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Home > Programmes > Secondary School Exchange

‘My year in America opened my eyes to civil rights and what they mean’

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Secondary School Exchange

key facts

  • What: Scholarship to an American high school
  • Age: Post-Year 13 students (scholars must be aged 18 when they take up the scholarship)
  • Price: £400 + expenses (bursaries available)
  • When: Three academic terms, August-May
  • How: Applications for 2024 are now closed. Applications for travel in August 2025 will open in late summer 2024.

in brief

The ESU’s Secondary School Exchange offers British students the opportunity to spend a gap year at an American high school at the end of Year 13. It’s a fantastic chance for students to spend time abroad broadening their horizons, making new friends and continuing their education free of exam pressures.

Alumni include singer-songwriter and musician KT Tunstall, comedian Dawn French, journalist and novelist Rosie Millard OBE and writer and director Dick Clement. Feedback is overwhelmingly positive, with students reporting increased confidence, a better understanding of diverse perspectives and the sheer joy of being fully immersed in another culture.

‘I have benefitted immeasurably. I have made new friends and memories to last a lifetime. I took part in a new sport, learned theatre skills, took up subjects that my school back home could never offer, and had the opportunity to develop socially, personally and academically. In the process I met amazing people from all around the world, and visited some of the world’s greatest cities.’

Calum Stewart, SSE alumnus, 2017-18

What students receive

  • Scholarship (worth $45,000 to $65,000) to a private US high school
  • Full board and lodging plus access to all of the school’s facilities and activities
  • Opportunity for independent travel in the holidays
  • Once-in-a-lifetime experience that builds self-confidence
  • Exposure to other points of view and a different way of life
  • The chance to study different subjects and subjects taught from a different perspective and to participate in new sports and pastimes
  • Chance to take part in spring break, prom and graduation
  • A more discussion-based approach to teaching, setting them up for university
  • Positive life experience that is often a differentiating factor in university and job interviews
  • Means-tested grants of up to £4,500 are available to applicants, as is one full award to cover additional costs
100% of SSE participants over the last two years strongly agree or agree that ‘The SSE has increased my confidence’

find out more


If you have any questions or queries about the Secondary School Exchange please email

Please note that this scholarship is only open to British students, or individuals holding a British or Irish passport.

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