Undergraduate Study in the USA

Thinking of undergraduate study in the USA, but not sure how to navigate the admissions process?


Read below for an overview of the steps you need to take when applying to undergraduate study in the USA 

Why do so many students cross the Atlantic to pursue an undergraduate degree? In a recent survey, we found many students were most attracted to the ability to choose from such a wide range of universities on offer (over 4,500), as well as the opportunity to experience American university life. Students also cite the flexibility to explore their academic interests as another reason why US study is a good fit. Under the ‘liberal arts philosophy’, students take classes from a variety of subjects during their first year, before specialising in their major field of study.

Additional reasons include the funding opportunities made available by US universities and external funding bodies, travel and cultural experiences, and the chance to internationalise and strengthen CVs. Click here to find out more.


Admissions process
As you prepare your applications, keep in mind that most universities will require you to submit an application directly (although there is a Common Application for 450+ universities). Therefore, application deadlines and forms can vary slightly. That said, deadlines generally tend to fall between mid-October (for early decision/action applications) through to January (for regular decision applications).

Most applicants will likely need to sit an admissions test – the SAT Reasoning Test (www.collegeboard.org ) or ACT (www.actstudent.org ). The most competitive universities may require two to three SAT Subject Tests in addition to the Reasoning Test or the ACT Plus Writing.

Additionally, students will need to submit a transcript from their school listing the student’s marks in the final four years before university (typically GCSEs and A-levels), as well as up to three letters of reference from contacts who know the student well both inside and outside of the classroom. You will also have the opportunity to submit two to three essays, describing your academic interests, extracurricular activities and you as a person (US universities want to know about more than just your grades!) See our website for a sample transcript, as well as tips on writing reference letters and essays.

Those applying by the early deadlines will receive their offers of admission before the holidays, and those applying by the regular deadlines will hear back by 1 April.

As students research universities and complete their applications, they should not forget to investigate funding options. There are four main types of funding for study in the US: savings, loans, and scholarships from a US university or an external funding body.

US universities award funding on the basis of financial need (often called grants) and/or merit (scholarships), as well as sports scholarships. External funding bodies may include a wide range of professional, charitable or government organisations that have a vested interest in educating members of society. Often, scholarships from external funding bodies can be thought of as niche scholarships, as they may be based on very specific personal qualities outlined by the funding body in addition to academic merit or financial need. Find out more about funding here.

The summer before enrolment students will apply for their visa, most likely an F-1 Student Visa or J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa. Check with the US Embassy in your home country and with the university’s international office for more information about applying for a student visa.

Pre-Departure Information
In addition to learning more about what to expect from academic and social life on the US campus, students will also need to attend to a number of practical matters to ensure that they are well-informed and well-equipped before departing. The pre-departure information pages of the Fulbright website provide information on a range of topics from ways to deal with culture shock to tips on packing.

There are many resources available to help you apply for US study. University websites are the best place to find specific information on application deadlines, requirements and available funding. Many students find it helpful to talk with friends and family, as well as their careers advisors. Some students even consider visiting the US. Additionally, you may wish to use resources provided by our office, the US-UK Fulbright Commission – EducationUSA. Fulbright is funded by the US and UK governments to offer advice to UK students interested in US study and vice versa. Check out our website – www.fulbright.co.uk – for a complete guide to applying to American universities, student success stories, tips from our staff and much more!