If you’re applying to universities in more than one world region, learning how each system works is important. Where to start? Find a basic overview of the landscape and application process in three regions — the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada — below.
There are more than 3,000 4-year degree-granting institutions across the US and more than 1,500 that grant 2-year degrees. The terms “college” and “university” are often used interchangeably, although technically, an individual college grants undergraduate degrees and a university grants both undergraduate and graduate degrees and may include a group of colleges (or schools) in various subject areas (arts & sciences, business, engineering, etc.). Colleges and universities in the US vary a great deal, ranging from very small institutions of 1,000 students up through very large institutions of 50,000 students. You will find schools in the middle of large cities, in suburbs and in rural areas as well.
The UK is home to more than 160 universities and colleges. Bachelor’s degrees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland typically take three years to complete, while they take four years to complete in Scotland. Two-year vocational degrees are also offered. There are a wide range of university types, ranging from small universities with less than 3,500 students to those with populations that reach 50,000. You will find schools in the middle of large cities, in suburbs and in rural areas as well.
Canada is home to almost 100 universities across 10 provinces and 3 territories. Bachelor’s degrees take three-to-four years to complete, depending on the province. Two-year diploma and certificate programs in professional areas are also available in some provinces. Canada’s universities range from less than 2,000 students to more than 60,000 at the University of Toronto. You will find schools in the middle of large cities, in suburbs and in rural areas as well.
The Application Process
University admissions in the US is holistic — meaning that your academic achievements will be most important to your application, but your test scores, extracurricular activities, personal statement and letters of recommendation are also important as the admissions reader seeks to understand the full picture of how you’ll contribute to the university community.
While some universities have their own application, most use either the Common Application, the Coalition Application, or both. These allow you to apply to many universities from one platform using one personal statement. Individual institutions may require additional essays or short answer questions. You will need to provide demographic information, academic transcripts, test scores (check requirements for each university), extracurricular activity descriptions, essays, a school report and teacher recommendations.
Your academic profile and demonstrated interest in the area you plan to study are central for your UK applications. You will apply by the course (major) you plan to pursue. Your personal statement should be focused on your interest in that course and how you have developed related skills and knowledge outside of the classroom. If a university is interested in your application, they may contact you for additional testing, an audition, or an interview for your chosen subject.
UK applications are submitted through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). You can apply to five universities with one personal statement (only five are allowed). You can find entry requirements for the courses you are interested in here, as well as advice and resources. On the application, you will need to provide demographic information, academic qualifications and test scores (check requirements for each university), a personal statement, and a reference.
Your academic profile and activities will be important to your Canadian University applications. Entry requirements vary by subject area and are outlined on university websites. Some universities will only consider your high school grades, but others will ask you to complete short answer questions or write a personal statement as well.
Applications to Canadian universities vary by province, and sometimes by institution. For example, you can apply to universities in Ontario through their centralized Ontario Universities’ Application Centre, but in British Columbia, you apply directly to each institution. Generally, you will need to provide demographic information, academic transcripts and test scores (check requirements for each university), and sometimes essays or portfolios. Looking for universities across world regions is a great way to expand your options and consider a range of approaches to higher education. An adviser who is familiar with these opportunities can assist you with important resources, as well as the application and enrollment process. Let us know how we can help you here!
Amanda earned a BA in rhetoric from Bates College, where she was a Senior Admissions Fellow, responsible for interviewing applicants and leading information sessions. She continues to conduct alumni interviews both in-person and virtually. Amanda manages communication and partnership efforts for AcceptU by facilitating webinars, events, email marketing and technology management.