EducationUSA Mentorship Program

How is Applying to a U.S. University Different?


Image Credit


American colleges and universities are different from other universities in several key ways. It is important to understand these differences so you can use them to your advantage. With respect to undergraduate education, the main differences are in its broad focus and absence of national standards.


If you are applying to a typical U.S. college or university, your chances of acceptance will increase if you demonstrate an understanding and appreciation of the liberal arts (i.e. curiosity), and an appreciation of the individual nature of standards (no national standards). That is not to say that schools don’t love candidates who are outstanding in one particular area.


No National Standards


In many countries around the world, a national exam plays a definitive role in where a student would go to university. Depending on the results of a national test, students can become engineers, doctors, lawyers, or if their tests are not high enough, perhaps study something else or not study at all. There is no national standard for applying to colleges in the U.S.


The SAT and the ACT are important, but the score a student gets is not definitive in where or what he or she will study. You can get a top SAT score and still not be admitted to your school of choice. Similarly, you may have a relatively low SAT score and still be admitted to a top-choice university, if you have outstanding achievement in other areas.


Admissions officers make decisions based on the whole package that you present. That package includes your grades/school reports, your test scores, what you do outside school, letters of recommendations, essays and other supplemental material. The fact that you come from Indonesia, had Indonesia-specific experience and that you may want to study marine biology or nano technology, could help distinguish you from other applicants.


Success has many origins and colleges recognize that talent and potential are not always reflected in national exams, grades or test scores. When applying to college, everything matters, and anything that underlines your unique character is an advantage to you.


What is Liberal Arts Education?


American undergraduate schools provide a broad focus education, or what is usually referred to liberal arts education. This is a distinctly American phenomenon rooted in the early history of the American state.


In essence, this represents the freedom to explore and make connections between various spheres of knowledge. Liberal Arts emphasizes the ability to inquire, synthesize information, ask questions, think critically and make connections across the board of human knowledge.  Undergraduate students have the freedom to study a variety of subjects in sciences, humanities, arts, social studies and others. It is an educational approach in which a student studies an issue or a problem from many points of view.


That means that students study a broad range of academic subjects. They select one or two specific areas in which to concentrate. Education focuses then focuses on skills, tools of learning and specific content. The goal is to gain ability to reason and think critically and analytically, to communicate powerfully both in writing and in speaking, and to prepare to tackle various problems from multiple disciplines and points of view.


Most undergraduate schools in the U.S. offer liberal arts rather than professional training. There are small number of professional programs for undergraduate students, including schools of design, engineering, architecture, but the majority of colleges and universities offer liberal arts education.


There is a debate in some circles of American society on the value of liberal arts education. Yet, some of the best schools in the countries are small liberal art colleges. They prepare the best candidates for professional and graduate schools afterwards.


Graduate schools love graduates of highly-ranked liberal arts colleges because they have a solid foundation of skills and knowledge. Some of the top schools in America are small liberal arts colleges such as Williams, Amherst, Reed, Haverford, Pomona, Middlebury, Bowdoin, and many others. You can find a list of the 50 top liberal arts colleges here.


If you were asked to take a class in any subject without worrying about its utility or potential for lucrative career, what would you choose? Your answer will indicate your true strengths and potential.


Increasingly, there is an understanding that today’s global problems will need a “liberal arts” approach, i.e. an approach that incorporates knowledge in hard and soft sciences, analytical and creative thinking.

January 22, 2015

0 Responses on How is Applying to a U.S. University Different?"

Leave a Message

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>