There are scholarships for students who achieve decent grades, excel in sport or in extra-curricular activities
WHAT’S DIFFERENT about studying in the US?
All US college 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.
There are 4,000 colleges in the US. How do I pick one?
Do your research and find which college is best for you – academically, financially and personally. There are three types of colleges in the US:
1. Public or private colleges, which offer four-year degree programmes and also have a number of degree programmes. Lecturers are engaged in research and there is a strong connection between undergraduate and postgraduate education.
2. Liberal arts colleges have an emphasis on teaching in the arts and science; faculty staff engaged in little or no research. They are typically smaller than universities, with smaller classes and a strong student focus.
3. 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.
How do I apply?
Contact the admissions office of the college you’re interested in. You’ll need to sit the SAT, a mathematical, verbal, and written aptitude test; it’s administered six times a year, with two test centres in Dublin and Waterford. Register at collegeboard.ie.
A total of 456 colleges use a Common Application System ( commonap.org) – check this out before you apply anywhere as it’s a great time-saver.
What do the colleges want from me?
Most require a completed application form (found on the college website), an application fee (usually between $50-$100, or approximately €38-€76), 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, will stand out.
I could do that. But what are the average tuition fees?
Average tuition in 2010-11 was $19,595 per year in a four-year public college and $27,293 for a private institution. Community college fees are around $6,500 per year. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of living on top of this.
I can’t pay that; count me out.
Wait! There’s good and bad news here.
Firstly, the bad news: it’s relatively rare to find Irish students paying full fees in the US – almost all are on scholarships.
But the good news is that 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.
How do I get one of these scholarships?
Contact the individual admissions office for more information, and do it before you apply to avoid disappointment.
Pass4soccer ( pass4soccer.ie) organises US college scholarship opportunities for male soccer players.
Coláiste Íde, a College of Further Education in Finglas, Dublin, also runs a soccer scholarship programme.
The website of the Fulbright Commission ( fulbright.ie) lists copious scholarship opportunities for Irish students. You’ll find hundreds of options to suit your personal needs on:
Can I work as well?
First-year students can work for about 20 hours a week on campus, and from second year onwards can work on- or off-campus, including as a resident assistant (RA) on the campus dorms.
Sounds good, but . . .
Remember, the legal drinking age in the US is 21. Last year, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs issued a warning after Irish J1 students were arrested for doctoring their passports to appear over 21 – a crime that carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Nonetheless, many college students will and do drink. Fake IDs are widespread and alcohol is common at college parties.
What about medical students?
US medical students only begin medical school after their four-year degree, before which they take a number of “pre-med” courses including biology, physics, and chemistry. Many pre-med students are also required to take humanities subjects. Medical schools pick students from both science and arts backgrounds.
It’s crunch time – why study in the US?
“The liberal arts approach gives students a chance to sample a wide range of topics,” says Meghann Curtis, deputy assistant secretary (das) for academic programs at the US Department of State.
“Essentially, you’re shopping for the first two years. Even students who are reasonably sure what they want to do can broaden their world view: scientists need to be able to write and argue, and film studies students should have some understanding of economics. Students need to be able to make connections between different subject areas and employers recognise the benefits of this approach.”
educationusa.ieis the US State Department’s unbiased educational advice service, with information on college courses, funding options, application procedures, and requirements, and everything a potential student needs to know. The Fulbright Commission’s website ( fulbright.ie) is also very useful.
EducationUSA will run a seminar on Saturday February 25th next in the Westin Hotel, Dublin 2 for students, parents and guidance counsellors on undergraduate study in the US. A cover fee of €5 will apply. Visit fulbright.iefor more information.
US college life: 'It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life - it helped me find my independence'
Studying abroad was nothing new to Lynn Harvey. At the age of 15, her father, who works for the army, was stationed in Paris. The family moved from Cork and Lynn took the International Baccalaureate (IB) in France.
The school was international and Lynn made lots of American friends. Her career guidance teachers knew the American system. Suddenly, college in America became an option.
One major obstacle stood in the way: cost. “I narrowed down my choices based on which colleges would be more likely to give a scholarship. As I’m not an American citizen, I wasn’t eligible for financial assistance from the US government.”
After much searching, Harvey identified opportunities at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. She’s now in her second year.
Choosing a college and looking for a scholarship was the easy part. “In Ireland, you fill in the CAO form and it goes out to all the Irish colleges. In the US, you have to write a college essay, essays for each school you apply for as well as application forms, get two recommendations from teachers or guidance counsellors, submit your IB results and take the SAT test.”
The SAT measures a student’s aptitude for writing, reading, and maths, is standardised across the US and is obligatory for college entry. However, Harvey says students from outside the US are at a slight disadvantage, as the US system is geared towards preparing students for the SAT. Over the course of a year and half, she took a weekly SAT preparation class.
The education system appealed to Harvey. “One of the big attractions was that I wanted to study art, but not just art. I’ve had a chance to study maths, science, philosophy, theology, literature, and history. I’m also enrolled in a journalism programme.”
Harvey intends to specialise in fine art. Will she ever come back to Ireland? “I’m not so sure,” she says. “Notre Dame has a very good alumni organisation and there are lots of opportunities here, so time will tell.”
The school guidance counsellors were stumped when Curran approached them for advice. Going to college in the US was an idea that grabbed his imagination the first time he visited New York as a teenager. The buzz of the city, the excitement of its possibilities and the dream of a different life took hold of him.
It was an opportunity he fought for alone. “It really seemed like a crazy idea,” says Curran, now 21 and in his third year studying marketing with a minor in economics at Fordham, a private Catholic university with three campuses in New York city.
After a year in DCU while playing League of Ireland soccer for FC Carlow, Ryan secured a soccer scholarship and moved to the US in August 2009.
“There are around 4,000 colleges and universities here, so college [American] football and basketball are huge leagues. There could be 100,000 people at a college American football game, which allows the colleges to build big sports programmes and invest in good soccer players,” says Curran.
Fordham alone offers 10 full soccer scholarships, which can be further divided into partial scholarships. Curran’s full scholarship covers his tuition ($40,000), room ($10,000) and books ($1,000). He also works part-time.
Ryan’s campus is based in the Bronx, which has a strong Irish community. The university’s founder, Fr John Hughes, was an emigrant from Co Tyrone. Former president of Ireland Mary McAleese and Nobel-prize winning poet Seamus Heaney have spoken at the university’s graduation ceremonies. In 2009, U2 played a concert in the college.
There’s one other Irish scholarship student on Ryan’s soccer team and the college boasts a diverse student body. “It’s a melting pot of different cultures and religions,” says Curran who, last Christmas, was invited to a Jewish friend’s Hanukkah dinner.
Curran can legally drink in the US now, but he notes that many bars in New York are lenient about checking IDs – many of which are fake. A lot of college social life takes place at parties.
The fraternity or sorority – single-sex college societies for undergraduate students – is perhaps the party image par excellence of American campus life. Usually depicted as wild and chaotic, some have developed a reputation for partying too much and are criticised as being exclusionary and elitist.
“We don’t have any fraternities on our campus, but there is another side to the stereotype,” Curran explains. “A lot of people join fraternities to develop leadership skills, run events on campus, help charities or make friends in college.”
Soccer and studying take up the largest chunk of his time, but Curran makes space for socialising and being involved in the Student Athletic Council. “College here is a completely different experience than in Ireland,” he says. “You meet new people, open your mind and leave your comfort zone literally thousands of miles behind.”
It’s one of the biggest, and most unsung, success stories in Irish education. Coláiste Íde, a College of Further Education in Finglas, Dublin, runs an Association Football Course (FETAC Level Five) which secures a significant number of soccer opportunities for Irish students.
Danny Crowley has been teaching and coaching on the course for the past 10 years. “We have often had more than 35 good scholarship offers a year and some of these scholarships would be worth in the region of $80,000 to $100,000 over four years. We really do offer the best opportunity for boys and girls to gain a soccer scholarship. Our course is specifically designed to prepare student for life as a ‘student athlete’ in the US,” he explains.
The class goes to Memphis every year with 40-50 students and they play in a recruiting tournament. Students who don’t secure a scholarship have the opportunity to go into Coláiste Íde’s second-year Sport and Leisure Management Course.
Orla Cullen, now 29, was one student who secured a US college soccer scholarship through Coláiste Íde’s programme. Between 2002 and 2004 she went to the Community College of Rhode Island, where she took a general studies course. This opened the door to university, and she successfully applied for a place at the Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, where she studied Business and Sports Management.
“I never identified college in the US as something I wanted to do, but I didn’t get the points to study PE so went to Coláiste Íde,” she says. “It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. The coaches had such great contacts that they knew which colleges had good opportunities.”
Adapting to the schedule of college life as an athlete was a challenge, says Orla. “Being a scholarship athlete, meeting grade requirements is a must – that always came first. Homesickness hit now and again but I had the network of teammates and friends.”
Cullen had remarkable success as an athlete in the US; her team won the National Championships and rose to the top of the community college rankings. “The US college experience was great experience, it really made me find my own independence. The lifestyle was great, with so much to do and see.”
Cullen now works as an associate at Pinta, a management consultancy company that provides strategic planning frameworks and implementation to business, including to the GAA. Hundreds of students have gone from Coláiste Íde to US colleges. More than 20 years ago, Richie Grant was on Íde’s first ever football course. He went on to secure a scholarship at Green Mountain College in Vermont and then became a head coach at Lambuth University and, later, Memphis University. He has recruited 15 students from Coláiste Íde, two of whom have gone on to become Head Coaches.
PASS4Soccer charge £25 for an Assessment. This includes attending an Information and Assessment Day to allow you and your parents to meet the Pass4Soccer staff, play in an assessment match and ask any personal questions you may have. For £25 we feel this is the best money you may ever spend.
PASS4Soccer charge £1800 for the Network program. We appreciate this is a big investment but you will have access to our team of full time staff dedicated to finding you the best possible scholarship placement. We have been in business since 2002 and over this time have built up a finely tuned program to ensure you are fully guided through the scholarship process, find the best scholarship and supported during your studies! We have also linked with several partners that you will have access to during the process to help save you and your family significant amounts of money during your time in the USA. We view our charges as not necessarily a fee, more of an investment in your future!
With PASS4Soccer you save substantial money with the assurance that we are the only consultants to and formally chosen by the English Schools' FA and League Football Education to advise their students and affiliated schools/colleges.
"So what do you have to pay for a scholarship?"
US university fees can range from $20,000 to $60,000+ per year. The 100% full scholarship will be offered to only elite players with the right academic backgrounds. A full scholarship covers tuition fees, room and food costs. Do not expect a full scholarship even if you are an elite athlete. The offer of a 90% scholarship based on $30,000 fees is $3,000 to pay per annum. This is better than no offer at all and is significantly less than UK university costs!
A full tuition scholarship means just that; the room and food costs need to be found by the student/parents. Be clear about terminology and be wary of your friends or current coaches who say they can get you a scholarship. Gaining a scholarship is very competitive and requires professional advice.
Universities will offer either a percentage of the total fees or ask for a specific sum in year 1. This Year 1 offer may stay level throughout the course or may go down each year. Once a fee is agreed it is unusual that a university will ask for subsequent annual increases. Please note though, scholarship agreements are binding for 1 year only and renewed annually subject to the completion of academic grades, good behaviour and consistent performance.
Universities may require student athletes to pay their own Health Insurance. Costs for this can vary between $500 and $1200 depending on where the insurance is purchased. You can save considerably by purchasing one of the Long Stay Study Abroad Insurance package options available through our partners.
PASS4SOCCER will provide best advice and a value for money service.