Later this week, I’ll be taking my SATs and I don’t mean the kind we take in year 6 here in the UK; what I’m actually referring to is the 2 hour paper (which is now digitalised for international students) that aids your application to universities in America. I’m well aware that I’m not the only one interested in studying abroad and so this blog should provide an overview into the application process, which could help you to decide if studying outside of the UK is for you.
The first thing to think about is admissions testing, which I’d say also includes your predicted and previous grades. Grades are obviously an incredibly important component of your application process, and doing well will help to demonstrate strong academic ability, however; another way to strengthen your application to unis in the US are admissions tests. For most unis, as of 2023/2024, admissions testing is non-compulsory, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the tests. If you do well on the tests it provides evidence that you’d be well prepared to begin undergrad education at some of the top unis, so I’d definitely recommend booking yourself a test.
When it comes to standardized testing, there are two tests that you can take: either the ACT or the SAT. The ACT is graded out of 36, and is more maths focused. The SAT on the other hand is comprised of 98 questions and graded out of 1600 – 800 for reading and writing and 800 for maths. While your overall grade definitely won’t make or break your application, it can add to your overall academic profile so making sure you get ample practice is a good idea. There are plenty of resources available on the internet, but I’d recommend Khan Academy in particular, which is a great resource for SAT practice. Also, once you have booked your exam there are free practice tests provided by College Board.
Liberal Arts degree – what is it?
Contrary to higher education in the UK, an American undergrad degree isn’t specialised – in fact it is similar to GCSEs in the sense that you study a wide range of topics. Some of these include compulsory credits, which will typically be in science, maths, some combination of humanities and a language/arts. So, if you are thinking about studying one thing, or are eager to specialise you may want to consider if studying in America is the right thing for you. On the other hand, if you can't make your mind up about what you want to study, the breadth of a liberal arts degree could be just what you need.
Choosing a uni
When you think of the US you probably think of the big names: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT – and rightfully so, these are some of the top academic institutions in the world. However, league tables and TV shows shouldn’t be the deciding factor about your choice of where to study. What I mean by this is that the Ivy leagues and other top research institutions that we commonly see praised by the media aren’t the only options available to you. I think it's important to understand that competition is rife – and even if you’re a straight A student with an incredible list of extracurriculars, you could still find yourself rejected by the likes of Harvard. This doesn’t mean you should give up on your dreams of studying abroad – it simply means that you need to invest a significant amount of time researching and thinking about your options. A smaller, less known university could wind up offering you an incredible education, amazing experiences and even scholarships despite not being number one on the league table. In fact, some smaller universities (often dubbed the hidden ivy’s) have plenty of resources ready to be invested in international students like yourself, and with less competition. So I’d definitely recommend considering some of the lesser known universities.
Studying in the US is EXPENSIVE. Depending on where you study fees and living costs can range from £17,000 to £50,000 a year. That’s an awful lot more than the UK so thinking about how you’re going to finance your education is important. Don’t let this put you off as students rarely pay the full amount, in fact an estimated 83.8% of students studying in the US receive some type of financial aid. It is common for US unis to offer sports or merit-based scholarships so you could try out for these – but be warned they are highly competitive! On the other hand, if you apply to some unis, particularly need-blind ones such as MIT and Harvard – you may be eligible for financial aid. This is where the university helps you to pay your tuition fees either by a grant, bursary, work scheme or loan – or a combination. There are plenty of ways around the financial hurdle, but it’s worth researching your options early, Save the Student have a guide to funding for UK students studying in the US to get you started.
The points I’ve highlighted above are simply a few ideas to get you started if you were thinking about applying to the states, however you might find you discover more about the application process with further research. Regardless, I hope this blog helped to pique your interest in the matter and I will continue to post updates as I progress in my journey of studying abroad.
Tiffany Igharoro is a sixth form student. One of her favourite pastimes is writing as it helps her organise her thoughts creatively and dynamically. She has won awards and prizes for poetry, academic and scientific writing and short stories. Recently, she won a nationwide historical essay competition that opened her eyes to the importance of how things are told, and the impact ordinary people have on the world. She studied art GCSE and believes there is something incredible about finding links between drama, art and maths.
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