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What do US colleges look for?

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“One of the most important things about college is its role as a socializing institution. College is a place where you meet all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds and you learn from each other. It is, properly constituted, an environment which fosters intellectual, ideological, and social cross-pollination. You need diversity – broadly defined – for college to matter”. – MIT

What do US colleges and universities look for when they screen the applications of international students?

Many US universities have a Holistic approach when it comes to the application procedure. This evaluation focuses on the overall quality of the application by considering several factors. They look for qualities and abilities in an international student: good grades, study habits, admission test scores, and overall potential to succeed in college.

When we say that we have a holistic admissions process it essentially means that our admissions process takes into account many different factors and that we understand that it is the interaction of these myriad factors which constitutes the applicant. We deploy “holistic” to differentiate against admissions systems which only consider so-called “objective academic data” (and I am air-quoting so hard I might sprain a knuckle) in their admissions process. *


ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE – This is one of the primary criteria for universities to understand your full potential and ability to take on the college workload. Universities pay close attention to your academic prowess and scores from the 9th to 12th grade. It is imperative to keep a progressive trajectory to be a strong applicant.

EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES – Learning about your non-academic and extracurricular interests helps universities to understand your future prospects in the college community.
They want to understand the impact you have had in a club, at your job, or in your school.

ADMISSION TEST SCORES – When it comes to standardized tests, every college has different requirements for international students. The most common tests are ACT, SAT, IELTS, and TOEFL.

LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION (LORs) – US universities generally need letters of recommendation primarily from high school counselors and teachers. Some colleges may need additional letters from individuals who can provide insight into your personality, character, and academic abilities.

ESSAY – Many universities will require you to submit a personal statement or an essay and some will ask you to answer extra questions with shorter essays. This is a great opportunity for universities to understand your personality and skills.

PERSONAL QUALITIES – Some universities look for certain traits to know if you will succeed in college or not, traits such as persistence, intellectual curiosity, or social consciousness.


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