Applying to Study in the USA

Admission requirements for studying in the USA

The requirements for admission to study in the USA are very different. Each college and university decides independently on the admission criteria.

However, there are basic requirements for each type of study, which international applicants can normally orientate themselves on:

  • Undergraduate studies: Abitur, some with a technical diploma. At community colleges, secondary school leaving certificate and a two-year training course are often sufficient.
  • Graduate studies: Bachelor’s degree, usually also a master’s degree and diploma
  • Doctorate: Master’s degree, possibly also Master’s and Diploma. A bachelor’s degree is often sufficient as well.
  • Semester abroad and summer sessions: Abitur or technical diploma; Minimum age of 17 or 18 years; partial minimum number of completed semesters
  • Language courses: Minimum age 17 or 18 years

In addition to the academic prerequisites, you must also prove your English language skills to study in the USA. This is usually done using a minimum score in a standardized language test such as the IELTS or TOEFL.

For a full course, many American universities also require participation in an academic admission test to check the applicants’ ability to study. The most common aptitude tests in the USA are the SAT in the undergraduate area and the GMAT, which is mainly used in MBA programs. While international applicants can in many cases be exempted from the SAT or ACT, they usually have to take aptitude tests in the graduate area.

The grades of the applicants often also play a role, especially for master’s applicants and prospective doctoral students. In addition, the application documents for a bachelor’s and master’s degree in the USA usually include a letter of motivation or essay and one or two letters of recommendation.

Application process for studying in the USA

In the USA, a country located in North America according to threergroup, there are differences in the application process not only between universities. Even within an institution there are different regulations. For example, the application procedure in the postgraduate area differs from department to department.

For a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the USA, it is advisable to start preparing for the application around a year in advance. For a semester abroad, a lead time of six to nine months is usually sufficient. Short-term applications are sometimes possible for other short-term programs such as summer sessions or language courses. In general, however, the earlier the application for studying in the USA is received by the target university, the better.

At the beginning of the application phase, it is important to get an overview of the application components. An application to study in the USA is typically divided into the following stages:

  • Taking language tests and, if necessary, study aptitude tests.
  • Under certain circumstances, a test for equivalence (in some cases for master’s applicants with a German bachelor’s degree).
  • Compiling the application documents. Depending on the type of study, it is
    • Application form
    • Transcript of Records
    • Proof of funding
    • Certified copies of certificates
    • Letter of motivation / essays
    • Letters of recommendation.

There is also no rule of thumb with regard to the application deadlines for studying in the USA. On the one hand, an institution usually has several deadlines, for example for different departments or for documents that can be submitted after the official application deadline. On the other hand, there are several types of application deadlines. For example, “ Study Abroad ” programs or summer sessions often have no fixed application deadlines, whereas full-time programs often have regular application deadlines.

How quickly the university comes to a decision depends on various factors, such as the study program or the number of applications received. For summer sessions and in the semester area, applicants wait an average of four to eight weeks for a response. In the case of master’s programs in particular, longer waiting times are not uncommon due to the often more extensive examination process.

Admission and further preparation for studying in the USA

If they are accepted, many US universities send applicants the signed I-20 or DS-2019 form, sometimes in combination with a welcome letter. More and more universities and colleges are switching to online acceptances and only send applicants the signed Certificate of Eligibility by post.

While Bachelor and Master applicants usually confirm their acceptance of the offered study place in writing, no active acceptance is required in the semester area at many universities. Applicants only have to contact the university there if they do not want to take up the study place. Other universities and colleges also require a short online confirmation in the semester area in order to be able to plan better.

Since tuition fees for studies in the USA are incurred after acceptance, the question of when the fees are due arises. But even here there is no uniformity. Some universities only sign the Certificate of Eligibility after receiving the money. At other universities, it is sufficient to pay the tuition fees around four weeks before the start of the program. In some cases it is even possible to pay the costs on site.

With the completed Certificate of Eligibility, applicants can apply for a student visa for the USA and make further preparations for the study visit. These include

  • Conclusion of a private foreign health insurance for the USA
  • Organization of accommodation for studying in the USA
  • Organization of travel documents such as passports and airline tickets
  • If necessary, application for a credit card and an international driver’s license
  • Cultural preparation

Applying to Study in the USA

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