Monday, June 9, 2014

Applying to USA Undergraduate Programs the Right Way

By Evelyn Levinson
Director of International Admissions, American University

With over 4,356 undergraduate institutions to choose from in the U.S., the flexibility of programs allows students to take a broad variety of courses. Something special about the U.S. is that education often goes beyond the classroom through experiential learning, internships, and study abroad. It’s a very holistic approach to learning. 
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One resource that I would recommend in finding more information about studying in the U.S. is to contact the nearest EducationUSA advising center in your home country. You can find the complete listing on for a list of 450 worldwide centers. These offices are supported by the U.S. Department of State to provide international students with objective information on all 4,000+ institutions.

Next, students need to ask themselves some good questions about what it is that may be a good fit for their interests. My recommendation would be to come up with a short list of 10-12 schools that sound like good matches for your interests.

One thing to keep in mind when shortlisting is to make academic considerations such as, the accreditation of the university, majors, selectivity, structure of program, student-faculty ratio, and class size. A second broad consideration is the quality of life you can expect such as, costs, housing, size, and location. Another criteria that is important for to discuss is the student retention and graduation outcomes. Are students staying until graduation? Are students able to get internships and jobs after graduation?

So, start your research and planning 12-18 months before the semester you wish to enroll and check individual institutional deadlines to make sure you’ll be on track. Use that shortlist you’ve created to check deadlines. You’ll also want to start getting your finances in order at this time and start researching the availability of scholarships.

About 12 months ahead of time, make sure you have taken all the exams you need to by researching which U.S. standardized entrance exams are needed (i.e. TOEFL/IELTS, SAT/ACT). Around this time you also want to start identifying the teachers or counselors you would like to ask for recommendation letters.

Now about 9 months ahead of the deadline, it’s time to start filling out those application forms and completing them on time. After that, you’re going to want to get your transcripts assessed and your letters of recommendation completed. Make sure to give yourself enough time to review and edit the application, your resume, and essays.

Some school will also require an interview. This usually occurs about six months before the start of classes. Finally, if you receive a letter of acceptance, be sure to attend a pre-departure orientation with EducationUSA to learn about the visa process and anything else you need to know before coming.

We’re here to help you understand the application process. So, contact the U.S. institution's international admissions office if you are unclear about a requirement. If you need application help, contact the EducationUSA advising center in your country or your school's college or career counselor, if available.


Ms. Evelyn Levinson is the Director of International Admissions at American University. She has worked to promote international education opportunities for over 30 years. She has authored over 100 articles and publications on international education issues, and conducts workshops around the world on international enrollment management.

*A portion of this article was originally published on August 2014. 

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