Far From Home: A Guide to Applying for University Education in the US

Written by: Chong Tien Ee (19-E3) and Zhao Keyang (19-I1)

Designed by: Jo Yeoul (19-A2)


At this age, we are all trying to decide which path to take upon graduation, and studying in the US cannot be overlooked. Leaving Singapore by yourself in pursuit of education may seem daunting, but there are perks to studying overseas, such as opportunities to practice adulting and the wide array of lifestyle choices available only outside of Singapore.


It is important to note that every individual has their own tastes and preferences when selecting their path. School rankings are not conclusive in showing whether a school is suitable for you. Take into account your passions, strengths and weaknesses, costs, the location and the kind of education you would like to receive. 


The most crucial factor to consider is cost. The direct costs include tuition, room, board, while indirect costs include supplies for books, living expenses, transportation and emergencies. The average tuition fee for a private 4 year college amounts to $32,410 and the average tuition fee for a public 4 year college amounts to $23,890. Most would consider applying for overseas scholarships or financial aid during the application process.


Regarding scholarship and financial aid availability, check with your dream school and ask if financial aid and scholarships for international students are available. Keep in mind that need-blind universities tend to be more generous with financial aid as they give these out based on merit and not necessity. 


It would be good to consider the majors that you are interested in. College websites can provide you with information regarding the majors offered in the school.

Check for program-specific accreditation for the majors offered. This accreditation confirms that the program offered by the school is up to standards of the career that you are striving towards. Some of you may be interested in pursuing a double major, meaning you want to study two different subjects instead of one. Not all schools offer this, so do your research.  


Lastly, the type of institution can determine your choice. Community colleges have two year programs and some are affiliated to 4 year universities, so you can spend your first two years in the community college and your last two years in a university. Liberal arts colleges are undergraduate focused and have broad core requirements regardless of major. Public universities are funded by the state and will prioritise admissions for local students, but are still generally cheaper and more teaching-focused. Private universities, on the other hand, are usually more expensive and research-focused. 


Useful links

Information on schools: https://www.usnews.com/education


Information on higher education: tinyurl.com/ejchighered  

EducationUSA singapore is an organisation that has a base in Singapore but is headquartered in the US. It aims to assist prospective students who live in Singapore. You may choose to make an appointment with them for one to one consultation and advising. 

Call: 6709 4838

Email: singapore@educationusa.info  


Undergraduate Entrance Exam 

There are a few entrance exams you can take. Not all schools require these standardised tests scores, but you should take them anyway so you have more options. 


The SATis often used as an assessment for admission and merit scholarships. The test is paper-based and must be taken at test centres. You can take it in March, May, October, and December. The test includes 3 sections – Reading, Mathematics, and Writing. The writing section is optional but most colleges will strongly recommend sitting for it. You are required to pay an exam fee of USD100.50 for the SAT without the writing portion and USD117.50 with the writing portion. Your scores will be released about 2 to 6 weeks after your test date and will be valid for 5 years. You can sit for the SAT for an unlimited number of times but only your 6 most recent scores will be recorded at any point in time. The SAT subject tests are used for students to demonstrate their knowledge and mastery in a specific subject area. It is also a paper-based test and the sections of the test are dependent on the subject you are taking. Subject tests are available in the months of May, June, October, November, and December. There will be a registration fee dependent on the subject. Your results are also released 2-6 weeks from your test date and will be valid for 5 years. 


Another option available is the ACT test. Unlike the SAT, this test focuses more on content mastery. This test can be done online and has 5 sections – English, Math, Reading, Science, Writing. The writing section is optional. You can sit for the tests in February, April, June, September, October, and December. You are required to pay a fee of USD $150 or USD $166.50 with the writing section. Your test results are typically released 2-6 weeks after your test date and will be valid for 5 years. 


The TOEFL test is a test for any international student applying to a US university. Singaporeans who have attended an English-only school may have the TOEFL waived. However, for other students, this test is compulsory. The test can be done online and is offered about 50 times a year. There are 4 sections, namely reading, listening, speaking and writing. Your test results are released about 10 days after the test date and will be valid for 2 years. The TOEFL test costs USD $245.    


Here are some useful links that can make your entrance exam process a little easier. 

SAT and SAT subject tests information, practice, and registration: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat 

ACT information, practice, and registration: http://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/test-preparation.html#practice-tests

TOEFL information, practice, and registration: http://www.ets.org/toefl/?WT.ac=etshome_toefl_flagship_180417


Admissions Essay

The admissions essay is, naturally, a critical part of your application. Schools place a high level of importance on your response so do take time to construct thoughtful and well-rounded responses. Typically, there are three types of questions schools can ask you, namely the personal story question, the social issues question, and the future plans and goals question. 


The question regarding personal stories looks for insight into your character, values, and experiences, and is how you present yourself. Instead of writing the whole of life story, focus on a few events in your life that have shaped who you are today. Schools read essays from applicants all over the world, so write something unique and interesting. 


The question regarding social issues looks for your personal perspective on various social and political issues. Not only do you need to express your own opinion on the issue, you must also include statistics in your essay. Do not include in your essay various social and political issues unless the question specifically asks for this. Answer this question rationally and avoid putting too much emotion into the essay. Show the admissions counselor that you are a well-read, informed and intelligent student. 


The essay regarding your future plans and goals seeks to understand your vision of your future. Show admissions counselors that you are serious about your education and have solid ideas regarding your future. If the question asks about the particular school you are applying to, be specific in what you are looking forward to learning in that school. It is also good to describe what plans you have upon graduation. 


In general, write something that is honest, creative and a good representation of who you are. You should begin with an introduction that piques the reader’s interest, before proceeding to answer the question in 2 to 3 paragraphs. Lastly, end with a memorable conclusion that connects to your main points. Research about the school and brainstorm for personal qualities in yourself that fit what the school is looking for. You should avoid repeating information that can be found elsewhere in your application, as well as making sweeping statements. If you are planning to use the same essay for multiple applications, make sure your references to the names of the school are correct. Proofread your essay multiple times to avoid making errors and if necessary, ask others to proofread it for you. Do not try too hard to impress the admissions counselor with grand tales. Instead, try to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. That way, you can represent the most truthful version of yourself. Most importantly, make sure you stand out while coming from a genuine place. 


Useful Links 

Information on essay writing: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-in/essays 



  1. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-in/essays
  2. 2019 Best Colleges in America. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.niche.com/colleges/search/best-colleges/
  3. SAT. (2019, July 10). Retrieved from https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat
  4. Test Preparation – The ACT Test. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/test-preparation.html#practice-tests
  5. The TOEFL® Test. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ets.org/toefl/?WT.ac=etshome_toefl_flagship_180417
  6. US News Education | Best Colleges | Best Graduate Schools | Online Schools. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/education


Posted by

With great power comes great responsibility.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s