Applying to college in the US as Australians
My LA story, Posts

Australian applying for College in the US

An Australian’s perspective–an Australian applying for American College from the US.

What a relief: we live to tell the tale! I’ve tried to avoid boring you with woeful tales of stress about applying to get into College in the US as Australians living here. Although I do think it’s easier because we live here, it is all so different from what we’re used to–and there is a lot of pressure over here while you endure the process–that it turns into a very stressful time. And, because of that, I thought I should write about being an Australian applying for American College from the US.

So much easier at this end of the process too, let me tell you.

If you could see me now my head is swollen with pride. I’m kicking back patting myself on the back for not only having a smart son get into College but for helping him through application time and trying really hard not to pester him too much.

Of course it’s me who has done all the work isn’t it?

OK, not really the hard, hard work, just the love, guidance and inspiration. But enough about me, here’s a little step-by-step guide as to what you need to consider when applying your HSCer/VCEer/Senior/Year 12er to College in America.  At least, here’s a step-by-step guide of the what we went through to apply to College here in the US.

Visiting Colleges

It’s a big part of the process to go on College tours here.  Not everyone does it but many, many do.  There’s a big belief here that you have to feel where you’re applying to to see if you like it and whether you can picture yourself there.  It makes a lot of sense seeing as a) your kid will be spending their next four years there but also b) and perhaps more importantly that your hard-earnt coin is going to be shelled out there.

On the upside many of these Colleges are amazing places to visit in their own right on beautiful grounds and full of history and intrigue. On the downside you invest a lot of time, effort and money into going around the country visiting these institutions. Most of the Colleges have great online/virtual visits so don’t worry too much about this step if you can’t make it happen.

TIP: Book your trips early and before you commit to airfares and accommodation make sure you can book a space on the tour–they book out faster than you can say, “Will we check out Harvard?”

Bonus TIP: If you like the sound of the College but can’t visit apply and if you get in then arrange to visit before you commit.


This is the total stress ball part of the process.  While many Colleges link themselves to a thing called the Common App (where you can apply to multiple Colleges in a single app) it’s a little deceiving because most Colleges still want you to answer their own special questions.  What it’s great for though is not having to write your name, address and date of birth 15 different times.

Even though you apply to many of these Colleges on one Common App you still have to pay to have your ACT or SAT sent to all the different places–no free ride there unless you are eligible for financial aid. Remember peoples this is a business.  And you still have to pay an application fee per College you apply to–yep that beautiful thing called capitalism.

Speaking of SAT & ACT

I hate to bring this up, especially if you’re in Australia reading this and are wonderfully oblivious to what goes on here in the US. Mark my words there is a lot of tutoring, studying and sitting and resitting of those exams that goes on here. At least it does in LA.

The good thing about this application process, however, is that they read the application based on your student–where they’re from and what the situation is in their corner of the world.  So if you’re just doing your SAT or ACT once and you live in Australia I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

By the way, my son was happy with his SAT score and decided to only sit it once.  We were happy with him for making that decision.  While he may have got some extra marks we were never sure if the score would make a difference.  Also Colleges get to see how many times you sit the test and even if they take the best one you have to wonder when they think it took you four goes to get there–or what they think when you decide to only take it once!

How many Colleges should I apply to?

So this questions depends on where you live and the peer group pressure around you.  At College Prep schools (aka private schools here in LA) there are a lot of applications that get sent out.  The average may be around 12 but it can be from as “few” as eight to as many as 20. That’s a lot of work. Let me repeat, that’s a lot of work.


Your essay–your story–is so vitally important spend some time thinking about it and how you want yourself to be seen.  There are books and articles written on this topic alone so I can’t properly give my two-cents worth on this here; except to say really try to think outside the box; without looking like you’re really trying to think outside the box.  Of course it helps if you’re a good writer but if you’re not that strong make up for it in the content and have someone like an English teacher at school help you edit and give you feedback.

If you’re applying via the Common app don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll only have to write one essay too.  Remember this Blog post when we were going through the arduous process? Yep, there are (or at least can be) a lot of questions and they can be really hard to answer–especially for us Australians who aren’t necessarily very good at telling people how good we are.

Extra questions

Each College has extra questions they want you to answer; and these are time-consuming!  Some Colleges want 100-word responses, others 25 words, others one word-answers and of course others again want another essay.  Whatever they are asking for though know what they want and prepare for it ahead of time.  Your “story” will invariably have a few different elements to it and knowing these questions and drafting the answers ahead of time will help you refine your application.

TIP: Start your essay and extra questions before school starts (if you’re at school in the US). Once you start school there’s a lot to do and there’s not a lot of time (or energy) for extra work.


The Calm before the storm

Enjoy this time, it’s the best! It’s the time between early January and end of February/early March when you can’t do a single thing. Applications are closed and now you have to sit and wait. But stressing isn’t going to help so you may as well keep up your grades and have a good time.


The stress comes back in the form of acceptances–will I or won’t I get into the Colleges I’ve applied to.

There’s quite an etiquette that goes along with asking whether they got in.  Basically everyone knows pretty well what day (and sometimes the time) acceptances come out.  It’s hard not to get caught up in the moment and hover over your senior while they’re bracing themselves for whether they get into the School of their dreams or not.

In our house we “disappeared” downstairs basically waiting for sobs or screams.  In actual fact we got no sobs as the rejections were “reach” schools where he really just wanted to see if he had a shot of getting in.  There were screams of joy and happily for us he got into the schools we thought he would. #yay

To increase the stress there are sites like College Confidential that provide hours of searching and reading other people’s stories.  I don’t advise looking. But then again …

National Candidate Reply Date

May 1 is National Candidate Reply Date.  This is basically your deadline date to say to your College of choice, yes I’m in.  But sometimes it’s not always that easy.  You might be waitlisted at your first choice or you might be waitlisted at more than one.  Either way this is decision crunch day.  Hopefully for you it’s the easy bit though. Good luck.

Applying to Australian Uni from the US

But what do you do if the shoe is on the other foot? How does an Australian living in the US apply for Uni in Australia? Well assuming you’re an Australian citizen the good news is you absolutely can and it’s a pretty easy process.  I put in a couple of inquiries and found you just have to apply like everyone else in Australia.  The ACT or SAT is accepted and Unis publish the equivalent score you need to get into your Course of choice.

Sydney Uni sent me a score conversion table which laid everything out really clearly.  (The link takes you to the 2018 version of the entry guide, fyi). UTS said it didn’t do it and asked me to contact the Universities Admissions Centre, UAC.

UAC Schedule

If the Uni of your choice doesn’t publish a table and, like UTS, they send you to UAC here’s the reply you get:

If you wish to purchase a UAC Schedule which has the university rank for the achievement in your overseas Year 12 study it will cost $A95.00, payable by credit/debit card (MasterCard and Visa).

Please write to the Managing Director and include the following information:

  • Your name
  • Your email address including+ daytime telephone number
  • Qualification Name
  • Qualification Year
  • Country of Origin
  • Issuing Body

Alternatively, you can call our office on +61 2 9752 0200 and request and pay over the phone.

Please sign your letter.  Post your request to:

Locked Bag 112
Silverwater NSW 2128

UAC Deadlines

I asked UAC about timing of applications etc.  The bummer is that if you want to compare offers it’s pretty hard given the school calendars don’t match.  We were thinking of it as a positive though, and thinking a nine-month gap “year” is a pretty good thing.  I also had the peer group pressure thing sorted out and was going to buy my son a Gap sweatshirt to wear in the obligatory “College photo.”

The other good thing about the gap is you have time to resit your SAT after your kids’ senior year is done if you don’t quite have the right score. This takes the pressure off having to do it while they’re at school trying to work hard to get the marks or GPA they’re after.

Applications for 2019 admissions will open on our website early August.

When he applies he will need to request his SAT results are released by the College Board directly to us, our institution code is 3719.  He will also need to upload his High School Diploma to his application to show completion.

Applying to UAC

As Australian citizens we apply as domestic students.  Here’s a link to a video which shows you step-by-step how to apply.  Here’s the relevant page on tHE UAC website too which says

“You can apply for undergraduate and postgraduate (coursework) study through UAC if you are an Australian or New Zealand citizen.”

Good luck if this is you!

PS: How much did it all cost me?

Now that we’re done I thought I’d do a quick addition of what applying for College here cost me seeing as I’ve bitched and moaned a bit throughout the last 18 months. I really did it the cheap way with very few College visits.

But.  Everything here comes at a price–it’s how America is a “great” nation–there’s an industry for everything.

Education up to High School might be free but if you want to do extra subjects (at some high schools) you have to pay; if you want to do Advanced Placement (AP) subjects, you have to pay registration fees and an exam fee.  If you want a tutor to help you through your SAT or ACT you have to pay.  If you want to go to private school you have to sit an entrance exam and that costs money (and most of the time parents pay for tutoring to sit the exam so that costs more money).  but I digress.  Here we go.

Tutor for SATs                                                                                     $960
Visiting Berkeley & Stanford                                                           $500 for food, lodging & parking
Sitting for the SAT                                                                              $60
Sitting for the SAT Subject exams (three exams, one sitting)  $80
Visiting USC                                                                                         $10 parking–bargain!
Submitting SAT scores to Colleges                                                $60
AP Scores                                                                                                $75 plus again this year
Stanford application                                                                            $90
UCs application (UCLA & UC Berkeley)                                  $140
USC application                                                                                    $85
NYU application                                                                                    $80
Harvard application                                                                              $75

SORT OF TOTAL (I wouldn’t call it Grand Total)                    $2115

If you’re Australian applying to College from Australia

It can still be done. I had a friend who did it all herself for her fabulous runner and he got a free ride into an American College. The steps are the same, the application is essentially the same–you just apply as an International student. But guess what? We also had to apply as an International student. It’s all possible!

If you are a sport spice I recommend reaching out to Coaches via each College’s athletics webpages.  Each sport provides guidelines.  And, if you’re lucky enough to be considered not only will they offer you a free ride but they may well offer to tour you through the campus–on their coin! Yep, College athletics is huge.  And that’s a whole other story …

Good luck!

xx It Started in LA xx

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like

1 Comment

  • Reply Dropping my son to College aka Uni - It Started In LA August 30, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    […] he is. And it’s great for him. You know I’ve talked about how hard the whole College application process can be here. So he earnt it. And this really is a turning point for him. It […]

  • Why not tell me what you think & comment below

    %d bloggers like this: