Would you like to become a student at an American university, but you don’t know where to start? Do you see yourself at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT or any other university in the USA? The application to American universities is quite complicated and requires longer preparation, but we can help you with it! Here you will find necessary information about higher education in the USA, you will find out what the studies look like and what degrees you can get there. Above all, however, our tips will help you apply to study abroad USA successfully and enable studying at the best universities in the world!
What is studying in the USA like?
In the USA, you can study at state (public) universities, such as UCLA or UC Berkeley, as well as private ones (e.g. Harvard, Stanford). These universities usually offer studies at the Bachelor and Master levels.
This is mainly due to the fact that it is only in the second year of study abroad in USA that you choose the field of study (major).
Yes, when applying to US universities, you don’t need to know what you want to study!
When applying for bachelor’s studies, you just choose a study abroad university, and in the first year you have the opportunity to freely choose subjects and try new things (here is a link to Study in the USA – majors).
If, on the other hand, you are going to study for a master’s degree, you should already be determined as to the field of study and confirm the appropriate education, which is graduating from bachelor’s studies.
Doctoral studies are also available in the USA. What’s interesting, they do not necessarily require a master’s degree. For those who already have professional experience and want to study further in the field of business, MBA (Master of Business Administration) studies awaits.
How long do studies in the USA take?
Undergraduate studies (bachelor’s degree) in the USA lasts 4 years, which is one year longer than the standard three-year system most commonly found in Europe. You start your USA study abroad usually at the end of August, after finishing high school, and you finish a year later than your age-mates. Upon graduation, you obtain a Bachelor’s degree.
Master’s studies, on the other hand, last from one to three years. The duration depends largely on the mode of study you choose (full time or part time). After completing them, you receive the title of Master.
In the US, there are also so-called community colleges that offer 2-year studies that end with an associate degree. This term has no equivalent in Polish. These are studies that focus on vocational education – they can be defined between a Polish post-secondary school and studies.
The best studies in the USA
There are nearly 4,000 universities in the USA, ranging from low-ranking institutions to the best universities in the world. Surely you know such names as Harvard University, Yale or Cornell University. In addition, you are certainly familiar with other American universities: MIT or Stanford. They all take top positions in the rankings of international educational institutions. It also means that they are not easy to get to! Every year, they admit only from 3.5 to 10% of applicants, which makes them not only one of the best, but also one of the most competitive universities abroad in the world.
Yet, there are many reputable universities in the United States that accept more applicants.
These universities are also known around the world, they include e.g. Johns Hopkins University, UC Berkeley, Georgetown, or the University of Michigan. There are also universities that admit from 50% to over 90% of applicants (e.g. University of Washington, Virginia Tech, University of Wisconsin, Arizona State, Pace University, Kansas State, Hawaii Pacific).
The better the university, the greater the requirements, and the greater the requirements, the longer and better you will have to prepare for the application. Think carefully about how high you want to aim.
The factors that may also affect your choice are tuition costs, location, but above all, the community of the university itself. Universities in the USA “like” to know that you didn’t choose their school by chance or just because it’s “high in the rankings”, but you did some serious research about their institution.
If you are interested in studying in the USA, you certainly recognise such universities as Harvard or Princeton. They are part of the prestigious Ivy League, i.e. a group of 8 elite universities located on the north-eastern coast of the United States. The following universities belong to this group:
- Harvard University (Massachusetts),
- Brown University (Rhode Island),
- Columbia University (New York),
- Cornell University (New York),
- Dartmouth College (/new Hampshire),
- University of Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania),
- Princeton University (New Jersey) i
- Yale University (Connecticut).
These universities are seen as the most prestigious universities in the world. They are all in the top 20 in the world rankings. Graduates of these universities go down as perfectly educated people with a good social position and an assured future.
In addition to Ivy League universities, there are institutions with a similar respect and prestige yet not belonging to this group officially. They include:
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT; Massachusetts),
- Stanford University (California),
- California Institute of Technology (CalTech; California).
A university in the United States is an institution where you can get degrees higher than a bachelor’s degree (master’s, doctor’s degree), and colleges usually provide only bachelor’s degrees. In colloquial speech, however, Americans often use the name college to describe a university, which is why you can’t be led to believe it.
In fact, there are schools in the US that offer only bachelor’s degrees. These are usually smaller institutions that are referred to as Liberal Arts Colleges. They usually have a more flexible course curriculum, classes are conducted in smaller groups, which makes contact with professors much easier. The most famous Liberal Arts Colleges include Williams, Amherst, Swarthmore, Pomona and Wellesley College.
Study in USA - Cost
How much does studying in the USA cost? There is no one answer to this question, but it must be admitted that these are one of the most expensive studies in the world. Overall costs include college tuition ($15,000 – $60,000 per year) as well as the cost of living, which varies depending on where in the US you start your studies.
Additionally, remember that as a Polish citizen, you need a student visa to study in the USA.
The cost of obtaining a visa is $160. The visa is issued for the entire period of study and the issuing process can take from two to eight weeks.
The most common visa for Poles leaving for bachelor studies is the F-1 visa. However, if your trip is funded or co-funded by some foundations (e.g. Fulbright) or the government, you will be eligible for a J-1 visa.
To apply for a visa, you need confirmation from the university that you have been accepted to study.
The average cost of living is around $1000 a month, but it greatly depends on where you live and what your standard of living is.
You can read more about the costs of studying in the USA and scholarships for studying in the USA HERE.
Study in the USA - Requirements
Application for studies in the USA is a complicated process that requires submitting a large number of documents and passing additional exams. Therefore, it is worth starting to prepare for it much earlier – preferably in the 1st or 2nd grade of high school.
What do you need for the application?
- Application essay (250-650 words)
- Supplemental essays (they are required by many universities)
- Certificates from all 3 grades of a high school (if you have already graduated from high school, then certificates from the entire 4 years)
- Recommendations from teachers (usually 2 recommendations)
- Recommendation from a counselor (usually from a teacher who will focus on your additional activities), as well as his / her help in completing the candidate profile on the application profile (there he / she pastes the testimonials and opinions about you)
- Common App profile, or a profile on another application portal (this is where you fill in basic information about yourself and paste application essays. There, you also add a list of your additional activities)
- SAT exam
- TOEFL or IELTS language exam
The application to the USA is holistic – each of its elements is important in the entire process and none of them can be omitted.
You need to pay special attention to teachers who write recommendations during the application process, and above all – to the counselor. Counselor is a person that has to fill in profile details on your application account, and his / her recommendation differs significantly from the one written by the other two teachers. In high schools in the United States, these are specially designated teachers who, among other things, fill out applicants’ profiles as their “advisors”.
Talk to teachers early enough and inform them about your plans and requirements that you must meet in formal application – especially those related to the involvement of your teachers in your application process.
Also pay attention to application deadlines. There are three types of application deadlines in the USA:
- Early Action – November at the beginning of the senior year (you are not obligated to make a decision in the case of an offer),
- Early Decision – November at the beginning of the senior year (if the university accepts you, you must decide whether you confirm it and stop applying to other universities),
- Regular Application – January in the senior class (although it may also be a later date for some universities, especially those with lower places in the rankings, less demanding).
You can read more about the requirements for studying in the USA HERE
Study in the USA - fields of study
In the US, you can apply to a university without knowing what you want to study! Of course, you can communicate from the beginning which area you are interested in, but the first year of study is to direct you to your dream field of study or to reassure you in your choice.
In your first year, you can ‘try out’ subjects in a variety of fields, from math to dance history. Only in the second year do you choose your main field of study, the so-called ‘major’. In addition, you can also select a minor (the second field of study of your interest). Thanks to that, you can combine different disciplines, e.g. literature with business.
Universities in the USA offer a huge number of majors, and many of them are also flexible in the selection of subjects.
The most popular fields of study in the United States are:
- social sciences,
- biological sciences,
Medical studies in the USA
Choosing to study medicine in the USA is a long and demanding path. To enter medical school, you must first complete a relevant undergraduate medical degree. The major that you need to graduate from depends on which medical school you want to apply to next. Note! Not every medical school accepts international students. You can find their list HERE.
Medical universities require candidates to have knowledge in the fields of biology and chemistry.
You also need to pass the MCAT exam, which is one of the key elements of the medical application in the US.
Medical studies alone (already at medical school) last four years, which gives in total 8 years of study before you graduate with the title of MD (Doctor of Medicine). Then you will have a residency of 3 to 7 years.
To obtain a medical degree while you study medicine abroad, you will need to pass a three-part USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination). You take the first two parts during your studies, and the third and last part, usually in the first year of residency.
When choosing the path of medical studies abroad in the USA, you also have to take into account the huge costs – these studies are among the most expensive in the world. The tuition fee is about $40,000 per year, and at the best universities it can be almost twice as much.
Is it worth studying medicine in the USA?
Absolutely! The costs, time and energy you need to devote to your studies are enormous, but you study at the best universities in the world, gaining all the knowledge right away in practice. During your studies, you gain experience in numerous facilities thanks to clinic rotations – internships in various hospitals and clinics. With a diploma from a medical school in the USA, the whole medical world will be yours for the taking.
Masters in the USA
The first important information – you can apply for a master’s degree in the USA after completing a bachelor’s degree in Poland. Graduate studies in the USA usually last two years, although they can also be completed in a year – this requires completing more courses in a shorter time.
The title obtained at the end of studies is Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MSc). The Master in Business Administration, or MBA, is also very popular.
To apply for a Master’s degree program in the US, you must pass the TOEFL exam (unless you have previously graduated from US studies) and the GRE (Graduate Record Examination).
In addition to exams, as part of the application, you will need references from an academic teacher and you will have to write a cover letter to convince the university to consider your candidacy.
Masters studies in the USA are paid – the cost depends on the university you choose as your dream destination. Fees can range from a dozen to several dozen thousand dollars per year. However, universities often offer scholarships or work as a research assistantship or teaching assistantship.
Law studies in the USA
To graduate from law school in the USA, or even to apply at all, you must first complete your undergraduate studies. Law, like medicine, is taught in special law schools. The type of bachelor’s degree you must complete before applying is not specified, however it is important that you:
- had the best grades during undergraduate studies,
- received the best recommendations from academic teachers,
- was able to engage in extracurricular activities.
After completing the course at the School of Law, you receive the title of JD (Juris Doctor). To obtain a license to practice a profession, you must pass an additional professional exam – bar exam. During your study law abroad, you need to think carefully about where in the US you want to work, because the exam includes a section on state law that allows you to work in a given part of the country.
In addition, you must pass the LSAT exam to apply to law school in the USA.
It entitles you to apply to law school for a JD.
Law studies last 3 years. Great emphasis is placed on independent study, the ability to speak in public, the ability to write legal opinions and other documents required in the work of a lawyer.
The second path enabling practicing law in the USA and leading to passing the bar exam is the LLM program (Master of Laws – Latin Legum Magister). These are one-year studies addressed to graduates of international law majors. This means that after completing 5-year studies in Poland, you can apply for LLM studies.
The cost of law studies varies depending on which law school you choose and can be around $20,000 – $40,000 per year.
Studying in the USA - Opinions
Studies in the USA have been attracting crowds of candidates for years despite the high cost of studying. The factors influencing such a huge number of applicants are a very high level of teaching, based not only on theory but also practice, the best, well-funded academic staff and flexibility in the approach to students.
The curriculum in the US, based on the principle of liberal arts, allows students to make sure of their choices, try out different majors during the first year, and then decide on major and minor choices. This freedom allows for making deliberate, confident and responsible decisions.
Find out what students think about studying abroad in the USA by talking to them on our EduCat Platform or visit our blog.
Application to study in the USA with EduCat
Have you read the article and want to apply to study in the USA? Check out our FAQ.
Do you have any questions about the application?
EduCat will help you with the application process to study abroad. Our Mentors support students at various stages of preparing for the application – whether you need help with the application system, issues before leaving for studies or the entire process from start to finish. You can use all the support in one place – on the EduCat platform.
In the meantime, write to us and we will try to answer all your questions and help you start preparing for your studies abroad.