Arriving in the UK
I suggest arriving a minimum of 3 days before the move in date to give you time to open a UK bank account and buy any items you need for your accommodation. You will need a UK address and proof of acceptance to college to open the bank account.
Fitting out the dorm room
Your child will only be able to take a limited number of personal items with you such as a laptop, phone and clothes. The UK main voltage is 240 so make sure to check the chargers for dual voltage 120/240V. Most laptop and phone charges are dual voltage so you will only need a UK adaptor plug for these to work.
The college website generally provides a “What to bring” list, York St. John’s here (link).
If you are in self catered accommodation you will need to buy some kitchen appliances, pots and pans and cutlery. If you have been communicating with other housemates you might be able to split these up between you. No one want 5 toasters.
One of the best places to shop for almost all the items is the Walmart owned “Asda” store.
Grocery prices in the UK are cheaper than US and there is so much competition keeping the prices lower. Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Lidl and Aldi are just a few of the stores available, and they even provide delivery for a low price.
Asda has a delivery plan for £5 or £6 (link) a month for online purchase and are delivered for free. There are some limitations such as only one delivery per day and a minimum order of £40 but you could easily club together with others in your house and dorm to make sure you hit that amount.
We spent around $300 for everything my daughter need for her room and kitchen. I did additionally buy her a Cannon printer for £50, and replacement inks from Ebay.co.uk.
Mobile Phone plan
The UK phone plans are cheaper than in the equivalent US plan. There are many more mobile providers. One such provider with a good deal is Virgin Mobile. A monthly plan (SIM only), bring your own phone, and yes US phone do work in UK, can be had for as little as £9 ($12) for unlimited texts and 5GB data (link).
Cost of Living
One thing you can have you child do for the first few months of college is to log every penny they spend, and I mean every penny. Kids do not realize how much they spend until they write it down and they will be surprised how much they spend and where it goes. My daughter is self-catered so she has to buy and cook all her food. She has been at college now for 3 months and she is faithfully documenting her spending so we could determine how much money to send her each month. Right now it is around £145 ($200) per month. We have been transfering money over to her UK bank account using an online service. I researched a couple of sites who allow you move money from US to UK bank accounts and TransferWise (link) was my favorite as it had the lowest fees and a good exchange rate. I have only used it a couple of times up to now and it was really easy and the money arrives in 2 hours.
Once we knew my daughter was looking for a college in the UK we knew were in for a lot of flights. Fortunately I have an excellent FICO credit score and so I started researching credit cards with miles. Some cards offer 50,000 miles (equivalent of $500 or more) if you can spend $3000 in 3 or 4 months and the annual fee might be waived for the first year. If you paid tuition using a credit card you already hit that limit in a month, plus you got the points for it. I applied for at least 2 cards over a 6 month period and cancelled one before the year was up so I did not have to pay the annual fee. I still keep one card that gives me 2 miles for every dollar purchased on the card.
The first year we had a total of 5 return flights, two for the interview in February (daughter + wife), one for the 20 day experience in UK school in June (daughter only) and two more for her arrival at college in September (daughter + wife).
Final price Summary
The figures shown below are based on an EFC (Estimated Family Contribution) from FAFSA of $28,000.
Below is a comparison of between York St John’s and in-state Madison. Because our EFC is higher than the cost to go to Madison we receive no financial aid.
As can be seen above we will be saving at a minimum of almost $16,000 over the 3 years. You could experience even bigger savings if you are going to an out of state school. The exact saving will depend on the financial aid you will be receiving. If the financial aid is in the form of grants and scholarships, which you do not have to pay back, then you might find a US school cheaper.
USA graduation rates
In the USA everyone does 4 years. In the US a standard full-time study load is usually 30 credit hours per year. Typically, in order to graduate with a degree, universities expect students to complete 120-130 credit hours for a Bachelor’s degree.
This works out to 15 credits per semester times two semesters per year for each of four years. Yet most students take only 12 credits per semester, which means they immediately fall behind and few colleges and universities encourage students to exceed that number. Many charge them extra if they do.
At non-flagship four-year public universities, the on-time graduation rate is 19 percent. This means the Madison calculation above of $92,036 could be more like $114,000 for 5 years or $138,000 for 6 years.
Some parents will likely be horrified to be so far away from their children, but with all the ways you can now keep in touch with your child they feel a lot closer, we are just a Snapchat, Facebook or Hangouts message away. My daughter is very happy with her choice to study in the UK and in 3 short years will have her degree and be looking forward her teaching career, where ever it may be.
If anyone has any additional questions or comments on how to improve this post, please contact me.