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Four Interesting Facts About The US University Application For Australians

OCT 16, 2020 • 10 min read

One of the biggest challenges that Australian students face when it comes to visualising their successful admission to their dream US universities is a lack of knowledge around what it takes to get in.

More specifically the US application process can sometimes feel a little frightening - but only because it is vastly different to how universities evaluate students in Australia.

The good news is, if anything the US application process is a much more ‘human’ one with universities genuinely interested in who you are and what matters to you. That’s why it covers everything from your academics and extracurriculars to your personal passions and future ambitions. This holistic evaluation helps admissions officers learn more about you to determine if you are a right ‘fit’ for their university and that their campus will be somewhere where you will thrive.

The US university application process is quite comprehensive in comparison to the UAC process in Australia and so we’ve come up with a list of four interesting facts about the US university application process, specifically for Australian students.

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1. US Universities do acknowledge and understand the ATAR

A commonly asked question is whether US universities are able to understand and translate Australia high school curriculum and the ATAR? The answer is yes. Admissions offices employ specialised experts who are familiar and understand high school curriculums from around the world. In the context of Australia, there would be experts who understand how the ATAR is interpreted, and how local curricula like the HSC, VCE, WACE are constructed. Therefore you can have confidence that you can apply to top US universities using your Australian grades.

If you want to learn more about using your ATAR to apply to the US, check out our ‘5 Facts for Students Applying Overseas with an ATAR’ blog below.

2. Academics only account for 40% of the application’s weighting

Getting into your preferred course and university in Australia requires you to meet the minimum ATAR requirement. Therefore if you have a good academic record, you have a high chance of securing your chosen course and university admission. However this is not the case for the US. Having good academics and a good SAT or ACT score only makes up approximately 40% of the application weighting.

The other 60% of the application is based on your holistic evaluation which predominantly involves your extracurricular activities, personal statements and supplemental essays. The holistic evaluation is where most students do not progress through the process, which is why it is crucial to build a strong extracurricular profile and nail the personal statements .

Admissions officers love to see the unique perspectives and experiences students can bring to a university, having come from a different place of origin. Building uniquely Australian experiences and extracurriculars into your application will give you a point of difference e.g. volunteering projects with indigenous communities etc.

Below are some examples of Australian students with extraordinary extracurriculars:

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3. There is financial support available

Studying at university is generally expensive. Being an Australian citizen allows you to benefit from the HECS scheme if you apply to Australian universities. The Australian Government gives you a loan which you can pay off with voluntary payments or pay off gradually with your wages via tax in Australia.

This system is familiar to Australian students - which is why the US system can feel confusing when words like ‘financial aid’ and ‘scholarships’ come into play.

The good news is, while studying at a US university is more expensive than studying at a domestic institution, there is more financial aid available in the US system. In fact 75% of the students at Harvard are on some form of financial aid!

Included in US college university fees are all food and accommodation (if students are living on campus which the great majority do) so the fees can be seen as lifestyle support beyond the academic tuition.

When applying for aid families are ‘means tested’ and if admitted the university makes up any gap the family cannot afford. The even better news is, financial aid is not a ‘loan’ so does not need to be ‘paid back’. That said international students can also take out loans to supplement the funding of their studies

Further, ‘need-blind’ colleges don't take your financial situation into account when considering your application (while need-aware schools do consider your application as part of many deciding factors . Some examples of need blind universities include: Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Amherst and MIT. Finally there are colleges that offer full-need financial aid to sufficiently cover the family’s needs.

Need more information on financial aid? Check out “The Importance of Considering Financial Aid in your College Application” blog article.

4. Early Decision applications are advantageous

Just like Australia, the US has multiple university application offering rounds. However, applying to an Early Decision round in the US is often more advantageous than applying in Regular Decision. Applying early can give you higher admissions rates at many top schools for e.g. UPenn, Cornell, Dartmouth. The early decision round offers will come prior to finishing your Year 12 examinations. Therefore a predicted ATAR and grades are provided during the application process. Most early decision applications will only allow you to apply to one university, but the advantage of higher admission rates and being offered a place at your dream university before your exams are completed is a fantastic feeling!

Still have questions about the US application? Download our free e-book that covers the frequently asked questions about the US application, answered by a former Stanford Admissions officer.

We hope this blog helped with giving you some insight into the US application. Australian students have a great chance and opportunity to study in the top US universities. If you’re looking to take the next step visit our Webinars and Workshops page to register for our upcoming webinars or request a free and private consultation with our Academic Advisors where they can help you understand the full US application process.

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Want to learn more about using your ATAR to study overseas?

Check out our upcoming webinars and workshops to learn from US & UK admissions experts and recent admits.