Admission Requirements

American colleges are hard to get into for a reason: they have high standards. Though every university has different admission requirements, most of the more than 4,000 public, private, and for-profit schools in the USA look for similar things. These are some of the most likely requirements they’ll want:

Undergraduate programs

  • Scores for standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT
  • A personalized essay
  • Recommendations by your teachers, supervisors, coaches, etc.
  • Possible interview with alumni or staff
  • Grades or transcripts from your secondary school

Graduate programs

  • Scores for relevant entrance tests such as the GRE, a general standardized test; the MCAT, a test for medical school; the LSAT, a test for law school; or other specific tests
  • A personalized essay
  • Recommendations by your undergraduate professors, supervisors, coaches, etc.
  • Possible interview with alumni or staff
  • Grades or transcripts from your undergraduate program
  • Law schools and other specialized graduate programs may require that applicants are licensed in their home countries.

For both undergraduate and graduate programs, your level of fluency in English may also be taken into account; this is usually determined by the TOEFL, a standardized test that measures the English-speaking abilities of non-native speakers.

Keep in mind that though it’s not officially part of the admissions process, a student visa is required for all international students to legally enter the USA for an academic program.

Evaluating your application
Your chances of getting into college partially depend on the requirements above. Generally, the hardest colleges to get into have the most stringent criteria. In theory, then, your score of 1450 out of 1600 on the SAT could get you into an elite school. But each university also has its own algorithm to determine eligibility, often based on the non-quantitative aspects of your application such as volunteer and extracurricular activities; your essay, your general cultural, racial, and/or religious background; and a dozen other secret things we’ll never know about. So don’t stress too much about what your most-wanted school requires – a lower grade point average of 2.4 out of 4, for example, might balance out with being a professional tuba player or an Olympic swimmer.

Even though there are no official guidelines to tell you if you’ll meet admission requirements, you can learn more about which specific requirements are compulsory at each school, and how much each part is weighted, by researching your ideal universities. You can also get additional questions answered about the application process and other topics helpful to potential international students in the USA by contacting EducationUSA, a government advising center.

The application process is arduous and has numerous requirements, some of which will force you to study before you even attend university. But it will all be worth it once you get accepted into the school of your dreams and you start your path towards a successful future.