In part 4 of 5 part Student Cover’s guide to studying in the US, we focus on the application process in US colleges and universities. Applying for an UG or Grad degree program in the US could be quite tricky and confusing at times. In this blog, we try to simplify the process and present the broad points that a student should keep in mind while applying.
In the U.S., the academic year starts with fall semester in the month of August. It gets over by December. It is followed by the Spring Semester which starts in the month of January and continues till May. In between the two semesters there is summer school which a student may take to learn new skills (specialized classes), improve his or her grades etc.
Applying at the right time
Universities and colleges admit students during both spring and fall semesters. Although, majority of students are admitted in fall semester, some institutions also admit students, especially graduate and doctoral degree students during spring semester as well.
The admission schedule for Fall Semester
EARLY ACTION– It is an application option in which the applicant for Fall semester applies early i.e. by November of the previous year and gets to know the application status by December. It is a non-binding option which means that students are not bound to attend the institution if they are selected. They also get time till May of the next year to decide. They can apply in multiple colleges and universities.
EARLY DECISION – It is the same as Early Action but is binding in nature. A student has to take admission in the institution that he is selected in. An early decision student can apply only in one college or university.
REGULAR DECISION – This is the most common form of application where the students apply by the end of December and are notified about their status by April. These applicants are not bound to take admission if their application is admitted. They can therefore apply in multiple universities.
Arranging Right Documents
While applying for a degree course, a student must provide relevant documents to the university or college. Most admissions are done online so one need not worry about sending hard copies of those documents abroad. However, one must have their scanned copies ready at the time of applying.
Some important documents needed are:
CV – Like in job application, a student must prepare good and updated Curriculum Vitae of his credentials. It should not be too long and should avoid high jargons and adjectives. Some universities and colleges want applicants to submit CV in a format prescribed by them.
ACADEMIC DEGREES & CERTIFICATES – These include Class X and Class XII board exam mark-sheets and passing certificates. Those applying for Master’s degree course or PhD are required to submit their bachelor’s degree mark-sheets and certificates and Master’s degree mark-sheet and certificates respectively, in addition to their school certificates.
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE – It is a 1000-2000 word self assessment essay where a student tries to explain the reasons for applying to that particular degree program. It should be future oriented and take a very optimistic view of life.
LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATIONS – These are assessment letters written by an applicant’s teachers or guides highlighting the positive qualities of the student. Most universities and colleges seek at least 2 letters of recommendation from students. Some universities or colleges may seek even 3 letters with one being written by the applicant’s immediate supervisor, if the student has claimed to have work experience in his or her CV.
STANDARDIZED TEST SCORES – A student must provide scores of various standardized tests that he or she has undertaken. Undergraduate applicants are asked to provide SAT or ACT scores whereas graduate applicants may be asked to provide GRE, GMAT, LSAT and MCAT scores. Language test scores such as TOEFL or IELTS are mandatory for all students whose native language is not English.
OTHER DOCUMENTS – Other relevant documents include Work Experience certificates, Passport etc. At times, students are also required to show that they have sufficient fund to finance their education. In such cases, students should arrange an “In-principle loan sanction letter” from the banks.
The application process in US universities is fully online. Some universities and colleges may have their own application portals while others may use common admissions portal. Students must check with their respective universities about the admission portal.
The online application process involves 4 basic steps
STEP 1: Creating an account with unique username and password.
STEP 2: Logging in to the account and filling all relevant and sought after information
STEP 3: Uploading the scanned copies of all relevant documents
STEP 4: Final Submission and payment of application fees (if applicable).
Let’s Wrap Up!
In order to apply, a student should know the right time to apply. An applicant can use Early Action, Early Decision or Regular Decision options to apply for degree program. Before beginning the process of application, a student must arrange all relevant documents such as CV, Academic Certificates and Standardized Test Scores etc.
Disclaimer: The content of the following article is based on the personal research of the writer. Readers are advised to exercise discretion. Student Cover will not be liable for any wrongful interpretation of the content of this article.