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U.S. University Admissions Process

Understanding the University Admissions Process

How do I apply to U.S. Universities?

Step 1

Decide which universities you want to apply to. You should consider not just rankings, but other factors that contribute to student experience like location, design of curriculum, size of classes etc.


Click here to learn more about the different kinds of universities.


You should also decide whether you want to apply via Early Action / Early Decision or via Regular Decision:


Early Decision is typically restrictive and binding. This means you can only apply to one university as an Early Decision applicant, and if you get accepted, you must accept the university’s offer.


Early Action is not binding. You can apply Early Action to your top university choice and also apply to other universities under Regular Decision plans. You do not have to accept the university’s offer if you get in.


Regular Decision deadlines are usually in the first week of January in the year you intend to enrol in university. You will receive acceptance offers in May and you may decide where you wish to matriculate then.

Step 2

You need to create an account on an application portal in order to submit your university applications.


There are three common portals used in university admissions:

Common Application

This is a centralized platform allowing you to apply to hundreds of universities with a single application. More information about creating a Common Application account can be found here.

Coalition Application

The Coalition Application allows you to apply to over 140 member colleges. It includes a “Locker” to upload all of your supporting documents in one place. See all member colleges here.

Individual University Portals

Some universities (notably MIT and the University of California system) have a separate application. Students must apply directly to these universities. More information can be found on each university’s Admissions website.

Step 3

Submit your standardized test scores. Click here for SAT score requirements and here for ACT score requirements at top universities.


You can send your SAT and SAT Subject Test scores directly to colleges via the College Board website.


You can send your ACT scores to colleges via the ACT website.

Step 4

Write and submit your college essays. Each university will require supplementary essays and will have university-specific prompts of a few hundred words each. Click here to see a list of common supplementary essay prompts.

Step 5

Craft and submit your resume. Your resume should provide information about your educational background, your extracurricular/work commitments and your academic accomplishments.

Step 6

Contact your teachers and request your letters of recommendation. You will need two recommendation letters that are academic in nature and one recommendation letter that is non-academic in nature (written by your Form Tutor / Civics Tutor / NS superiors etc).