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University in America?

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There are a lot of great options for tertiary school here in New Zealand. However, there is much less information about going to America for university, so here are some tips to help you out.

Location

One of the most daunting tasks is sifting through the vast amount of universities in America. Firstly, sit down and think about where you want to live in America. This may sound rudimentary, but you want to choose a university that you will actually enjoy living in.

Social

Going to university in America is not just about learning, it’s a life experience. It is an opportunity for you to meet all sorts of new people, so have a think about what kind of social environment you want. Schools range from a few hundred students, such as Harvey Mudd, to something like 51,000 students at the University of Texas at Austin.

One of the defining characteristics of American universities is the Greek life. This consists of the fraternity and sorority houses, which are for males and females respectively. These frats are at the basis of movies like American Pie, and joining these houses is definitely a social experience you may be interested in. Aside from the parties, people join these houses to feel part of a group and to gain leadership experience.

Universities also offer a ridiculous amount of activities, one of the most obvious ones being sport. Harvey Mudd, with only 700 students, already has over 50 different recreational clubs and activities.

Academic

With 5000 universities in America, there’s also a huge diversity in the academic cultures. Most of us will have heard of some of the top schools, such as Yale, Harvard or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), although for many of us these may be a little out of reach.

It’s good to understand what schools you might fit in at, academically. Don’t waste time applying for schools that are too high pressure for your liking. Harvard, for example, is an extremely elite school, and therefore some of us might find it too stressful to study there, assuming we get accepted!

What you might need to apply to an American university

  • The SAT test (Scholastic Aptitude Test). This is split into SAT 1, the Reasoning test, which includes maths, critical reading, and writing. Each of these sections is graded out of 800 points. There is also the SAT 2, or the subject tests, which are, again, each graded out of 800 and test your proficiency in courses such as more advanced maths, science or history. Some colleges may require an SAT 1 score and two subject tests.
  • The ACT test (American College Testing). This test is an alternative to the SAT, and you don’t generally need both, most colleges accept one or the other. However, you should check the university you are planning on applying to beforehand.
  • Proof that you have finished high school.
  • A personal essay which highlights your uniqueness as an individual
  • Teacher recommendations

Article by Drew Cannon. Edited by Frank Zhou.

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