International Students

Holistic Admission Practices

There is no national standard for admission, no national university admission test, and in fact no national curriculum on which to test students. US colleges and universities each approach admissions differently, although nearly every institution practices a holistic reading and evaluation process. That means, while admissions offices focus primarily on a student’s academic success and fit for a particular program, they also examine many, if not all, of the following:

  • Transcripts (both the grades earned and rigor of the courses)
  • Standardized test scores (SAT/ACT/TOEFL)
  • Student essay(s)
  • Recommendation (reference) letters from teachers and counselor
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Significant achievement in one or more of the following special areas: music, art, athletics, leadership, service
  • Summer work experience
  • Diversity the student will bring to the university’s community
  • Ability to pay the full cost of attendance
  • Legacy (a relative attended and graduated from that university)
  • Demonstrated interest

Points to keep in mind

US Colleges and universities mandate that students should be in charge of their own process, and they look very unfavorably on students using “agents” or “independent counselors” who complete the applications and even, on occasion, write essays for the students. This practice is considered cheating by US schools and may result in a student not being admitted.
There are more than 2,500 four year colleges and universities in the US. Of these 2,500, easily 500 provide students with an excellent education.
In the US, “college” and “university” are used interchangeably; one is not inherently better than the other.
The “top” (meaning most popular and famous) schools receive tens of thousands of applications from highly qualified students each year and admit only a small percent of them.
There is no national or official ranking of universities in the US; most rankings in the media are based more on how “popular” and “famous” a school is, not the academic excellence of that school.