Study in the US

Undergraduate studies in the US are very flexible. Getting a bachelor’s degree usually takes four years and students can chose from a wide range of courses or create their own unique programs. This is because U.S. undergraduate education is based on the idea of liberal arts and sciences. Students don’t apply to a college or university to study a specific subject. Rather, students are first accepted into a college or university, where they then take classes in a wide range of subjects in humanities, social sciences, and natural/physical sciences. Students will eventually chose a major field of study, which will be the subject on which they focus, but they can continue taking classes outside the major throughout their studies. The emphasis of an US undergraduate degree is on developing the students’ verbal, written, and reasoning skills.

Since you are applying for a place in a college or a university, rather than for a specific subject, your need to make sure that you find a university or a college that matches your needs and expectations. Why do you want to study in the US? What subjects, fields, and careers interest you? Which type of institution you wish to attend? (Small or large, public or private, rural or urban, many international students or few international students, etc.?) How competitive are you based on your grades and academic achievement? How will you pay for you education in the US? Do you need financial aid? What do you expect from campus life? Most US colleges and universities are campus-based, especially for undergraduates. A campus includes academic buildings, student dormitories, libraries, and all other university facilities. Student life tends to revolve in and around campus and its student organizations, events, and activities. Once you have thought through what you expect from your studies in the US and what your priorities are, you can start searching for the universities or colleges that suit your needs. There are countless college and university guides, both online and in print, several search engines, as well as university and college websites that will all help you. There are also many university and college rankings. While rankings can help you compare different universities and colleges, don’t let yourself be limited by rankings because they can often be based on criteria that does not match with what you are look for in a college or university. At this stage, you should also try and find other students from South Tyrol or near-by who attend a college or university in the US and can share their experiences.

As you narrow down your options, also pay attention to financial aid and scholarships available in various colleges and universities. Financial aid refers to need-based aid that a university offers, based on your families financial standing, to help pay tuition, fees, and living expenses. Financial aid can include grants, work/study programs, or loans. Scholarships are usually merit-based and are awarded based on your academic performance, special skills in arts or sports, or community service or leadership record. While higher education in the US is expensive, universities and colleges work with students and their families to make this education affordable. Family finance should not be an obstacle for a successful student who wishes to attend a US university.

Make sure you know the schools you wish to apply to. Study their websites, do virtual tours, ask their admissions office for alumni contacts. If any questions arise about the school, its academics or social life, or financial aid that you cannot find an answer to online, contact the admissions office.

Your application will normally include an essay, recommendation letters, and proof of education. The essay is one of the most important parts of your application. Make sure to write about your achievements, interests, experiences; have other people read your essay and offer comments, and leave time for rewrites. The recommendation letters should be written by teachers or coaches who know you well and can write about your successes and potential. A large number of colleges and universities use the Common Application, but many use own systems, so always check with the university or college.

You might need to take some standardized tests and English tests and submit your results as part of your application. The standardized tests include the SAT Reasoning Test, the SAT Subject Tests, and the ACT. The most common English language ability tests are the TOEFL and the IELTS. Not all colleges and universities requite standardized tests, or require the same standardized tests, so always check with the school about which tests are required for application.

Timing is very important when applying to US universities. The application deadlines are 6-11 months before the new school year begins. You should start researching colleges and universities about 15-18 months before you wish to start your studies in the US, have a narrowed-down list of schools to apply to about 12 months before you start your studies, take any necessary standardized tests about 10-12 months before you start your studies, and apply about 6-11 months before starting your studies.

Useful Links

EducationUSA: http://www.educationusa.info

CollegeBoard: https://www.collegeboard.org

USNews Education, Studying in the United States: http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/studying-in-the-united-states

Any questions? Contact: Liise Lehtsalu (llehtsalu@yahoo.com)

 

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