How to apply to Universities : The U.S

As your child exits the International Baccalaureate Programme and begins their university journey, the question of what to do next becomes ever more important. What are your next steps to moving forward to tertiary education?

In this new article series, SISD explores the various options you and your child have in applying to universities around the world. Today’s article focuses on the application process and what to expect when applying to universities in the United States. We’ve collaborated with our college counselor, Saskia Theres, to get her valuable insights into the process.

Why the US?

The U.S. is one of the leading countries in the world in a variety of fields. It leads the world in economic rankings, and virtually every industry has significant representation in the country. Graduates of American universities can be expected to become part of a growing workforce and a global economy.

Many of the top universities in the U.S. have a very high opinion of IBDP graduates. They believe that the IB is a great preparatory programme for university education. Some universities  including Stanford and NYU, award credits to students who have fulfilled certain high-level IB classes. This can prove to be a deciding factor in getting your child into an American university.

How do you apply?

As early as Grade 9, your child should already start thinking about what they want to study, and where’d they like to go for their studies.

Every country, and every state in each country, has different application processes and admission requirements. The best advice would be to draft a list of each university, location, and major, and the respective admission requirements of each. This university shortlist should be reviewed as many times as possible. Every time you review, changes in location, university and major may occur. By the first semester of Grade 11, your child should have a much better idea of where they would like to apply.

All American universities, whether they are in the U.S. or outside, require some basic entrance assessments. You and your child can prepare for all of them, and it would be best to register and take them during their last semester in Grade 11. As not all the assessments are available every month, it’s very important to have a list of deadlines for your reference. The scores your child receives on the exams and assessments will be used during the application process.

One of the main assessments your child will need to take is English focused. The universities do this because they want to make sure you are equipped to follow the courses they offer, which are conducted in English. This is very important to students from countries where English is seen as a foreign language. Today, students have a choice between two assessments;  the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

The second main assessment that your child will need to take is the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). The score that your child will need to receive to be considered “passing” varies from unviersities to university. It’s therefore important to begin with the university search process as early as Grade 9. Just like the TOEFL/IELTS, the SATs need to be taken before graduating from high school, during Grade 11.

The application process begins during the first semester of grade 12. Every university has a different deadline and it is extremely important that your child takes note of every single deadline for each university.

There are several ways of applying to a university. However, most private universities and a few public schools use the Common Application as a trusted application database. Of course, there are others as well including the Universal College Application, and the Coalition Application.

It is important to remember that even though the SAT, TOEFL/IELTS are important, your child must also not forget the individual admission requirements each university asks for. This can be as simple as collecting a copy of their passport all the way to preparing a personal essay and personal references. Some universities will provide you with a choice of questions your child can answer for their personal essay. Check out their website to learn what these are.

What happens after your child gets accepted?

Once your child has been accepted into a university, your child will need to inform all the other universities they’ve applied and accepted to, if more than one. Next, you need to apply for a US student visa. The initial process, which puts your child in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), will be carried out by the university that accepts them.

Based on what your university tells you, you’ll have to apply for an F, M, or J visa. Then, you’ll need to complete a student visa application, which can be done online, and schedule a student visa interview.

It is important to know that your child has been accepted according to the grades that have been portrayed in their predicted grades. These are grades that the teachers believe they will receive at the end of the year. Mock exams are sometimes used by schools, which can also be sent in. If your child’s grades decrease tremendously, a university can reject entry. Always make sure that you check if the offer and acceptance is conditional, and what the requirements are if it is.

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