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The basics
THE USA: Applying to University

Undergraduate education

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Undergraduate education in the US is largely based on a liberal arts philosophy. This means that regardless of your study path, you'll be exposed to a variety of courses in the social sciences, humanities, languages and physical sciences.

An undergraduate degree in the US is usually called a bachelor's degree. These are highly flexible and allow you to create your own study path. A bachelor's degree is awarded once you receive a certain number of credits, which usually takes four years to complete. Each course is assigned a number of credit hours, usually between 3 or 4. To earn a bachelor's degree you will need between 130 and 180 credits.

Most bachelor's degree programmes are made up of four types of courses. Core courses are mandatory courses set by the institution and usually include a variety of humanities, social sciences and mathematics courses. Your major is the subject you choose to concentrate on and represents between 25 per cent and 50 percent of the total number of courses in your bachelor's degree. Your minor is the second greatest concentration of courses. It will usually be half the amount of credits as your major. Elective courses can be chosen from any department and will make up any remaining credits required to graduate.


Eligibility criteria 

Higher Secondary Certificate / IB Diploma - International students are required to have completed 12 years of primary and secondary education before applying to a US university.

English language ability - You will also be required to submit your TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) results. Some universities may accept alternative English language exams such as IELTS. Be sure to check with the university as to which English language qualification they recognise before you apply.

Other standardised tests - Some universities require international students to take an admissions test. There are three main tests to enter a bachelor's degree: SAT I (Scholastic Assessment Test I), SAT II Subject Tests, and ACT (American College Testing). These are multiple-choice tests and measure the skills necessary to enter undergraduate study. Check with your prospective university regarding which admissions test (if any) is required. You can also read our guide to which standardised test you should take.


Undergraduate application process:

You should start your application process between 12 to 18 months before your intended study date in order to research the different institutions and complete any necessary tests. Once you have made your shortlist of institutions you wish to apply for, you'll have to prepare your application.
Each institution sets its own application deadline. These are usually between January and March, although they can be earlier or later. It is always a good idea to submit your application as soon as possible.

You will usually receive an offer letter by mid-April for studies commencing in September.


What to include in your application:

• Application form
• Application fee
• Academic credentials, usually called transcripts
• Test scores (TOEFL, SAT I, SAT II)
• Personal statement where you must clearly outline your academic ambitions goals and achievements
• Recommendation letters, usually from a teacher or employer who will be able to write about your work and potential
• Some universities may require a financial statement to confirm you have the funds to cover your undergraduate education

Study in the USA


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