What it is like to go to university in America?

James Casemore ~ Yale University (USA)

Ever wondered what it would be like to go to university in America? Promenading through palm tree's in California or powerwalking through crowds in New York... Starbucks latte in hand. We have all seen the movies but what is really like to study over the pond? We chatted with one of our graduates, James Casemore, who is currently in his second year at Yale University. James painted us a picture of what it is really like to study in the USA, what the application process is like, applying for VISA's and what he plans to do next...

GC: Hi James, thanks for chatting with us today! Firstly, if you could talk about application process for American universities and how it differs from UK?

JC: First of all, when it comes to applications there's no centralised application system like there is with UCAS, you need to apply to each university individually. They have a whole plethora of different kinds of writing assignments to do and you need to do an SAT or an ACT exam. You need to consider taking the SAT or ACT pretty far in advance because there are only select windows throughout the year that you can do it. So, I had to go and do mine at Wellington College, which... It's all multiple choice but it takes a decent amount of work to revise for it and get a good score and if you're looking at a good university you kind of need a good score. American universities do really value A-Levels, which is great, so you guys are all in a very good position if you are able to put the work in now to be able to get a good SAT or ACT. Make sure you do your research to see which one between the two is best for you. The ACT has modules of science, I absolutely hated science, so I chose to do the SAT which is all writing and mathematics based.

GC: If students are accepted to an American university, are they guaranteed a VISA?

JC: Yes, you are. I can say with near certainty that if you get accepted to an American university, you'll be able to get a VISA. The university will sponsor your application for a student VISA, which is called the F1 VISA. This will last the entire duration of your time here and gives you a 6-month window afterwards if you want to stay in America and find your next job. The process is very simple, you just have to go to the embassy in London and answer a few questions and then you're good to go.

GC: In terms of the actual course, what is it like to study in America?

JC: In terms of what you study at university here, there are different umbrella categories of classes you have to take. You have to get a certain number of classes in Humanities, a certain number in sciences, a certain number in writing and a certain number in quantitative reasoning, which is basically mathematical classes. I'm currently in the process of choosing my classes for the next semester and I need to be aware of what kind of classes I have to do to gain enough university credits. Up until this semester I've been having to study Italian, as there's a requirement to learn a new language, which I think is pretty cool because now I can speak a bit of Italian.

When going through the Yale Course Search website, in which I choose my classes, I was amazed at the kind of variety of stuff there is. There's one class I'm considering which is one session a week walking around the Yale Art Gallery talking about different works of art. There was another one I was looking at which was literally a bartending class and I can get university credit for it. If you’re interested and want to get a sense of what classes at Yale are like you can just go on YouTube and type in 'Yale Philosophy', there are several classes with millions of views to give you a sense of the lecture style. One of the biggest differences I noticed between college and university, is you go from small personal groups to massive lecture halls with famous professors where you can so easily get lost. However, at Yale, we have what we call Teaching Fellows, who are normally graduate students who sit in classes and they can help you out. So, they are like your go-to person, so you never feel completely lost.

GC: When you were a student with us you studied Philosophy A-Level, what skills did you learn on that course that benefit you now?

JC: I'd definitely say it's critical thinking and problem-solving, just the ability to look at any kind of problem and be able to come at it from an objective standpoint and I think Philosophy absolutely nails that. Studying Philosophy A-Level allows you to really excel when analysing problems and I think no matter what you study, that is extremely important. Also being able to write from two perspectives is invaluable when it comes to university courses, just being able to create an argument that's really developed and highly involved, argument within your work is imperative. I think that's something that Philosophy foster's really well and is definitely a very important thing that you're going to need in university regardless of what you study.

GC: Out of all the universities in America, what was it about Yale that appealed to you?

JC: Yale is an absolutely incredible institution, in that all of the work that I'm doing and all the books that I'm having to read for classes, the majority of them are done by Yale professors which is just, is kind of crazy, as well as famous guest lecturers who are top of their field. Yale University as an institution has more money in its endowment than every UK university combined. So, that just gives a sense of the resources that are available here.

Yale is part of the Ivy League, which is, I don't want to say the most elite because that sounds pretentious, but it's a very well-known group of universities in America, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, amongst some others. Yale is certainly at the top of its game when it comes to prestige in the academic climate of America and the wider world. We recently had a $100,000,000 donation from FedEx to make a new eco-friendly way for them to fly their planes around the world. So, Yale really is at the forefront when it comes to all kinds of academic research.

GC: What about graduate school? Would that be a viable option for some students?

JC: There are so many incredible graduate schools here at Yale as well, so even if you don't come to university in America straight away there are so many pathways from top tier UK universities into top tier American universities for graduate school. At Yale we have our School of Management, School of Architecture... our Law School is the best in the world, according to most rankings. So it's not just an option for undergraduate study, there are so many options afterwards. If you're looking to pursue a career in a certain area, the chances are that there will be a graduate school in the US that can accommodate that. There are loads of PhD and master’s students here as well, so there really is a sense of the cross over between academics and career. That's the big emphasis I've had during my time here, it's all about streaming you into a career option afterwards.

GC: Lastly, what are your plans once you graduate?

JC: I've been doing a lot of networking recently with some graduates from the Yale Lightweight Crew that I'm a part of, I'm getting lunch with them next week in New York. One of them is a Managing Director of the top boutique investment bank in New York and the other is a partner at the Boston Consulting Group. So, the alumni that come from Yale University are absolutely incredible and there are so many opportunities available when it comes to internships or just looking for a job afterwards. American universities place this massive emphasis on networking during your time here and I think it's absolutely amazing because now I feel really confident about graduating in 2 years and what I'm going to do with myself afterwards. Once I graduate I think I'm going to stay in the New York area, so after that 6-month window of my student VISA runs out I'll apply to get a work VISA  and a Green Card, so then I'll be on the pathway towards getting American Citizenship.

GC: Sounds amazing! Thank you for chatting with us today, you have given some really useful information today. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours, we have no doubt you will achieve everything you set your mind to!

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