The basics
THE USA: Applying to University - Must read

Canadian students applying to a US university


With approximately 3000 universities to choose from in the US, the process of applying can seem daunting. However, with our help, you can focus on the important decision of which institution you want to go to, instead of panicking about the application process.


What research do I need to do?

Firstly, you will need to decide which university you want to go to, which subject you want to study and whether you intend to be there for a single semester, a full academic year or the entire duration of the program. Information on the available courses is usually updated on a yearly basis, and can be found by visiting each individual institution’s website. With so many colleges to choose from, it might be a good idea to look at the academic program, the local culture and extra-curricular activities. Reading the university newspaper will provide an interesting insight as to what life is like at any particular institution, and might help you to make your decision. With this in mind, you should begin looking approximately 12 months prior to when you intend to go to university.


How do I apply?

The US academic year runs from August/September to August the following year. The date on which the academic year begins depends on the individual institution, so you will need to find this out by contacting them directly. Most US universities accept new students either for the Fall semester which occurs at the beginning of the academic year, or the Spring semester, which usually starts between early and mid-January. Whichever semester you choose, you should check when each individual institution stops taking applications, and aim to apply within at least 10 weeks of that.


When it comes to the process of applying, you do not need to go through any governing body, but simply apply to each university individually. This means that there is no cap on how many you can apply for, but it would be valuable to hone down your shortlist to around 8 institutions since it costs between $30-90 with each application.


Will I need to provide any documentation?

As part of your application, you will need to provide a ‘Mission Statement’. This is essentially how you differentiate yourself from other students. Write about your commitment to the subject, what you want to do with it and why they should choose you. Don’t waste your word count with generic information – get to the point and stand out.


You will also need to provide each institution with three written references from teachers, so choose which teachers you ask to write these references wisely. If you have one teacher, for instance, for two subjects, it would make sense to ask them.


On top of this, you will need to provide examples of coursework, and your school will need to send official records of your exam results. Additionally, you will need to be able to prove that you can pay for your studies.


What are the entry requirements?

Generally, most universities look for a minimum GPA of 2.5 in your previous studies. However, some require up to 3.0, so do check with each institution you apply to.


Not only this, but US universities also look at grades from all four years of your secondary education. This means that they want to see development - even if your first year grades weren’t fantastic, as long as they are improving, it shouldn’t matter.


You will also need to submit your SAT or ACT scores. These are standardised tests which require significant revision and preparation. There are numerous resources which can help you with this, and if you’re not sure which test would be best for you, you can practice them here in order to help you decide.


Now you know what you have to do, why don’t you start planning now? With so many colleges to choose from, the US is your oyster!


Search for a course

Study level*
About Author

Phoebe recently graduated with a First Class Honours degree in English Literature from Canterbury Christchurch University. She has written for various websites and print publications including music magazine, NME. Phoebe loves music, gaming, reading and writing.


'Study in the USA' eBook

Enjoy what you’ve read? We’ve condensed the above popular topics about studying in the USA into one handy digital book.