5 Steps to Undergraduate Studies in the U.S.

More than 3,600 colleges and universities offer undergraduate degree programs in the United States.  This vast choice means there are programs available to meet everyone’s needs.  Below, information is provided on admissions procedures, standardized tests and guidelines, and give advice on locating and applying to just the right undergraduate program for you.

After you define your priorities and identify the factors most important to you, you should use other resources to narrow down your choices. There are several ways you can do this:

  • visit an EducationUSA advising center
  • refer to college and university websites
  • use search engines
  • attend education fairs

Almost every college and university in the United States has a website with detailed information about degree programs, application procedures, academic departments, on-campus facilities, and other topics. Often, you can also find a copy of the course catalog online.

Many independent websites also allow you to search for institutions by your subject of interest, geographic preference, or by other criteria that you specify. Students should review each website to ensure that the search engine includes all accredited U.S. higher education institutions. Here are two for starters:

As part of the application process, most undergraduate programs require one or more U.S. standardized test scores. Your test scores, academic record, and other factors are used to predict how well you will do as a university student. The test scores are one way to compare students from the United States and international students from different educational systems.

In the United States, there is no national college entrance examination administered by the government that students must pass to gain admission to higher education. Rather, different universities or schools establish their own admission requirements, including which third-party standardized test they accept.

Standardized tests should be taken a year to 18 months before you plan on studying. Many students take the exams more then once to achieve higher scores. There are many websites, books, and tutors available to help you prepare.

English Language Ability Tests

Being able to communicate in English is a basic requirement for successful undergraduate study in the United States. If English is not your native language, U.S. colleges and universities will ask you to take an English Language proficiency test before admission.

The most common tests for English language ability are the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), and the Pearson Test of English (PTE).

Admissions Tests

Most colleges and universities in the United States require standardized testing for undergraduate admissions.  Admissions requirements vary, so be sure to confirm which test(s) you need with the institutions that interest you.

ACT: a curriculum-based multiple-choice assessment that tests reading, English, mathematics, and science, with an optional essay section.  The ACT is widely accepted at accredited two and four-year colleges and universities in the United States, and hundreds of institutions around the world.

SAT: a test that measures critical reading, writing, and mathematical abilities.  The SAT Subject Tests measure knowledge in specific subject areas. The SAT is widely accepted at accredited two and four-year colleges and universities in the United States, and hundreds of institutions around the world.