The application packet to U.S. colleges and universities consists of five essential things. Additional materials may be required to apply to more competitive schools especially schools that offer good scholarships. Remember that all components of your application, whether submitted electronically or by mail (or a combination of both), must reach the college before the deadline date.
A college or university’s online application can be easily accessed from the college or university website free of cost. The application is usually located within the Prospective Student or Admissions section of the website.
While filling the form, students have to be careful. Please make sure that all the information you write on the form is valid and correct. Colleges use the information on the form to generate the I-20. Any mistakes in the form will result in mistakes on your I-20.
The application fee for each college ranges from $20 - $100, usually sent in the form of a dollar draft payable to the college you are applying to, or online via international credit card. Some colleges receive thousands of applications every semester. Students are charged this fee as a processing charge and it is non-refundable. Generally, application fees are required. However, undergraduate applicants who demonstrate severe financial hardship may be able to use an “application fee waiver” which is an explanatory letter written by your school Principal or school Guidance Counselor if you have one. This letter is sent in place of the application fee. However, undergraduate students must use this wisely. If it appears to the admissions office you are actually able to pay the application fee, your application may not be reviewed.
In Nepal, most students receive only one set of original mark-sheets. Never make the mistake of sending your original academic documents to colleges and universities; you will most likely never get them back. In order to send your academic documents to U.S. colleges and universities, you can get your transcripts and certificates attested at USEF-Nepal or at your issuing Board Office. At USEF-Nepal, we charge Rs. 50 per page.
Generally, colleges and universities ask for a bank statement and sponsor letter. A sponsor is someone who is able and is willing to pay for your education. In the case of Nepal, it is usually the parents who sponsor their child. But, anyone from anywhere can be a sponsor. However, the reason to pay for the student’s education should be genuine. The willingness to pay for the education is shown by a letter which the sponsor writes. The sponsor must be able to provide a bank statement which should contain a minimum of one year cost of college or university in the case that the student is not applying for scholarship. If a student is applying for scholarship, then the statement should reflect at least the amount that the sponsor is willing to contribute per year.
TOEFL Score Report
The TOEFL score report will not be physically present in your application packet. You will need to arrange for the TOEFL program to send an official score report to the colleges you are applying to.
With the above five components, you can apply for admissions to some colleges. However, if you are applying to competitive schools or to schools that offer good scholarships, you will most likely require these additional materials:
Additional Standardized Test Scores
SAT/ ACT and SAT Subject Tests may be required for undergraduate applicants. GRE or GMAT may be required for graduate level students. Please note that you must order score reports to be sent to the colleges or universities via the testing program (alternately, you can send some for free if you designate the schools upon your test registration).
The application essay is a very important component of the application packet. The number of essays required will differ from college to college. Many times, it is the application essay which makes or breaks your successful application. The application essay is like an interview with the admission office. It is one of the only components in your application packet which is not in numbers. Spend a lot of time and effort on your application essay. Sometimes, it may take several months to produce an excellent application essay. To learn how to write an excellent application essay, students can use the outstanding collection of books at the USEF library and attend USEF’s specialized advising session called “Tips on Writing an Application Essay” offered monthly. Also, please refer to the ‘More on Essays’ section of this website.
Letters of Recommendation
Teachers who have taught you in class can write a recommendation letter for you. Usually, colleges ask for two to three letters of recommendation. Letters should be from your most recent teachers who have taught you. At the graduate level, it is important that the student gets a letter from the teacher who teaches the subject he /she is applying for. Recommendation letters should explain the ability of students to the admission officers. A strong recommendation letter from your teacher providing explanations about how you performed in class can be very helpful . It should give a clear idea about the type of student you were and what kind of activities you participated in. Recommendation letters carry a lot of weight; students should think carefully about who to choose as their recommenders.
This can mean a resume or any form of creative work you have done. For example, if a student writes articles for a newspaper, he/she can send a scan of it. If a student is very good in playing an instrument, the student can record the music on a CD and send it. Supporting materials can also mean valuable certificates or awards you have received. You can attest these certificates from the place you have received them. Please note, all certificates need not be sent. Only the ones that are very important to you and those that will make you stand out in the application pool will be valued. Also, there will be a space in the application form to write about the different activities you have participated in. Graduate applicants should note that any supporting materials should be relevant to the program they are applying for.
More on Essays
To learn expert tips and advice on writing a successful application essay, be sure to attend USEF’s “Tips on Writing an Application Essay” session, offered monthly. Here, we present some important advice on essays.
Application essays are known by different names. Generally speaking, they are called “application essays” or “college admission essays” for undergraduate students, and “statement of purpose” or “personal statement” for graduate level students. Essays are one of the most important parts of your application. An essay can be like your personal interview with a college where they learn about your unique background and potential. An essay is sometimes the only direct communication that you have with a college. All schools do not require essays, but the competitive ones that offer scholarship might require you to write at least one essay.
There is often little difference between the credentials (for example, test scores, academics, and recommendation letters) of those admitted and of those denied at selective colleges. The selection committee often makes its decisions based on personal qualities which are best found in the applicants’ essays. Thus, the essay is an opportunity to present yourself well to the college.
Who Reads your Essay?
A typical admissions committee consists of:
- An experienced director who has been working in college admissions for at least 10-20 years.
- One or two associate directors with at least 5 years of experience.
- A handful of assistants who have just graduated from the college you’re applying to.
The assistants read all the applications and the directors read only what the assistants pass along. This means, you are writing to your peers as well as to the directors.
What You Need to Know about Application Essays
Essays comprise the most difficult but also the most important element under your control. Essays help the college to differentiate truly exciting students from the ordinary ones. The essay is your chance to show the college that you are more than just a list of courses and grades. It is probably too late to change your grades or your test scores, but you can always write a better essay.
What Are They Looking For?
College admissions officers are trying to know who you are and how you are different from other qualified applicants. They want to know you -- the person behind the numbers, percentages and other objective data that you have sent. Be careful to imply rather than state facts. For instance, don’t write ‘I am a hard-working person.’ The reader should infer it from your writing. College admissions officers also want to see your commitment to your proposed field of study. Furthermore, they are also considering your writing skills and how good you are at communicating ideas.
In order to know you better, colleges might pose questions like:
- Describe a personally satisfying experience.
- What are your most significant academic interests?
- Explain how you think our college will help you grow?
Sample Essay Questions from CommonApp
- Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
- Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
- Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
- Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.
- Topic of your choice.
Personal Statement for Graduate School
The bar is higher for the graduate level applicants. Your level of knowledge, experience and wisdom is different from an entry-level college applicant. You should have identified the specific field you want to pursue and should have taken some steps in that direction. Your essay is your chance to show the admissions committee your qualifications for and commitment to your chosen field. You should discuss experiences, people and events that inspired you to pursue this chosen field. Talk about how you became interested in this particular field, your career goals and how that relates to what you have done. Research the program and professors well and talk about how the program is a good fit for you.
Some Dos and Don’ts
- Plan ahead.
- Read the directions carefully.
- Write the length of essay they ask for.
- Type your final draft unless they instruct otherwise.
- Consider the unique features of the institution.
- Research the university well.
- Emphasize your positive qualities.
- Mention relevant achievements.
- Tell the truth.
- Emphasize what you have learned.
- Be definite.
- Write about something you are comfortable with.
- Try to second-guess and flatter.
- Be phony.
- Be redundant.
- Glorify yourself.
- Use clichés.
- Use unfamiliar words.
Three Step Writing Process
You can follow these three simple steps to improve your essay:
- Selecting an Essay Topic
- Writing the Essay
This is one of the most important parts of the three step writing process. Plan to spend at least about a week brainstorming. It helps you to generate new ideas for your essay. If you do it properly, your life would be much easier after this. You can ask the following questions to yourself to brainstorm properly:
i) What are you like?
What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are your best qualities? Are you a plugger? An intellectual? A creative type? Curious? Passionate? Determined?
ii) What have you done?
What are your major accomplishments, and why? Have you ever struggled hard for something and succeeded/failed? How did you respond? What was the most difficult time of your life and how that changed your perspective on life?
iii) Where do you want to go?
What are your dreams for the future? What would it take for you to consider your life successful? How does this particular university fit into your plans for the future?
Selecting an Essay Topic
- Make sure you can easily meet the essay length requirement with the topic you have chosen.
- Your essay needs to be interesting. You want the reader to remember you even after he/she has read over 1000 essays.
- If your essay topic is controversial, it must be done sensitively so that a reader with differing opinion can relate to it.
Writing the Essay
- When writing the essay, remember to address the “WHY” factor. If you tell them you volunteered at a hospital, or in a classroom, tell them why you did it.
- Admission officers do want to see that you have curiosity, passion and persistence. But remember, don’t tell them that you have these qualities: show them in a narrative.
10 Tips on Writing the Admissions Essay
- Answer the Essay Question
- Grab Reader’s Attention
3) Use Detail and Concrete Experiences
4) Be Concise
5) Pay Attention to Transition and Sentence Variety
6) Use Active Voice Verbs
7) Don’t Thesaurusize your Essay
8) Conclude Effectively
A Few Things to Remember
- Don’t narrate your life history in your essay. Focus on depth not breadth.
- Captivate the reader, especially in the beginning of your essay.
- Don’t try to second guess what the reader wants. Be yourself.
- Evaluate your experiences in terms of who you are as a person right now. Don’t just recount.
Resources at the USEF Library
- Best College Admission Essays (Mark Alan Stewart and Cynthia C. Muchnick)
- Graduate Admissions Essays (Donald Asher)
- Graduate Admissions Essays- What works, What doesn’t, and Why (Donald Asher)
- How To Write A Winning Personal Statement-For Graduate And Professional School (Richard J. Stelzer)
- Best College Admission Essays (Mark Alan Stewart and Cynthia C. Muchnick)
Some Useful Websites
USEF or a Consultancy ?
At USEF, we strongly encourage students to “do it yourself” instead of using private agents and private educational consultancies. As you may know, some consultancies indulge in unscrupulous practices and mislead and misinform students about studying in the U.S. Why use the services of such companies when information and guidance is available free of cost at USEF as well as on the Internet?
When you start your studies in the United States, you will find that you must be independent in order to succeed. So, start practicing independence now: take charge of your own application process to U.S. colleges and “do it yourself”! USEF is here to support and guide you through the application process. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any queries or concerns.
Please note that USEF does not support or endorse the services of private agents and educational consultancies. You may read EducationUSA guidelines relating to this published by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs here.