Getting into top universities in the U.S. is a dream for many young persons around the world. However, the admissions process is becoming increasingly competitive, as more candidates compete for a limited number of spaces.
What can set your application apart? While the admission process varies from university to university, here are some considerations that will help you improve your chances of acceptance.
**1\. Start the application process early**
Start thinking about the application process as early as two years before you apply. Research the different universities and decide which ones might be right for you. Check out their academic programs and their application requirements to make sure you choose the best fit. Study their applications procedures and forms carefully. You may find that there to be quite a lot of similarities among these application procedures. This might open up for some sort of streamlining of your application efforts. Create a calendar of application deadlines for your selected universities. Applying early can often increase your chances of getting accepted. Furthermore, please apply to many schools, say at least 5, and perhaps as many as ten. There is typically a relatively high degree of randomness in application processes – after all people are judging you, and they may interpret information differently! Your chances improve if you apply to many universities, even though this might cost more, and take more time.
**2\. Do well on the SAT**
Taking the SAT exam as early as possible allows you to retake it and improve your score. Prepping for the SAT should also start two-three years before taking the exam. Ordering prep books and signing up for online could even start at the onset of high school.
**3\. Focus on your English proficiency**
Make sure to research admission requirements for English proficiency. Most universities require Tofel or IELTS from foreign students. Similarly, try to find someone who is truly fluent in written English who might go over your applications before they are sent.
**4\. Plan a campus visit**
It may help if you visit the universities you’re interested in. These trips give you a feel of the campus and what each university offers. Don’t be afraid to contact directly the chosen university admission office, and to seek out their advice directly. A visit to the campus may demonstrate your interest, which might give you extra points on your application. To show strong commitment is key! Be ready to share with those you meet at each university why you would be so keen to study exactly there. Be clear that this university would be your first choice! And explain why you would benefit from this university´s experience in your future career plans (stress this also in your written application!).
**5\. Talk to students and alumni**
Talk to current students and alumni from your chosen universities. Ask them why they think they were accepted and what they like most about their university.
**6\. Focus on your essays**
Put much effort into writing your personal statements and essays. You can impress admission officers with your knowledge of your chosen subject and your writing style. Make sure you take the time to highlight your abilities and ambitions. As already noted under item 3), it makes sense that someone with a high proficiency in written English should review your essays before they are sent. Please do not emphasize any weaknesses or potential shortcomings that you might have. Highlight your positive attributes, including why (and how) you would be an asset to this incoming class (your experience, your social style, etc.). In general, you should score yourself positively when asked to rank yourself, also in other parts of your application than the essays. Do not hold back – it is perfectly ethical to be positive, even to you a (slight) positive bias!
**7\. Select strong outside references**
It is key that you select strong references, ideally persons that have credibility and standing – teachers/professors, persons you may have worked for, etc. To use family and friends as references would generally be less effective. It is particularly important that you would be able to count on a reference to stress what he/she would consider the most positive about you. Equally so, you must be clear with a person giving you a reference that he/she must not provide any perspectives that the applications committee might consider as raising questions, or that might be interpreted as negative. If you find that you may not be able rely on a particular reference in this way, then drop him/her!
**8\. Be genuine**
Don’t be overwhelmed by the need to take on numerous extracurricular activities to improve your resume. Focus instead on your passion — the skills and interests that set you apart. This could mean sports, music, languages, or really anything. Opportunities for recognition include leadership roles like class president, winning a regional or national competition, or organizing a community service project.
If I were forced to guess what kind of competencies will be important in the future, I could name computer programming skills and a grasp of Mandarin Chinese. However, interpersonal skills, creativity and leadership skills are equally important. In any case, I believe that you will get much farther following your interests and passions, rather than your sheer will power. Best wishes going forward!
PS. Should students or parents wish for my advice regarding a particular application, feel free to email me: email@example.com
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