At this point you should have narrowed down your choice of colleges, have an idea of the main documents you need to complete for the applications, and have made a personal checklist of deadlines to follow. Now it’s time to bring together all the documentation needed for a successful application and create a folder of resources you will use throughout the application period.
Request any forms and information again, if necessary
Most colleges now offer an online application choice. Colleges often prefer applicants to apply online and may even offer a discount for doing so. This makes the process more streamlined for both the college and applicant as documents can be obtained and transferred quicker than by postal mail.
For online applications, make sure you create and assign folders on your computer for all correspondence including: application forms, notifications and emails. This will make it easier to keep track of the application process with each college.
If you do need a physical application from a US institution and have not yet received it, send an email or call the admissions office repeating your request. Alternatively, these can often be found right online. Since international mail is slow and sometimes unreliable, make sure you create copies of all documents and add tracking when possible.
Gather your Recommendations
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 you are applying to and give them sufficient time to prepare a good recommendation. Provide your references with a written summary of your academic (and other relevant) accomplishments over the past few years.
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 their signature over the sealed flap of the envelope. This assures the U.S. institution that no one has tampered with the documents inside. 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. 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 goals, as well as your strengths and accomplishments in your field of study.
Request School Transcripts and Gather Credential Evaluations
Ask the previous schools and universities that you have attended to prepare your transcripts (documents which show the courses you have studied and your grades).
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. Alternatively, the school can use online submission where available. You should check with each college to see which option they prefer.
Verification of your transcripts is usually required, but the process will vary in each country. Ask your school if they have a credential evaluation company that they usually use for college applications. Credential evaluators review foreign credentials and certify their authenticity and their equivalence to US credentials, allowing the schools to which you have applied to make an appropriate decision on your application. Visit our credential evaluation section for more information.
Write your Application Essay
Most institutions require undergraduate applicants to write an application essay, also known as a personal statement. The essay should reflect who you are and what you feel is important to convey about yourself. Try not to repeat information that you have provided in other parts of the application. Instead, work to make the essay unique and personal. This will provide the institution with additional details on who you are as a person, beyond what the application form allows, and help them determine if you would be a good fit at their school.
The written portion of your application will also demonstrate your command of written English skills. Ask a teacher or tutor for assistance if you have trouble expressing what you wish to say in English. Always write a first draft and ask for feedback from a teacher or peer before the final submission. Don’t forget to check for mistakes once you’ve finished writing.
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 and be as specific as possible about your research interests and experiences.
Please visit the Essay Writing Center for all the help you need with this important part of your application.
Gather Relevant Documentation Before Starting the Application
When completing your college application make sure you have key information on hand to help you fill out the necessary items without having to pause and search for the answer. It is vital that you keep all important information in both digital and printed format in the event one version becomes lost. A few items to gather to have on hand during this process includes:
- Transcripts from your previous schools
- All testing scores (including those from the SAT, ACT, IELTS and/or TOEFL)
- A credit card to pay the application fee
Additionally, many schools will require you to create an account when completing an application. To save time when you actually submit your application, you might want to create an account beforehand. When doing so, make sure you keep all your personal ID numbers and passwords in a safe place for easy access when checking back on the application.
Throughout your applications, make sure you fill out forms accurately and consistently. For example, use the same email address for every application so nothing gets lost and create dedicated folders where you will keep correspondence from each college.
Your 10-12 Month Checklist:
- Re-request any application form documentation you are missing to complete the application in full
- Ask professionals, such as teachers, to complete a letter of recommendation
- Request relevant transcripts and grade cards from your school
- Check how to certify these transcripts for the US
- Write a first-draft of your application essay
- Write your final application essay
- Prepare and make copies of all relevant documentation