Applying to study in the USA

What you need to know if you're applying to study in the USA using your NCEA results.

Arrangements between NZ and the USA

There are no official qualification recognition arrangements between New Zealand and the USA, but NZQA works with the US Embassy to support the recognition of New Zealand qualifications.

Universities and tertiary providers in the US set their own qualification requirements, and often use independent assessors to work out whether international qualifications meet their requirements.

Planning and course selection

In the US, admission application requirements vary greatly from one institution to another. It is important to check the requirements on the website of each institution’s international admissions office.


US undergraduate applications are usually due between November and January for courses beginning the following September.

General application requirements:

  • Online application form (including personal information, education history, etc).
  • Educational credentials – typically:
    • your NCEA results, covered in your Record of Achievement
    • transcripts from years 9 and 10 – certified copies of your educational record, courses, and grades from years 9 and 10. An original transcript or certified copy sent by your secondary/high school is generally required for each institution you apply to.
  • Standardised test scores may be required to assess your academic ability, for example:
    • SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test)
    • ACT (American College Test)
    • English proficiency level if English is not your first language.
  • Recommendation letters, written by someone responsible for your academic tracking, such as a year-level Dean or tutor who knows you well. These should cover your academic work and your potential to do well pursuing a higher education degree.
  • Essay/personal statement – where you write about your interests, long-term goals, and strengths – one of the most important aspects of your application.

Registering for SAT or ACT tests

The SAT is a standardised test widely used for college and university admissions in the US. The test is intended to assess a student’s readiness for tertiary study. Some colleges and universities will also accept ACT scores.

Register for these tests early, as there may be limited options and dates for international test-taking locations.

International SAT registration

Register for the ACT test

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Scholarships

Student athletes seeking an NCAA scholarship for US universities should register with the NCAA Eligibility Center as early as possible to make sure you stay on track to meet the eligibility standards.

NCAA Eligibility Center

General application advice for NCAA scholarships

NZQA has worked closely with the NCAA and EducationUSA to support New Zealand students and families through the NCAA scholarship application process.


NCAA requires academic transcripts for four to five years of secondary schooling. In New Zealand, schools use the National Curriculum to develop teaching programmes for the first two years of secondary schooling, including their own system for assessing and recording achievement.

For Years 9 and 10

Due to variation between New Zealand schools' transcripts, your school needs to explain its grading system to NCAA, including how they calculate the final grades from descriptor and numeric grades. Include the explanation with the school transcript.

It will also help NCAA to know how the school formats its transcript. NCAA recommends that applicants send their school transcripts to the Eligibility Centre well in advance of the completion of their secondary schooling so that there is enough time for them to review and clarify any areas where further information may be required.

For Years 11 to 13

The New Zealand Record of Achievement (NZROA) is an official transcript of all the New Zealand qualifications and standards that you have achieved.

New Zealand Record of Achievement

To have a copy of your NZROA sent to NCAA, email

Include your:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • National Student Number
  • postal address
  • name of the last school you attended
  • NCAA application reference number.

Core course requirements

Check the most current guidelines available on the NCAA Eligibility Center website, including advice on the core course requirements, as the number of core courses you achieve is expected to affect your GPA score.

Proof of graduation

This includes certificates, diplomas or final leaving exams.

Given the discrepancy between the school years in the US (from September to June) and NZ (February to December), exceptions may be given to submit these documents at a later stage.

Sometimes the NCAA Eligibility Center may ask for extra academic documentation to clarify that your academic information is complete, valid and accurate.

For more information, call the NCAA Eligibility Center’s international academic certification staff at 001-317-917-6222.

Community colleges

Community colleges usually have rolling admissions or periodic application deadlines throughout the year. Check the deadline for your study programme on the institution’s website. It can take a lot of time to complete application requirements and register for classes, so plan ahead.

General application requirements for community colleges

  • Online application form (including personal information, education history, etc).
  • Educational credentials – usually your NCEA results and sometimes transcripts from years 9 and 10.
  • Standardised test scores – these are not usually required for community colleges, but can include English proficiency tests and SATs.
  • Other forms, depending on the institution, such as financial information, proof of health insurance, vaccination records, passport and visa information are often required.

Grade conversion

Students wishing to enrol in US universities and colleges may need a Grade Point Average conversion of NCEA Levels 1, 2 and 3.

GPA calculations are made only on subjects that are considered “core” subjects in the US, usually mathematics, English, natural/physical science, and social science. You will need to check with each education provider to determine what subjects can be counted toward a GPA score.

Getting a GPA conversion

Following a review of NZQA’s provision of GPA conversions of NCEA results, NZQA is no longer providing GPA conversions for study in the US.

We recommend that you contact the provider in the US you are interested in attending. They will explain the process you should follow to get a GPA conversion of your NCEA results.

Alternatively, Education Credential Evaluators or World Education Services and other third party providers offer GPA conversions that are recognised by many US universities.

Applying to the US with a tertiary qualification

The US Embassy and NZQA have collaborated on a series of videos to explain New Zealand degrees, and Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs), a type of provider that US audiences are not generally familiar with. It could be useful to include a link to these with your application to help explain your New Zealand qualification.

Using NZ tertiary qualifications overseas




ITPs/Te Pūkenga


Contact us

For more information, email

Skip to main page content Accessibility page with list of access keys Home Page Site Map Contact Us