Applying to US Universities as an A-Level Student
I promised a long time ago that I’d write a blog about applying to US Universities as an A-level Student, and I’m really sorry for the wait. Anyways, I’ve generalized this for all three: UK A-Levels, CIE A-levels, and Singaporean A-Levels. Enjoy!
This idea of grouping universities are pretty common among a lot of US university application videos/blogs, so I’m sure a more detailed explanation can be found elsewhere, and I won’t be dwelling so much on this.
Essentially divide your unis into three categories: Reach, Target, Safety.
Reach: Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Caltech.
Target: University of Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, Northeastern
Safety: University of Connecticut, University of Arizona, UMass Lowell
You can find better explanations online for how to group your desired universities depending on your individual academic strength, co-curricular strength, demographic strength, and etc.
Taking the SAT?
When I applied to universities I was in the round where SATs were optional, I don’t know when you’re reading this so I’m not sure for you, but, regardless, I’d always recommend taking the SATs.
Why? Well, it’d be an easier peg for you to: group your universities, and (in my opinion) get in.
“Grades don’t matter”. That’s true, but by having an SAT score that is either in their average or 75th percentile range, you’d at least pass “first sorting”.
Think of university admissions as layers of sifting, the sift gets smaller as you go. Grades are your first sift. While A-levels are a worldly recognizable curriculum, you’d be going against students with curriculums that vary all over the world. By allowing yourself to meet their standards, rather than have them understand yours, you’re ridding yourself of unnecessary uncertainty.
Personal Statement and Supplemental Statements
TIME MANAGEMENT. Can’t say this enough. Time management is essential when doing this. Bring out a couple of sheets of paper and start mapping out the due dates of each of your universities (note: UCs require earlier submission) and make a document of all the supplemental essays required.
Your personal statement will be one long statement written for all your universities. The supplemental statements are specific to each universities and the number of supplemental essays asked of you will vary from uni to uni.
For your personal statement, the CommonApp will provide you options on prompts you can build on. Granted, there is a prompt of “prompt of your choice”, either way, a personal statement should SHOW qualities of yourself that you value most, intertwined with the experience you’ve chosen to disclose.
There are much better explanations online for how to write a personal statement and it’d be best you check that out yourself. Remember, when reading a statement example you’re not only reading for inspiration, but also to understand how successful students have presented their qualities and experiences to admissions officers.
For the supplemental essays, I’d recommend grouping similar prompts together, noting down the required word length. You can start answering the prompts that are similar then sizing the draft accordingly to each university. Trust me, this saves so much time.
The key to completing all the written requirements have always been the same: studying and understanding essays by successful students (it’s not necessarily about the content per se, rather the delivery)
When it comes to grades, your general progression over the past four years are very important.
Whether you’ve been a straight A student all your life, or you’ve seen a general positive climb on your grades, it’s never to late to start working hard to make your grades sparkle in the eyes of admissions officers.
Now, midterms will be most important. Since, they’ll act as your predicted grades for A2, it’s very important that you DO WELL in them.
Details on choosing A-Level subjects for your unis is on another blog, there’s a US uni example there.
University interviews in the US are very different from what you’d expect from the UK, or Asian Universities. There’s no written examination or topic questions, rather, it flows more as conversation.
It’s very important that you spark chemistry with your interviewer, whether they’ll be an alumni from the university, or (very rarely) an admissions officer themself.
Interviews don’t weigh much on admissions decisions. My senior, who attends one of the Reach Universities I’ve listed above, had an admissions officer who said he wouldn’t be suited for the school.
Nevertheless, you should always try to do well in these interviews. Most questions will follow as: Tell me about yourself. Why did you choose to go to this school? Tell me what one of your greatest accomplishments were.
At the end of the interview, they’ll ask you if you’ve got any questions for them. When I did my interview I’d usually ask them about the school community, or their experience in travelling to the school, one case I even asked what it was like when they experienced their first snow, and etc.
Try to come up with questions you wouldn’t find on the web or on a forum, something unique and personal to you (perhaps a question about disability accommodation, or whether the observatory is open all year round).
I think that’s about it really. I hope this was informative enough, I know that there are more details needed, but with so many resources online for US unis I really didn’t know what else to write. So, these were just based on my experiences when I applied.