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MAR 11, 2020 • 8 min read
So you’ve read books about US universities, seen the movie The Social Network and watched Alabama play football, but how much do you actually know about US universities?
Enter: me, your personal mythbuster.
I’m here to help you uncover the truth about US universities so that you don’t talk yourself out of one of the GREATEST experiences in the world: college life!
Today, I’m gonna attempt to bust the three biggest, baddest myths about US admissions.
1. US universities are WAY too expensive.
2. US universities require perfect academics.
3. You need to basically invent Facebook to get into a US university.
Let me guess, you probably think all three statements above are true and they’re probably keeping you from applying to your dream US uni.
Time to get bustin’!
First off, let’s be upfront and put the number on the table.
Harvard University Cost of Attendance: $69,600-$73,600 USD a YEAR
New York University Cost of Attendance: $56,436-$72,900 USD a YEAR
University of California, Berkeley: In-state: $24,090- $38,492 USD a YEAR, out-of-state: $52,104-$66,506 USD a YEAR
Is your jaw on the floor?
Keep in mind that these figures include room and board, books and other living costs including transportation.
But still, clearly US universities are out of the question unless your parents are million, scratch that, billionaires!
The myth must be true.
It would be nearly impossible to get these prices down to something you and your parents could afford without drowning in debt.
Not to mention, you’ll need to factor in the cost of travelling home at least once a year, which, for international students, could be around another $1,500 USD for every trip home.
Nope, US universities are completely and totally out of the question.
...or are they?
The truth is, there is so much financial aid available in the US that studying in the States is oftentimes CHEAPER than studying in your home country.
Think I’m crazy? Let me break it down for you.
First of all, many US unis know how valuable it is to study in the States so they want to ensure that money isn’t a deciding factor for you and your family.
Usually, the amount of aid you receive is determined by how much money your family makes.
Simply put, the more your family earns, the more these universities cost.
Secondly, the sticker prices don’t actually tell the whole story.
Many private universities and Ivy Leagues (such as NYU and Harvard) actually end up being cheaper than public universities (such as UC Berkeley) due to the amount of aid the private universities can give away. In fact, even if you are offered in-state tuition, it may be cheaper for you to attend a private uni!
For example, at Harvard, if your family’s income is less than $100,000 USD a year (which is a lot!) you’re only expected to pay $8,000 USD a year so you’ll get a top-notch education for close to nothing!
Whereas at UC Berkeley, the average amount of aid available is $19,828 USD a year, which means even if you’re a California resident you’d still need to cough up about $15,144 USD a year.
On the other hand, if you were a California resident and you got accepted to Berkeley and your parents’ yearly income was $100,000 USD, you’ll still need to cough up around $23,800 USD a year even with the aid you’re offered!
Even if you don’t get a lot of financial aid from your dream school there are still outside scholarships and loans you can take to make US universities a lot more affordable.
Hell, there are even scholarships for left-handed people!
Of course, financial aid is a bit more complicated than I’m making it out to be but the bottom line is that US universities aren’t always as expensive as they appear to be.
You need a perfect ACT score to get into Harvard, right?
Everyone knows Stanford is never even going to look at your application without a 99.95 ATAR or a 4.0 GPA.
Oh, and say goodbye to ever playing football at the University of Alabama without being the dux of your school.
It’s simply way too difficult to fathom living up to the academic standards US universities expect from their applicants.
Time to stick to your local university.
Take a look at the average scores for the Ivy Leagues:
Unfortunately, US universities don’t release this specific data. Below are a general requirements you need to be a competitive candidate at Ivies:
These are averages, which means that universities take students with lower scores and students with higher scores.
Of course, the higher your scores are, the better your chances are of getting into a top university but it is possible to get into a top-notch university without perfect or even near perfect academics.
Because the US university system is one of the only university systems in the world that cares about more than just your final scores.
More than anything, they want to see you push yourself and they look for evidence of this in your academic transcripts, class difficulty, application essays and extracurricular activities.
For example, if you got a C- in maths in your first year of high school and earn an A in your last year, you are on the right track.
Taking difficult classes in subjects you are passionate about and working really hard in subjects that you aren’t great in will take you far.
The most important thing you can do is show improvement every year.
As long as you are pushing yourself, you have a chance of being considered.
So you see, you don’t need to have perfect academics to get into US universities nor do you need to be the dux of your school.
If you have straight As or a 99.95 ATAR, that’s great and it will help you, but you still need to make yourself stand out.
Which brings us to our third and final myth…
As I mentioned above, US universities place a lot of emphasis on your so-called “extracurricular activities” because it allows them to differentiate between stand-out applicants and average applicants.
And of course, the only way to show how incredible you are and get into your dream US uni is by inventing the next Facebook.
There’s no way you can get into ANY US uni without creating a viral app, winning a gold medal at the Olympics and being part of a famous band.
In one year.
It’s the only way to stand out.
What US universities actually want is to build a well-rounded class of interesting, capable students who may one day change the world or contribute greatly to their community.
Literally the best thing you can do is find something you’re passionate about and work diligently every day to be extraordinary at it.
I know, I know, that sounds super cheesy but it’s true!
If you’re passionate about animals, volunteer at an animal shelter, start your own animal rescue program, work with younger students once a week to teach them the importance of protecting endangered animals, shadow a vet and work your way up the ranks to gain more responsibility.
The longer you sustain a passion, the more deeply you ingrain yourself in your goals, the better your chances of getting into a US uni.
So remember, the US education system is unique in that you can increase your chances of getting into top universities by having really special extracurricular activities.
The best colleges produce world leaders, thinkers and doers, and the only way they can do that is by accepting students who have great potential.
But you don’t need to cure cancer in order to prove your potential, promise!
Applying to and attending US universities is well within your reach.
You don’t need to be a billionaire.
You don’t need to have a perfect SAT score and be dux of your class.
You don’t need to invent the next Uber.
You just need to be the best possible version of yourself.
Push yourself both in and out of school and the rest will work itself out.
There’s no harm in simply applying to your dream university overseas. If you never apply, you’ll never get in.
Now all that’s left to do is decide where to apply!