Updated on Tuesday 5 March 2013
If you have not yet received the application forms you requested via mail from institutions in the U.S., send another letter repeating your request. International mail is slow and sometimes unreliable, so keep careful records of all dates in which you contact your schools of choice. Always use airmail when mailing materials to the United States.
Identify 2 or 3 teachers or other people who know you well and ask them to write recommendation letters for you. Let them know what type of program to which you are applying, and give them sufficient time to prepare a good recommendation. It will be helpful for your references to have a written summary of your academic (and other relevant) accomplishments over the past few years.
For undergraduate applicants, your best references are teachers or counselors who know your academic performance and achievements. Family friends, religious counselors and others should be pursued only if they know you very well and can provide unique or significant information that is relevant to your academic goals and promise.
Graduate students should obtain letters from teachers or professionals in your field with whom you have worked. Your references should be able to attest to your academic promise, as well as your strengths and accomplishments in your field of study.
References should be authentic and original. If you send references with an application form, you should ask the person completing the reference to place it in a sealed envelope, with the reference’s signature over the sealed flap of the envelope. This assures the U.S. institution that no one has tampered with the documents inside.
Ask the schools and universities that you have attended to prepare your transcripts (documents which show the courses you have studied and the grades which you received in those courses).
As with references, transcripts must also be authentic. It is best if transcripts are sent directly to the U.S. institution from your school in an envelope bearing your school’s college seal.
Most institutions require undergraduate applicants to write an application essay; it is an important piece of the application packet. It should reflect who you are and what you feel is important. Try not to repeat information that you have provided in other parts of the application. Instead, work to make the essay unique and personal.
Graduate school applicants may be required to provide a statement of purpose in their application. A good statement of purpose will show that you are a focused student. You should demonstrate how your studies in the United States will serve as a logical stepping stone to your career plans. You should be as specific as possible about your research interests and experiences.
This written portion of your application will also demonstrate your command of written English skills. Ask a teacher for assistance if you have trouble expressing what you wish to say in English, and also to check for any mistakes you might make.
Please visit the Essay Writing Center for all the help you need with this important part of your application.
If your previous TOEFL, SAT, GRE or GMAT scores were not satisfactory, take the test again. These tests should be taken no later than January if you seek admission in August/September (December if you are applying to very competitive institutions), and no later than June if you seek admission the following January.