Top Misconceptions About Applying To UK & US Unversities

Here at Wentworth Education we often need to demystify the process of applying to US and UK universities and debunk many commonly held beliefs that are simply wrong. Here are five of the most commonly believe, but wrong, conceptions about applying to US and UK universities.

Top Misconceptions About Applying To UK & US Unversities

Here at Wentworth Education we often need to demystify the process of applying to US and UK universities and debunk many commonly held beliefs that are simply wrong. Here are five of the most commonly believe, but wrong, conceptions about applying to US and UK universities.

Top Misconceptions About Applying To UK & US Unversities

Applying to university can seem like a foreign language to even the most modern parent.

  • "Did you hear about Alice? Such a shame! Rejected from the pool."
  • "We're sending Johnny to build homes in Kenya. HYPS love that these days."
  • "Susie is applying to ASNAC in Murray Edwards; it's niche and so will boost her odds."

Here at Wentworth Education we often need to demystify the process of applying to US and UK universities and debunk many commonly held beliefs that are simply wrong. Here are five of the most commonly believe, but wrong, conceptions about applying to US and UK universities.

1. SATs are the main exam focus of US admissions

SAT College Board Logo

False. SATs are the foot in the door to US universities and are largely used as an equivalent standard by which to compare students from very different backgrounds and curricula. SATs are not taught in schools, and most students prepare for them outside the classroom (much like the 11+). There are two types of SATs. The first, the SAT I, is a long exam testing Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing required by most universities. An alternative exam, the ACT, can be taken instead, with the ACT having an extra section on Science. The second, SAT IIs or Subject Tests are meant to test a subject when taken in its “second year” i.e. post GCSE. In America, there are actually exams called Advanced Placements (or APs) that are the equivalent of A levels and are used in much the same way A level results are used.

For more information on the SAT I or SAT II, please see the College Board website. For more information on the ACT, please see the ACT website. For more information on choosing between them please see our article on choosing between the SAT and ACT.

2. US and UK admissions processes are the same

False. UCAS, the delightfully straightforward UK application portal, allows you to enter your personal information, post your exam results, write one personal statement, enter your references, and hit submit to your 6 choices. In the US, you can apply to as many schools as you wish through the "Common Application" which, like UCAS, streamlines most of the personal information entry. In addition to your grades, you will be expected to enter details of your extracurricular activities and volunteering. Even then, many schools require supplements – essays, music recordings, supplementary reference letters – that can leave even the most diligent student dizzy. The interview for US universities is conducted by an alumni and based around you and your interests - no essays or math equations in sight! In summary, the US process is a holistic view of your candidacy in and out of school rather than purely your academic profile. The US application process can seem very different for UK and IB students.

3. My child doesn’t have 10 A*s at GCSE. They therefore do not have a shot at an Ivy League school

False. The standard at American Ivy League schools is notoriously high, but it takes into consideration your other accomplishments outside the classroom. Are you a national champion field hockey player? Are you a virtuoso pianist? Have you started a successful company? Has your volunteer work spoken volumes about your discipline and drive to make your community a better place? Do you have a unique perspective or have you overcome significant diversity to be where you are today? When you apply to American universities, they take all of this into account and more!

4. You cannot prepare for an Oxbridge interview

University Library

False. Oxbridge interviews are the great unknown in UK admissions. However, that does not mean that you cannot prepare for them. Oxbridge Interview practice will give you the confidence to address questions and the skills to articulate your reasoning. Reviewing your school material will ensure that you feel as prepared as possible before setting foot in the door. Expect to be pushed to your intellectual limit. Your interviewer will be testing you further than the boundaries of what you know and assessing not only how you learn but also whether they enjoy teaching you.

5. US universities give unconditional offers

True and False. The offers are not conditional upon your exam results, but US universities do require that you finish the school year and that your performance in school does not drop below a certain standard. This depends on your chosen university so do read the fine print! Finally, any criminal activity or anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated, and there are many examples of successful candidates having their offers rescinded prior to starting.

Selected UK and US University Consultants Testimonials

Please see below some example UK and US University Consultants Testimonials that we have received. If you would like to hear more, you may be interested to read about our tutor guarantee or to read about Wentworth Tutors' philosophy and approach in a letter to parents from Dr Katherine Wiles, our Founder. Alternatively, some more UK and US University Consultants Testimonials can be found on our dedicated testimonials page, where you can filter by subject.

First year university algebrea | Laura Caune

"Laura is an exceptionally able mathematician with the rare quality of understanding intuitively what students require. She provides great advice, and she gives confidence to her students." ... See Laura Caune's tutoring profile.

Oxbridge Applications | Wentworth Education Private Tutoring

"[My son] received an offer from Cambridge (Magdelene), and the time he spent with [the tutor] certainly contributed to the successful outcome of the interview process."

GCSE Mathematics | Jessica F

"Jessica really helped our daughter , listening to what she needed and what she felt she was failing in. She had good lesson plans and was did not mind repeating and going over things that Sophie did not understand straight away. Very pleasant and helpful." ... See Jessica F's tutoring profile.

A Level RS | Fenella Chesterfield

"Fenella is brilliant and [my daughter] has really warmed to her and has found her sessions very informative and bespoke to her needs and they have helped [my daughter] to start to focus on what she really needs to address and how in order to succeed in her A levels." ... See Fenella Chesterfield's tutoring profile.

Engineering Tripos at Cambridge Application | Mathew Smith

"We are very grateful for the job that Mathew has done for [our son], especially the diagnostic part of it, as we didn't know that he had significant gaps in his knowledge. We found Mathew very helpful managing the time pressure problem (and that was a main weakness for our son!)" ... See Mathew Smith's tutoring profile.

Oxford University Mentoring | William Bennett

"This student applied to Human Sciences at Oxford University on her gap year. We met for a series of sessions to work on her personal statement and prepare for interview, discussing topical reading material and how to write about her work experience in a thoughtful and interesting way. She has since received an offer from her first-choice college at Oxford. " ... See William Bennett's tutoring profile.

Oxbridge student | Dr Karis Riley

"I have known Karis for nearly a decade. Karis is highly intelligent and academically gifted. She has a passion for learning and love of education like no one else I know. She is widely read, questioning and intellectually curious by nature - all skills I think an excellent tutor should have and pass on to their students. I would highly recommend Karis' abilities to anyone looking for additional academic support." ... See Dr Karis Riley's tutoring profile.

French all levels Spanish beginner | Katherine Smith

"Katherine is an exceptional teacher and tutor. She is incredibly knowledgeable about approaches for teaching Modern Foreign Languages to learners of all ages and goes above and beyond to support her learners in developing their language skills. She has in depth knowledge of the MFL assessments and examinations and knows how to best prepare learners for these. Dr. E Weavers Cambridge Assessment " ... See Katherine Smith's tutoring profile.

Physics and Interview Preparation | Adam Barker

"Adam has been a truly inspirational physics tutor. My son was keen to extend his Physics knowledge and Adam was quick to challenge him with interesting topics and problems. He has a structured approach to teaching topics and is very effective on remote teaching using internet based tools too. <br><br> His knowledge and experience in Physics is very evident in his overall approach to teaching: he was able to take on any topic and explain it in a very interesting and easy way. My son benefitted from his teaching in every way possible. From my perspective, he would periodically catch up with me and gave me honest feedback on how things were progressing, including positives and negatives, which is not very common. <br><br> Parent" ... See Adam Barker's tutoring profile.

SAT & University Admissions Counselling | Talal Al-Nawab

"Talal and I first started working together at the end of my Freshman year (Year 9) to support me in my high school Math classes as I was taking the most advanced course that my school offered. This continued into Sophomore year (Year 10), and he also then worked with me on my SAT test preparation from the beginning of Junior year (Year 11). Always patient and encouraging, Talal's tutoring and test preparation help was invaluable to allow me to excel in my school studies and prepare me for university. He challenged me to think on my feet and push my academic abilities. My confidence in Math continued to grow along with my GPA, and I am very grateful for his support. In the SAT, I was able to improve my score significantly through our work together which put me in a fantastic position for my university applications. Towards the end of Junior year (Year 11), Talal also began supporting me as a US university admissions counsellor. He helped me finalise a strong list of my best-fit universities and ensured that I began the essay drafting process in good time ahead of my Early applications. He guided me through the crucial essay process through careful and well thought-through iterations of my essay drafts to end up with highly personalised and impactful essays. He also ensured that I always stuck to my deadlines. I truly valued Talal's support and academic mentorship along the way, and I highly recommend him as a tutor, test prep coach and university admissions counsellor." ... See Talal Al-Nawab's tutoring profile.