Apply to an American university with this essential vocabulary

If you dream of studying at university in the USA, the first step in making that dream come true is to apply for a place at the American university you want to go to. Before you apply, read through this guide to find about all the vocabulary you’ll need to know for the application process.

Ivy League

Think of the most famous universities in the USA. We call these the ‘Ivy league’. The Ivy League is an association of eight universities and colleges: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale. They are among the best colleges in the world, and probably the most difficult to get in to.

Application procedure

This is the process of applying to study at a particular college, from writing to the institution to request information, to receiving a final letter of acceptance or rejection. The process varies among colleges, departments, and types of institution (e.g. law school, business school, medical school, graduate or undergraduate school), so don’t assume all applications will be the same.


This is the final date for applications to be submitted. Meeting the school’s deadline is one of the most simple yet vital parts of the application process, so make sure you check dates carefully and mail your application package well in advance.

Application Essay

This is an essay written by the applicant to describe themselves: their motivations, goals, greatest achievements, personality, and so on. It is also called a Personal Statement, Autobiographical Statement or a Letter of Intent. Whatever the name, if you are required to write one, do it well!

Academic transcript

This is an official copy of your permanent academic record (grades and academic performance), and is required by most schools as part of the application process. Foreign students need a certified translation of this document.

Application Fee

This is a payment that covers the cost of processing your application. Application fees range from around $30 to over $75, and are generally not refunded, whether you are accepted or rejected.


If you are on a scholarship, someone pays for you to complete your academic qualification or research. A scholarship can cover your tuition fees and some include money for maintenance (living expenses), too! Funding for scholarships can come from the university itself, the government, or sometimes a private company.

Test scores

These are your results on standardized tests like the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) or SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test). Foreign students usually also have to submit scores for TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language).

Recommendation letter

This is a letter of support written by someone who knows you, like a former teacher. These letters can seriously influence your application and set you apart from other applicants.


Foreign students also have to submit other paperwork (documentation) when applying to study in the US, for example proof of immunization, health certificates, evidence of financial support, copies of passports, study visas and so on.

With all these things to think about, the process may be time consuming and troublesome. However applying to study at a US university could be your first step to a successful international career!