Undergraduate Studies in USA

Types associated with Institution

There tend to be approximately 3,200 accredited level granting institutions in the USA. College is the generic term for just about any form of post-secondary training. The word never pertains to secondary level training. There are various kinds colleges:

Two-year neighborhood colleges / jr . colleges

These colleges honor associate degrees in the completion of 2 years of full-time research. Many students transfer to some four-year university or college to complete the bachelor's degree within an optional two many years.

Four-year colleges

These schools award bachelors levels upon completion associated with four years associated with full-time study. You will find over 1,800 colleges in the USA, about one third which are private establishments. Colleges tend to pay attention to undergraduate education instead of research.

Liberal arts colleges

Most liberal arts colleges tend to be private institutions. These colleges concentrate on undergraduate studies in the humanities, social sciences as well as sciences. There are more than 900 liberal arts colleges in the USA.


A university generally provides a broad range associated with both undergraduate as well as graduate degree programs, and has an increased exposure of research. Universities can differ considerably in size and also the diversity of the programs they provide. There are a lot more than 7000 universities in the USA.


There tend to be both public as well as private universities and colleges in the USA. There is absolutely no distinction in quality between the two types. Private institutions usually cost higher. The same charge normally applies if the applicant is a good in-state resident, a good out-of-state resident, or a global student. Public institutions have two tuition rates, one for residents from the state and one for other students.


In 2010-2011 there were about 623,000 international students enrolled in U.S. higher education programs. Australian students in the U.S. number around 3,088, about 60% of whom are undergraduates. In the past decade, the number of Australian students in the U.S. has increased by over 50%.

Most bachelors' degrees in the USA are earned via a broad program associated with study. It is usually possible to complete as much as two years associated with study before needing to choose a main area by which more concentrated research are done in the final two many years. It normally requires four years to acquire a U. S. bachelor's level. The Australian system of 3 years to obtain a regular degree and four years to have an honors degree doesn't exist in the USA.

Admission Requirements for Undergraduate Study in the USA

Admission requirements vary significantly from one college to another. Some institutions are very selective, while others accept most applicants. In general, the following components of your application will all be taken into account in the admissions process:

  • your academic record (the most important factor)
  • your application essay
  • your scores on standardised tests such as the SAT I, SAT II or the TOEFL
  • letters of recommendation, if required

As a general rule, American universities and colleges expect international applicants' records to reflect at least 12 years of primary and secondary schooling, and to meet the entrance requirements of the tertiary institutions in their home country. Australian students have the advantage of aping geographical diversity to the composition of the student body, which many admissions officers find highly desirable.

A Planning Timetable for Organising Admission

It takes a considerable amount of time to research the possibilities of studying in the United States and then to apply for admission. You should start planning your U.S. education twelve to eighteen months before you intend to commence your studies, especially if you are seeking financial aid.

The U.S. academic year runs from approximately 1 September to May or June, with a summer break between June - August.

Between April and August of the year before you hope to commence your studies, you should:

  • Begin the process of choosing 10 to 20 colleges which you think may be suitable for you. To find out which institutions offer your field of study or major/program, consult general directories such as Peterson's Guide to Four-Year Colleges or The College Handbook. These guides give you basic information about costs, admission requirements, programs offered, campus accommodation, student/staff ratio, athletic/sports programs, etc. More detailed information about a particular college or university can be found on its web site.
  • If you want to consider a two-year institution, consult Peterson's Two-Year Colleges guide for information. Community (two-year) colleges generally have lower fees and less rigorous admission requirements. They offer vocational and technical programs as well as a general academic program for those who intend to transfer to a four-year college or university to complete a bachelor's degree.
  • Request an application packet and information about international student admissions from the Undergraduate Admissions Office of each college you are considering applying to. E-mail apresses can be obtained from the institution's website or from various reference books held at EducationUSA Advising Centers. Request that materials be sent to you by airmail.
  • Register to take the SAT test (and the TOEFL if your first language is not English). SAT I and II Test Bulletins and TOEFL Bulletins, are available from all EducationUSA Advising Centers.
  • Begin to investigate possible sources of non-institutional financial assistance. Education USA Advising Centers have information on scholarships and grants available to international students, and some useful financial aid websites are listed in the Financial Aid section. Applying for financial assistance from outside sources can take several months, and as you may have to apply as much as a year before you need the money, so don't put off this important step.

Between September and December of the year before you plan to commence your studies, you should:

  • Submit a formal application to each of the institutions you wish to apply to. Apply for financial assistance when you apply for admission - a separate application form may be required.
  • Sit for the SAT I test (and the SAT II if required). When you register to sit the test, you may nominate up to four colleges to receive your score report. This service is included as part of the US$45.50 test registration fee. If you do not do this, you will have to request apitional score reports at a later date and pay a fee of approximately US$6.50 for each report. Remember that colleges do not accept score reports directly from students, but only from the organisation which administered the test. SAT I and II Test Bulletins are available from all Education USA Advising Centers.
  • Obtain copies of your school records and references.
  • Make sure that you can meet the college application deadlines. These vary from institutuion to institution, so note the dates carefully. Some schools have a rolling admissions policy, which means that they assess and make decisions on admissions on an ongoing basis. When filling out the application forms, make an effort to write a good application essay if one is required. Most institutions consider this a very important part of the application.
  • Early decision. Some colleges have an early decision policy. If that particular college is definitely your first choice, then it is worthwhile to apply for early decision. Students should understand that they are signing a contract with serious consequences if they renege. If you do not have final school results by the application deadline, send everything else along with a note to say that these results will be forwarded as soon as they become available.

Types of Admission Applications

Nonrestrictive plans

Regular Decision

You submit an application, typically by early January, and receive a decision in early April. You can apply to other colleges and wait until May 1 to accept.

Rolling Admission

Applications reviewed when received. Decisions made throughout admission cycle.

Early Action

You apply early, usually by November 1, and hear back between mid-December and February. You don't have to accept.

Restrictive plans

Early Decision I

You commit to a first-choice institution. If you get in and the financial aid package is satisfactory, you are required to enroll. Colleges ask that you have only one early decision application pending at a time. If admitted early decision, you must withdraw any other applications. Application deadline: Usually November 1. Notification: mid-to-late December. In general, an enrollment deposit is due two to three weeks after acceptance.

Early Decision II

Some colleges have two rounds of early decision. Second-round deadlines are in January, with mid-February notification.

Single-Choice Early Action

A few ultraselect colleges restrict early action applicants to a single choice. The expectation is that you do not apply early elsewhere until after you hear back (confusing exception: nonrestrictive early action programs at public colleges or universities). You have until May 1 to give your final answer.

Between April and June of the year in which you wish to commence your studies in the U.S.

  • Many universities and colleges will send out their admission offers in March or April. May 1 is the usual date by which students must accept or reject an offer of admission and pay a deposit. When the deposit has been received, students are often sent a Roommate Questionnaire. Freshmen (first years) are often required to live on-campus. The college will also send you a Certificate of Eligibility, after which you may apply for a visa. A Certificate of Eligibility is valid only for study at the institution issuing it - and only for the starting date specified. There are several types of student visas. The U.S. Embassy maintains an excellent and informative website about visas as well as the U.S. Department of State.

Admission Tests

American colleges commonly require a score on either the SAT or ACT. Many will accept scores on either test, but some request the SAT only or the ACT only. Be sure to check college websites and/or the application materials themselves to determine each college's requirements. There is no "pass" mark for these admission tests. Your test scores are just one part of the whole application.


The SAT is the test most commonly held worldwide, and it is taken by over 1 million students annually. The SAT is held six times a year between October and June, at various sites throughout Australia. Special requests can be made for alternative centers or for accommodations appropriate to disabilities. In 2006-7 the cost of the test is US$63.50. If you miss the registration deadline, it may be possible to sit the test on a standby basis. (Note the standby fee is an apitional US$36.50). The SAT Registration Bulletin contains information about test dates, special requests, registration information and deadlines, test centers, fees, what the tests involve, sample questions and test taking tips. The SAT website is http://www.collegeboard.com

Some colleges may request scores on some SAT II Subject Tests which test knowledge in particular areas of study, eg, English, history, maths, etc. The SAT I: Reasoning Test and the SAT II: Subject Tests cannot be taken on the same test date.

The SAT I and II Information and Registration Bulletins and SAT Sample Test and Tips Bulletin are available from all the Education USA Advising Centers in Australia. Test preparation materials are available from the advising centers located in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

English Language Tests

In most cases, Australian students do not have to sit any English tests (eg, TOEFL - Test of English as a Foreign Language), although often material sent to overseas enquirers may appear to suggest that such a test is a firm requirement. Your application and school records will indicate whether or not your education has been in English. If English is not your first language OR if the majority of your studies have been completed in a language other than English, you will probably be required to take the TOEFL Test. This can be found at www.toefl.org. Registration Bulletins are available from all Education USA Advising Centers. are available from the advising centers located in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.


The ACT is designed to access students' general development and their ability to complete university level work. The test covers four "skill areas," English, maths, reading and science reasoning. Students can only register for this test online, and the basic fee is US$44.50. It is not possible to take the ACT on a stand-by basis. More information on the ACT is available at www.act.org.


The PSAT measures critical reading, math problem solving, and writing skills that are developed over time. The test, which is usually taken in Year 11, is an excellent practice test opportunity for the SAT. It also gives American citizens the opportunity to qualify for scholarship and recognition programs. For more information on the PSAT are available from the advising centers located in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

Contact any Education USA Advising Center for more infomation about the PSAT.


AP (Advanced Placement) Exams are available as 35 exams in 19 subject areas. These exams allow students to receive advanced placement and/or credit at many U.S. undergraduate institutions, for university level knowledge and work completed prior to starting tertiary level studies. For more information on AP Exams see the AP website.


More difficult than gaining admission, is finding the funds required to pay for tuition and living costs. Higher education in the United States is very expensive. Careful financial planning is essential. Universities and colleges will not accept foreign students without evidence of guaranteed means of support, and visas cannot be obtained without that evidence. The national average tuition fee at four-year U.S. colleges and universities in 2002-03, was US$10,428 at public institutions, and US$18,273 at private ones. The 2002-03 national average tuition fee at two-year US colleges, was US$6,744 for public institutions, and US$9,890 for private ones. The average cost of on-campus room and board at any type of institution is US$5750 per academic year. Tuition costs increase around 5% per year.

There is very little financial assistance for international students, from either Australian or American sources, for undergraduate or first degree study in the USA. For links that may provide assistance in the search for financial assistance, please refer to the Financial Assistance section of ourwebsite.

If you don't have funds to pay for your own education, you should narrow your search to those colleges which make financial aid available to international students. Most of the Australians studying in the States for bachelor's degrees, support themselves by way of personal or family funds. Statistics indicate that at the undergraduate level, about 80% of international students finance their own education. The International Student Handbook of U.S.Colleges, published annually by The College Board, lists those colleges which offer financial assistance to international undergraduates. A list of some websites with financial aid information for international students appears in the Financial Assistancesection.

If you are applying for need-based financial assistance for international students, you will be asked to complete a detailed financial aid application which will require you to list your own and your parents' income and assets. All these questions should be answered honestly.

For information on scholarships for student athletes, please see the Sports Scholarships section of our website.

Student Exchange Programs

It is possible to go to the United States on a one or two-semester student exchange program. Australia's universities now have many international student exchange agreements in place with U.S. institutions. These exchange programs allow the student to undertake study at an approved university overseas, and have that study credited towards their Australian degree. Gaining credit for the overseas study enables the student to complete a degree in the normal length of time required. For further information, students should contact the International Office at the Australian university where they are currently enrolled

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