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If you are applying via regular admission most American universities will require you to submit your application by January/March of the year in which you wish to begin university. If you applying for Early Action or Early Decision you will be required to submit your completed application in the autumn of the year before you wish to begin university. For more information, please visit our Application Timeline.
Early Action and Early Decision applications allow you to apply early to US universities and receive admissions decisions well before the usual spring decision date usually by December or January. Offers (also known as admissions decisions) are not specifically conditional (for example you must get an AAA or your offer is withdrawn). However, universities expect you to perform at or very near to the level predicted when they admitted you. It has certainly happened that a student has had his/her offer withdrawn for poor performance in their A2s.
The advantage of applying early is that you are competing with a smaller applicant pool and are generally more likely to be accepted if you have the proper credentials.
There are several types of early deadlines, so read the fine print. Most universities offer one of the following options:
Early action - Students typically apply by 1 November in anticipation of an admissions decision by 15 December. This type of deadline is non-binding AND non-restrictive. Students may apply to as many universities in the US as they choose under early action policies.
Restrictive early action (Example: Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Yale) - Like early action, students typically apply by 1 November in anticipation of an admissions decision by 15 December. This type of deadline is non-binding.
However, check for restrictions in the university policies on whether you can apply to other universities while you have a restrictive early action application out. Generally speaking, you can only apply to one university restrictive early action, and this will be your only early application in the US. There may be exceptions in the university policy (check on their admissions page) such as allowing you to apply early to state universities with a non-binding, rolling admissions policy or to universities where the university application is considered for scholarships must be submitted earlier than 15 December.
Early decision - There are two early decision deadlines, ED1 in November and the slightly less common ED2 in January. These are more common at private liberal arts colleges. Like early action, ED1 students typically apply by 1 November in anticipation of an admissions decision by 15 December.
Early decision applications are binding. You should think very carefully before applying to a university early decision. You, your school and your parents will sign an early decision agreement, certifying that you understand the terms of early decision: The early decision university should be your first choice (worldwide) and if accepted, you will withdraw all other applications (worldwide) and attend that university. The only exception is if you apply for financial aid and do not receive sufficient aid to take up your offer.
You may only submit one early decision application in the ED1 and/or ED2 rounds. You should certainly apply to other universities in the UK at the same time to keep all options open, but know that you will need to decline your UCAS offers if admitted early decision in the US.
No, there is no exact equivalent to UCAS in the USA. You will apply to each of your American universities individually. Many American universities, however, will require similar components in their applications. Some 450 American universities also use the Common Application, which streamlines the application process by only requiring you to fill out basic information and write a common essay once and then allowing you submit it to multiple institutions. Keep in mind, however, that around one third of universities that use the Common Application will also require you to submit supplemental essays or materials. See the Common Application website for a list of universities that use the application and visit our Common Application page for a guide on completing the Common Application.
The Common Application is used by over 450 American universities. It is somewhat akin to UCAS, in that you will save time by being able to complete information and essays that you can submit to multiple universities. However, bear in mind that approximately one third of universities ask for supplemental information and/or essays. For more information, please visit our Common Application page or access the Common Application official website. Don't forget to download our step-by-step student guide to completing the Common Application, as well as our step-by-step school's guide to completing the Common Application School Forms.
Most US universities will require applicants to submit an academic transcript. This is a document that your school prepares listing your academic qualifications and marks during the final four years of school (US grades 9 - 12, UK Years 10 - 13: i.e. - GCSEs, A-levels, IB, BTEC, etc.) To get more information, and to see a sample transcript, please visit our transcripts page.
You will want to confirm with the university, but typically the university will find it acceptable if the sixth form college includes the GCSE results from a previous secondary school on their transcript.
Most US universities will require applicants to submit two to three letters of reference from teachers, school administrators, or contacts from work or extracurricular activities. These letters should address the applicant’s academic aptitude and his/her ability to succeed and contribute to campus life. Be sure to ask for references from people who know you well and who have a positive opinion of your potential to succeed. Also make certain that your referees have enough time to compose and submit a letter on your behalf. Do not ask them the week that the letters are due! For further information on what should be included in a letter of reference and tips for your references, please visit our reference letters page.
Universities tend to prefer a current A-level teacher or someone who has taught the student in the past year. Students change quite a bit between GCSE and A-levels! That being said, if the student has a strong reference from a GCSE teacher and the student would like to submit it in addition to their other references (so in addition to the two teacher references) some universities may take it into consideration alongside the others. Though once again, A-level references are preferred.
The essay(s) is one of the most important components of a US undergraduate application. Essays allow you to address your academic and career goals, elaborate on extracurricular activities, why you chose that university and any other information about yourself that you feel is important for the admissions staff to know. You can also show off your creative side and personality in your essay. For more information on what US universities expect in an applicant’s essay, and tips on how to write a good essay, please visit our essays page. On that page you will find a sample essay that you can read to get an idea of what American universities are looking for in an application essay, and a worksheet that will help you evaluate your own essay.
If you are a US citizen and hold a US passport you will apply via domestic admissions. You may be required by the university to submit a photocopy or fax of your American passport. As you hold US citizenship you will also not be required to apply for a US student visa.
A: Universities in the US each have their own policies on admission and awarding credit for different qualifications. For this reason, it is best to contact each university about their policies. Some US universities view Foundation Degrees as a gateway to higher education and will have you apply as a transfer student.
Other US universities may view Foundation Degrees as continuing secondary education and will have you apply as a first-year student if you have not yet attended a university and/or worked towards a bachelor’s degree.
Keep in mind that most American universities processing applications from around the world and that they may not be as familiar with Foundation Degrees as they are with other British programmes. Therefore, although US universities do not use the UCAS Tariff, it doesn't hurt to include information about the UCAS Tariff points for your qualification or the description of the qualification provided by UCAS. Please see more information about admissions criteria.
A: In general, most universities will require you apply as a transfer student (even if you are just beginning your university studies in the UK). However, it is always important to check with each university you are applying to in order to ensure they accept transfer students, to confirm you should apply as a transfer student (vs. a first year student) and to check the admission requirements. Universities will have policies regarding transfer student admission, such different deadlines and application requirements as well as a residency requirement (how long they require you to attend their university before you are eligible to receive a degree from their institution, generally two years out of a four year bachelor's degree). For more information, see our page on transfer admissions.
If you need a document attested or verified, you may wish to use services provided by the Office of Authentications of the US State Department or a company that can coordinate this process for you such as Speedy Egger. (Please note the Fulbright Commission does not endorse any university, product or service.)
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.
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org; 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.