How to Apply to University (US Edition)

Some of the most prestigious universities in the world can be found in the US, and after completing the IB Diploma you have all the chances in the world to be accepted into some top US universities! The process of how to apply to university in the US may seem like a daunting one, and although there are many steps that you’ll have to go through, it’s not half as bad as it sounds. Here are our top tips on how to get started in applying to US Universities!

1. Narrow down your list of universities

Unlike in the UK with UCAS, the US does not have one centralized body that will guide you through the whole application process, so you’ll have to do a bit more digging to find the universities that you’re interested in. Note that when you apply to most American universities, you’re applying directly to the university, not to a specific course. This means that even though you may have a good idea of what you want to study at uni, you’ll have the first and second year to explore your options before declaring your ‘major’. 

When choosing a university, make sure to consider:

  • Location – the US is a massive country, and studying in the heart of New York City will be a completely different experience from studying in Arizona. Start narrowing down what type of city/state you might want to live in!
  • Specialities – some universities are famous for their sports, others for their wonderful academic programs, and others for their passion for arts. What works best for you?
  • Cost – costs for universities in the US vary wildly and at some you might be spending up to $100,000 per year on tuition alone!

2. Gather your documents

When sending away your applications for universities you’ll likely need to send them a few documents. These can include, but are not limited to:

  • Admissions Essay
  • References from at least two teachers
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
  • A marked written piece of school work
  • A standardized test like the SAT or ACT

Interested in more top application tips? Click here to access our FREE Guide!

3. Do you need the TOEFL?

If you’re an international student there’s a chance you will be required to take the TOEFL in order to prove that your English is up to scratch. Each university has different requirements, though. Many universities will not require you to take the TOEFL even if your mother tongue is not English if you took English as your A Language in the IB (as opposed to taking it as a foreign language). This isn’t true for all universities, though, so make sure to do your research!

4. Do you need the SAT/ACT?

The SAT and ACT are standardized tests that allow college admissions officers to directly compare candidates. Recently, many universities have deprioritized the importance of your SAT/ACT score on your application. More and more universities are in fact becoming ‘test optional’, meaning that there is no requirement for you to take the SAT/ACT. A large part in this shift is due to the difficulty for students to take the SAT/ACT in 2020 due to COVID-19 as well as the increasing understanding that the SAT/ACT may unfairly help those with more resources as textbooks can be extremely expensive. 

However, if you have the opportunity to take the SAT/ACT and you get a score that is better than the average score for students at the university to which you’re applying, then sending your score will only support your application! So, just because you read that a university is test optional, don’t think that sending your score can’t be a bonus!

5. Check the deadlines

The American application process is a long one. On top of collecting all this information (which will take long due to the lack of a centralized system), taking standardized tests, and getting all your documents in order, you have a bunch of admissions essays to write! We won’t cover how to write those essays in this blog post, but remember to give yourself plenty of time to write, rewrite, and once again rewrite your admissions essays. 

Due to this, it’s important to start the process early. Most universities have their application deadlines in early January, but make sure to double check each of your prospective unis before applying because each one will have a slightly different deadline. Unlike the UK, there is no cap on how many universities you can apply to, but be aware that each application will cost you around $100, so it can get expensive if you’re applying for too many! 

This is a first glance at what you can do to apply for university in the US. We will be posting more blog posts over the course of the summer that will help you in the process of applying for college in the US! Good luck!

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