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Understanding the U.S. College Admissions Process

Thursday | July 7, 2016 | by WES Global Talent Bridge

Understanding the U.S. College Admissions Process

The college application process can be overwhelming, but with the right research and planning, you can easily prepare to apply for admission to the school of your choice. Before beginning your application, here are a few useful tips:

Familiarize Yourself with the Process

Many colleges and universities have minimum requirements that international students or permanent residents applying for regular admission must meet to be considered for admission. For example, you may be required to take an English proficiency exam and a standardized entrance exam.In addition, many U.S. schools require a personal essay and letters of recommendation to be submitted as part of your application. Along with reviewing the admissions web page for the college or university you would like to attend, you can also review resources such as Peterson’s Guide, U.S. News & World Report, Princeton Review, Education USA, and the U.S. Department of Education.

Start the Application Process Early

It can be a lengthy process to gather all the necessary requirements before the submission deadline. Many universities and colleges require that you submit a credential evaluation that explains your international education in U.S. terms. Start fulfilling these application requirements early so that you are able to meet deadlines. Take Required Exams: There are different exams you may be required to take depending on the program or level of study for which you are applying. Here is a list of the most common entrance exams:

  • English language testing: At many academic institutions, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) are required for those whose native language is not English. However, depending on the length of time you have lived in the U.S., or whether or not you have taken college-level English courses in the U.S., you may be exempted from taking the TOEFL or IELTS. Consult an admissions counselor of the school and program you want to attend about English language proficiency tests.
  • Undergraduate standardized tests: Students who plan to attend college after completing high school are generally required to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or the American College Testing (ACT)—both are standardized tests for undergraduate admissions. Some academic institutions, especially community colleges, choose to administer placement tests instead. Find out from admissions counselors whether you are required to take the SAT or ACT.
  • Graduate standardized tests: For admission to most graduate and professional schools, standardized tests are required. These tests include, but are not limited to, the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), and the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). To learn more about graduate school admissions tests, the academic programs for which they are required, as well as test preparation services, you can visit the following sites: Educational Testing Service, Law School Admission Council, and Princeton Review.

Ask for Guidance

There are people who are able to answer your questions about specific admissions requirements or provide general advice.

  • Consult admissions counselors: Admissions requirements vary by school and level of the academic program. Any specific questions you have about your application should be directed to the admissions counselor of the school and specific program to which you are applying. Do not rely solely on general resources—although they offer helpful information, they do not detail requirements for specific universities.

Seek Help Within Your Community

Applying to college is easier when you know there are resources and people you can rely on for help with the application process. For example, if you received services from a community agency, consider asking a community worker for a letter of recommendation that speaks about your ability to succeed in college. You should also take advantage of your local public library’s resources by attending college planning and résumé writing workshops, as well as utilizing free standardized test preparation tools. These resources can save you money and simplify the application process.

Related Content

Watch our on-demand webinar on U.S. Undergraduate Admissions for International Students.

WES Global Talent Bridge is a program dedicated to helping skilled immigrants fully utilize their talents and education in the United States and Canada. Global Talent Bridge joins with institutional partners and community organizations to help skilled immigrants leverage their training, achieve their professional goals, and contribute their talents to their full potential.