Applying to U.S. Universities

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Course Date: 03 August 2014 to 31 August 2014 (4 weeks)

Price: free

Course Summary

This course will help you understand how the U.S. university application and admission process works for international students and non-native English speakers applying to undergraduate (i.e., bachelor's degree) programs.

Estimated Workload: 3-6 hours/week

Course Instructors

Erick Hyde

Erick Hyde joined Penn's English Language Programs in July 2011 as the University Connection Counseling Specialist.  Working with students enrolled in ELP's University Connection Program, Erick helps students learn about and apply to U.S. university programs. 

Prior to joining ELP, Erick worked as a university admissions officer for over 10 years.  Erick started his admissions career working at his alma mater, La Salle University, traveling throughout the U.S. to recruit undergraduate students to the Philadelphia campus.  Shortly thereafter, Erick expanded his recruiting territory to include the entire world as he entered and fell in love with the field of international admission.  Since that time Erick has held the position of Coordinator of International Admission at La Salle University, Montgomery County Community College (PA), and Widener University, where he recruited and evaluated applicants from Bachelors degree seekers to Doctoral candidates. 

Outside of recruitment, Erick is the former co-chair of and now consults for the NACAC Philadelphia National College Fair, one of the largest college fairs of its kind in the U.S., held annually at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.  Erick also presented at the triennial Europe and Eurasia EducationUSA advisor training conference in Prague, Czech Republic on the topic of "Different Universities, Diverse Systems: How various universities evaluate the same application" with colleagues from Chapman University and the Belgrade EducationUSA Center. 

Erick holds a B.A. in Communications and an M.A. in Professional Communications, both from La Salle University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Course Description

“It depends.”  That is what you’ll hear when asking about the U.S. university admission process.  With over 4,000 universities in the United States and no standard application system, the U.S. admission process can be confusing for everyone, but especially for students applying from other countries.

This course will help international students (non-U.S. citizens) and non-native English speakers navigate the U.S. university admission process by offering practical information about the documents and pieces that make up a U.S. university application.  More importantly, admission officers will discuss how they use those pieces to decide who is accepted and who is denied, so that you can understand the process beyond the pieces.

By the end of this course, you will understand application basics that include researching schools, creating a school list, and establishing an application plan.  This course will not answer all of your application questions, but it will teach you to ask the right questions of yourself and the universities.  Ultimately, you will have all the information you need to start your process the right way, putting you on the path to acceptance.

* Please note, while the English Language Programs are part of the University of Pennsylvania, this is not a course about applying to Penn.  Furthermore, this course is intended for international students educated in the national curriculum of their country.  While other students are welcome to enroll, the course is not intended for American students or students studying in an American, International Baccalaureate, or Advanced Placement curriculum.  The course is also intended for students who do not have access to university counseling – if you attend a school that offers university counseling, your counselor is the best source of information on applying to university.  Finally, this course is for undergraduate (Bachelors degree) freshmen (students who have not attended any university) applicants.  Undergraduate transfer applicants, students who have attended a university, will find some of the information helpful, but graduate (Masters and Doctoral) applicants will not.


What resources will I need for this class?

For this course, all you need is an Internet connection, an open mind, and the willingness to dedicate hard work to the application process.

Will financial aid or paying for university be discussed in this course?

The financial aid process is even more complex than the admission process.  Because financial aid guidelines can significantly differ from school to school, we will not be reviewing financial aid during this course.  A good source of information regarding financial aid is your country or region's U.S. Department of State supported EducationUSA Advising Center.

Will this class help me be accepted at the University of Pennsylvania?

This course is about university admission, not admission to Penn.  Taking this class will help you submit your best application for admission, but it in no way will directly help you gain admission to Penn.

What is the English Language Programs (ELP)?

The ELP is an intensive English language program where student can improve their English language abilities.  The ELP also offers a specialized University Connection (UniConn) Program that helps English language learners apply to U.S. universities and prepare for admission tests like the SAT, ACT, and TOEFL.  While the ELP is a University of Pennsylvania program, there is no connection between the ELP and admission to Penn.  For more information, visit ELP.

How do I connect with the course on social media?

You can follow Applying to U.S. Universities on Twitter, join its student community on Facebook, or add it to your circles on Google+.

Does the English Language Program offer other online courses?

Yes, the English Language Program also offers Writing the University Application Essay - Online.  This course is an online writing course intended for international freshman applicants to U.S. colleges and universities. Writing the University Application Essay - Online is designed as a practical process-oriented guide to writing an effective and memorable personal statement. The course begins by examining the essay within the larger application to reveal how it impacts admissions decisions. With an understanding of the admissions audience and expectations, students will work to identify engaging topics, analyze common application prompts, and craft an essay that avoids common mistakes and highlights students' unique strengths and personalities. The course will introduce expert advice, sample essays, editing checklists, and strategies for creative and effective writing. Students will participate in interactive writing workshops and receive extensive individualized feedback from instructors. By the end of the course, students will complete 3 full drafts towards a final essay.  To apply to for the course visit the Writing the university Application Essay - Online homepage.  The course starts on June 1, 2014 and the deadline to apply is May 1, 2014.

How can I learn about other open courses at Penn?

For more information on Penn’s Open Learning initiative, please go to:


Week One: Understanding the U.S. Admission Process

Week Two: Researching Yourself

  • The importance of self-assessment
  • Analyzing your academic qualifications
  • Evaluating your non-academic qualifications
  • Identifying your strengths and weaknesses
  • Identifying what you want in a university and a university experience
  • Creating a school list
  • Connecting you with the right universities
  • Getting help in your home country through the U.S. Department of State's EducationUSA network
  • Additional resources to get started

Week Three: Researching Universities and Creating a Plan

  • Recognizing the levels of research
  • Learning the questions to ask and the information to search for
  • Using university research resources
  • Understanding your research findings
  • Identifying reach, target, and safety schools
  • Enhancing your school list
  • Understanding application deadlines
  • Creating an application plan

Week Four: The Application Process and Pieces

  • Filling out the application form
  • Submitting academic documents
  • The importance of test scores
  • How to write a strong application essay
  • Getting good letters of recommendation
  • Understanding school forms
  • Building an activities list
  • Understanding additional application requirements
  • Connecting the themes in your application
  • Completing a final, cumulative portfolio assignment


The course will consist of a series of short video lectures.  Video lectures will have integrated quiz questions to ensure that you understand the material before moving forward.  The course will also include short-answer homework activities that will form the foundation of your application process after you complete the course.  Discussion forums will be available for student-to-student discussion and to ask questions of their peers and the instruction team.  To earn a Statement of Accomplishment, students must complete all exercises as well as a final, cumulative assignment involving the creation of application materials.  Please note, that while you should be proud of completing the course and earning a Statement of Accomplishment, this Statement should not be mentioned in your university applications.  It is the experience of this course and not the Statement of Accomplishment that will help you in your applications to U.S. universities. 

Suggested Reading

There are no required readings for this course.  The video lectures will provide basic information, but for a greater understanding of the admission process, the following readings are suggested:



CollegeBoard International



The College Board's International Student Handbook 2014: All-New 27th Edition 

Harry Bauld's On Writing the College Application Essay, 25th Anniversary Edition: The Key to Acceptance at the College of Your Choice

Loren Pope's Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges

Michele A. Hernandez's A Is for Admission: The Insider's Guide to Getting into the Ivy League and Other Top Colleges

Course Workload

3-6 hours/week

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