How to apply for American universities
Once you've made the decision to study in America you'll need to start applying for universities. This simple guide shows you how.
This article is part of our Study Abroad America series.
Fortunately, applying for American universities is not as tricky as it is in the UK (although it may take more time). There is no central body like UCAS, so you simply just apply for each university or college separately.
All of the American universities act as separate bodies and there is no central controlling body overlooking the application process.
Choosing the right American university
You can complete online applications for American universities at their respective websites, or apply via post.
When looking for the university or college that you want to apply for you will need to do your research. You should commence your search 12-18 months in advance to give yourself the most time (and least stress).
When coming up with your shortlist, start by finding all the universities that teach your subject and then break them down by the location that most appeals to you. This US News website is a good start.
When you have a shortlist of around 20 colleges or universities it's worth writing to each of them to ask the admissions office if you can apply as an international student.
Not only does this let you know if it is worth applying but it also helps you to get yourself noticed by and liaising with the international admissions office at an early stage.
The best thing about applying for American universities is that there is no limit to the amount of universities that you can apply for.
However, it is suggested that from the original 20 or so that you apply for no more than 8 to give yourself the best chance.
How to apply for colleges in the US
Write a mission statement
Once you know which universities or colleges you wish to apply for in America, then you'll need to get a few things together for the application process itself.
You will most likely need to write a 'mission statement' (similar to your personal statement for UCAS) and have some pieces of previous work (such as coursework) to hand. The more you can show a prospective American university, the better your chances of getting accepted.
The mission statement is possibly one of the best ways to differentiate yourself from other international students looking to apply for American universities.
Don't waste this space with generic information, but carefully demonstrate how committed you are to your subject (and what you want to do with it).
Get written references
Along with your mission statement you will also need to provide three written references as well as official records of your exam results (sent directly from your school/college).
Pass your SATs
You will also need to pass a SAT or ACT test to show how rounded you are as a student.
You'll be required to show your ability to answer questions in a large number of disciplines including maths, science and English and if you want to get into a top American university then you will have to excel in this test!
It is possible to do a SAT or ACT test at home in the UK and if you're worried about the content and questions then there are plenty of websites that can help you, as well as American students studying in the UK that can tutor you for a small charge.
If you would like to practice the tests then head over here.
Make sure your funds are in order
Before you get accepted into an American university to study for your undergraduate degree you will need to prove that you have the access to the funds to pay the fees (and they are quite expensive).
This is a really important step not only for the University but also in applying for your visa to study abroad.
Get a student visa for America
Once you have applied for a university, they will hopefully send you all the information on how to sort out your visa.
You'll be issued with a form called an I-20, along with your acceptance letter and you will need to use this I-20 form in order to apply for an international student visa (F-1).
When you apply for your visa to study in America you will have to prove to the immigration office that you are planning to leave after your time of study.
Application deadlines for American universities
Just be aware that the deadline for applying to universities in America for the Autumn is typically around 1st-15th January. There are some American universities that have an earlier intake of students.
As with most aspects of applying to American universities, it differs from institution to institution and you will have to do the research to find out.
Applications cost $$$
Remember that it costs $30-$90 to apply to each university, and it's non-refundable. So it really is worth getting your shortlist down to the universities where you genuinely want to be placed!