student life

Guide to applying to a U.S. university as a UK student

applying to US college
Written by C Wolsey

International students are increasingly choosing U.S. universities – 65% of U.S. universities say they received more international applications for degree studies in 2022/23, than the years before, while there are currently around 10,000 British students at American unis. If you’re considering applying to an American university, it’s important to do your research and prepare as much as possible. By weighing up your options and getting clear on the application process, you’ll be sure to make the right decision for you. 

Research potential universities 

It’s never too early to start researching potential universities. In the U.S., online university applications for the next year are typically accepted from 1st August. Deadlines for submission vary depending on the institution, but usually range between January to March, so be sure to do your research (Stanford, conversely, has a deadline of 1st November). Specific course content will also play a key role in your decision to apply – are the modules relevant to your interests? Some courses are more specialised than others. Williams College, for example, is the top liberal arts college in the country. It’s particularly known for its English language and literature and art studies courses. Stanford, on the other hand, has been ranked top third university in the U.S., and especially famous for its strong STEM programs. And, if you find yourself needing extra help with your studies, Proprep provides access to Stanford’s STEM syllabuses. In addition to study guides and video tutorials, you can also practise questions relevant to your chosen course.  

Research the entry requirements

You’ll also need to consider the entry requirements. Most U.S. unis accept UK qualifications, although the grading systems differ (GCSEs are comparable to U.S. GPAs, while A levels are equivalent to U.S. APs). Keep in mind, prestigious universities typically have lower acceptance rates (sometimes as low as 5%), along with higher tuition fees. Ivy League universities typically require around three A levels at A*-A grades, along with a good admissions test score (1580 for SAT and 35 ACT). So, aim big, yet stay realistic about what’s attainable to you. 

Take the SAT or ACT

Usually, international students need to pass either the SAT or ACT admissions tests before applying to a U.S. university. The SAT involves maths and english, while the ACT also includes science. Although students are typically free to take either test, it’s worth considering which is most relevant to your application. If you’re in STEM, for example, the ACT is better for proving your scientific knowledge base. Also, check with the admissions office if they require a specific test. You’ll also need to register for the SAT or ACT; registration deadlines are typically five weeks before the date of the test. 

America is one of the leading educational providers in the world. By researching universities, along with their entry requirements, as well as taking an admissions test, you can choose the right university for you and maximise your chance of acceptance.