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What’s the Difference: UK vs. US Admissions

If you’re beginning to think about applying for university overseas but cannot decide between the US and UK, there are many different factors to consider when arriving at a decision: the curriculum, cost, travel, campus, accommodation, climate, and more. In this article, we’ll be comparing two significant and practical aspects that many students have misconceptions about: standardised tests and the overall application process. Check out our free webinar on acing your US College application for more top tips and strategies.


Standardised Tests

For undergraduate admissions to schools in the US, the two most common tests you’ll be required to take is the SAT and ACT. Many schools, however, give you the option to submit scores from either test and may not even require you to sit the essay section. The SAT and ACT are offered across the world and have no limit to the number of times they can be sat. Although neither test is easier than the other, some do find that they score well in one and not the other because of the different skills that each test requires. You can find out more about the two tests here. Do note that as a result of the pandemic, standardised test scores are no longer mandatory at most colleges in the US. It would be still be advisable to sit these tests if you have the opportunity to do so, as achieving top scores will enhance your application and put you above your fellow applicants.


Some schools will also accept AP scores. Even if they aren’t required, these scores can even be translated into college credits, meaning that you may be able to skip modules and fulfil prerequisites by attaining a score above the cut-off set by the school.


At schools in the UK, applications are course-specific. If you are applying to specialised courses like medicine or law, you will need to sit for certain admissions tests, such as the BMAT, UCAT, and LNAT. If you’re applying to an Oxbridge university , you will also be required to sit for Oxbridge admissions tests based on the course you’re applying for. We offer test preparation services for these important tests, so make sure to reach out and let us know how exactly we can assist you with this process.


Depending on which country you are completing high school in or what you indicate your first language to be, you may be required to also take the TOEFL or IELTS, which are English proficiency exams. This requirement may be waived if you achieve a certain score on the English portion of the SAT, ACT, or AP exam, or if you have studied for over three years in a country where English is an official language. A letter requesting a waiver should be sent directly to the schools you apply to if necessary.


Application Process

One important thing to note about the different application processes is that you can apply to more schools in the US than you can in the UK. In fact, in the US, you can apply to an unlimited number of schools. Schools in the US have different requirements and standards, so separate applications often have to be made to individual schools. The Common Application, however, allows the streamlining of part of the application and can allow students to apply to multiple colleges at once. As well as only having to submit personal details once, the Common Application allows you to upload standardized test scores and recommendation letters and also includes essay and supplemental questions from different schools so that you don’t need to use other platforms. The Common Application is accepted by over 900 schools, including some outside of the US. The new edition of the Common Application opens every year on August 1st.


Another application resource that top schools are beginning to adopt is the Coalition Application. This platform was designed to cater to lower-resourced applicants and only accepts colleges that provide adequate financial support to those who need it. Another popular application is the University of California Application, which is the application used to apply to all nine UC campuses. If you’re thinking of applying to UC Berkeley or UCLA, this will be the platform you should be using to submit your application.


In contrast to the US system, all university applications in the UK are made through UCAS. It is similar to the Common Application but allows you to submit all of your applications in one place, making it a much quicker and less stressful process in the US. Additionally, you are only required to submit one personal statement that relates to the course you are applying for, whereas in the US, essays are particular to the school. A significant downside for some, however, is that you can only apply to five schools, four of which can be medical schools.


Studying for and passing standardized tests and eventually applying for university are only two parts of the whole process, yet, they require the most time and consideration. Deciding on where and then applying to schools is never an easy process, but with time and research, you can find a programme that suits all your wants and needs. We wish you the best with your applications and are here to offer any support that we can give. Good luck!

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