Preparing a successful application

Preparing a successful application

You should now have a shortlist of colleges that match your needs, interests, and abilities. You should also feel confident that you have the minimum entrance requirements for studying in the United States, and that you can meet the costs of a U.S. undergraduate education. Now it’s time to start putting together your applications. This chapter gives practical information and advice to help you make successful applications to the colleges of your choice. The entire application process, from obtaining initial information to applying for your student visa, should begin 12 to 18 months in advance of when you want to go the United States.

Requesting Application Materials

If you have access to the Internet, you will find that many U.S. universities also put their college catalogs onto their Web sites, and some have even stopped printing paper copies. Many also have on-line application forms that can be completed on the computer and sent back to the university electronically, or the forms can be downloaded and printed. If there is an on-line application, you should use it. This is the quickest method for submitting your application. If you can download the application, appropriate parts of the catalog, and other information from a college’s Web site, you will not need to contact the school directly.

Completing and Returning the Application Materials

Once you have received information from the colleges, read everything thoroughly. Most schools require similar information, but they may ask for it in different ways.  You will usually be asked to provide the following items:

Application Form

Your application form should be neat and clear to create a good impression.

Application Fee

Almost all universities charge a non-refundable application fee that covers the cost of processing your application. It must be paid in U.S. dollars either by a dollar check drawn on a U.S. bank or an international money order obtainable from banks or American Express offices.

Academic Credentials

In addition to a transcript, you must also send certified copies of the originals of secondary school diplomas, certificates, final examination results, or records of your performance in any national or leaving examinations administered in your home country. Do not send original documents unless there is no alternative; usually they cannot be returned. Copies should be certified with an official seal from the school, or certified by a public official authorized to certify such documents. If English translations are necessary, you may use the services of a professional translator.

Test Score Reporting

When you apply to take the SAT I or SAT II, TOEFL, or other examinations, you should know which universities you wish to apply to.

Personal Statement

Many schools ask applicants to submit a written personal statement or essay as part of the admissions process. When university admissions officers read this part of the application, they may look to see whether the student can contribute to the school and if the school can meet his or her needs. The personal statement gives universities a chance to get a personal glimpse of you, an insight that is not possible in the grades and numbers that make up the rest of your application.

Financial Statement

Most universities include a form called a “Declaration and Certification of Finances” or “Affidavit of Financial Support” in their application packets. This must be signed by your parents or whoever is meeting your college expenses, and must be certified by a bank or lawyer. Keep a copy of this form since you will also need it to apply for your student visa. Schools usually need to know that you have at least the first year’s expenses covered, although many may also ask you to indicate your source of income for the entire period of study. If you know when you apply that you will need some form of assistance from the college, indicate how much you plan to request from the university. Many U.S. universities operate a needs-blind admissions policy. This means that your financial position is not a consideration in the decision whether to grant you admission. Please note, however, that the university will issue the relevant certificate of eligibility for a student visa only if you are able to document fully your source(s) of income.

Deadlines and Submission

Each university sets its own deadline date, and it is usually firm about not accepting applications after that time, particularly if a college is very popular. Deadlines usually fall between January and March, although they can be as early as November or as late as June.

Common Application Form

This standardized application form is available on the Web at, and is used by over 130 colleges and universities.


If you plan to begin studies in September, you should hear from the colleges you applied to by mid-April of that year.