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By Dimitri Poliderakis April 28, 2008

Applying to an American University?

Canadian schools are largely government funded or under funded and this leads to a somewhat lower level of education in comparison to privately funded schools with tuition fees of fifty thousand dollars a year. The Ivy league schools in the United States receive huge amounts of private funding and can therefore afford to have the latest in technology in their laboratories and classrooms. Ultimately, this article is not meant to convince you to go abroad or stay at home to further your education. This article is meant to give you the needed information to apply successfully to universities in the United States. This article will included the A to Z about applications, SATs, interviews and on-campus visits.

If you haven't yet figured out where you would like to apply in the USA, then pick up the Princeton review of all the colleges and universities in North America. This book is like the phone directory of colleges and universities and it has everything from specializations to offered programs to tuition fees in there. If you prefer to work off your computer there is a version of the Princeton review online. If you are even more technologically inclined then check out http://www.collegeboard.com and register yourself as a user. You will need this site to register for your SATs and other tests anyways. This website is actually just as useful as the review however it is not as easy to read through. Once you have decided on where you would like to apply, check out the university's website. There should be almost everything you will need to get a feel for the university including blogs, comments general information about teams and extra curricular activities. Changing countries for university education is a big deal and I strongly suggest you check out the campus, student life, activities and facilities the school has to offer before applying there. Take a summer road trip prior to your 3rd semester to check it all out. The website will have the necessary information you will need to organize a weekend trip at the school's dorms and you can even arrange to sit in on some of the classes as a guest to see the quality, methods and environment of the classrooms. If you decide that that's the school you want to apply to then go speak to the director of admissions and ask questions, they love people who are interactive and outspoken. Pick up an application while you are in the office even though you should apply online. It shows you are definitely interested in the school and that you are excited to start the application process.

Once you have made the right connections with the directors and staff, you are ready to begin the hardest part… Applying. The application in itself is not extremely complex or convoluted. It usually consists of an initial biographical section followed by some essay type questions. Your responses are intended to show your evaluators who you are and what you are truly about. Most applications ask for two letters of reference, which should be given out to your teachers as soon as possible so they can have the maximum time to fill them out. Applications usually suggest for you to have an interview with one of their alumni in your area and sometimes to prepare a portfolio if you are entering an art specific field. Finally, in order to be accepted into the majority of American schools, you must first do the SATs. The Scholastic Aptitude test (S.A.T.) is a test in which a student's skills are assessed. Each school will suggest different minimum scores for acceptance. For most Ivy league school applications a student must take two types of SATs. The SAT 1 and SAT 2. The SAT 1 includes three sections in which your English skills and logical math skills are tested. The SAT 2 tests specific subject knowledge and most schools ask for two SAT 2 tests to be done. There a host of books online, which will help you prepare for all the tests you will need to take. My personal suggestion is to pick up the Princeton review's SAT preparatory books. Registration for the SATs is simple and can be done easily over the Internet at http://www.collegeboard.com. Be sure to start studying in the summer prior to your third semester because once schoolwork starts to pile up you will become overwhelmed and you will not have enough time to study and do well in all your school subjects as well as your SATs.

Applying to an Ivy League university in the United States costs money and more importantly, is very time consuming. There is statistically a three percent chance that a student applying internationally will get accepted. Furthermore, the tuition fees are extremely expensive and financial aid is available but doesn't necessarily come as a full scholarship. The environment in which the students work is extremely demanding and has sent many into depressions and has forced them to drop out of school. On the other hand, there have also been many students, who have gotten full scholarships and who have graduated to become very wealthy and successful. If you plan yourself properly than you can still manage to do well in school and still have a great application. Even if you are accepted to the school you may decide to stay in your native country to study. It is ultimately a personal choice but you are at least armed with the right knowledge to have the most successful application process possible.


The photograph “The University of Chicago” is by Anh Dinh, under CC BY-NC-2.0


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    May 1, 2008

    The SAT doesn’t stand for “Scholastic Aptitude Test” anymore. I think they got criticized because college board couldn’t prove that the test actually tested aptitude, so its officially a meaningless acronym.

    Also, isn’t the 3% admissions figure for int’l only for MIT? In fact, some ivies consider Canada and Mexico as domestic…
    Good article though dimitri

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    May 2, 2008


    You have definitely covered the basics in applying to the USA! You must have had quite an enriching experience in going through the process as you have described in your article wink

    I just want to add a couple of tips when applying to an American university:

    1) Remember most deadlines are early January to mid-February, so apply early!!! Most of our students should have their application packages ready by the end of their 2nd semester, so right before leaving for the holidays. Academic Advisers will be able to guide you through the process if you get an early start.

    2) If you do get a chance for that road trip, not only should you take a campus tour but also try to attend some of the information
    sessions organized by admission officers & undergraduate students.
    I know for a fact that Harvard and MIT do these presentations.

    3) When answering essay type questions or when writing an autobiographical essay (when applicable), be creative and specific in your thoughts and the feelings you express.

    Well Dimitri, those are just a few quick tips that popped into my mind after having read your article. Best of luck in your future studies!

    Tanya Chichekian
    Academic Adviser

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    Dimitrios Poliderakis

    May 5, 2008

    To Daniel Lesk :
    thanks for the update on the acronym smile
    I am not aware of any schools in particular that recognize Canada and Mexico as domestic but it is surely a possibility

    To Tanya:
    Thank you for the tips, I did see one of those presentations and it was very helpful smile
    Do be creative on the essays, you will have to jump out of the page in order to compete with the other applicants

    Good Luck to all

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    November 30, 2011

    This article is very helpful for those who want to apply to a university in United States. Information about international appliance is not easily available here in Dawson. I also want to apply to a university in United States, but never had any information about how to actually apply. It is really helpful to have the link to the website where you need to register and a clear definition of what’s the SAT really about and what to expect when studying abroad. Your advises are really helpful! I never thought to take the time to visits the university beforehand.

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