College/University Application Process for USA

College/University Application Process for USA

College/University Application Process for USA
Rosmit Gyawali

Are you a high school student planning to pursue higher education in the United States? Navigating the college/university application process in the USA can be overwhelming, especially if you are an international student. However, understanding the application process can make applying to the right institutions easier and increase your chances of getting accepted. In this blog, we will guide you through the application process for colleges and universities in the USA.

Why Study in the U.S.?

There are several reasons to choose the United States for study. Here are some of the main ones:

  • High-quality education: The United States is home to some of the world's top universities, with a reputation for academic excellence and research innovation.
  • A diverse range of programs: American universities offer various programs, allowing students to choose a field of study that aligns with their interests and career goals.
  • Flexibility: The US education system offers flexibility regarding course choices, transfer options, and academic schedules.
  • Cultural exposure: Studying in the US provides exposure to diverse cultures, ideas, and perspectives, helping students develop a global mindset and cross-cultural communication skills.
  • Career prospects: Graduating from a US university can open up various career opportunities and increase employability, as American universities have a strong reputation worldwide.
  • Research opportunities: American universities offer extensive research opportunities, allowing students to work with renowned faculty members and participate in cutting-edge research projects.
  • Campus life: American universities provide a vibrant campus life with various extracurricular activities, clubs, and organisations, helping students develop social and leadership skills.

Steps to apply for the USA as an International Student

  • Research and shortlist schools
  • Prepare for standardised tests
  • Gather the required documents
  • Apply online or (with the help of an agent)
  • Pay the application fee
  • Wait for admission decisions
  • Apply for a student visa
  • Prepare for your arrival

Application Components

To apply to colleges and universities in the U.S., you must provide five essential components as part of your application packet. However, more competitive schools, particularly those that offer generous scholarships, may require additional materials. It's important to remember that regardless of whether you submit your application electronically or by mail (or a combination of both), all components must be received by the college before the deadline.

Application Form

When applying to a college or university in the U.S., the application form is a crucial component that can be accessed quickly and free of cost from the institution's website under the Prospective Student or Admissions section. It is essential to exercise caution while filling out the form and ensure that all the details provided are accurate and valid. Mistakes on the application form can lead to errors on the I-20, which colleges use to generate the form, potentially causing complications in the visa application process.

Application Fee

To apply to colleges in the US, students must pay an application fee ranging from $20 to $100, either through a dollar draft payable to the college or online via an international credit card. The fee is a processing charge and non-refundable, as colleges receive thousands of applications every semester. In some instances, undergraduate applicants who face financial difficulties may be able to submit an "application fee waiver," which is an explanatory letter from their school Principal or Guidance Counselor. However, students must use this option wisely, as the admissions office may not review the application if they determine that the student can pay the fee.

Attested Transcripts

In most countires, it is common for students to have only one original set of mark sheets. However, it is essential to note that sending your original academic documents to colleges and universities in the U.S. is not recommended as it is unlikely that they will be returned to you. Instead, you can get your transcripts and certificates attested by the board office where they were issued. 

Financial Documents

Financial documents are an essential part of the application process for international students. Generally, U.S. colleges and universities require a bank statement and a sponsor letter as proof of financial support. In most countries, the sponsor is usually the student's parent, but anyone can act as a sponsor if they have a genuine reason to pay for the student's education. The sponsor letter should demonstrate the willingness to pay for the education. It should be accompanied by a bank statement showing the minimum cost of one year of college or university for students not applying for scholarships. If the student is applying for scholarships, the statement should reflect the amount the sponsor is willing to contribute per year.

TOEFL Score Report

To include your TOEFL score in your college application, you must request the official score report directly from the TOEFL program. The score report will not be included in your application packet.

Additional Standardized Test Scores

Applicants may be required to submit additional standardised test scores such as SAT/ACT and SAT Subject Tests for undergraduate admissions or GRE/GMAT for graduate admissions. It is important to note that applicants must arrange for official score reports to be sent to the colleges or universities directly from the testing program. Alternatively, some test programs may allow applicants to send a limited number of free score reports if designated at the time of registration.

Application Essay

The application essay is a crucial element of the application packet and varies in the number required by each college or university. The application essay is a pivotal aspect of the application process, with the potential to make or break your successful application. Unlike other components, the application essay is not in numerical form and is akin to an interview with the admissions office. A high-quality application essay requires significant time and effort, sometimes several months. 

Letters of Recommendation

Recommendation letters are essential to the application packet, and colleges generally require two to three letters from your recent teachers. At the graduate level, getting a letter from a teacher who has taught the subject you're applying for is crucial. These letters should explain your abilities and give a clear idea of the type of student you were and the activities you participated in. A strong recommendation letter from a teacher who can explain your performance in class can be beneficial. As recommendation letters carry significant weight, students should carefully consider whom to choose as their recommenders.

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Supporting Materials

Additional materials, such as a resume or samples of your creative work, can be included in your application. For instance, if you write for a newspaper, you can provide a scan of your articles, or if you are skilled in playing an instrument, you can send a CD recording of your music. You may also include any significant certificates or awards you have received, though it is unnecessary to include them all. Only the most important ones that highlight your strengths and set you apart from other applicants should be included. Furthermore, there is a section in the application form listing the extracurricular activities you have participated in. Graduate-level applicants must ensure that any supporting materials they include are relevant to the program they are applying for.

FAQs about the application process for the USA

How do I apply to a university in the USA?

Most universities in the USA use online application systems. You must create an account, provide personal and academic information, and submit your application materials through the system.

When should I start the application process?

It's recommended to start the application process at least a year in advance, especially for international students. This will give you enough time to research and apply to multiple universities, as well as to prepare for standardised tests and gather all required documents.

Do I need to take the SAT or ACT?

Most undergraduate programs in the USA require either the SAT or ACT, so you must check with the universities you are interested in to see which test(s) they require.

How long does it take to hear back from universities after submitting my application?

The timeline varies, but you can generally hear back from universities within 2-6 months after submitting your application. Some universities may have rolling admissions and will notify you within a few weeks of receiving your application.

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