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US University Application FAQs

Updated: Jul 2

I have loved meeting with students and families during the months of May and June as I attended tertiary expos at school in Sydney and interstate. Some students have not thought of a US university pathway and are interested once they hear it can be a pathway for many types of students.

In my interactions with students, I am always quick to recognise there is a lot of incorrect information about the US university application process.

Below are a list of FAQs and correct responses from a former assistant director of admission at a US university (me!) who has worked in the international education space for two decades.

Some of the students we work with are seeking scholarships to supplement their cost of tuition and room and board. Of the 2023 graduates we worked with in identifying and applying to US universities, 70% of them were offered a merit based scholarship for a cumulative total of US$2.1 million dollars.


Q: Do I have to sit the SAT

A: The SAT (or ACT) continues to be optional at most US universities for admission purposed. However, there are some universities that do require the SAT including Stanford, Yale, Brown, Harvard, as well as the public university system in Georgia and Florida (this list is not exhaustive).

General advice is to sit the exam if you are able to and you can decide if you send the score to the universities later in the process.

Q: The SAT can be taken in lieu of an ATAR

A: No, you will still need to complete year 12 to be considered for admission at a US university. The ATAR will be an additional piece of information to the application process. The more important academic pieces will be your classes/subjects and marks from years 9, 10, 11 and 12. The ATAR is not as important in the US university application review as it is here in Australia, where it is the sole piece to determine your university options. 

Q: It’s so expensive to study in the US.

A: US universities can be expensive but with over 4,000 degree granting institutions there is a huge range of different cost levels. Tuition and fees and room and board can range anywhere from USD$25,000 - $89,000 per year.

Many universities offer students merit-based scholarship for their strong academic performance. This can be a cumulative average (marks from years 9-12) of as low as a B average. The stronger your academic courses/subjects and marks are, the more merit-based scholarship opportunities you will have.

Note: there are also some highly selective universities that do not offer any merit-based scholarship and instead, only offer means tested (needs based) financial aid.

Q: Scholarships only go to the top student

A: As above, there are significant amounts of scholarship money to be awarded. The majority of the money will come directly from the university and will be in the form of merit-based scholarship. These scholarships can be renewed each year provided the conditions are met. Not every university awards merit-based money to students so knowing the financial aid/scholarship landscape at different universities is extremely important.

Q: The US university must be ranked higher than the Sydney/Australian universities for it to make sense for me to study there.

A: Each student and family will have their own ideas of why they are interested in studying in the US.

I work with some of the most academically competitive students who gain admission to top universities. And I also work with students who are seeking a US pathway as an alternative to what they can access here in Australia. These students are keen to discover the incredible opportunities at US universities where they’ll be granted access to the top university system in the world, gain an added cultural aspect, have contact with faculty and other necessary support systems for success. They look to take part in the student living component (majority of the students move out of their family’s home for university in the US) and the student life experience develops a student in ways that are not offered at a local university.

Q: What does internationally Educated do?

A: Internationally Educated assists students and their families through the identification and application process to United States universities. We base our search on student feedback from customised surveys and questionnaires combined with a student’s academic and extracurricular performance and academic goals to identify best fit institutions to which a student should consider applying.

Once institutions are identified, we work with students to customise a learning plan and application strategy to yield best US university application results. This includes guiding students through the complex application process, leading brainstorming sessions to discuss appropriate essay topics for the writing component of the application, standardised test options, and professional advice throughout.

Drawing from our experience in US admissions and having reviewed thousands of students applications, we work to save you time and stress through this process while achieving your most successful application results.

Q: When do you begin working with students? I’m only in year 10 so I have time?

A: Students usually engage our services in year 10 or early in year 11. US universities assess a student’s academic record and supporting documents starting from year nine, so starting the process early is important. Applications are due from 1 November after completing year 12 to early January to commence studying in August. Our comprehensive services commence at point of engagement, ideally in year 10, and extend beyond application submission to conclude only once the student boards the plane to study in the US.




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