United States admission requirements for university and college entrance

In the United States, 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.

Grade Point Average (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 Grade Point Average conversion 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.

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 they would like you to follow about obtaining a GPA conversion of your NCEA results, if required.

Not all US providers require a GPA conversion of NCEA results. If a GPA conversion is requested, the provider may recommend an agency that can calculate a GPA conversion for you.

Alternatively, the Education Advisor at the US Embassy in Wellington and the Regional Education Advising Coordinators of Education USA recommend the Education Credential Evaluators or World Education Services for GPA conversions that are recognised by many US universities.


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

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

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.

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 the mixture of grades provided in transcripts by New Zealand schools, students need to ask their school to explain its grading system to NCAA, including how they calculate the final grades from descriptor and numeric grades. This explanation can be included with the school transcript.

It will also assist 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 sufficient time for them to review and clarify any areas where further information may be required to meet their requirements.

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. Students can request a copy of their NZROA to be sent to NCAA by emailing their request to prs@nzqa.govt.nz with the following information:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • NSN
  • postal address
  • name of the last school they attended
  • NCAA application reference number

For more information see the New Zealand Record of Achievement page.

Core course requirements

For NCAA eligibility requirements, students should 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 achieved is expected to affect the 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.

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.

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 flexible 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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