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HOW TO APPLY TO AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES
"Good afternoon! My name is Ksenia Starostina and I am a specialist in university education abroad. Today we will talk about American universities, and the first question to which we will answer: "Why go to study at American universities?"
ADVANTAGES OF AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES
American universities have many advantages. The first is, of course, reputation. If you look at the world rankings, the leading positions are usually occupied by American universities. In addition, billions of dollars are spent on campuses of these universities and on research, because a university's strength is largely determined by its scientific strength, which certainly affects the university's reputation in the world.
The second reason is a rather flexible approach to learning. In America, the philosophy of higher education is practiced, the so-called "liberal arts", or free art. This means that a person can try different directions. He can take interdisciplinary subjects or, if he has not yet fully decided, take subjects from completely different areas and then understand what is closer to him and who he wants to be when he grows up. He can even take two major subjects - "double major" ("major" is the main subject; the specialization with which the student graduates).
A student can also take one subject as a major ("major"), and another subject as an additional ("minor"). Such combinations can be very interesting, and this freedom enables the student not only to better understand himself and his academic preferences and what he wants to do in the future, but also gives very important skills and knowledge that can then be applied in the chosen field.
The next reason is the university campuses themselves. They are amazingly equipped, and student life is really in full swing: the number of clubs, classes in which you can try yourself is truly surprising and mesmerizing. From more classic sports and arts activities like journalism to very weird and funny clubs.
Of the most unusual, for example, a squirrel feeding club or the American Quidditch League (the same Quiditch from "Harry Potter"), or, for example, the "People watching" club - watching people. The choice is really huge, and everyone can find something to their liking. Another reason is such characteristics of universities as the ratio of employees to the number of students. This, as we have already mentioned, is the funding that universities receive. And the reasons that follow from this are scholarships and grants.
The fact is that American education is quite expensive, but there are indeed many realistic options and opportunities to get a grant or SCHOLARSHIP. They are given for merit, for talents, for sports and academic achievements. They are also given to those who, for some reason, cannot afford to study at the university. There are a great many options, and, of course, receiving a scholarship is not guaranteed, but those who are looking for, filling in, looking correctly, the probability of getting a grant is quite high. A must try.
Another reason is the endless variety of American universities. The fact is that there are more than 4,000 higher educational institutions in America, and they all have very different philosophies, approaches, type of students, financial capabilities, size, location. This diversity makes it possible for students to choose exactly what really suits him in terms of academic level, interests, and financial situation.
HOW TO CHOOSE A UNIVERSITY?
First of all, you need to think about what type of university program you need. Think about what criteria the university should have, what is your academic profile and how high you can aim. The next question will be what type of university you are interested in in terms of atmosphere, campus, location and all the resources that the university has. The next point is finances: how much does it cost to study, what grants this university has, what grants you can get at the university or from some external organization.
The next step after you have thought all this over and roughly understood what you are looking for is, of course, consultation with a specialist or with people who studied there in order to learn more about these universities. After that, you need to narrow the range of universities to 10-20 units and study them at a deeper level. When we talk about the number of universities to apply to, we usually recommend 6-10 universities.
It is very important that these universities represent a whole line: from universities where you really want to, but it will be difficult to get to, to those universities where your data will be above average. By having this kind of diversification within your options, you can get a seat. The fact is that the competition for American universities is quite high, and therefore you need to go through all these steps.
I would also recommend subscribing to the social networks of universities, looking at campus tours, which are often presented online. You can also visit the university if you have the opportunity. This can be done at almost any time, except on holidays. But if this is not possible, you can use online resources and again consult with specialists or those who studied there.
HOW MUCH DOES STUDY AT AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES COST?
At American universities, tuition costs from about $ 25,000 per year to $ 40,000. Education lasts 4 years on the bachelor's program. However, there are a myriad of grants and scholarships that you can and should apply for. For example, there are grants that are related to the student's achievements in sports, art, extracurricular activities, such as volunteering and other areas.
There is also a scholarship taking into account the student's financial situation, where, for example, the amount that the student's family can afford is deducted from the total cost of tuition, and the rest is paid by the university. Some of the grants are provided by the universities themselves, which is a good way to go because there are quite a few very rich universities that are actively pursuing grants and scholarships. There are also external programs that provide grants based on some indicators, nationality, gender, natural environment, etc.
The point is that universities can make decisions considering whether to provide financial support to a student. This means that if a candidate is interested in the admissions office, if he has a cool profile for them, but they know that he needs money, they will be willing to pay part of his tuition to get such a student. Naturally, the university needs to be very willing to take this student.
There are also situations where the decision to enroll a student is made separately, it is not taken into account whether he will need money, but in such situations, a full grant is less often provided, covering the entire cost of training.
In addition to the cost of training, there is also the cost of living with meals, as well as textbooks. The prices for everything are quite high. But here again there are grenades that can cover part of these expenses, or pay them off entirely, or even combine several grants. The applicant must, of course, understand this. You also need to add that if you are counting on sponsoring a university, then you must be an interesting applicant and you need your performance to exceed the average level of indicators that are necessary for admission to the university. Naturally, the better grants the universities provide, the more competition there usually is, because education is expensive not only for international students, but also for home students.
APPLICATION TO THE UNIVERSITY
Let's talk about applying to the university. It is very important to start writing an application in advance, to plan everything well and to be very clear about all the requirements. The fact is that, unlike the UK, where a single application is filled out to all 5 universities, in America you apply to each university separately. Each university has its own requirements for admission, its elements of applications, as well as the cost of these applications.
More than 600 universities have united in the so-called "Common Application", this is a single platform where you can apply to a certain number of universities. However, even with this in mind, universities can then send additional assignments and some requests. That is, this does not mean that you applied and forgot about everything. Therefore, it is very important here to plan and track all deadlines.
Another important point: you apply to an American university not for a specific faculty, but in general as an "undergraduate", a bachelor's student. This is exactly the philosophy of the "liberal arts". You need to be very clear about the university entrance requirements in order to understand how your profile matches them.
What are the usual elements of an application?
The elements of the application are a questionnaire, an introductory essay, it can also be an interview, the results of exam entrance tests such as SAT and ACT, grades from your school and recommendations. As such, the offer of a place at an American university is unconditional. This means that if you were hired, then this is already final, regardless of all the marks that the student will receive at the end of his studies.
Yes, there are expectations that your grades will correspond to the level that you provided to the university, however, it is precisely because the applications are so detailed that the university recognizes its candidates well, unlike British universities, where the offer of a place is conditional, and if If you have not fulfilled the conditions, then you will not be given a place. The downside of such a deep choice of students by American universities is that applications are very laborious, very time-consuming, and you really need to spend a lot of effort to fill in all the fields well, so planning is especially important here and it is especially important to do everything in advance.
How early should you start applying to an American university? At least 12 months before the start of the studies, or even earlier. Thus, if we are talking about admission in September 2021, already in the summer of 2020 you need to be pretty clear about which programs you are applying for, what are the entrance requirements for these programs and when the deadline for taking the SAT entrance test in order to apply to the university and , accordingly, book a seat for this test. So, by the beginning of autumn we will be able to start filling out applications with might and main.
Acceptance of applications opens from August 1. The first deadlines are usually the beginning of November, the so-called "early decisions", early decisions. The main deadline for filing varies from university to university, but, as a rule, it is the end of November - beginning of March. Most of them fall in January and early February. Again, if the deadline is missed, then nothing can be done, and it will need to be submitted in the next cycle. Therefore, deadlines need to be tracked very clearly. Especially you need to start this process in advance if you are counting on a scholarship, because for them, among other things, you need to submit additional applications.
ENTRANCE TESTS: SAT/ACT
A very important part of the application to an American university is the results of the SAT or ACT entrance tests. These are standardized tests, which means your results are compared to those of others who have taken these tests. For most universities, the results of these tests are an integral part of the application. There are universities for which they are optional. It is best that you have a high score on this test if you want to increase your chances of being admitted to a highly competitive university.
How to decide which test to write? They are similar to each other in the sense that they test mathematical ability and ability to analyze data, writing an essay ("Writing section"), as well as critical thinking, logic and verbal logic. However, it is very important to understand that tests differ in the type of questions, in how quickly you need to answer, in how much weight a certain section within this test has. Therefore, the best way would be to try writing these tests and find out which one works best for you and which one best helps to show your particular academic strengths and skills.
It is important to remember the deadlines for writing these tests. In general, these tests are carried out all over the world several times a year. ACT takes place 5 times a year and SAT takes place 4 times a year. Also in the SAT 3 times a year you can additionally take tests on a specific subject. It is important to register for the test at least 5 weeks before the test itself, otherwise you risk not getting to it. It is also important to know when the last test deadline is in order to fit into the university's application deadline.
Of course, you need to prepare for these tests, train yourself, so that you know if you fit in time, if you get the desired result. Often, training in specialized courses or with a tutor helps, which will help you achieve the best result.
Fun fact: American universities generally do not specify minimum test requirements. However, they indicate the order of results that successful students get, and this is essentially a good indicator of which level to strive for. If the university is popular, but, unfortunately, you did not get the grade you need, then the chances are reduced. It is important to remember that American universities look at the application as a whole, and all of its elements must be strong in order to increase the chances. Even if the test is not written at an intermediate level, it will not be as strong as we would like, other elements of the application should help to draw out the candidate.
A very important element of an application to an American university is an essay. As a rule, you need to write 2-3 pieces of them and even more. If you apply through a common application "Common Application", then one essay is written in the application itself, and then universities are asked to write another 2-3 essays. Essays vary from university to university, but typically 500 - 750 words, and topics may vary.
You may be given a list of questions that you can answer by selecting, for example, one of them. Or you can choose the categories in which you give an answer to your question, for example, tell more about yourself, talk about a specific case that happened in your life and somehow influenced you as a person. Either the question may be related to your studies, for example, what element of the program at the university interests you the most, or it may even be a question about what makes you happy.
There are a lot of such questions, and this is really a chance to tell the university about yourself and give it more reasons to accept you as a candidate. Here, of course, in no case should you take it as a "formal reply", but make an effort, take the time to think carefully about what exactly can be told and how to present it in order to become a more attractive candidate. Therefore, you need to spend enough time and effort on the essay.
Since essays play such a key role in successful admission to an American university, it is very important to write them as well as possible. And here are some tips. First, you need to clearly answer the question posed, and not use an essay that you have already written and which is similar for another university. Secondly, of course, it should not contain any mistakes or inaccuracies, there should not be empty phrases or empty statements that do not tell the university anything new and interesting about you.
You need to look at the entire application and see that the essay provides some new additional information or somehow reveals the student, and not just repeats what was already indicated in the application form. In this sense, the question you are answering in the essay is a strategic decision that helps to either strengthen the application so that you will be accepted or spoil the application. That is why the essay should be given as much attention as possible.
OTHER APPLICATION ELEMENTS
A very important element of the application is the "GPA" - the average mark. In America, the maximum score is 4.0. Accordingly, for other countries there will be a slightly different system, but if we transfer to the Russian system, then we are talking about the highest possible school grades. It is useful to see what the average GPA level of successful students who entered the university of your choice is. You will also need an English test, usually IELTS or TOEFL. In principle, you can choose one or the other. If you are also applying to a British university, then it makes sense to take IELTS.
From the school you will need a recommendation and information about the school itself. The fact is that American universities want to understand from which school, from which academic environment the student came. So, for example, if he studies in a strong school, while he has average results, this speaks badly about him. However, if he came from school rather weak, while he, despite all the circumstances, showed himself as good as possible, then this will, of course, be in favor of the student. Again, here the universities want to know as much as possible about the candidate.
An element of interview is often present in American universities. Sometimes this is a mandatory part of the introductory process, and sometimes it is optional, that is, you can choose “yes” or “no” yourself, and in this case, of course, it is better to answer “yes”, because the more information the university has about you, the easier they will make a decision, and the more chances that the decision will be positive, and that both you and the university will suit each other. Of course, you need to prepare for the interview, you need to train. This is an opportunity to tell the university about yourself.
Universities usually report their decisions in March-April, and students have until May 1 to accept or not accept a place offer. If you submitted an early application, then the decisions come already in December. In general, three options are possible: the university can accept a student, it can put him on a "wait list", or it can refuse a place.
If a student is placed on the waiting list, this means that, in principle, his profile is suitable for the university, but there were stronger candidates that the university would prefer to take first. Depending on what these stronger candidates answer, there may or may not be a place.
If everything is in order and a place is found, then in the summer you need to start the process of obtaining a visa, and usually in the middle of August "orientation days" begin at universities, that is, welcome events where students are introduced to the course: where you can come to find out everything , see where everything is explained (from campus structure to how to use the library) and the like.
Well, I wish you all the best with your applications, good luck with your American university studies! If you have any questions, please contact. All the best!"
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