How likely to enter a North American university

Good afternoon! My name is Genghis. At the request of Csklassami, I ’ll try to tell you how to most likely enter a North American university for a bachelor’s degree. I am 17 years old and I entered this year for the first time.

I will say this: if you write articles on Habré or read them with great interest, and most importantly understand the essence, then most likely you can do it. This, of course, doesn’t sound very believable, but here’s the thing: in US universities, there is a system of admission different from Russian. In the American system, in addition to the test results, the university is interested in your hobbies. It is important for them that you can engage in scientific activities there, be versatile.

Here, for example, is a quote from the official MIT website for undergraduate students:

"The most important thing to remember is that at MIT we admit people, not numbers ...".
“It’s very important to understand that at MIT we accept people, not numbers ...”

In this post I will describe the entire process of admission, from the choice of universities to the passage of the interview, based on my personal experience.

Exams and tests

To begin with, you need to pass all the exams. For those who are going to enter next year, I advise you to start now. In many universities, the main exam is the SAT. This test mainly tests your knowledge of English. He also tests basic knowledge of algebra and geometry. It should be noted that since the exam is designed for native speakers (Americans pass the same exam upon admission) - English is complicated there, but the math is very easy. In addition to the SAT, depending on your specialty, you will also have to pass the SAT Subject Test, and most likely not one. SAT Subject Test is like a profile subject to choose when taking the exam. You can take all exams as many times as you like. The university will accept the best result.

Here, the most difficult thing for me was to understand why, for example, the same MIT on equal terms accepts the results of the SAT Subject Test Math Level 1 and SAT Subject Test Math Level 2.

Although both exams are significantly different in complexity (in the first, all questions are, practically , arithmetic and geometry, and the second is trigonometry and stereometry), in order to get the maximum score for the first exam, you can make much less mistakes than in the second exam.

You can prepare on this site:

For me personally, the format of the books presented there was inconvenient. And I found those same books in PDF format, and then printed them. This is the most convenient form of training, in my opinion. You can take notes and scribble directly in the book. Actually, it will be so at the exam, they don’t give any drafts there.

I will make links to all books at the end of the article.

Also, you will most likely have to pass the TOEFL. There is nothing unusual here. Just get ready, it’s great if it is possible to prepare with a teacher or for specials. courses - and surrender.

All Universities specifically indicate which exams you should pass and which balls you should count on. Very conveniently these data are presented on the MIT website:

How to send your results to universities

When you pass all the exams, you can send your results to 4 universities for free. This applies to both TOEFL and all SAT exams.
If you want to send out more than 4 results, you will have to pay $ 11 for each university to which you want to send the results of your SAT exams ($ 11 includes sending the results of all SAT exams that you passed at once; you do not have to pay for each separately) and $ 19 for each additional TOEFL Score Report. I will not consider the cost of the exams themselves, since it can vary depending on the place of delivery. I can only say that in Moscow I really liked to take in the Anglo-American School Of Moscow. Since I myself am not from Moscow, I arrived there by train from Kazan at 6 in the morning, at 7 I came to school and at 8 wrote an exam. I ate at the same school, there is an excellent dining room. In the evening he left by train home. If you live in a city where these exams are not held, Do not be afraid to ride in such a one-day scheme - it turns out to be very convenient. By the way, in one day you can pass up to 3 SAT Subject Test, or just SAT.
Be careful when sending results: the university code for sending SAT tests may differ from the university code for sending TOEFL!

How to save money on admission

All universities take Application Fee in the amount of $ 50 to $ 125 upon admission. You will have to pay them if you do not get on the list of certain benefits, such as a state of health, for example. Moreover, in case of refusal, this money is not returned. I highly recommend you join the CollegeBoard My College Quick Start program (the company that conducts SAT exams). She, based on your completed questionnaire and exam results, will select a university in which you, as a program participant, can not pay Application Fee.

In fact, you can not pay for passing exams, but when I took the exam, I did not know about it, and there was no one to ask. Therefore, in this matter I am not savvy.

How to choose a university

One of the most difficult things to do when entering the USA is to choose a university. If in Russia we well know which universities are famous for, then I knew little about universities in America. I acted as follows: I chose three top universities, which are not required to be presented. These are Princeton University, MIT and Caltech.

Then more interesting. I chose two cities in which I would be interested and safe to study. I chose Philadelphia and Salt Lake City.

In each city, I chose the university: Westminster College Salt Lake City and Drexel University Philadelphia. The first is a good program, specializing in Computer Science. And at the university, 10% of the American Olympic team in winter sports is studying. Chic campus, ski resorts, in general, everything is as it should. In the second, I was attracted by the geographical location of Philadelphia, a strong program in my specialty and the so-called Co-Op, which I will discuss separately.


Each university has its own characteristics, its own programs, it is worth paying attention to them. For example, Drexel University has a Co-Op program. Thanks to this program, students either go three times or once, depending on the chosen duration of study, go to practice in a company around the world. Moreover, they receive a salary that can be used both to pay off tuition fees and to spend on personal needs.

Here are some statistics on this program:

It is very important, upon admission, to pay attention to such moments and programs.

Application Form Fill

At each university you will be asked to fill out an Application Form, where you will have to fill out information about yourself. There you will have to write a few detailed answers to the questions posed by the university. Take this part with all responsibility. Write about all your achievements, even the smallest ones. Show that before the university you were interested in your future specialty, tell us how you went to it and what activity you showed on the way to it at school. Do not be afraid to use your sense of humor in motivational letters, the main thing here is not to overdo it, so as not to add up to yourself a frivolous opinion. Write about all the Olympiads in which you participated, in general, by all means try to stand out among the applicants. For example, when I entered MIT, I shot a video about myself (however, it still didn’t help me, they didn’t accept me at MIT).

It is also possible that some universities will support the Common Application system. After registering in this system, you fill out one questionnaire common to all universities, and answer additional questions from each university separately. This is very convenient, since there really is a lot to fill there. If the university supports Common Application profiles, you will see this on their website, upon admission.

How I got burned on this system

Filling all the fields of the Common Application and answering additional questions from each university (I used the Common Application for admission to Princeton and Caltech), I was ready to send these profiles. The first step was to double-check everything again, and then add the Application Fee, which I already mentioned. After payment, and it was December 31, the last day before the deadline, happy and pleased went to celebrate the new year. Toward the end of January, I wanted to know if I could add another letter of recommendation to Princeton? To which I was briefly answered:

"We don’t have any files on you'r name."
“In your name, we have no documents.”

To say that my heart sank to the heels is to say nothing. I began to urgently find out why this happened with the technical support for Common Application. It turned out that after payment I had to go to their site again and confirm the sending again. After that I urgently wrote to Caltech, they also did not have my documents. Within a day, I agreed with Princeton University and they extended the deadline for one day. I sent them my application. Caltech were more stubborn and for a long time did not want to accept my documents. I persisted, threatened that I would shake the money back from them otherwise. As a result, within a week they officially sent me a refusal, without even appointing an interview. From this it is important to conclude: never, leave nothing on the last day!


Now about how the interview goes. In the most prestigious universities, the interview takes place in the native language. For example, in an MIT interview I was conducted by Alexei Denisov, who, as I recall, graduated from a magistracy at MIT. At Princton, I was interviewed by political analyst Boris Makarenko. If any of them are reading this article now, I want to say hello to them!

Before the interview, I advise you to come up with a plan according to which you will talk about yourself, after you tell us everything, they will ask you questions, again about you (not in order to test your knowledge), and then they will tell about the university. The first time is scary, and then you get used to it, and in life, I think this experience will come in handy). Not all universities conduct interviews. For example, Westminster and Drexel, usually they do not, but I insisted. Although they say that it doesn’t affect the admission, I’m pretty sure that they pay attention to it, even because the person I interviewed at Westminster and the person who eventually sent me an email with the results, this is one face. In general, if you speak English at a good level, ask for an interview.


As a result, I entered two out of five universities. As you already know, MIT and Caltech refused me, and in May Princeton refused me. But then the black streak ended and I was accepted into Westminster and Drexel. To say that I was glad was to say nothing. And when I found out that both universities cover most of my total expenses, I was even more delighted. He eventually opted for Drexel University. Largely because of the practice program in various companies.

A week ago, I received a visa and am now in full swing preparing for the start of the school year!

Many thanks to everyone who read this article to the end. I sincerely hope that she will help someone. If anyone is interested, I can continue to write about the learning process in the United States.

useful links

- Books for SAT in PDF
- Math Level 2:
- Physics:

Website for registration on SAT:
Common Application:

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