Welcome to “All about Applying to College, USA.” You are considering the idea of pursuing undergraduate studies in the U.S. because you know that although you may get a good university education at home, or anywhere else in the world, the experience of studying in the USA will open up whole new horizons for you far beyond the academics. There are over 4,000 universities in the USA, and there will be, at the very least, one place for you in one of them. What you need to do is never lose sight of your goal, focus, and continue on your path.
You are now taking your first step towards the future. Let us help you on this most important voyage of your life. We offer you a compact and comprehensive guide to the admissions process. In order for you to make better, more informed choices, we have included a glossary of college terms.
If you need any further information, personal assistance, or coaching, do not hesitate to call us! We will be very happy to help you with this very important step of your college application process.
Have a safe trip, enjoy the ride, and good luck.
On the first stop on your route to College, USA, the school of your dreams, you are required to fulfill certain requirements as an applicant into undergraduate programs –
Standardized Tests: TOEFL-iBT, IELTS, SAT, SAT SUBJECT TESTS, ACT
Application Forms and Proof of Funds
Letters of Recommendation
Student Admissions Interviews
Make sure your senior year goes without a hitch, and you graduate as planned!
Your GPA measures how well you did in your classes at high school. A comparatively lower GPA might decrease your chances with the more selective schools and a higher GPA may increase them. Most schools in the U.S. are equally interested in seeing that you achieved your GPA by taking the most challenging classes in high school. This is defined as pursuing a rigorous curriculum.
The schools will ask for your official high school transcripts, official documents that show which classes you took and what grades you received in them. A fine, well-rounded academic record will give you a competitive edge.
All applicants into the undergraduate programs are required to take a mix of these tests which will help you make the best possible choices for your future by showing you your potential.
This internet-based test measures your proficiency in the English language by testing your skills in 4 areas – Reading Comprehension, Listening Comprehension, Speaking, and Writing. The highest possible score is 120.
This is another international standardized test of English language proficiency. If you have taken the TOEFL-iBT, you don’t have to take this paper and pencil test. Your skills are tested in 4 areas – Reading Comprehension, Listening Comprehension, Speaking, and Writing. The highest possible score is 9.
This is one of the most commonly used college entrance exams in the United States that tests your comprehension skills in English and Math. It is composed of a combined Reading and Writing section, a Mathematics section, and an optional Essay section. The highest possible score is 1600.
This is a series of subject tests that measure the depth of your knowledge in certain disciplines that you study in high school. The subjects are – Math Level 1, Math Level 2, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Literature, History, as well as the following languages: Modern Hebrew, Italian, Latin, French, German, Spanish, Chinese with Listening, Japanese with Listening, Korean with Listening. The highest possible score on each test is 800.
This college entrance exam is the equivalent of the SAT, and it is based on what students learn in high school. The sections are English, Math, Reading, Science, and Optional Writing. The highest possible score on each section is 36.
These are college level courses offered to high school students at some schools. American colleges and universities do not require students to submit AP test scores, however, doing so may grant course credit after acceptance. A high score on an AP course indicates to colleges and universities that you are capable of handling college level work, which will tremendously strengthen your college applications. Students take the AP course for a year, and then take the AP exam in the respective subject(s) in May. Students who do not have the AP program at their school can prepare for the exam outside their curriculum, register, and take the test in May.
Please check the official website of each test to find out how, where, and when you can take the test. You can also find out about free and/or purchasable study aids on these official websites.
As an applicant into an undergraduate program at a U.S. school, you are expected to show not only your academic strength, but also present yourself as a well-rounded human being. To do that, it is best to focus on a few well-chosen self-improvement and selfless activities that will show certain attributes:
You are interested and involved in the world around you.
You share a passion with others about certain issues.
You may not necessarily be gifted in your chosen activity, but you are definitely enthusiastic about it.
You do what you are doing with love, be it playing the cello or saving the polar bears from extinction.
Those you help or share a hobby with benefit from your efforts.
In turn, you benefit in a multitude of ways from this activity.
As a well-rounded young adult, you will be an asset to the community of this school.
There is a process called the common application through which you can apply to the colleges that are its members collectively. Check it out on the official website of the common application.
Whether you apply through this common application, or to each college separately, these are the types of essays you will need to write in most cases:
-A Personal Statement and Shorter Essays
-A Meaningful Activity Essay
In the Personal Statement, you can show the college admissions board who you really are, you can give them an understanding of your character, you can show them your character not by just telling, but by relating experiences, you can make yourself a real person instead of an anonymous applicant, and you can tell them what makes you special. Similarly, in the Shorter Essays, you will be expected to talk about your experiences, intellectual growth or ideas.
In the Meaningful Activity Essay, the activity you choose to write about, or rather, your experience of it, is a tool for you to show who you really are. You will relate in writing what you learned from that particular experience, and in what ways you evolved as a result.
Many universities will ask you to write between one to five Supplemental Essays. In most cases, you will be asked about why you wish to attend that university, and/or that particular program. You should convey a sense of what it is to be you, and in what ways you may contribute to their school as a new member of their community.
A poorly written essay can hurt your chances at admission while a well-written one can give you a huge competitive edge.
For art students – In addition to these essays, you will be asked to submit examples of your work to the schools (portfolio for visual arts; audition for performing arts). For specific requirements, please check the websites of the schools.
You need to fill out an application form for applying into an undergraduate program at each school. Some schools have their own specific application forms, and some use the common application form which can be found online at the common application website.
Schools in the U.S. want proof of funds as well to be submitted upon application. This means that you have to prove you have sufficient funds to cover at least one year of college. To do that, you will present a bank statement showing you have sufficient funds, and fill in the certification of finances form supplied by the school. If you’re applying through the common application, they have a form that is submitted to all the schools on their list.
Schools in the U.S. require you to provide letters of recommendation which should come from teachers who have witnessed your academic progress. In addition, the schools will also ask for a “college counselor/school official” letter written by the college counselor in your school if you have one, and if not, by the school principal. The schools ask for these letters because they want to get to know you better, and to assess if you will fit into their community as an incoming freshman into their undergraduate program.
It is important to submit the exact number of letters each school asks for.
While a college interview may be useful, it is not a requirement. Schedule one if you can. Deadlines for scheduling student interviews vary from school to school, so please check with each school on their website or by calling them. If you are considering the interview option, you should do your research in advance in order to appear interested and well informed.
A college counselor can support your application process by helping and guiding you. In order to have a productive relationship, you need to do the work yourself, and do it on time, then go over it with your college counselor.
To make sure that you choose the right school and will be happy at College, USA, there are certain factors you carefully need to consider beforehand:
Types of U.S. Universities
Summer School, Internship, and College Visits
In the U.S., there are 5 main types of higher learning institutions:
-Public & State Universities
-Liberal Arts Colleges
No matter what type of university you choose to attend in the U.S. as an undergraduate student, your education will be global, and it will be supported with a diversity of approaches and interpretations, thanks to the concept of liberal education that the U.S. system of higher learning is based on.
To find the school that best serves your interests in the academic sense, you should pick your major, check out which colleges offer the best programs in that major, research the schools, and make sure you will be able to fulfill the academic requirements of the schools on your final list.
To make sure you will feel as comfortable as possible in order to be successful in your studies as an undergraduate at College, USA, you should check out each school’s location (urban or rural), size, and climate as well as the specifics of the student body, details of life on campus, and the living arrangements that are available to you.
When you study in the States as an international undergraduate student, your major sources of expense are –
Tuition and fees –Tuition is what you pay to attend the required classes, and fees are for using the school’s facilities, like libraries and labs.
Room and board – These are costs of your accommodation – usually a shared dorm room – and your meals. If you choose to live off-campus, there will be utility expenses (electricity, water, heating, etc.) to consider as well.
Books and supplies – These are your basic needs for your courses as well as any extra help you might need for study and/or research purposes.
Transportation – This item is for travelling to and from college to your home, and depends entirely on where you’re coming from, and which college you have chosen to attend. If you have a car, its costs have to be figured in as well.
Personal living expenses – These cover a wide range from clothing to entertainment and leisure, depend entirely on your specific needs. Your location will greatly influence your expenses. You can use the internet to check out the average cost-of-living for different towns in the U.S. You should also include health insurance in this package.
For each school on your short list, you should get the full picture in terms of expenses, both academic and non-academic. Studying in the U.S. can seem intimidating from a financial point of view, but it is well worth the expense.
Consider attending summer school to improve your English, and at the same time, to practice with other international students. You can also take classes in your specific interests, and explore in advance the major you’re considering to study in college.
You can decide to do an internship in your own country, abroad, or both, to gain a deeper perspective into what you want out of life, and to define your goals better. There are two types of internship: Community Service and Workplace Experience.
A valuable method of learning more about college and what life will be like as an undergraduate student in the U.S. is going on a college tour. For a productive tour, do research beforehand on each school and ask informed questions during the visits. Make sure you gather enough information for a post-tour evaluation.
Financial aid is generally offered on the basis of need and is determined by each school.
First, make sure that the schools on your short list are ones that best meet your academic and social needs. The ideal situation is to include a school that is a financial safety option, that is to say, a school that is both a fine academic match and also affordable.
Public and state universities are generally less expensive in tuition and fees than private ones, but private colleges usually offer more scholarships and grants!
Public and state universities usually do not give any funding to undergraduate students, but may offer merit scholarships.
In some cases, applying for financial aid may hurt your chances of admission. However, most colleges have a need-blind admissions policy, and will not pay heed to the fact that you need financial aid when they make their final admissions decision.
If you truly believe that you need financial aid, go ahead and apply for it, seeing as you won’t be able to attend that college without that aid in any case!
You should be aware that highly selective schools expect financial aid applicants to be at the top of their class with outstanding standardized test results.
The following issues have to considered when applying for aid –
-Types of Aid
If you are planning to apply for financial aid, you will need to plan ahead. In order to be eligible for any type of aid, there are certain requirements you must fulfill:
Have a consistently high GPA throughout high school
Achieve high results on the standardized tests
Present well-written application essays
Produce credible letters of recommendations that do justice to your work and progress
Give tangible evidence of your extracurricular activities
Most importantly, you must show the school your need for financial aid!
Be aware that great grades are not necessarily a guarantee for receiving financial aid. You may seek and receive a scholarship with a less-than-perfect GPA if it so happens that you are a perfect match for some of the other requirements. Do not hesitate to apply if you think that may be the case!
Make sure that you are fully informed of the total cost of attendance at each school that you’re considering in order to make a realistic assessment of your situation.
There are basically 3 types of aid:
This is the more common type of aid given in case your family is unable to meet the full cost of attending school in the U.S.
Financial aid based on need usually takes the form of grants and scholarships. You do not apply for these separately; in most cases, they are gifts awarded upon admission by the schools to international students who may or may not be applying for financial aid, and they do not have to be paid back. In some cases, both are awarded in a financial aid package to the same student. They are, however, usually subject to renewal each year based on certain criteria like high GPA levels.
The amount of need-based aid is determined after you fill out the required financial aid forms for each school. The school assesses the information on these forms which are designed to reveal your family’s financial status. It is very important not to misrepresent the facts on these forms!
Your family income and assets will be analyzed, and then used to calculate your financial need as well as your EFC, Expected Family Contribution.
Even if you are eligible for need-based aid, you have to be aware that your family may, to some extent, ultimately make some contribution to your education in the U.S. out of its disposable income. Health insurance, travel expenses, and books are usually part of this expected contribution.
The first type of merit-based aid comes from universities in the form of merit scholarships. You do not apply for a merit scholarship; they are given freely on the basis of high achievement in the areas of academics, art, sports, and music/dance/drama. These are usually subject to renewal each year.
There are special scholarships that you can apply for. These scholarships range from the general to the specific in content. They can, for instance, be granted on the basis of fulfilling a certain project that is specified by the school in some cases, and in others, the choice is left up to the student.
In some cases, the university requires that you be nominated as a scholarship candidate by your high school based on certain criteria that involve a special talent.
There are also special grants available. These grants are awarded on the basis of field of study. You should research researching global companies, organizations, and special interest groups.
There are certain international awards available as well that are usually called outside scholarships are generally issued by foundations, organizations, and governments. They are limited in number, and are usually not available to undergraduates, but you should still check to see if there any such special funds for students from your country, and whether you are eligible or not.
If you have a gap between your financial need and what the school has awarded you as aid, you can close that gap and fulfill the unmet need by receiving an outside scholarship.
This type of aid may come in the form of student loans which can be regarded as grants that have to be eventually paid back to the school by the recipient after graduation.
In some cases, a combination of grant and loan may be offered to the student. It is also possible in some cases for the school to offer partial aid, and expect you to take care of the rest.
Another possibility is the financial aid package, which is usually a mixed bag of grants, loans, and/or work-study. Employment in the form of work/study is an option, but please be aware that under current U.S. immigration laws as an international student you are allowed to work only part-time (up to 20 hours per week) and only on campus during your first year of study. Also, note that this source of income cannot be cited on any official financial forms you fill out for the schools or for U.S. immigration.
FAFSA, “Free Application for Federal Student Aide,” is available on the federal government’s official website. It is also available in paper format. You can request a paper FAFSA by getting in touch with the Federal Student Aid Information Center. This form is only for U.S. citizens and green card holders.
Please be aware that international students on student visas are not eligible for federal aid; you have to be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident to be eligible, and you need to have a Social Security Number.
CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, or PROFILE as it is commonly referred to, is the College Board’s online form. It is available for a fee on their official website.
PROFILE can be used for applying to multiple schools. It has been adapted to fit the needs of international students. On the College Board website, there is a list of the schools that require this form.
Some schools have also their own forms, usually available online, for financial aid. Please check carefully about each school’s requirements and deadlines before you apply!
Be careful about deadlines! In most cases, financial aid application deadlines are different from admissions application deadlines.
Many schools have what’s called a priority date instead of deadlines for financial aid applications. This means that in order for the school to make you their best offer, you need to apply by this date at the latest! If the school has a rolling application policy, then your application will be evaluated upon arrival, and you’ll be informed of the result within a few weeks.
On the road to College, USA, sending out 8 to 10 applications – 12 if you’re applying for financial aid – provides you with:
Reach: a couple of highly selective schools.
Target: several schools where you think your chances are at least above 50%.
Safety: a couple of schools where you feel pretty confident you will be accepted.
-Regular and Early Application
-Types of Acceptance
-PG (Post Graduate) and Gap Year Options
-S. Student VisaApplication Process
You carefully consider your own academic and personal needs.
You review your options.
You make a short list of schools that best fit your needs.
You put together all the required documents.
You send the documents to the schools via the common application website and/or each school’s own website. Please check the requirements of every school before making the application.
Please note that college deadlines are fixed dates and vary from school to school for both regular and early application.
There are 3 types of early application plan: Early Decision, Early Action, and Single-choice Early Action. Research each option before making a final decision.
For regular application: you need to start getting ready 18 to 20 months before beginning your studies in USA. The regular application deadline is in most cases between January 1 – February 1.
For early application: you need to start getting ready 24 to 30 months before beginning your studies in USA. The early application deadline is in most cases between October 15 – November 15.
Accepted (Regular & Early)
This is the straightforward kind of acceptance without any conditions attached.
Denied (Regular & Early)
You will seek your chances elsewhere!
You are placed on a wait list, and you are notified in May about your final state.
Your acceptance is being kept on hold because you have been found wanting in one of the requirements, and you are given a chance to improve yourself in that area before you are given the final all-clear.
You are not been granted an early application, and yet, you are not denied, either – your application will be treated in the general application pool.
You should consider these options if for some reason you need to delay going to college for one year after you receive your high school diploma. In the PG option, you prolong high school by one year by attending a special school in the States. In the Gap Year option, you take a year off after high school; however, if you already have an acceptance, make sure you understand the rules about deferring that acceptance or you may lose your place at that university!
International students who wish to study at a college or university in the U.S. are sent an I-20 form by the university upon admission, and they are given F-1 visas under the condition that they maintain the minimum course load for full-time student status. You will submit a bank statement and fill in a certification of finances form issued by the school as proof of finances along with your I-20 form before you can receive your visa. These visas are issued by the U.S. embassies or consulates in your country of residence. Please consult your local consular office or embassy and/or their websites for all visa application instructions.
To have a great first year in college as an undergraduate, adapt easily into your new environment, and encounter as few problems as possible, here are some useful tips.
The following actions will get you into serious trouble –
IT’S SIMPLE... IF YOU KNOW THESE WORDS, YOU’LL GET HIGHER SCORES!