What's in a name? How to make US applications even more complex

Years ago, in my first ever time doing US advising, I sent a transcript to Pacific University, in support of my student’s application. A few hours later an email came back from the university, thanking me for the information, saying that she seemed like a strong applicant but stating that she hadn’t actually applied to them. In what I imagine was a standard thing for them to do, they asked me to check if she had instead applied to the University of the Pacific. They were correct, but in her and my naivety we hadn’t realised the difference.

In the UK system that I was then only familiar with, we use University of X and X University interchangeably: indeed, those who sell college-style hoodies tend to use the opposite version to the correct terminology so as to avoid infringing a trademark: Oxford University hoodies to bypass annoying the University of Oxford.

In the US, however, a different situation applies, and this was an early induction into the complexities involved which can often trip the unaware student or counselor up. I now know that Pacific University is located near Portland, Oregon and the University of Pacific is about 90 minutes east of San Francisco.

When you deal with acronyms it can also get complicated. Is USF the University of South Florida or the University of San Francisco? USC can be the University of Southern California or the University of Southern Carolina. SUNY and CUNY are different systems, and the CIA is the Culinary Institute of America.

There’s also the very similarly named universities. We have Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. There’s Purdue University, also in Indiana. And there’s IUPUI - Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. It’s also in Indiana.

We have Loyola University in Chicago, Loyola University in New Orleans, Loyola University in Maryland and Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, then Marymount University, Marymount California University and Marymount Manhattan University.

The US system is a very complex one, and the names are actually one of the easier aspects to get a grasp of. If you want some help understanding how to work your way through all of these, please get in touch.

USADavid Hawkins