Welcome to the 50th edition of our newsletter
The newsletter was started in September 2013 as a free information service to students who are considering applying for undergraduate study to Harvard and other top colleges in the USA, and for the parents and teachers who support them. Each issue tells you what you should be doing at each stage of the application process, with links to other sites that provide further information about the topics covered each month.
Initially, the only way to subscribe was to sign up for the newsletter manually at one of our school talks. But from October 2015, when the new Harvard UK Admissions website was launched, it became possible for anyone, anywhere in the world, to subscribe by clicking the newsletter sign-up button on the homepage.
Once it became possible to sign up on the web, the newsletter started to attract the interest of students around the world, and we currently have subscribers from 26 countries outside the UK.
If you are a newcomer to the newsletter and would like to see the previous 12 issues, they are available on our website by following this link.
Consider applying to Harvard – application deadlines approaching!
If you are in Year 13 you should now be putting together the components of your application ready to submit to your chosen colleges by 1st November (Early Action) or 1st January (Regular Action). If you are an academically able student who also has broad interests and significant achievement outside the classroom, we hope you will consider Harvard as one of your choices. Harvard prides itself in attracting a diverse body of talented students from over 80 countries with a wide range of social backgrounds. It is the diversity of its student body, combined with the outstanding quality of its teaching and research, that makes Harvard such an exciting and dynamic environment in which to learn. In addition, generous financial aid makes a Harvard education affordable to all, regardless of family income.
What’s the difference between ‘Early Action’ and ‘Regular Action’?
‘Regular Action’ refers to the normal deadline for submitting your application to American colleges (usually early January, but it does vary from college to college). You may apply to as many colleges as you like by this deadline. But if you have one particular institution that is your clear favourite, many American colleges run a scheme called ‘Restrictive Early Action,’ or just ‘Early Action,’ which allows you to apply to one US college earlier than the others (by 1st November) and receive a decision by mid-December. (Note that you can still apply to colleges outside the US if you are applying Early Action.) For the most competitive US colleges, there is no advantage or disadvantage in applying Early or Regular Action, but some colleges may see your early application as an indication that they are your top choice, and may feel more favourable towards your application for that reason. Check each college’s website to see if they make any statements about possible advantages in the process for submitting an early application.
Some colleges use the term ‘Early Decision’ rather than ‘Early Action’. What’s the difference?
If you apply to a college ‘Early Action’ and are offered a place, the offer is usually not binding and you may wait and see if you get further offers from your ‘Regular Action’ colleges before you decide which offer to accept. On the other hand, an offer made as a result of an ‘Early Decision’ application is usually binding, so you must accept the offer and withdraw your applications from all other universities to which you have applied. This is not a problem if you definitely want to go the ‘Early Decision’ college, but being offered admission will close off all other options so it is very important to check whether an offer will be binding or non-binding before submitting your application. There is, however, one advantage to applying to an ‘Early Decision’ college: you have a greater chance of being admitted because the Admissions Office knows you are already fully committed to attending if you are offered a place.
More information and FAQs can be found on the Restrictive Early Action section of the Harvard Admissions website.
Year 12: two essential tasks for this academic year
Last month we mentioned the two essential tasks for students currently in Year 12. Here is some more information about them:
2. Register to take the standardized admissions tests required by most American colleges and book a place far enough ahead to allow you plenty of time to practise. If you haven’t already done so, register for the tests now and book a date or dates to take them in the spring of 2018. Between registering and taking the tests, set yourself a practice timetable so you are at your maximum performance by the time you sit the exams. There are two tests to choose from: the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or the American College Test (ACT). US colleges accept both tests equally, but they are structured differently, so which one you decide to take simply boils down to the style of exam you prefer. A good method of deciding is to take a free online test in both the SAT and the ACT and go with whichever one gives you the better score.
Free online practice for the SAT and ACT
Free online practice for the SAT
Free online practice for the ACT
Note: both tests have optional essays, but we strongly recommend that you complete them, as they are a requirement for most top colleges. For the ACT, make sure you register for ‘ACT with writing’.
In addition to the SAT or the ACT with writing, the more competitive colleges may also require you to take two SAT Subject Tests. While the Subject Tests are now optional at many colleges, including Harvard, they are still recommended, especially for international students, to show your mastery of specific subjects. There are 20 subjects to choose from, and you should normally take your two strongest subjects at A-Level. Note that not all subjects are offered on every test date, so look up the Subject Test dates below and plan accordingly.
As with the main SAT and ACT tests, the best way of getting a good score is regular practice. Click here for free practice questions in every subject.
Click here for a full list of SAT subject test dates.
SAT Test Dates 2017/18 and UK Test Centres
Remaining SAT test dates for this academic year:
- 4 November 2017 – Subject Tests only
- 2 December 2017 – SAT and SAT Subject Tests
- 10 March 2018 – SAT only
- 5 May 2018 – SAT and SAT Subject Tests
- 2 June 2018 – Subject Tests only
It is best to register with the College Board (which administers the tests) in the autumn of Year 12 (Lower Sixth) and to take the main SAT reasoning test in March or May and the SAT Subject Tests in May or June. This will give you plenty of time to practise and also provide the option of re-taking them in the autumn of Year 13 if you do not get as good a score as you hoped (colleges will only take into account your highest score if you take it more than once).
Click here for a list of UK Test Centres for the SAT. (Enter your preferred test date under ‘Select Test Date’ and then enter either England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or the Isle of Man in the ‘United Kingdom’ section of ‘Select a Country’).
ACT Test Dates 2017/18 and UK Test Centres
Remaining ACT test dates for this academic year:
- 28 October 2017
- 9 December 2017
- 10 February 2018
- 14 April 2018
- 9 June 2018
Like the SAT, it is best to register for the ACT in the autumn of Year 12 and to take the exam in February, April or June, leaving you the option of re-taking it, if necessary, the following autumn. Although the essay section is optional, most competitive colleges require it, so you should register for ‘ACT with writing’, rather than just ‘ACT’.
Click here for a list of UK Test Centres for the ACT. (Look under ‘International Test Centers’ and select the United Kingdom from the ‘Choose a country’ menu).