Assembling Your Application

Application Components

  • Common or Universal Application form (demographic information, educational background, extracurricular interests)
  • SAT Reasoning Test or ACT Test with Writing
  • Highly recommended:  two SAT Subject Tests
  • Teacher recommendations and School Report with grade transcript
  • Personal essay
  • Optional materials (music, dance, or art portfolios, creative writing, research or scholarly publications)
  • Alumni interview in the UK

The Common or Universal Application
Just as you would go to UCAS to fill in your application for UK unis, in the US there are the Common or Universal Applications that are used by a significant number of colleges – probably all of the ones you are looking at, in fact. You complete it once and all the information will be sent to whichever schools you list in the application.

Your Personal Essay
We have collected a few good examples of past UK applicants’ Personal Essays, just to show you what kinds of writing styles people have adopted. Your own style may be very different; but you can see that the format is not the same as for UCAS. We often find UK students really hesitant about writing something personal, so a little mental readjustment is necessary. Try writing a draft of your Personal Essay and showing it to someone who knows you well. Does your voice sound true? Are you saying something about yourself that makes an interesting statement? Will the reader learn something about you as a person that won’t be learned from the rest of your application?

Teachers’ Reports
The US application process involves drawing together references from teachers and/or counsellors, but their references ought to reflect not only your academic potential (which would be more typically UCAS), but also your personal qualities. So getting the right references is important. Start thinking about which teachers know you best as a person and would have something to say about your contribution not only to your subjects but also to the school community and beyond. Teachers can see good examples of Teacher Reports which we have assembled. It’s a good idea to draw your teachers’ attention to these in advance of when you need the reports so that they can see how the style and content differs from the UCAS model. Rather than asking them to produce a Report in the middle of the application season when they are busy with all the UCAS procedures, make sure you get that request in early!

Your School Transcript
We have also created a composite transcript (record of secondary schools grades) for you and your teachers to look at. Your own transcript does not have to follow these guidelines closely, but the information on your exam results and other school achievements ideally ought to be laid out clearly and concisely. The transcipt model we use here was designed for a school that offers A-Levels, but if your school is an IB School or in the Scottish system, the model can be modified easily for those different requirements.

Supporting Materials
There may be further materials you want to submit – published poetry, music, artwork, science research, and so on. These materials are all optional and should only be submitted if you have reached a significant level of expertise in the field.  Check with each college to see how they wish to receive such materials.  For Harvard, supplemental materials are either submitted through the Slideroom website or through the student status portal uploader. More details here.