LONDON, Sept. 25, 2014 — The American application process is understandably vexing for many British students. The application form, essays, school choices, and admissions critiera are all quite different from those of British schools. And British students often are applying alone, without a large cohort of friends to go along with. And, of course, US colleges require the SAT or the ACT. Fortunately, the more students know about the application process, the better they will do!
ArborBridge has spoken with hundreds of students over the years that it has attended USA College Day and has been proud to de-mystify the application process, just as we have been proud to help countless students increase their SAT and ACT scores.
Herewith are the most common questions that we have encountered at USA College Day, and our best responses to them. Keep in mind, of course, that the US application process is highly subjective, and policies differ by university, so answers are not necessarily authoritative.
How does the content of the SAT compare with that of A-Levels and GCSE?
Generally, the SAT covers basic skills. Every high school student, whether in the US, the UK, or elsewhere, has been exposed to the material on the SAT by the time he or she has finished 11th grade (Year 12). This material includes grammar, algebra, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and the like. The SAT does not focus on specific academic subjects the way that the UK curriculum does. Whereas A-Levels and GCSEs require students to recall course material, the SAT tests foundational skills, often in tricky ways.
May I apply to US universities during Year 12? Do I need to complete Year 13 A-levels?
American universities may accept an application from a Year 12 (or an IB 1). Strong Year 12 students might get admitted. But, this approach would be unusual by American standards. US high school students are expected to attend all four years of high school and to graduate in 12th grade, which is the equivalent of Year 13. Even if it’s OK for British students to leave high school after Year 12, an applicant who applies early will be a far weaker applicant in Year 12 than he or she will be in Year 13. With that said, some universities might not accept an application at all.
How do universities view A-Level scores in the admissions process? Can you use GCSE scores or A-Level scores in place of the SAT – or vice-versa?
A-Level scores (or, more likely, predicted scores) are the equivalent of grades in the US system. They are the most important component of a student’s application. Some universities may accept A-Level scores but not require SAT/ACT scores. Most universities will require both. The SAT/ACT is almost never accepted as a substitute for A-Levels. They are both important, mutually independent parts of the application.
Can the SAT get me a scholarship?
Generally, no. Individual colleges have their own criteria for awarding scholarships. A strong SAT score will strengthen a student’s application and therefore might boost his or her chances of earning a scholarship. But a strong SAT score will not, by itself, earn a scholarship.
How many times can/should I sit for the SAT?
The SAT is given six times per year on prescribed dates. Technically, students may sit as many times as they like. As a practical matter, more than three sittings is considered excessive. The most important thing is for students to study smartly from one exam to the next!
Do I need to take the SAT if I’m on gap year?
Most universities that require SAT/ACT scores for traditional admission also require them for admission following a gap year. In both cases, students are applying as freshmen.
What are Subject Tests? Do I need to sit for them?
Subject Tests are separate exams administered by the SAT that cover specific academic subjects. There are about 20 exams to choose from, and students may sit for three exams at one time. Only a handful of universities— generally, the most selective ones—require Subject Tests. But all universities will accept them. Strong Subject Test scores can strengthen an application.
What’s this about a new SAT? When will it be implemented?
A redesigned SAT will debut in January 2016. Current Year 13’s and Year 12’s do not need to concern themselves with the new SAT. Year 11’s and younger may have to take it.
ArborBridge has an extensive blog series discussing these changes.
Does ArborBridge administer the SAT or ACT?
No. Only the College Board and the ACT administer the SAT and ACT, respectively. Tests are often given at schools under the guidance of the College Board and ACT. Both companies have highly controlled procedures and criteria that govern test administration.