Studying Stateside

study in the usaIreland remains a popular study destination for United States students; in fact, it is now ranked as the ninth most popular destination for those who choose to study outside of the US. However, the United States is also growing in popularity with Irish students, with an increase of 8% since 2007; despite increased competition for US college entry. This highlights the continued interest in and motivation of both Irish undergraduates and postgraduates to pursue studies and research in some of the top universities in the US.  Those choosing to leave Ireland to pursue further education stateside, have not only been successful in getting admitted to top US institutions but also in securing significant financial aid to support their studies.

The most popular institutions for Irish graduates are New York University, Columbia University (New York), Harvard University (near Boston), Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Notre Dame (Indiana). Those taking primary degrees are most likely to attend North-Eastern in Massachusetts, Scranton in Pennsylvania, New York’s SUNY Stony Brook University, Purdue in Indiana, or Harvard.

The Fulbright Commission in Ireland is the largest U.S. international exchange program offering opportunities for students, scholars, and professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools worldwide. As well as sending more than 1,600 Irish postgraduate students, academics and professionals to US colleges and research institutes since 1957, including 23 in the current academic year, the Fulbright office in Dublin is also the country’s official source of information about educational opportunities in the US. They recently said: ‘In the last year, there’s been about a 15% rise in inquiries, more than 200 people contacted us from September to November. People realise there’s going to be an increasing cost to education in Ireland. They’re looking very critically and saying, ‘if I’m going to invest, I’m going where the best skills are available’.”

If you are an undergraduate, there are many US colleges that realise that students with a strong Leaving Certificate are strong candidates and with a range of other supports and financial aids also available, the option should remain viable for many second level students. However, with complex application procedures and entrance requirements for many colleges, those considering crossing the Atlantic for their degree should start the application process as early as possible. It is helpful to make yourself familiar with the US college entry procedures and requirements along with their approach to third level education. They follow the “liberal arts” approach – where students choose a selection of humanities, science, and business, subjects in their first and second year – before choosing specialist subjects such as law, agricultural science or history in their final two years of college. Most Irish students choose the US for their liberal arts approach which gives students a chance to sample a wide range of topics. For the first two years you are exposed to a diverse range of subjects. There are employers who place a high value on this approach to higher education as students need to be able to make connections between different subject areas. In one year as a student in the United States; you might end up studying any combination of subjects.

With over 4,000 colleges in the US, it is vital to do research and find which college is best for you – academically, financially and personally.

There are three types of colleges in the US:

o      Public or private colleges, which offer four-year degree programmes and also have a number of degree programmes.

o      Liberal arts colleges have an emphasis on teaching in the arts and science. They are smaller than universities, with smaller classes and a strong student focus.

o      Two year community colleges – also known as junior colleges, these are local institutions with lower tuition fees, offering two-year associate degrees (similar to diploma courses) and certificates as well as an entry point to a four-year college.

In order to take the first step in the application process, contact the admissions office of the college you’re interested in. You’ll need to sit the SAT (the SAT is one of two admissions tests, with the ACT being the other), which is often required for admission to US universities. It’s administered six times a year, with two test centres in Dublin and Waterford. A total of 456 colleges use a Common Application System. The SAT measures a student’s aptitude for writing, reading, and maths. Students from outside the US are at a slight disadvantage, as the US system is geared towards preparing students for the SAT. You can take SAT preparation classes in Ireland, to help you succeed in this part of the admission stage. Professional schools such as schools of law, medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine have special examinations

Most colleges will require a completed application form, an application fee, SAT scores, references, an essay about yourself or a personal statement and, in some cases, an interview. Students who have taken part in extra-curricular activities such as volunteering, sports, or drama, stand a better chance of getting a college place.

In terms of financing studying in the United States; a lot of Irish students in the US are on scholarships. There are many full and partial scholarships for Irish students who achieve decent grades in their Leaving Cert and SAT scores, excel in sport, or shine in extra-curricular activities such as music or debating.

Apart from it being advisable to start the application process approximately one to one-and-a-half year(s) before you hope to begin studies in the U.S., it is also advisable to apply to more than one institution. U.S. institutions receive many applications and often cannot accommodate all qualified applicants. You may decide which institution to attend after you have received your admission offers.

The United States of America is the land of dreams in the mind-set of many students. In reality, higher education in USA is among one of the best in the world and it attracts the highest number of international students from all over the globe. It has the best research institutes, universities, organizations and great atmosphere for innovation that makes it a number one destination for higher studies.

Helpful resources:

Fullbright: information on studying in the US – especially for graduate students.

Edupass: Guidelines on all types of financial aid, plus tips on completing financial aid applications.

International Students Organization in America
Information on scholarships, grants and other funding resources.

International Education Financial Aid
Database of scholarships available for study in the US. Search by field of study.

Sallie Mae College Aid Sources for Higher Education (CASHE)
Free online scholarship search offered by Sallie Mae. Offers scholarships in the form of grants, tuition waivers, fellowships, internships, competitions, work co-operative programs and loans.

The Princeton Review
Rankings for 311 undergraduate colleges and universities based on student surveys.

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