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Many young people around the world agree that the United States of America is their dream study destination. The only thing missing is a place at an American university and the study adventure in the “land of unlimited possibilities” can begin.
There are various criteria that will help future applicants to narrow down the large number of universities and courses of study in the USA. These include the location, size and equipment of the university, the range of courses offered and the admission criteria for the study programmes.
If prospective students have decided on one or more universities, the application phase can begin. However, prospective students should familiarize themselves beforehand with the admission criteria and the application procedure for studying in the USA.
Admission requirements for studies in the USA
The requirements for admission to studies in the USA vary greatly. 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: Baccalaureate, partly technical baccalaureate. In community colleges, it is often sufficient to have an intermediate school leaving certificate and a two-year training course.
- Graduate studies: Bachelor’s degree, usually also Magister and Diplom
- Doctorate: Master’s degree, possibly also Magister and Diplom. A Bachelor’s degree is also often sufficient.
- Semester abroad and Summer Sessions: Abitur or Fachabitur; minimum age of 17 or 18 years; partial minimum number of semesters completed
- Language courses: Minimum age of 17 or 18 years old
In addition to the academic qualifications required for studying in the USA, it is also necessary to prove your knowledge of English. This is usually done on the basis of a minimum score in a standardized language test such as IELTS or TOEFL.
For a full course of study, many U. S. universities also require that students take an academic admission test in order to check the applicant’s ability to study. The most common aptitude tests in the USA are SAT in the undergraduate area and GMAT, which is mainly used for MBA programs. While international applicants can in many cases be exempted from SAT or ACT, they are usually required to take part in aptitude tests in the graduate sector.
Applicants for a Master’s degree and prospective doctoral students often also play a role in their grades. In addition, the application documents for a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree program in the USA usually include a motivation letter or essay and one or two letters of recommendation.
Application procedure for studies in the USA
In the USA, there are not only differences in the application process 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 programme in the USA, it is recommended to begin preparations for your application about one year in advance. For a semester abroad, a lead time of six to nine months is usually sufficient. For other short-term programmes such as summer sessions or language courses, applications can sometimes be submitted at short notice. In general, however, the sooner you apply for a course of study in the USA, the better.
At the beginning of the application phase, it is important to get an overview of the application components. An application for studies in the USA is typically divided into the following stages:
- Placement of language tests and, if necessary, university entrance examinations.
- Under certain circumstances, an examination for equivalence (partially for master applicants with a German Bachelor’s degree).
- Compilation of application documents. Depending on the type of study, these are
- application form
- Transcript of Records
- proof of financing
- Certified copies of certificates
- Letter of motivation / essays
- Letter of recommendation.
There is also no rule of thumb with regard to application deadlines for studies in the USA. On the one hand, there are usually several deadlines at an institution, for example for different subject areas or for documents that can be submitted after the official application deadline. On the other hand, there are several types of application deadlines. “Study Abroad programs” or summer sessions often do not have a fixed application deadline, whereas full-time programs often have regular application deadlines.
How quickly the university reaches a decision depends on various factors, such as the study programme or the number of applications received. In Summer Sessions and semester sessions, applicants can expect an average of four to eight weeks for a reply. Especially in the case of Master’s programmes, longer waiting times are not unusual due to the often more extensive examination procedure.
Admission and further preparations for studies in the USA
In the event of acceptance, many U. S. 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 over to online assurances and are only sending applicants the signed Certificate of Eligibility by post.
While Bachelor’s and Master’s applicants usually confirm acceptance of the study place offered in writing, no active acceptance is required at numerous universities in the semester area. Applicants only have to contact the university if they do not wish to take advantage of the study place. Other universities and colleges also require a short online confirmation in order to plan better.
Since tuition fees for the USA study program are due after the confirmation, the question arises as to the due date of the fees. But here too, there is no uniformity. Some universities do not sign the Certificate of Eligibility until the money has been received. At other universities it is sufficient to pay tuition fees about 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 to the USA and make further preparations for their study stay. This includes
- Conclusion of a private foreign health insurance for the USA
- Organisation of accommodation for studies in the USA
- Organization of travel documents such as passport and airline tickets
- If necessary, application for a credit card and an international driving licence
- Cultural preparation