How to Get Accepted to an American University


Filip Orth
Student at Santa Clara University, Freelancer
Bratislava, Slovakia

Right now, I am in the stage of my life when I am starting my studies at Santa Clara University in the United States, California. I wanted to get to an American university and I was preparing for this step for a considerable amount of time. It required continuous progress in my study results, extracurricular activities, and overall building of my personality. It is not an easy route, especially for international students, but it can be done, if you prepare in a right way and have some natural discipline. I know that there is a lack of firsthand information, I experienced it myself. Here are some tips for students who are also planning this step.

What to Do?

When you decide to study at an American university after the secondary school it is a big step not only for you, but for your whole family. You have to start building your profile and background long time before you are able to enroll. To put it simply, you need to start thinking about it much earlier, before the time of the decision comes. Ideal time is after finishing primary school, or when beginning secondary school.

This estimate comes from the fact that you have to combine activities you are interested in and be involved with them continuously.

You will have more academic work in the last years of secondary school anyway. So, you should know by then what you are interested in and what you want to study. Most effort should be put into the things connected with your dream subject. Natural interest in pursuing these activities is great, especially where it exceeds standard requirements.

When you decide about the universities you are interested in, look at the universities’ profile in great detail. Not only at general rankings or location, but also field-specific rankings. What is also important, is students’ experience of the school, the school’s infrastructure of what does it offer beyond the standards of other schools. Each school has a different profile, which does not have to suit every student, therefore it is important to learn as much as possible about a particular university.



Finance, scholarships and grants

Students are often skeptical about studying in the United States because of financial barriers. Especially international students, for whom it is more difficult to get financial support. It is true that there is not a lot of programs targeting international students to help them study in the United States. But I can say that the only thing that helps is to search ceaselessly.

Opinions differ whether there is enough programs and scholarships available or too little. It was not easy, but I know from my experience that when I searched for them, I did eventually find organizations and companies offering financial help for international students. What can help here, is to be clear about criteria.

There are general scholarships with no restrictions, but also the ones tailored to the specific school or field. So once you start narrowing it down, make sure to filter the scholarships to your situation; look at geographical location, field or subject of study and other factors that can make the financial support most relevant to your academic situation. There is also a possibility of combining scholarships, thus building a sum that can cover most of the tuition. It is also important to check what is the institution asking you to give back, as this can be an important aspect in planning your future.

Understandably, some institutions will ask you to give something back, either by working for them or by paying back a certain amount of the loaned sum. It is sensible to establish what you are able to commit to, while also reflecting about how you will see your present decision in the future. There are, of course, partnerships with looser conditions, but it always depends on the specific program.


Pre-entry tests

Besides financial matters that are one of the essentials for studying, it is also important to know about all the tests that are required before applying to American universities or colleges. SAT is the most commonly used test that has impact on where you can apply. It is necessary to take the SAT test. It can be described as a general test, and if your ambition is to study at a prestigious university, for example, from the Ivy League, you should aim to get the highest scores.

Best preparation for SAT is to take an SAT test from previous years. You need to realize that the process is not easy – it takes at least 3.5 hours, there are only very short breaks, and it is therefore important to stay focused and not to lose time. General rule with the SAT is try to answer as many questions as possible and not spend too much time on a single question. You should not guess, but because of the large number of questions you should have a strategy where you answer the items you know first and return to the more difficult ones later. Every person is different, but keep in mind that it is a long test. When you choose an option where you need to write an essay, which some schools ask for, you need to incorporate roughly another hour.


Besides SAT, an English language test, such as TOEFL or IELTS, is important. It is an essential part of the application. These tests measure your level of English – vocabulary, understanding of texts, writing, reading, listening, or in other words, whether you are able to have a conversation in English.




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