United States admission requirements for university and college entrance

In the United States, admission application requirements can vary greatly from one institution to another. It is important to check the requirements on the website of each institution’s international admissions office.  Often NCEA results will need to be converted into a Grade Point Average (GPA), and universities may have a third-party credentialing organisation do these conversion calculations.  Allow the US provider to advise you on their requirements.

GPA conversion of NCEA subjects and levels 1, 2 and 3

Students wishing to enrol in US universities and colleges may be required to obtain GPA conversions of NCEA Levels 1, 2 and 3. 

GPA calculations are made only on those 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 educational institution to determine what subjects can be counted toward a GPA score for each institution.


It is usual for US undergraduate applications to be due between November and January for students who wish to begin courses the following September.

Some general application requirements:

  • Online application form: (including personal information, education history, etc.)
  • Educational credentials: This is typically your NCEA results, and transcripts from years 9 and 10. NZQA can provide you a copy of your Record of Achievement for NCEA levels 1, 2 and 3. Transcripts are 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 for admission.
  • NCEA results: These can be sent directly to the university by NZQA on request.  See Ordering result documents, Studying Overseas.
  • Standardised test scores: Scores may be required to assess your academic ability (eg SAT [Scholastic Aptitude Test] or ACT [American College Test][1]) and English proficiency level if English is not your first language.  Be sure to consider registration for these tests early, as there may be limited options and dates for international test-taking locations.
  • Recommendation letters: These letters are intended to cover your academic work and your potential to do well pursuing a higher education degree. A person writing a recommendation letter for you should be someone responsible for your academic tracking, such as a year-level Dean or tutor. Be sure to choose someone who knows you well.
  • Essay/personal statement: This is your chance to write about your interests, long-term goals, and strengths – one of the most important aspects of your application.

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Scholarships

International student athletes seeking an NCAA scholarship for US universities are encouraged to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center as early as possible to make sure they stay on track to meet the eligibility standards.

If you are an international university-bound student-athlete, you must submit the following academic documents:

  • Your academic records for years 9 and up, in your native language and translated to English: Your school will need to submit records for years 9 and 10, and your Record of Achievement for NCEA levels 1, 2 and 3.  It’s possible that you will be required to provide a GPA conversion of your NCEA results. US universities often require GPA scores for university admission. Please allow NCAA and/or the provider to which you are applying to guide you on what GPA conversion scores they will accept.
  • Proof of graduation, including 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.
  • SAT or ACT scores

Failure to include any of these items may delay review of your records. In certain situations, the NCAA Eligibility Center may ask for additional 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.

Download the NCAA Guide to International Standards

Community colleges

In the United States, community colleges are primarily two-year public institutions of higher education. Many community colleges also offer remedial education, GEDs[2], high school degrees, technical degrees and certificates, and a limited number of 4-year degrees.

After graduating from a community college, some students transfer to a university or liberal arts college for two to three years to complete a Bachelor's degree, while others enter the workforce.

General application requirements for community colleges

  • Online application form: (including personal information, education history, etc.)
  • Educational credentials: These are typically your NCEA results and possibly transcripts from years 9 and 10.
  • Standardized test scores: TOEFL[3] (if English is not your first language), SAT and other test scores may be accepted to assess your academic ability and English proficiency level. However, these tests are not usually required for admission to community colleges. Upon arrival, you will most likely take placement tests in the English language as well as in your area of study. 
  • Other forms, depending on the institution, such as financial information, proof of health insurance, vaccination records, passport and visa information are often required.

Since community colleges usually have rolling admissions or periodic application deadlines throughout the year, the timeline for applying is more fluid than for a four-year college or university. You should consider your target date for beginning your studies and verify the deadlines on the institution’s website well in advance. It can take a considerable amount of time to fill out application forms, to request and translate educational transcripts, to order copies of test scores, and to register for classes, so plan ahead.

How NZQA can help:

[1] 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. For information about international registration: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register/international

The ACT is another standardised test that is widely used for college and university admissions in the US.  For more information: http://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act.html

[2] General Education Development test http://www.gedtestingservice.com/ged-testing-service

[3] Test of English as a Foreign Language https://www.ets.org/toefl/

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