Aug 13, 2022
If you were to walk through the halls of any high school right now, you would undoubtedly hear students discussing universities. Seniors may be finalizing their essays, while juniors and sophomores may be doing their research, building their profile and trying to get ahead of the game. Even teachers seem to be engrossed in finalizing predicted grades and recommendation letters. Alas, it is College Application season – the excitement and nerves are hanging thick in the air, and everyone can feel it. The pressure is high, the stakes are high, and our teenagers are making strides towards their first adult decision – choosing their university path.
US, UK, Canada, Australia – some of the most common countries where students apply. However, the United States stands out for having been most applied to, most sought after and most highly ranked since decades. And for justifiable reasons. With over 4000 universities and colleges, 2000 undergraduate majors, and almost 20 million university students, the quality of education and pool of opportunities is limitless. The US has some of the oldest educational institutions – from liberal arts colleges to research universities, students are guaranteed to find their right fit university if they pursue higher education in the US.
Thereby, arises the million dollar questions: How do I successfully apply to US universities? The answer to this question is complex, multi-fold and personalized to every student. In this blog, I will discuss a simplified overview of how you can prepare for the journey to land in the US with 2 bags and a university admission!
The Holistic Education System
The US education system is unique because of its holistic, liberal-arts approach. This is an approach where universities believe that individuals as contributing members of society must have holistic knowledge and experience. Thereby, although each student selects a major, they must also take additional courses throughout their educational career to boost their knowledge and understanding of various concepts. These additional classes not only satisfy your requirement for graduation, but also allow you to explore other interests, and potentially add them as an additional major or minor if you wish to. In fact, this system of education in US universities allows students to change their major, add a major or minor after entering college, often without any impact on their graduation date.
Why is this important? Because admission officers seek students who will thrive in and take advantage of this holistic system of US education. While in highschool, seize every opportunity to explore different interests. Do not “curate” your extra-curricular profile based on what you think an admissions officer expects from you – instead, personalize it based on your interests and passions. The holistic education system in US colleges should encourage you to adopt the idea that your interests inside and outside the classroom may be varied, and as individuals, you do not need to assimilate to the expected or traditional set of extracurriculars based on majors. Remember, this actually plays to your advantage – jump into high school with both your feet and an open mind ready to explore and be challenged – find your niche interests, become an expert, take it out to your community and create your own personalized profile that reflects your true interests. This shows the admission officers that you are prepared for a holistic US education.
Components of a college application – How can I start now?
The US college application is also (you guessed it) Holistic! Undoubtedly, having a rigorous academic work-load and acquiring good grades is essential. Be an active participant and contributor in class because your teacher’s trust in your capabilities via predicted grade also play a pivotal role. Moreover, go above and beyond to expand your academic exposure outside the school classroom. You may take summer immersion classes, online college-level courses, additional APs, or even learn new skills such as coding. Another academic component of college applications are the SATs. Although some universities still require an SAT, many have now made SAT optional, and the University of California system is SAT-blind! Some data has shown that submitting an SAT score has proved advantageous, so students should carefully consider and at least put in the effort and try to achieve a good score.
An additional, equally important aspect of college application is your extracurricular profile. As discussed earlier, it is always encouraged to have a diverse, varied group of activities that are unique to you based on your interests. These may range from volunteering for a cause, mentorship, developing skills in coding or music or art to interning or launching a startup. These activities enhance your personal growth and development which will also be reflected in your teacher recommendations, essays and, if need be, interviews.
On that note, let’s touch upon essays – one of the most crucial aspects of college applications that is unique to the US system. US college essays tell a story – your story. It encourages creative, narrative writing that not only answers the prompt but also gives the officers a glimpse of your personality. This component of college application is the greatest tool in your toolkit – it allows you to share anecdotes of your growth, challenges and passion that have not been mentioned or expanded upon anywhere else in the application. It is highly recommended that students spend time in their high school years practicing and sharpening their creative writing skills. Although this essay component is essential and beneficial, if pushed to the last-minute, it can be daunting. Universities may require anywhere between 4-10 essays varying from 100-650 words – thus be prepared and comfortable in your writing skills.
To conclude, applying to and pursuing higher education in the United States is an opportunity like no other – every college has thousands of clubs, varying research opportunities, study abroad programs, internship opportunities and connections, initiatives, and a pool of majors, and minors, to name a few. The US education system values you more than just your academics (holistic!), and offers opportunities in an environment that nurtures personal growth and development inside and outside the classrooms. There is definitely a right pick and niche for you, and we will discuss each aspect of college application and finding your right fit in further detail in future blogs, so stay tuned!
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