Admissions Requirements FAQs

Q: What criteria do American universities use to evaluate applicants?

Q: Should I apply to an associate's degree or bachelor’s degree programme?

Q: Is it possible to transfer between American universities or from a UK to an American university?

Q: How do I convert my UK marks to a US Grade Point Average (GPA)?

Q: Which A-level subjects do you recommend if I want to apply to American universities? 

Q: How many A-levels should I take when applying to an American university?

Q: Will I get university credit for my A-levels, Pre-U or IB Diploma?

Q: I've only completed my GCSEs. Can I still attend university in the USA?

Q: Will American universities consider my BTEC or other practical/professional qualification?

Q: I am trying to decide whether to do A-levels or the IB. Do American universities prefer one qualification over the other?

Q: What do American universities expect from Scottish and Welsh applicants?

Q: I am an IB student. Where can I get more information about applying to the US?

Q: Where can I find additional or one-to-one support on my application(s)?

Q: I have questions beyond what is on the Fulbright website. Where can I get further information?

Admissions Requirements

Q: What criteria do American universities use to evaluate applicants?

American universities use a holistic approach when reviewing applicants. An applicant’s academic success and potential is perhaps the most important factor in his/her application but American universities also put high value on character, extracurricular involvement, work experience and the applicant’s reason for wishing to attend that university. Please visit our Admissions Criteria page to get more information on the factors that American universities consider in evaluating undergraduate applications.

Q: Should I apply to an associate's degree or bachelor’s degree programme?

Two-year colleges in the US offer an alternative to the more traditional four-year bachelor’s degree programmes. Known as community, technical or junior colleges, these institutions offer study in a wide range of subjects to post-secondary students of all ages and academic levels.  Students studying at a community college may either receive a stand-alone two-year qualification, the associate's degree, or transfer to a four-year bachelor’s programme in a 2 + 2 format. In addition to educational flexibility, two-year colleges are also known for their affordability with relatively low tuition rates in comparison to four-year institutions. For more information, please visit our associate’s degree page.

Q: Is it possible to transfer between American universities or from a UK to an American university?

It is possible to transfer from a UK university to a US university, as well as between US institutions, without losing credit or starting over as in the UK. The flexibility of the credit system at US universities allows coursework completed at one institution to be recognised by another, provided certain criteria are met. Due to this fact, over one million students every year, including international students enrolled at a non-US institution, transfer to a new US university each autumn. Please visit our website on transfer admissions for more information.

It is always important to check with each university you are applying to in order to ensure they accept transfer students and to check the admission requirements for transfer students. Universities will have policies regarding transfer student admission, such as how long they require you to have attended your first university before you are eligible to transfer. Again, it’s always best to check with each university.

Q: How do I convert my UK marks to a US Grade Point Average (GPA)?

There is no official formula for converting your UK marks to a GPA. If an application requires you to submit a GPA, we recommend that you leave that section blank. Admissions staff will evaluate the marks your school reports on your transcripts instead. For more information on transcripts and for a rough conversion chart of UK marks to a US GPA to gauge your relative competitiveness of admission, please visit our transcript page.

Q: Which A-level subjects do you recommend if I want to apply to American universities? 

American universities will not stipulate which subjects to study and it is a personal choice, so be sure to choose the subjects that you will do best in and that fit your academic / professional goals. If you will be applying for a specialist institution such as MIT or Caltech for maths or engineering or to an arts institute, they will likely expect to see related subjects in your A-levels. Similarly, most competitive universities will expect to see more ‘academic’ subjects, much like universities in the UK. However, the most important thing is that you do well and can explain why you selected the subjects. Please visit our Admissions Criteria page to get more information on academic qualifications.

Q: How many A-levels should I take when applying to an American university?

Most American universities expect you to complete at least three A-levels. However, if you take more A-levels, be sure to have your referees note that you went above and beyond the required number for admission to British universities and how this compares to your peers, especially if you are not predicted to get all A’s. Please visit our Admissions Criteria page to get more information on academic qualifications.

Q: Will I get university credit for my A-levels, Pre-U or IB Diploma?

You will most likely receive university-level credit for these qualifications. Unless the university publishes their advanced standing policy, you may not know for certain how much credit until you have been accepted and your transcripts have been reviewed by an academic advisor at the university. For more information please visit our webpage on Advanced Standing or our IB FAQs handout.

Q: I've only completed my GCSEs. Can I still attend university in the USA?

For admission to four-year bachelor's degree programmes, students educated in the British system are typically expected to hold at least five GCSEs at grade C or above in academic subjects and three A-levels. The IB Diploma and Pre-U qualifications are also accepted for admission to four-year universities, including most competitive universities. For more information on admissions criteria to US universities, please visit our Admissions Criteria page.

If you stopped education after your GCSEs, you may wish to apply for a two-year associate programme at a community college, which will give you the option to transfer to a four-year bachelor's programme in a 2+2 arrangement.  If you plan to apply for a four-year bachelor's programme immediately, the university may require you to sit the GED exam.

Q: Will American universities consider my BTEC or other practical/professional qualification?

For admission to four-year bachelor's degree programmes, students educated in the British system are typically expected to hold at least five GCSEs at grade C or above in academic subjects and three A-levels. The IB Diploma and Pre-U qualifications are also accepted for admission to four-year universities, including most competitive universities. For more information on admissions criteria to US universities, please visit our Admissions Criteria page.

If you have completed another post-16 qualification you can still apply for US study. You may want to consider applying to less competitive bachelor's degree programmes or to community colleges, which will give you the option to transfer to a four-year bachelor's programme in a 2+2 arrangement. No matter where you decide to apply, we suggest contacting the university's admissions office directly to confirm that you are eligible for admission with your qualifications.

Q: I am trying to decide whether to do A-levels or the IB. Do American universities prefer one qualification over the other?

US universities accept and are familiar with both A-levels and the IB diploma. Most US four-year universities will require that UK educated students have at least three A-levels or their equivalent, which includes the IB. There is no ‘better’ method of preparation for gaining acceptance to an American university. Students should review both routes and determine which seems better suited to their learning styles. That said, students may find the IB curriculum more similar to the broad liberal arts curriculum used at American universities. Please visit our Admissions Criteria page to get more information on academic qualifications.

Q: What do American universities expect from Scottish and Welsh applicants?

As a minimum requirement for four-year bachelor's degrees, you should have completed at least five Scottish Standard Grades, including English and Math, plus be completing or have completed a post age 16 qualification. The most competitive universities will expect to see three Scottish Highers, two A-levels alongside the Welsh Baccalaureate, the IB or Pre-U. Please visit our Admissions Criteria page to get more information on academic qualifications or contact your universities of interest directly.

Q: I am an IB student. Where can I get more information about applying to the US?

US universities are familiar with the IB programme and welcome applications from IB students. In fact, many universities will offer advanced standing and some will offer special scholarship for these students. See our IB FAQs handout for more information.

Additional Questions

Q: Where can I find additional or one-to-one support on my application(s)?

There are many organisations and individuals in the UK who can help you prepare applications to American universities. Many of our partner organisations offer one-on-one support to students who are searching for and applying to universities in the USA. You can also search for educational consultants online.

Q: I have questions beyond what is on the Fulbright website. Where can I get further information?

After reviewing the information provided on our website, feel free to contact our advising team. You can reach us via phone 0845 894 9524 (Tuesdays 1:30 - 5 pm and Thursdays 1:30 - 5 pm); via email – advising@fulbright.org.uk; or in-person at events.

If you need additional assistance as you apply for US study beyond what our staff is able to provide, you may wish to consider contacting one of the organisations on our Resources page. These test tutors and educational consultants offer a higher level of personalised, additional support and services to help you prepare for admission exams and complete a competitive application.