Admission Criteria

Applications to US graduate programmes are reviewed holistically. Grades and admissions exam scores will only get your application so far, so it’s important to construct a well-rounded application package.

Most applications will follow a similar format:

  • Application form
  • Official final or interim transcripts
  • Admissions exam scores (if required)
  • Personal statement
    • Possibly a research statement 
    • Possibly a CV
  • Two to three recommendation letters
  • Arts portfolio or writing samples, if applicable
  • Interview

All of these elements help to paint a picture of the following:

Academic preparation, potential and achievement

These are assessed through your:

  • Transcript
  • Admissions exam scores (if required)
  • Recommendation letters
  • Other relevant academic work highlighted in your application form, such as presenting at conferences or independent research projects

These should build a well-rounded, complementary view of you as a suitable applicant to that particular programme.

US universities don’t have specific entry requirements like British universities.

They do publish the grade point average (GPA) that their first year (freshman) students achieved in high school. This can be usually be found on the admissions section of a university’s website, and is out of 4.0.

This will help you know if a university’s academic profile is within your reach.

Graduate schools will also sometimes publish the average or range of admissions scores their admitted students typically receive.

Clear study or research plan

Graduate schools will be looking for a clear and coherent study or research plan in the personal and/or research statements. It is important to convey a strong interest and knowledge of your field.

You should be able to articulate what your short and long-term goals are and how completing the course will help get you there.

Academic fit

Graduate schools will be looking for a detailed explanation of your interest in pursuing a degree at their institution. It is imperative that within your application you demonstrate compelling reasons for pursuing that specific postgraduate degree at that particular university.

US institutions also know that there are excellent programmes in the UK. Your application should convince them that, if given a place and funding, you will take them up on the offer. Make them feel confident by giving compelling reasons for studying in the US.

Extracurricular activities

US universities are looking for well-rounded applicants who will be active participants on their campuses and in their classrooms. They want to get a sense of an applicant’s character, personal interests and professional goals.

An extracurricular activity is any committed and constructive involvement not required to finish education, such as:

  • Employment
  • Volunteering
  • Caring for family members
  • Sports
  • University clubs and societies
  • Interests in the arts
  • Hobbies

The most competitive schools will be looking for students who are leaders and innovators outside of the lecture theatre.