How to (Painlessly) Apply to US Universities

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forpolarbears
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This is another thread I think could be helpful.

I. Assembling General Information

Decided you want to apply to US universities? Only familiar with ones often cited in popular culture? Wondering where to begin?

1. How do I figure out where to apply to? How many universities can I apply to in the US?

You can apply to an unlimited number of universities in the US--in theory. However, since many have individual application systems and cost upwards of $60 each, this poses its own constraint.

2. How should I narrow down my list?

-figure out a list of about 20 universities you are at all interested in
-cut it down to about 15 that you could actually see yourself attending for 3 to 4 years (you will most likely receive some advanced standing for A level or IB exams)
-take a look at the application processes for the universities on your list
-cut your list down to a more manageable number, considering the work you'll have to be doing alongside applications/UCAS app/A levels or IB

3. What should I take into consideration?

-Do you want to be on a coast? In a big city? Would you mind being in a small town?
-Will the university offer advanced standing if you do well on your A levels? Will it affect your decision to attend the university if you have to spend the full 4 years?
-how important is knowing one's major from the get go or is it fairly easy to switch? how easy is it to double major?
-Do you want quirky programs, small classes, would you mind large lectures, do you want to study abroad, etc?
-How do my qualifications stack up against the students they usually admit?

4. How do I learn more about the universities?

Most universities have all the information you need under the "Prospective Students" or "Admissions" header on their websites. However, don't hesitate to email your questions to the admissions office to find out specific information. Some universities are more responsive than others, though.

For a lot of basic information on US colleges and deciding which ones could fit your needs, The Princeton Review has a nice quiz and database.

Note: Keep in mind, most universities require the SAT. For more information on the SAT see here.

II Applying

The Princeton Review has links to many college applications here
A. The Common Application.

1. What is it?

The Common Application is somewhat like UCAS in that you can apply to different universities all through the same general application. However, similarly to Oxbridge, most of the universities have "supplements" but more on that later.

2. How do I register for it?

Register

3. What universities accept it?

This chart shows the universities and what you need in addition to the common app

4. What kind of information is included?

On the Common Application, you will fill in your academic information, from grades to SAT scores, and will have to complete a personal statement, a short essay. However, on most of the supplements, additional essays are required.

B. Other Popular University Applications

U of Arizona

University of California
One of the systems that appear most often on this site is the University of California. To apply, you will use a central application system, located here

Columbia

MIT*
fyi, start this application early, it's a bit intense.

Stanford

C. Canada
one piece of advice: if you are unsure whether you realllyyy want to attend a specific Canadian university, wait to apply until after you have heard from many of your other universities--they generally have significantly later deadlines but costly application fees. However, the applications are also quick to fill out because they focus on grades.

UBC
McGill
Queen's
U of Toronto
York


(will add others as requested/discussed)

III. Glossary

College- catch all phrase for an institute of higher education in the United States.

Early Action/Early Decision
Overview

Major- focus of study. US colleges allow for many other options outside of ones core focus, and encourage the study of more than one topic, with most requiring some level of "general education" to establish a breadth of study.


Schedule:
Early Action and Early Decision programs will require you to apply earlier, but you will also hear back sooner. Regular admissions will notify you most likely in mid-March to early April, and you will most likely have to make a decision by early May.

Questions or Comments?

ps can this be stickied as well? thanks
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iStudent07
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(Original post by megx)
This is another thread I think could be helpful.

I. Assembling General Information

Decided you want to apply to US universities? Only familiar with ones often cited in popular culture? Wondering where to begin?

1. How do I figure out where to apply to? How many universities can I apply to in the US?

You can apply to an unlimited number of universities in the US--in theory. However, since many have individual application systems and cost upwards of $60 each, this poses its own constraint.

2. How should I narrow down my list?

-figure out a list of about 20 universities you are at all interested in
-cut it down to about 15 that you could actually see yourself attending for 3 to 4 years (you will most likely receive some advanced standing for A level or IB exams)
-take a look at the application processes for the universities on your list
-cut your list down to a more manageable number, considering the work you'll have to be doing alongside applications/UCAS app/A levels or IB

3. What should I take into consideration?

-Do you want to be on a coast? In a big city? Would you mind being in a small town?
-Will the university offer advanced standing if you do well on your A levels? Will it affect your decision to attend the university if you have to spend the full 4 years?
-how important is knowing one's major from the get go or is it fairly easy to switch? how easy is it to double major?
-Do you want quirky programs, small classes, would you mind large lectures, do you want to study abroad, etc?
-How do my qualifications stack up against the students they usually admit?

4. How do I learn more about the universities?

Most universities have all the information you need under the "Prospective Students" or "Admissions" header on their websites. However, don't hesitate to email your questions to the admissions office to find out specific information. Some universities are more responsive than others, though.

For a lot of basic information on US colleges and deciding which ones could fit your needs, The Princeton Review has a nice quiz and database.

Note: Keep in mind, most universities require the SAT. For more information on the SAT see here.

II Applying

The Princeton Review has links to many college applications here
A. The Common Application.

1. What is it?

The Common Application is somewhat like UCAS in that you can apply to different universities all through the same general application. However, similarly to Oxbridge, most of the universities have "supplements" but more on that later.

2. How do I register for it?

Register

3. What universities accept it?

This chart shows the universities and what you need in addition to the common app

4. What kind of information is included?

On the Common Application, you will fill in your academic information, from grades to SAT scores, and will have to complete a personal statement, a short essay. However, on most of the supplements, additional essays are required.

B. Other Popular University Applications

U of Arizona

University of California
One of the systems that appear most often on this site is the University of California. To apply, you will use a central application system, located here

Columbia

MIT*
fyi, start this application early, it's a bit intense.

Stanford

C. Canada
one piece of advice: if you are unsure whether you realllyyy want to attend a specific Canadian university, wait to apply until after you have heard from many of your other universities--they generally have significantly later deadlines but costly application fees. However, the applications are also quick to fill out because they focus on grades.

UBC
McGill
Queen's
U of Toronto
York


(will add others as requested/discussed)

III. Glossary

College- catch all phrase for an institute of higher education in the United States.

Early Action/Early Decision
Overview

Major- focus of study. US colleges allow for many other options outside of ones core focus, and encourage the study of more than one topic, with most requiring some level of "general education" to establish a breadth of study.


Schedule:
Early Action and Early Decision programs will require you to apply earlier, but you will also hear back sooner. Regular admissions will notify you most likely in mid-March to early April, and you will most likely have to make a decision by early May.

Questions or Comments?

ps can this be stickied as well? thanks
Great post.

1)If you apply for example for the univeristy of california does your application automatically get submitted to places like bekerly,san diego,la,southern california?

2)I suppose Im being lazy but could you add some links on how to fill a good application. I mean it could make all the diffrence

3)If you went from UK to US what sort of exams did you do? (GCSE + ALEVEL? or something more) You dont have to tell us the grade just the number of subjects passed if you dont mind

4) For the "Common Application" Does this work for International Students? (i.e that have completed a diffrent schooling system to the american 1 i.e gcse/aslevel/alevel sort of thing)

5)When Should you actually apply i.e if You wanted to go for the 09-10 acadmeic year should apply in the 08-09 academic year?
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s.e.r.e.n.e
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megx: thanks for being so helpful!

I think the University of California system should be have additional emphasis. Basically, you can apply to all 8 UC campuses by filling only a single form (with the same essays), you just have to tick the boxes on which university do you want to apply to at the end. Popular choices are universities like UC Berkeley and UCLA. Others are like UCSD and the scenic UCSB. In my opinion some of the UK people who are applying to the US probably want to experience a contrasting lifestyle too. And where is it better to escape cold and dark Britain than sunny California? UCSD and UCSB are right besides the beach and basically all the campuses looks incredibly beautiful.
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s.e.r.e.n.e
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(Original post by iStudent07)
Great post.

1)If you apply for example for the univeristy of california does your application automatically get submitted to places like bekerly,san diego,la,southern california?

2)I suppose Im being lazy but could you add some links on how to fill a good application. I mean it could make all the diffrence

3)If you went from UK to US what sort of exams did you do? (GCSE + ALEVEL? or something more) You dont have to tell us the grade just the number of subjects passed if you dont mind

4) For the "Common Application" Does this work for International Students? (i.e that have completed a different schooling system to the American 1 i.e gcse/aslevel/alevel sort of thing)

5)When Should you actually apply i.e if You wanted to go for the 09-10 academic year should apply in the 08-09 academic year?
1. Uni of Southern California is NOT a UC campus. Check out the official UC campuses..
2. You are just too lazy really... There are many books around on how to ace your college application. If you need them, use them.
3. megx is not an answer machine! I guess that's a bit too demanding. For US application, you are expected to have GCSE + A-levels in your pocket. You are expected to have SAT and SATII (2 to 3) as well. Any half-decent school in the US would require 2 SATIIs so check them out.
4. Yes you still need to use the Common App, even though I personally found it much more worse than the UC one. And ya: you will encounter a lot of problem filling: they ask for things like honors classes, class grades, GPA, ranks and so on that are not used in the UK system. For us we only need to fill in our GCSE and A-levels result. That's the merit of the UK system.
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Champagne Breakfast
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(Original post by iStudent07)
2)I suppose Im being lazy but could you add some links on how to fill a good application. I mean it could make all the diffrence

3)If you went from UK to US what sort of exams did you do? (GCSE + ALEVEL? or something more) You dont have to tell us the grade just the number of subjects passed if you dont mind

4) For the "Common Application" Does this work for International Students? (i.e that have completed a diffrent schooling system to the american 1 i.e gcse/aslevel/alevel sort of thing)

5)When Should you actually apply i.e if You wanted to go for the 09-10 acadmeic year should apply in the 08-09 academic year?
2) There are a bunch of books on this. For starters get Uni in the USA - Alice Fishburn. This has good general information and a reference list for useful books. I would only consider getting a book on how to write good American-style essays to be honest, everything else is more than do-able yourself.

3) Me:

10 GCSEs
4 AS
3 A2
SAT Reasoning Test
4 SAT Subject Tests

Anything similar will be fine.

4) Yes

5) Yes
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s.e.r.e.n.e
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The US Study forum desperately needs a president...

megx would be a good candidate...
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sarbruis
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Well done (again). I'm going to report it for stickying.
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forpolarbears
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Thanks all

I didn't want to put too much emphasis on the UC system because I'm biased.

Oooh look I can see San Francisco from my dorm room window :p:
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iStudent07
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thanks all.

the SAT bit is bugging me though. I mean why would the university want you to have completed tests in 2 diffrent systems. that is just basically you doing there system plus your own. When they would obviously accpet people with the regular sat>sat II system then why do they expect to international students to do GCSE > Alevel + Sat > SAT II? does this mean that we are much more likley to get accpeted?

My father called Uni/sandiego today and they stated that I wouldnt need SATs n SAT II's. But high results in GCSE with a good amount of subjects and 3 Complete A Levels with good results
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sarbruis
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(Original post by iStudent07)
thanks all.

the SAT bit is bugging me though. I mean why would the university want you to have completed tests in 2 diffrent systems.
Because there is no UK equivalent. The SAT is simply an aptitude test. It's not a big deal (I mean, it kind of is, but it's nothing like A-levels or GCSEs).
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Inquilaab
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Did any of you send "High School Transcripts" or did your GCSEs/A Levels take its place?(im talking about canada, where the SAT isnt necessary).
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s.e.r.e.n.e
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GCSEs + A-level predictions.
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s.e.r.e.n.e
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Incidentally, two of my friends are studying at UC Berkeley now, one in Biology and another in architecture.

Megx, may I ask you what is the career prospects of people from UC Berkeley? Do many (50% of the people who tried seriously) get into the top 15 investment banks?

I was shocked when I heard from another friend's friend of mine at UCLA that he can't find a job!
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forpolarbears
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I don't know the percentage of people who get jobs at top IBs, but I know they actively recruit from Berkeley for both summer & post graduation jobs. Which, evidently, is why one of my friends might end up transferring.
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(Original post by megx)
I don't know the percentage of people who get jobs at top IBs, but I know they actively recruit from Berkeley for both summer & post graduation jobs. Which, evidently, is why one of my friends might end up transferring.
Transferring to Berkeley from a CC?

Megx, do I need to rent a car if I want to tour California alone, mostly LA area? There are so many cool places in LA that I want to visit, like Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and other areas in LA. I also would like to go San Francisco, Pasadena, and Santa Barbara, and for these I will need to take planes?

Is Califronia full of sunshine every day? (This is a not-so-stupid question when you consider the weather in London. )
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forpolarbears
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(Original post by spencer smith)
Transferring to Berkeley from a CC?

Megx, do I need to rent a car if I want to tour California alone, mostly LA area? There are so many cool places in LA that I want to visit, like Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and other areas in LA. I also would like to go San Francisco, Pasadena, and Santa Barbara, and for these I will need to take planes?

Is Califronia full of sunshine every day? (This is a not-so-stupid question when you consider the weather in London. )
He actually goes to UCSB, but there's not the same recognition or recruitment, or even the classes he wants.

I'd say it would be best to rent a car, but you have to be 21 to rent one. San Francisco to LA can be done by car or hypothetically train/bus. I have a friend who was in California over the summer and only used a car when I was driving him, so I'll see if you have specific questions, I'll pass them along.

It was sunny & beautiful today, and much too warm for it to feel like Christmas, lol. San Francisco is a bit cloudier than San Diego or LA though.
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(Original post by megx)
He actually goes to UCSB, but there's not the same recognition or recruitment, or even the classes he wants.

I'd say it would be best to rent a car, but you have to be 21 to rent one. San Francisco to LA can be done by car or hypothetically train/bus. I have a friend who was in California over the summer and only used a car when I was driving him, so I'll see if you have specific questions, I'll pass them along.

It was sunny & beautiful today, and much too warm for it to feel like Christmas, lol. San Francisco is a bit cloudier than San Diego or LA though.
UCSB is actually a very good university if you count by the no. of Nobel prizes won in the last 10 yrs.
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forpolarbears
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(Original post by spencer smith)
UCSB is actually a very good university if you count by the no. of Nobel prizes won in the last 10 yrs.
Oh, there's no denying that there is research money for the taking, but its just it seems underutilized by the students. Which helps perpetuate the reputation that's a haven for partying, casual sex, etc.

He just doesn't have the same opportunities that I can have at Berkeley, in terms of classes and recruitment.

Would people like it if I did a big post on the UCs & other major universities? Harvard, Yale, Brown, Princeton, Dartmouth, UNC, UPenn spring to mine. I just picked those because I know former classmates or have close friends at them. I'm kind of bored with winter break and all.
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(Original post by megx)
Oh, there's no denying that there is research money for the taking, but its just it seems underutilized by the students. Which helps perpetuate the reputation that's a haven for partying, casual sex, etc.

He just doesn't have the same opportunities that I can have at Berkeley, in terms of classes and recruitment.

Would people like it if I did a big post on the UCs & other major universities? Harvard, Yale, Brown, Princeton, Dartmouth, UNC, UPenn spring to mine. I just picked those because I know former classmates or have close friends at them. I'm kind of bored with winter break and all.
I think a write up on the Common Application https://www.commonapp.org/CommonApp/ExclusiveUsers.aspx https://www.commonapp.org/CommonApp/Members.aspx will be good. For us UK students applying to the US is always a mass. There are always a lot of irrelevant GPAs, rank in class, selectivity, hons classes, transcripts and other terms/things that are meaningless to the UK school system. The application as a whole is more complicated because the US HS system is so much more flexible, instead of the UK one where we just take standardised nationally administered A-levels. Common App is a super-great time saver (which also allows us to apply to many elite schools) and it certainly deserves a mention. [But I am just wondering, would the participating schools in the Common App be marginally more competitive than other schools in that rank?]

The UC system also deserves a write up because it is also quite popular amongst the UK students, and also because it uses a common application system as well. Cal, UCLA and UCSD in particular.

Not sure how many UK students apply to LACs like Brown and Dartmouth because the concept is quite novel. Surely the other Ivies+duke/chicago/stanford/mit/caltech/+++ are popular destinations.
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Champagne Breakfast
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megx - I think that would be a great idea. I can help out on Columbia as well if you want, and anyone else on the forum at US colleges could contribute.
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