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08 December 2020

Top 5 Tips for US University Applications

From a Swiss Boarding School to a Top US University

George Casley, Director of College Counselling at Beau Soleil, knows a thing or two about college applications.  Students at our Swiss boarding school, have the benefit of his more than 20 years experience as they prepare for their future studies.  He shares his top 5 tips for applying to universities in the USA.


1. Prepare early – at least 18 months in advance

Some US universities ask a lot from you in your application - entrance tests, essays, supplementary essays, films etc. You need to know what you are going to need to do and when to satisfy these requirements. If a university wants you to have been captain of a sports team you need to prepare for that. If they say they want an IB score of 42 you need to know you can get it. Start preparing early and planning for what you will be asked to do. At Beau Soleil we have expert teachers who are used to supporting students into the right university for them, don’t be afraid to ask for help early in the process.

In the US there are over 3,500 universities. It is our job to help you find the one that is right for you.

2. Do not be swayed by rankings and league tables

Every university claims to be top for something. Being “number 1” for anything does not make the university right for you. Global rankings tend to favour large research heavy traditional institutions.

Does the fact that a particular institution has a world-renowned research faculty in one discipline mean that it is right for you? Think about what is important for you. What criteria matters to you? Be honest with yourself – at Beau Soleil it is what you do that counts and acting honestly and with integrity is key to such right actions. However, often students say, “But I need to go somewhere where my parents can be proud of me... my mum needs to be able to brag about where I am to her friends.” This may be true. However, most parents also want their children to be happy and to do their best. To be happy and do your best might involve being at Harvard, but probably not.

The universities that parents have heard of are not always the right ones for you. At Beau Soleil we see a large part of College Counselling to be about working with parents so that they understand where the best place for their son or daughter to study might be. Success for us means students completing the degrees they leave Beau Soleil to do, becoming happy and confident people whose learning helps them flourish. In the US there are over 3,500 universities. It is our job to help you find the one that is right for you.


3. Put yourself first

You are the student who will spend three or four years of your life learning at the university you attend. What is it that you want from your education and experience?  What will help you to be the person you want to be?  You are not your friend or your parent, or your uncle, who despite their best intentions, are not the people who will be living the day to day experience.  


This is a decision that will fundamentally change your life and it is important that you do what is right for you.


At Beau Soleil we realise that it can be difficult to put yourself first when there are so many people influencing your decision. We talk about kindness a lot in the school and “being kind” can be thought to mean doing that which keeps other people happy. However, this is a decision that will fundamentally change your life and it is important that you do what is right for you.


4. Do the Research

The choice of universities in the US is enormous. Institutions are extraordinarily different. You need to use lots of different search tools to find where is right for you.

At Beau Soleil we have access to some of the best search tools that start with the skills and abilities of you, the student. Join the university presentation meetings, talk to the representatives, speak to students.  We want your university experience to build on what you already do well and this research will take time.  Discuss your ideas with your teachers, they can give you an honest assessment of your abilities and these discussions will help you choose the best teachers to write your recommendation letters.


5. Do it yourself

The best applications are those that shout of your personality and abilities and that you have sweated blood and tears over – that come from your heart. For you to feel the satisfaction of going to the university that is right for you, you need to write the application.

Applying to university is a time consuming and sometimes stressful experience so there is a temptation to pay someone else to do it for you. Whilst there are some good agencies who might be able to help, no one can write as authentically about yourself as you. At Beau Soleil, we will support you with independent advice based on what is best for you to ensure that your application to the right university for you is successful.