UniversityOpen to international applicants
University of New Haven Scholarship - Masters onlyUniversity of New HavenOpen to international applicants
University of Memphis ScholarshipUniversity of MemphisOpen to international applicants
University of Minnesota Fellowship - Masters onlyUniversity of MinnesotaOpen to international applicants
AAUW Fellowship ProgramAny accredited US universityOpen to international applicants (women only)
ACI Foundation ScholarshipAny accredited US universityOpen to international applicants
Onsi Sawiris ScholarshipStanford University, The University of Chicago, Harvard University, The University of PennsylvaniaOpen to international applicants

Is it cheaper to study in the USA or the UK?

Tuition fees in the US vary depending on the type of institution. You can expect to pay around $3,730/£3,339* per year at a community college and as much as $36,880/£33,015 * a year at a private university.⁶

In the UK, tuition fees range from around £10,000 to £38,000 a year⁷, with medical degrees being the most expensive.

So, whether the US is a cheaper place to study than the UK all depends on what you study and at which university.

If you’ll be keeping a close eye on your money while studying in the US, the Wise card can help. It automatically converts your GBP to USD at the mid-market exchange rate when you spend, so you don’t lose out to unfavourable rates. This means you don’t have to worry about changing money, or even about opening a US bank account.

Register with Wise today

Please see the Terms of Use for your region.

How affordable is moving to America as a student?

Although it depends on where you live, the cost of living in the US is higher than the UK - which may surprise you. Rent is around 37% higher in the US compared to the UK, and consumer prices in general are around 18% more expensive.⁸

After reading this guide, you should have all the info you need to decide whether you want to go study in the US from the UK. We’ve covered everything from how to get a US student visa right through to tuition fees. The very best of luck if you decide to apply.

*1 USD = 0.8952 GBP (03-11-2022)

Sources used:

  1. Prospects - Study in the USA
  2. U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs - Student Visa
  3. Crimson Education - Best Universities in USA for International Students
  4. The Medic Portal - Studying Medicine in the USA
  5. Scholarship Roar - US Scholarships 2023-2024
  6. Fulbright Commission - Funding
  7. Top Universities - How Much Does it Cost to Study in the UK?
  8. Numbeo - Cost of Living Comparison Between US and UK

Sources last checked on date: 02-Nov-2022

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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