Some of the educational institutions in the United States are among the best in the world. And the way they work is very different from higher education in Brazil. This ranges from admission procedures to timetables. You can understanding how college works in the USA with the following five curiosities.

1 Form of Admission

To get into college in the USA, you don't just have to take a test, like the National High School Exam, or Enem, which we have in Brazil today. You have to go through a selection process that basically takes into account your entire academic record, including extracurricular activities. Admission to college in the USA also takes into account the applicant's profile, personality and even their manners. All of this has an influence on whether or not you are approved by the institutions.  

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The process

However, each university has its own peculiarities. For example, some may ask letter of recommendation friends and teachers, others have the own online system to send in your grades. Regardless of the model, once you've filled in these forms you'll need to provide proof of your exam scores. These are equivalent to the ENEM, such as the SAT, ACT or SAT II. TOEFL and IELTS English fluency tests are also essential.

The essays and letters of recommendation are required so that the candidate can show the desired university who they are, beyond their academic achievements. After going through all these steps, it's time for the student to attend an interview with an alumnus of the institution. In this way, they reinforce in person what they have shown in the previous steps and align their future expectations with the institution.

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Read also: how to apply for an american visa  


2 How do the deadlines work?

The regular study period in the United States starts between August and September. Applications usually begin in December of the previous year and the results of the approval process are published in March. This is followed by the deadline for enrollment. Any places not filled in the first call are offered to a previously formed waiting list.

3 Education system

Once accepted, the student chooses a general area of study and a specific one they wish to follow, called a major. The major is the course in which the student wants to graduate. In this way, you can experience many opportunities and approaches until you reach your final goal.

For the undecided, you can choose the option undecided major. This is a chance for young people to go to university and try out different areas until they can align themselves with what they really want to do professionally.


College spaces in the USA resemble those of the campus of Brazil's federal universities. Classes are held in different buildings. In other words, you have to move between them.

In the first two years of the course, students study general subjects corresponding to their area of study. core classes.

What you study in these first two years is not always directly related to the career you want to pursue. Nevertheless, it is important knowledge for the human and personal formation of future professionals. The following areas are included: sciences, arts, physical education, music, religion, business, etc.  


In addition to the major, students can choose a career path minor to follow. It's like a secondary degree in which the future professional can also work.

Many students opt to choose areas in their minor that are of personal interest to them, such as a opportunity to expand learning experiences. But this doesn't necessarily correlate with the area of activity chosen in the major. However, some other students opt to choose a complementary area. This is in case they want to do postgraduate studies and a doctorate in the future.

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4 Ivy League

The Ivy League is a group made up of eight of the most prestigious universities in the United States. They are: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania and Yale.

Created in 1954, the Ivy League was the sports organization of these institutions. Today it is synonymous with academic excellence in relation to colleges in the United States.  The Ivy League universities are also among the best in the world and have the most financial resources. They receive annual donations of between 3 and 38 billion dollars. Some of the alumni who attended Ivy League institutions are Barack and Michele Obama, Meryl Streep, Martin Luther King and more than 300 Nobel Prize winners.

It would be incredible to study at one of those prestigious colleges in the USA, wouldn't it? Best of all all Ivy League universities accept applications from students from other countries for their programs. They even offer financial aid opportunities.

5 How much does it cost to go to university in the USA?

Ivy League universities are much more expensive. For example, the annual cost of studying at Harvard is US$ 44,990, plus US$ 3,959 in fees and US$ 800 to US$ 1,200 in books.

Those who pass the application process and prove they can't afford the costs can get up to 100% off scholarships. Around 70% of the institution's students currently have some kind of scholarship.

In general, for other institutions a foreign student can spend an average of  US$ 15,000 to US$ 30,000 per year in private schools and US$ 10,000 to US$ 20,000 per year in public schools.  

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Public and private schools in the USA

In the USA, the best universities are those that pay. In fact, many of them are among the best in the world, such as the Ivy League. However, American public universities also pay. And for students from other states, the fees are even higher. This is because it is understood that students from that location contribute to local tax revenues, while students from other states contribute elsewhere. These students are called out-of-state students.


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See also: what schools are like in the USA. 


Many more questions answered

After all this trivia, it's easier to understand how the education system works at a university in the USA. Moving to a US university for your children can be a breeze with our help. Want to talk more about it? We'll be happy to answer any questions you may have about life in the USA and find the ideal home for you.

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