The United States has over 250 universities and colleges listed in the latest higher education rankings created by Times Higher Education, US News, and TopUniversities.
Whether it's the attraction of living the American dream, or simply the irresistible idea of finding success in "the land of the free and home of the brave", around 1 million international students choose to enrol at a university or college in the USA.
But, how can you make sure that you will be accepted at one? Below I will run through some of the steps and approaches to selecting a university, and making sure that you have what it takes to be admitted.
1. Popular degree subjects in the US
At every university in the US, you can find a study programme that suits your needs or that you're interested in. Here are some of the various options you can to choose from:
- MBA degrees
- Masters in Media Management
- Masters in Computer Science
- Masters in Engineering
- Masters in Psychology
2. US universities to consider for your studies
Here are some top US universities you should consider for your study abroad adventure:
- Harvard Kennedy School
- Columbia University
- University at Buffalo, School of Engineering
- California State University Northridge
- Roger Williams University
- Santa Clara University
You can also choose an online Master's degree from universities based in the US. Here are just a couple of examples:
3. Prepare to apply
- Most universities give you the option to apply directly on their websites.
- Be sure to read the requirements carefully when applying to American universities. Some will require standardised tests (e.g. GRE, GMAT, MCAT, LSAT), and others will ask for different documents (writing samples, portfolio, list of patents) as part of the application process.
- Most students apply to 3-5 universities to increase their chances of being admitted.
- University application fees are usually between 75-100 USD, depending on the university. If you have trouble paying your admission fee, contact the university or programme directly.
- Non-US students may be required to supply proof that their English-language skills are proficient enough to attend classes. Be sure to have your TOEFL iBT, IELTS Academic, PTE Academic, or C1 Advanced certificates available.
The US doesn't currently have an application system for all universities. Local and international students should apply directly through the university. Use the links on the university websites, and follow the instructions carefully.
4. Language requirements for US university applications
To ensure that you are able to effectively learn and participate in your classes, you will need to show that you have good enough English-language skills to apply for admission to a U.S. university. The minimum scores will depend largely on the programme and the university. Most U.S. universities will accept one of these tests:
- IELTS Academic (International English Language Testing Service)
- TOEFL iBT (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
- PTE Academic (Pearson Test of English)
- C1 Advanced (formerly known as Cambridge English Advanced)
Double check the university and programme requirements to see the minimum score they expect from applicants.
5. Required university application documents
Different universities and programmes will require different documents. However, these are the items you are most likely to need if you apply to a university in the US:
- Transcripts or records of grades (high school and/or university)
- Test scores (SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT)
- Proof of English-language proficiency
- Motivation letter or statement of purpose
- Application fee
- Writing sample
- Passport photo
6. University application deadlines in the US
If you are applying for an undergraduate (Bachelor's) degree in the US, universities will typically offer two application deadlines - early admission and regular admission.
- If you're applying for the fall (autumn) admission, early deadlines will be between October and November, the previous year.
- If you're applying for the fall (autumn) admission, regular admission deadlines will be between February and March, the same year.
If you are applying for a post-graduate (Master's or PhD) degree, your American university application deadline will depend on the semester in which you are enrolling (spring intake or fall intake).
- If you are applying for the fall admission, your deadline can be anywhere from January to March.
If you are applying for the spring admission, your deadline is probably anywhere between July and September, the previous year.
These deadlines can vary drastically depending on which programme you are applying for or which university you wish to attend. Be sure to contact the programme itself if you're not sure about the correct deadline.
7. Final steps after receiving the university acceptance letter
Congratulations on getting your acceptance letter!
- If you aren't a US citizen, you will need to use your acceptance letter to apply for the F-1 student visa.
- Be sure to take some time to apply for funding and scholarships. You can also check out the Studyportals Scholarship to get some help on financing your studies abroad.
- Check whether the university you applied to requires an enrolment fee to secure your spot there.
- Celebrate your victory of being admitted at the university of your dreams!