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Fitting in at a US College

Fitting in at a US College

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As an international student, making the transition to a US college can be a culture shock to say the least. America has the most publicized higher education experiences on the planet, with movies, TV shows and documentaries all showcasing the ins and outs of student life. But no matter how much you take in, making the move is always a bit of a surprise.

If you’re an international student with your heart set on US college, we’ve got some ‘need to know’ advice on what to expect.



Regardless of where you’re from, you’ll be expected to submit all assignments in US English. You’ll need to know even the smallest of differences, like ‘mom’ over ‘mum,’ ‘specialized’ over ‘specialised’ and so on. There are also words American’s prefer to use over others, such as ‘gas’ over ‘petrol,’ ‘boot’ over ‘trunk’ and ‘vacation’ over ‘holiday.’ The best thing to do is always remember to set your computer language to English (USA).

Drinking age

Remember, the drinking age in the USA is 21. Even if you’re from China, the UK or Australia where the drinking age is 18, Japan where it’s 20 or parts of Europe where it’s 16-17, you won’t be able to purchase alcohol at a bar or store. Similarly, if you’re over 21 and from a dry country where it’s illegal to drink alcohol at any age, you’ll have free reign to experiment.

Public transport

Unlike most other countries, the US public transport system is relatively undeveloped. This means most college students find the cash to invest in a car. Alternatively, joining carpooling groups is a great way to save cash and the environment.


Extremely important! In the USA, Americans list the month first, then the day, then the year. Therefore, 10.2.2016 would be October 2, 2016. The last thing you want to do is miss an exam because you read the date wrong!


Smoking is becoming an increasingly taboo act in the US, with lighting up now forbidden in bars, restaurants, cafes and even some public outdoor spaces.


This is a big one! When you move to the States, you’re expected to tip. This is because waiters and waitresses earn very little, and rely on tips to make a living. You may even experience tipping culture for yourself if you choose to take on a job. Generally, 15 – 20% of the total bill is acceptable.

Want to know more about getting ready for US college? Don’t miss the New SAT Global Telesummit that’s packed full of information on how to score a great SAT, as well as prepare for college life.

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