Opting for college abroad

By Drew Lash

Charlotte Abrams ’09 likes nothing more than playing golf. The chance for her to go to college at the birthplace of the sport was almost irresistible. The history and beauty of the University of St. Andrews inspired her both athletically and academically. The chance to pursue her passions for golf, international adventure and higher education has led her to apply to one of the United Kingdom’s oldest and most prestigious schools.

“I could take my chances and try out for a Division I walk-on spot [at an American school], or I could go to St. Andrews, where the golf club, or ‘society’ as they call it, is the largest in the entire school,” Abrams said. “All levels can play and compete. Eventually, I could even play in more competitive tournaments all over Europe. Obviously, golf was invented in St. Andrews and the facilities are out of this world.”

However, the location of St. Andrews and its golf opportunities were not the only points on Abrams’ college checklist.

“Honestly, the fact that the college is in another country is only one aspect of the school that I found appealing. It just worked out that the school was located in Scotland,” Abrams said. “What really sold me was that one-third of the student body is from outside the U.K.—no American college or university and few other universities in the world offer such an international student body. I hope to major in International Relations, so it made sense.”

The cultural and academic traditions of St. Andrews and other British universities are steeped in history. Founded in 1413, the University of St. Andrews grew to contain three colleges by the mid-sixteenth century and is located a short train ride away from Edinburgh, Scotland.

Another school in the United Kingdom, the University of Cambridge, lies just outside of London and contains 29 colleges. An applicant can choose a specific college to apply to or can apply for an open application.

In the open application process, students applying from outside the European Union who do not have a specific preference for a certain college will have their applications evenly distributed to all of the colleges. While a student is not required to decide on one college to apply to at Cambridge, each applicant is required to identify a particular course study to pursue.

The University of Oxford also has the same open application process for students who do not have a preference for a particular college.

In the past three years, five Harvard-Westlake students have applied to St. Andrews, three students have applied to Oxford and one student has applied to Cambridge.

These universities differ from American universities in that most American colleges do not have such a large number of inner colleges to choose from and choosing a specific college within a university usually pertains directly to a field of study.

“Students thinking about applying to foreign institutions will probably need to be on top of things earlier than students applying to domestic institutions,” Dean Beth Slattery said.

Most British application deadlines are October 15 rather than the November 15 early decision deadline or January 1 regular decision deadline for American schools.

According to Slattery, foreign schools place an emphasis on a student’s GPA. However, some British schools require a placement test in the subject the student would like to study which is usually the most important factor regarding the school’s decision.

For Abrams, another clear advantage of a school in Scotland is the proximity to the rest of Europe, allowing for easier and more accessible travel opportunities.

Abrams also liked that “the university buildings and dorms are scattered throughout the town, which gives off a more independent vibe among the student body. Students are given more freedom and responsibility to take care of themselves.”

For Abrams, the lure of a great university filled with history, diversity and golf is so strong that not even the Atlantic Ocean can stop her.