One of the most stressful time in a students life is when they start to apply for colleges or universities. And the fact that there are so many choices with so many courses at different universities with each having different requirements does not make it any easier. How do you know which school is good for what you want to study and how should you know about the application process?
When I started applying for schools, I had no idea what I was doing back then and I was very confused with the whole application process. I wish I could go back and tell myself a few things that I know now. So, I decided to share a few things that may help some future students. Here are a list of things that every student in my opinion should keep in mind when applying for colleges.
1. Check out the University ranking:
If you are going to study a fairly demanding subject, you should always check out the ranking of the university. Don’t just trust any ranking on any website though. Look for ranking from reliable sources. Time higher education is a good place to start and is quite reliable. What’s more is that they usually show the analysis of what their ranking is based on. You can also find rankings by reputation of the school, area or subject. Another reliable source is the QS world university ranking. You can use other sources; just make sure that their rankings are based on reliable data.
However, keep in mind just because a university didn’t make it to the ranking table does not mean that the school is not worth checking out. There are many good schools that may not have an overall good ranking but may be specialised in one, two or a few subjects.
2. Check out the financial commitment:
One of the many mistakes that students do is that they don’t plan for their finances in advance. While many students get help from home, others opt for bank loans or credit cards. Whichever way you decide to pay for schools, try to plan ahead and get a clear picture of how you will pay for the years coming ahead. Students also need to take other things like living costs or emergencies into account. I have seen many bright students dropping out half way through due to financial situations. You don’t want to get to a point where you used your money and energy only to find out that you cannot afford to go to college anymore. That can be very frustrating.
So, I can’t stress enough…PLAN your finances. Check and compare fees of different colleges.
3. Read the entry requirements
One of the other important things to keep in mind is that you should check the entry requirements of the school you are applying to very carefully. Many schools in the US or Canada require SAT/GRE or some other kind of exams, while schools in the UK do not have a lot of entry exams. However, for international students there is almost always a requirement for the english language test. You HAVE to take some sort of English language test depending on the school you are going to. Most schools in the US prefer TOEFL or IELTS, while schools in Canada or the UK usually prefer IELTS. However, you should always check with the school to find out what kind of tests they accept. There could be some other kind for entry tests that they may want you to take depending on the subject or school you are applying to.
Also always check that your GPA meets the minimum GPA requirement or you meet the minimum score requirement for the standardised tests. You want to apply for schools where you have a score well above the minimum requirement, then your chances of getting in will be much higher.
4. Check the deadlines:
You should check the deadline for application well ahead. Before the deadlines you need to take care of the required tests (if any) and get the results in hand so that you can apply in time. This is a vital part, many students end up missing deadlines for the schools they were interested in and then ending up in a somewhere they didn’t plan to go. Last think you want is to regret about not applying to your dream school just because yo missed the deadline.
5. Have backup plans:
May be you always wanted to go to Harvard or Caltech, or may be Oxford or Cambridge. Whatever your dream school is, don’t just apply to just one place. Apply to several other schools at the same time, it’s always good to have backup plans. If you are applying to good ranking universities, also apply for some medium ranked and small universities. However, avoid applying to schools where you never plan to go even if you get in; this will save your time, money and energy.
6. Write your Statement of Purpose (SOP) early:
Your Statement of Purpose/ interest is one of the most important part of your application. This is where the admissions committee get to know ‘YOU’. You should start writing it as early as possible and proofread many times. Show your friends who can help you pointing out your mistakes or even your teacher/ professor at school who you think can help you with that. There will probably be many other students with similar grades like yourself; writing an exceptional SOP is a good way to make your application stand out. Just be honest and be yourself. A key to getting into good schools is a very good SOP along with your grades and scores or standardised tests.
7. Getting letters of recommendations:
Just like SOP, letters of recommendation is another vital part of your application. Admissions committee takes this very seriously. You should get this letter from someone who is well-aquainted with your work. This could be your teacher or professor from your current school or your employer. Some universities ask for an additional reference from someone who knows you in a personal capacity, so make sure you check what kind of reference you need to provide and how many.
8. Visit if possible:
Most schools organise open days for prospective students. If possible go and visit the school you are interested in. You get to meet the professors and get to know about their research (this is specially helpful for prospective graduate students). You can find out more about the facilities, clubs, transportation, social life and about their accommodations. I know it is not very practical for international students, but you can always get in touch with the department via email or phone. Even better, get in touch with current students or alumni to learn more about the department, social life etc.
9. Waiting for decision:
Fingers crossed, now that you have applied, its time to wait. If you have applied online, you will usually get an email confirmation or login information to check the status of your application. If you are anxious, its very normal. Try to focus on other things and make the most of your time remaining before college starts.
10. Getting accepted:
Its going to be all worth it when you get those acceptance letters in your hands, trust me. There is no joy like getting into the college you have always wanted to go.
And if you didn’t get accepted into your dream college, don’t kick yourself. Most good colleges receive thousands more applications from students than they can actually admit, and so they have to reject many of the brilliant ones. Don’t feel bad about not getting in where you wanted. You will still have other colleges as option and you will definitely get into one of those.
11. Apply for Visa (for international students):
For international students, this can be one of very stressful task depending on which country you are applying from and which country you are applying to. However, if done correctly and if the documents are prepared carefully, this process can be made much easier and less time consuming. Try to apply for student visa as early as you are allowed to. I will post a few things regarding students visa processes in a few days. So, stay tuned.
You should prepare yourself for the most amazing experience of your life. While going to college may seem like a lot of work, in the end its worth it. You will get to have friends from all around the world with different backgrounds and learn many new things. This can be a very rewarding experience. So relax and enjoy the time in college while keeping a balance between schoolwork and other things in life.
An end note : Its very important to keep calm and focus on the applications in an efficient way. Many students get overwhelmed with the amount of work they have to do while applying. The best way to avoid this is to get organised, makes lists of schools if necessary, research them one by one. Once you are done choosing follow the application process and start gathering your documents.
During this time, if you have any questions or confusions regarding the admissions process, requirements or anything else always contact the relevant admissions office or international office of the college you are interested in. They will be able to provide you with the most updated information.