Why Apply to the US / Ivy League?
10 Reasons Your Child should consider College in the US

With the global reputation of American universities, their academic flexibility, and the benefits of a liberal arts education, more international students are applying to colleges and universities in the United States. As a parent, sending your teen that far away can be extremely difficult, but here are ten reasons your child should travel to the US for their higher education.

1. Some of the Best-in-Class Universities & Colleges

Almost all publications and organizations agree that the United States has one of the world's best and most diverse systems of higher education. In the QS World University Rankings, half of the world’s top 20 universities are in the United States, and according to The Academic Ranking of World Universities, 8 of the 10 top universities in the world are located in the US, with Harvard University and Stanford University at the top of the list. With so many prestigious institutions, your child will have many schools to choose from.

The US is also home to the eight prestigious Ivy League Schools known worldwide for their top-notch education, world-class resources, and unparallel networking opportunities. According to Forbes, Ivy League universities have some of the “largest university financial endowments in the world which provide these schools with abundant resources for their academic programs, financial aid and research endeavors.” For example, as of 2021, Harvard University had an endowment of $53.2 billion, the largest of any educational institution.

In addition to these well-known schools, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, the University of California Berkeley, California Institute of Technology, and the University of Chicago are also consistently named among the best 20 universities in the world In the QS World University Rankings and The Academic Ranking of World Universities. Graduating from any of these US universities can open many doors for your child, prompting employers and graduate programs to consider them as an extremely valuable candidate.

2. Wide Diversity in Types of Institutions

Many students interested in attending college in the US are drawn to the wide diversity in the types of institutions, ranging from large public research institutions to small private liberal arts institutions.

A focus on liberal arts is one of the unique features of colleges and universities. According to the Hechinger Report, the concept of liberal arts is much more prevalent in the US. Studies show that current college graduates will likely change careers 15 times in their lives, and a liberal arts curriculum will allow your child to develop highly sought-after analytical, evaluative, critical, and creative thinking skills that will make them attractive to a wide range of employers and graduate schools.

Colleges like the Ivy League Schools and other top-ranking offer liberal arts curriculum. Princeton University eloquently states on its website that a liberal arts core curriculum will “cultivate the tools necessary to allow you to navigate the world’s most complex issues” and prepare “you for leadership positions and a life of service to the nation and all of humanity.”

In addition to excellence in the liberal arts, students studying at the top school in the US also have access to outstanding specialized programs across all academic fields. For example, according to the US News and World Report, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, the US’s first business school with the largest alumni network in the country, is ranked first among the best undergraduate business schools. In addition, the Wall Street Journal recognizes the business schools at Harvard, Columbia, MIT, and Stanford as four of the top undergraduate programs in the world.

If your child is interested in studying physical science, math, computer science, or engineering, the QS World University Rankings place the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) #1 for the 10th year in a row.

Whether your child is interested in a broad liberal arts curriculum or a highly specific field, there is a highly ranked program at one of the top universities in the US.

3. A More Flexible Application Process

While the admissions process is lengthier and more complicated in the United States, it also provides more flexibility for applicants. Students in the UK apply for entry to five courses through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, which is the focal point of all application materials. In the US, students apply for admission to a university rather than a specific academic subject. Most American students enter college with undecided majors, a practice that is acceptable and strongly encouraged at many institutions.

Instead of writing a single personal statement, the American college essay, by comparison, is a far less straightforward task because the writing requirements vary from school to school. Instead of focusing exclusively on academics, most American colleges require students to reflect on their experiences, milestones, or challenges.

When applying to college, US admissions committees will consider your child’s:

1. Teacher/counselor recommendations
  • 2. Academic transcript
  • 3. SAT or ACT scores
  • 4. Interview performance (depending on the university)
  • 5. Admissions essay/Personal statement
  • 6. Supplementary writing
7. Extracurricular activities
8. Leadership and volunteer positions

According to an admissions officer at Columbia University, “extra-curricular activities hold greater importance when applying to a college in the US as compared with the UK, where sports and other extracurricular activities are often seen as secondary priorities compared to academics.”

With that said, outstanding grades and test scores are still paramount; according to Columbia University’s website, only 4% of applicants were admitted in 2021.

While US universities don’t release official cut-off scores for the IB Diploma, based on what the Oxbridge universities in the UK expect from IB applicants, the most selective American universities are looking for scores at least a 40.

If your child hasn’t yet decided what they want to study and wants to explore various interests, studying in the US, while highly competitive, could be a huge benefit to your child.

4. Scholarships are Available

Many international students can take advantage of financial aid while studying in the US. US financial aid is available through need-based scholarships and on merit, based on academics, athletic performance, and other outstanding talents.

If your child is a top athlete, they may qualify for a sports scholarship. Although it is important to note that Ivy League Schools do not award athletic scholarships, they still actively recruit students with top athletic talent.

In addition to scholarships, there are five top American schools (Harvard, Yale, Amherst, Princeton, and MIT) that have adopted a “need-blind” admissions policy for international applicants, which means they don’t consider your financial situation as part of your child’s application and meet 100% of demonstrated financial aid, which means a full scholarship.

The Harvard University website explains, “International students receive the same financial aid as Americans. In fact, approximately 70 percent of our students receive some form of aid, and more than 50 percent receive need–based scholarships and pay an average of $12,000 per year.”

In addition, your child may also be eligible for competitive academic, athletic, or musical scholarships.

5. Academic Flexibility

As mentioned, your child does not have to select their study area before applying to American universities. Most US universities won’t require your child to choose their major until the end of their second year.

According to Harvard University’s website, students “don't officially declare their concentrations until the fall of their sophomore (second) year. For the first two and a half semesters that you're here, you can take whatever classes you'd like without the influence of a concentration's predetermined course of study.”

If your child is unsure what they want to study, this is a huge benefit since they will have two years to explore multiple academic disciplines as they discover their passion. They can take an array of classes before spending the final two years of their four-year bachelor's degree concentrating on their chosen major. At many schools, students can even create their own interdisciplinary major.

Since universities in the UK and Australia usually have three-year bachelor programs, their courses are more specialized as soon as students enroll. In contrast, colleges in the US offer more general courses during the first year of college and more specialized courses in later years. This means that even after your child has declared their major, students are still provided the time and space to enroll in elective courses, and if they fall in love with a subject, they can declare it as a minor.

If your child wants to explore a range of academic interests before choosing a specialization or the freedom to explore a variety of courses, then choosing to study at a US university could be an ideal fit for them.

6. Exposure to some of the most collaborative and engaging learning experiences

According to the websites of the University of Oxford and the University of Melbourne, undergraduate classes are generally a combination of large lecture-based classes with a focus on smaller supporting seminars.

At the top universities in the US, students will find some lecture-based courses, but they will have many more classes that require students to engage in dialogue, with a strong emphasis on students sharing their opinions and challenging their preconceived beliefs and ideas. The Dean of Enrollment services at the Soka University of America states, “For international students who have spent the entirety of their time in a classroom with forward-facing desks and an instructor lecturing from a blackboard, being thrust into a discussion-based classroom where they are expected to contribute to the conversation can be a daunting prospect. However, they're often surprised at how quickly they pick up on the ebb and flow of these academic discussions.”

According to a recent article in Bloomberg, British students “tired of UK’s rigid system are flocking to US Colleges” and “love the idea of experiencing the American model of education.”

7. More Opportunities to Demonstrate Mastery

In the UK and Australia’s most elite schools, their websites describe their courses as lecture-based, complemented by seminars, with one or two assignments throughout the semester. A former admissions committee member at Columbia University states, “The difference can occur in UK universities being more lecture-based and weighing final exams more than their American counterparts. US colleges are more likely to give out assignments marked along the way, which end up distributing the weights in the grading.”

In the US, colleges are more likely to assign multiple assignments in the form of essays, quizzes, and regular homework throughout the semester, in addition to a final exam, essay, or project. As a result, the final assessment in many US classes accounts for only a percentage of their total grade. Also, because there's significantly less independent study, attendance, and class participation are taken very seriously and are often factored into a student’s grade.

According to Times Higher Education in the UK, most students’ final grades are “weighted during exam season.” Because there are multiple opportunities to show their growth and mastery, American students have less pressure to do well on final exams.

8. Increased Cultural Diversity

The United States is significantly more racially and ethnically diverse than Great Britain or Australia. According to the Brookings Institute, America is significantly more racially and ethnically diverse than the UK, stating, “Nearly 25 percent of the U.S. population describes themselves as non-white in 2000, while only 7.9 percent of the U.K. population described themselves as from an ethnic minority in 2001.” With so many international students, the US provides an amazing opportunity to experience cultural diversity.

Because the most powerful learning happens within and beyond the college curriculum, your child will be exposed to diverse thoughts and perspectives, making education more exciting and dynamic. According to Harvard, 15% of their incoming class is African American, 27% is Asian American, and 12% is Hispanic or Latino. The University of Pennsylvania declared that 59% of their incoming classes were Black, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American. In comparison, only 27% of their students identified as ethnic minorities or mixed race.

Because one of the most beneficial aspects of the Ivy League and other highly selective American colleges is the power of their alumni network, having a diverse study body extends beyond just forming strong friendships, it can also lead to a wide variety of career and professional connections.

After spending four years in one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, they have the opportunity to develop stronger problem-solving skills, more empathy, and deepened learning after interacting with students and professors from various perspectives.

9. Vibrant Campus Life

At American universities, campus life, social interactions, and extra-curricular activities are significant in the college experience. Extracurricular activities are an important part of student life and are viewed as an extension of the classroom and a way to network and gain valuable skills and experiences.

In America, athletics also play a major role on most college campuses. According to Harvard’s website, nearly 80 percent of students participate in athletics, and almost everyone cheers on their team at football and basketball games. If your child is interested in sports, students can join sports teams at virtually every campus and play on the intramural, club, or varsity level.

Because most universities in the US view academic and non-academic extra-curricular as integral parts of their mission, they prioritize students who value them and will participate in them on their campus.

10. A Powerful Alumni Network and Outstanding Post-Graduate Opportunities

The Ivy League is renowned for its extensive alumni networks. Attending an Ivy League School or any of the equally impressive top schools in the US can provide your child with the resources and contacts needed to get their start at world-renowned companies and graduate programs. After graduating, your child will be empowered with a world-class education and be part of an elite group of graduates that can significantly impact their future career.

Graduating from a top US school also leads to increased financial rewards. According to a 2017 study published in the New York Times, Ivy League graduates and students from other prestigious schools like MIT can earn, on average, $98,5000 by the age of 24. In addition, because of the global name recognition of these programs, like Penn’s prestigious communication school and its Wharton School, graduating from this caliber of program provides an added bonus to both graduate programs and employers.

Whether your child wants to apply to graduate programs or enter the workforce, their diplomas from the top schools in the US and their powerful alumni connections will be highly beneficial anywhere on the globe.

In Conclusion

While applying to college in the US is not particularly simple, the benefits of attending an American school outweigh the sometimes confusing application process.

If your child is unsure what they want to study or wants to explore a broader curriculum that allows them to choose their own path of study, then an American university is perfect.

Finally, because there are so many international students studying in American colleges (according to the most recent data from the Institute of International Education, the number is over 1 million and during the 2021-22 academic year, more British students were going to college in the US than previous years), there is an excellent support system for international students.

American universities understand the struggles of international students, and your child will be well supported. Whether their concerns are academic, cultural, or social, they will have a plethora of resources before, during, and after their college experience in America.

And in this article, we’ve only brushed the tip of the iceberg that is US college admissions. Talk to us at ivyO for a Free Consult to learn more about how we can help your student in their universities and college admissions journey.

NACAC - National Association for College Admission Counseling NACAC - National Association for College Admission Counseling

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