The United States is the world's largest destination for international students. In the 2012-2013 school year alone, US institutions welcomed 819,644 undergraduate and graduate students. This number does not include the many, many applications which were not accepted. Universities, particularly those in high demand, use tests such as the SATs to filter out the excess number of applications they receive from American students, and from applicants all around the world. Most U.S. colleges and universities require a certain score in one or more standardized admission tests, which provide a common measure for comparing students from a wide variety of educational backgrounds. You will need to send the scores from these tests with your application packets, along with documents such as:
- college applications,
- work experience
- English Language skills, e.g. the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
Most undergraduate and graduate programs will require the TOEFL exam for all international students to ensure that they have adequate proficiency in English to succeed in U.S. colleges. All relevant standardized tests are given in English.
For undergraduate admissions, required standardized tests usually include:
- Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT)
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
- American College Testing (ACT)
Some schools may also require additional admissions tests not listed above, placement tests to determine where to place you in the program of study (introductory-level classes or advanced), or tests that they have developed locally for their institutions.
International Student Status: You are considered an 'international student' if you are neither a U.S. citizen nor a U.S. permanent resident, regardless of where in the world you live. This will have an impact on the tuition fee charged, particularly in State-funded universities. You will probably also require a student Visa, which will mean providing copies of your passport and the The F-1 student visa is ordinarily given to individuals qualified to pursue a full course of study at an academic institution which is authorized to admit international students. The J-1 visa is sometimes given to students who are supported substantially by funding from any source other than personal or family funds, for example the U.S. Government, the students home government or an international organization.Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20 or DS-2019), usually issued by the institution to which you are applying. You can apply through the local American Consulate or Embassy.
Application Due dates: Most American institutions require applications to be in by November of the preceding year. These differ from place to place, however.
Application forms: Some 500 American universities are members of a cooperative application process called the 'Universal' or "Common Application" portal (http://www.commonapp.org/). Others, however, are not, and work specifically through their own websites and processes. Check carefully to see what is used at your institution(s) of choice. Bear in mind that approximately two thirds of universities belonging to the Common Application process ask for supplemental information and/or essays. An example is the University of Chicago which requires:
- Completion of the Universal Application or Common Application
- A University of Chicago Supplement which involves one extended essay of your choice from a list of five, and one short essay on why you would like to attend the University of Chicago.
- Secondary School Report, signed by the secondary school counsellor, attached to which is an official transcript of marks (including information about results or predicted results for any external examinations, such as the GCE A levels or the IB). An optional extra step for secondary school counsellors and teachers is the submission of letters of recommendation and school forms online via the Universal Application or Common Application portal.
- Teachers Evaluation forms
- Test Scores (ACT or SAT Reasoning score), which are sent to the University of Chicago from the testing agency. All American institutions have an SAT code: that for UChicago is 1832. Unlike some other colleges, UChicago does not require SAT Subject Tests (https://sat.collegeboard.org/about-tests/sat)
- An English Language Proficiency Test for NESB applicants, at a sufficient level of operation: e.g. Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Pearson Test of English (PTE). You will need to request the agency to send the results to the University admissions office. (Code # 1832).
- Midyear Report with grades of a transcript for your first semester or first trimester by February 1 of the preceding year, or as soon as possible thereafter. The Universal and Common Applications provide a Midyear Grade Report form, or you may use your own school’s midyear report. University of Chicago allows you to make updates to your application by logging into your UChicago Account and clicking “Update Your Application.” Other institutions may not be as flexible - it is important to check this out before you finalize your application.
- a number of 'Non-Required Materials' such as Financial Aid Application, etc.
- Some universities include personal interviews, some of which can be done by Skype, and others of which need to be attended in person. The University of Chicago, for instance, indicates that interviews are not required, but can be helpful to the applicant.
- Some specific programs -- e.g. music, theatre, dance etc-- may require auditions or supporting materials, a portfolio or supporting references. Teacher Evaluation forms in the Universal or Common Applications for this purpose. The University of Chicago, for instance, indicates that these are optional, but helpful, and states that 'You may also submit a short creative writing sample or scientific research abstract.'
Many institutions will require foreign transcripts and documents to be certified by a registered certifying company, though others, such as UCDavis, note that:
True copies, facsimiles, or photocopies of academic records will be accepted only if the photocopies themselves have been personally signed by an academic official who has certified that they are exact copies of original documents. Each attested copy must also bear the seal and title of the authorizing official. Uncertified photocopies are not acceptable. Official records in their original language must be submitted with the authorized, complete and exact English translations. (https://gradstudies.ucdavis.edu/prospective-students/international-applicants)