If you are aspiring to go USA for your higher studies, the application process to the top universities can often be confusing and getting all relevant information is often quite time-consuming. It is very important for students to read all application procedure-related information on the official websites of the institutes they intend applying to.
You need to start planning and preparing your application several months ahead of the submission deadlines to avoid any confusion and mistakes. Make a list of all the required documents and ensure that you have them all in hand. If not, start working on obtaining them; you need to have an idea as to when your application packet will be complete and ready for dispatch. Most students underestimate the time required for the application process. To avoid last minute rush and all the stress that comes with it we suggest you follow the application timeline provided by the university of your choice.
Below are a few application requirements that are general to all foreign universities.
· Your academic record is one of the most important deciding factors in securing admission to a college abroad. Most schools require you to have a reasonably good academic record, especially for programs and courses offering a master’s or doctoral degree.
· Each university has for its programs its own minimum requirements, which are flexible depending on the candidate’s profile. Universities in the USA have their own marking and evaluation systems, which are considerably different from the Indian system. They follow the GPA (Grade Point Average) system which is based on a 5-point scheme – A, B, C, D and F. It is advisable not to convert your marks in the Indian system of grading to the American Grade Point Average system or any other system since the conversion may not be accurate.
· You may attach an explanatory note from your college to indicate your rank in your class and/or university, along with the number of students in the class and the number of colleges and students in the university.
· You may also provide any other information or documents that you feel may help you in the admission process.
· A student applying for graduate courses (MBA, MS etc.) is required to submit an official transcript (mark-sheets) from each of the colleges/universities attended after secondary school, with complete details of the subjects/credits for each year, including descriptions (type and mode) of the course such as correspondence, diploma etc.
· Most universities ask for the transcript (mark-sheets) to be sealed in an envelope and signed and attested across the seal by the registrar. This procedure is to be done for each and every college that you have attended.
· Some universities may ask for more than one copy of the transcript. If the transcripts are in a language other than English, they must be translated into English only by the issuing authority or university.
Many courses and universities in the US require you to take a standardized test such as GRE and GMAT along with an English proficiency test like TOEFL, TWE or TSE.
English Proficiency Tests
· TOEFL: This test is mandatory for international students applying to a graduate course in the US. The minimum score required by most universities for admission is 570 in the paper-based test or 230 in the computer-based test.
· TSE: This test is important if you intend to apply for a teaching assistantship. Though many universities don’t mention it, it is advisable to take this test if you are looking for a teaching assistantship.
Most programs require you to take specific standardized tests and there is a certain minimum that you have to score to get an admission: The various tests are:
· GMAT for graduate courses in Management
· GRE for graduate courses in fields other than Management
· LSAT for admission to law schools
· USMLE for admission to medical colleges
Work Experience Details
A number of professional and vocational courses require applicants to have relevant work experience. For instance, many MBAs or master’s courses in information studies require at least a couple of years’ work experience. Most Australian universities are pretty strict about this. A detailed résumé is an important part of your application. It should include all information of professional work experience along with details such as positions held, achievements and range of work.
Letter of Recommendation
Letters of reference or recommendation letters play a very important part in your admission, especially in courses that earn you a master’s or doctoral degree. A recommendation letter is a signed statement from a person who knows you well professionally or has taught you in a subject that is related to the course you are applying to.
It should list your positive and negative qualities, strengths and other such information. The author or teacher must indicate his position, how long he/she has known the applicant and in what capacity. He/she should briefly discuss the need, importance and usefulness of the study the applicant proposes to undertake.
Authors are usually asked to rank applicants in their letters of recommendation, which helps admission officers to interpret the academic credentials of foreign students. Students should obtain letters of recommendation (often on the prescribed forms sent by the institutions) from teachers who know them as a person as well as a student. You may request your author to give concrete examples that show your qualities and help your case.
Many universities have their own format and questions that have to be answered by the person giving the letter of recommendation. Letters that do not give enough information can jeopardize a candidate’s chances of selection.
Even if not mentioned, it is advisable to include at least two letters of recommendation in your application as they increase your chances of getting admission.
Statement of Purpose
The personal essays and/or statement of purpose play a very important role in the process of evaluating your application for both admission as well as financial aid because it gives the faculty assessing your application their most significant impression of you as an individual.
This section is a chance to distinguish you from other suitable candidates and hence must be treated as an opportunity to market yourself. A personal statement should include your reasons for choosing a particular course, the suitability of your education and experience for the chosen course, your personal interests and career goals. Some courses such as Business Management will have their own essay questions and format. Others may ask for a résumé or reasons for applying to that particular course.
You must submit a financial aid application if you desire financial help for your graduate studies. Financial assistance for non-US citizens is very limited.
Evidence of financial support is required for universities to issue documents needed for the visa application. Although it is a requirement for the application, it is usually not taken into consideration to grant admission.
Most universities make their admission decisions without regard to the source and amount of financial support. You would, however, be required to submit documentation of your family’s financial resources to help schools assess your need.
Most universities have their own financial aid form, which you would have to complete. You would also be required to submit a bank statement demonstrating your financial capacity to support your education. Some US state institutions offer tuition waivers to international students in return for some type of educational contribution.
Interviewing prospective candidates is getting common in the US admission structure. A few universities may take your interview to know you better. The interview could be with a college or third-party representative, or even an alumnus of the college. The interview is either a simple telephonic interview or a face-to-face chat. Interviews are usually informal and more of an opportunity to exchange information. The interviewer will try to judge your abilities and interests.
Obtaining Funds/Financial Aids
In many universities graduate departments offer teaching and/or research assistantships to graduate students pursuing a master's or doctoral degree, particularly in engineering.
Assistantships usually involve a tuition award and a salary in return for teaching or research duties. Every school has a limited number of openings for assistantships based on the amount of funding allocated. As a result, such Scholarships are merit-based; they are given out based on academic record and are thus competitive.
It is individual departments at a university that generally control funds. It always helps to write directly to the department to inquire about funding. Students who are research oriented or have published papers in a particular field should contact professors working in that field. By contacting professors in advance and building a rapport with them, you can greatly enhance your chances of getting aid.
Unfortunately, there are many deserving students who do not get aid along with admission. If you are one of them and plan on joining anyway, we strongly recommend that you arrive at the campus a few days prior to registration. This will give you an opportunity to personally talk to the professors and sell your skills. Professors usually have funding available for various projects and you may be able to find something that matches your skill set.
We also strongly recommend that you don’t restrict yourself to your particular department. There are several opportunities in other departments, particularly for students with strong computer skills. You have to be aggressive and persistent in your approach. Although there is no guarantee that you will get financial aid, it is well worth the try. Always remember, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
The story is very different for MBA programs. There are very few MBA schools that provide any assistantship to international students. There is no assistantship available in private schools. Some state schools receive funding for projects and thus provide some opportunity for students to receive aid. However, if you have skills that you can sell, we would recommend that you try obtaining aid from other departments (Engineering, for instance) even if you are applying for MBA. It’s a long shot, but you have nothing to lose.
Get to know about every financial aid opportunity in the university or college you wish to apply to. Do a thorough research on the guidelines and application procedures to avoid mistakes. Before you apply, be armed with the knowledge of all the academic and funding choices you have.