So, it’s time for you to make that decision on applying to graduate schools in the U.S. but you are still contemplating whether you should apply now or postpone it till next year. Deciding on whether to apply to schools abroad or when to start the application process can be a daunting task and I completely admit. I know a lot of people who talk to me about applying to schools in the U.S. and are really excited about it but for some reasons, the desire to go ahead with the application process soon die down after they slept and woke up and the school application they were once excited about never crystalized. It’s either they are not fully ready for the process or the logistics of the application seem too cumbersome for them. Some people are not only worry about the time it will take them to study for the tests, they are also concern about getting rejected after sending applications to schools. That feeling is normal and you are not alone, many potential applicants usually feel the same way. I can assure you that when you start the process, you will overcome it. In this article, I will be discussing practical ways to make sure your U.S. school application is not rejected.
The first thing you need to do is to decide on what application season you are targeting and you should then work base on that. For example, if you are applying for the Fall admission (August admissions), you need to know and work every other part of the application around that (I will come back to this later). Before we move further, I will suggest you apply for the Fall admissions. This is because, most schools normally accept many applicants during the Fall admissions (That is one of the reasons it’s called August rush). And to increase your chance of being accepted to the program, it is very important that the school receive all your application documents Between November and December of preceding year of your application season (that is, if you want to be admitted for the Fall 2018 term, you should ensure that the school receive all your application credentials by December 15, at the latest). In the U.S., December 15 is usually the deadline for Fall admissions for domestic applicants and January 15 or a little later for international applicants. Although, some schools extend the deadline till March and some even till June. Nevertheless, you must ensure that the school get all your credentials by December 15, at the latest. In addition to that, I will suggest that you plan to send application to at least four schools (ETS will normally send your GRE and TOEFL results to four schools that you would have chosen during the test registration). You will only increase your chance of getting into a program by sending application to more than four schools. If you can afford the application cost and the extra cost of sending GRE and TOEFL results to more schools, that will be awesome.
Now, you know that all your credentials must reach the school you are applying to by December of the preceding year. It becomes imperative to have your GRE and TOEFL test taken long before that date. I will suggest you register to take the two tests within a week interval to take advantage of the residual knowledge of one test for the other. Typically, you would want to leave about two to three months to study for the tests. While this is discretional, I will encourage you to leave enough time to allow for in-depth study and understanding of the concepts being tested on the GRE and TOEFL tests (I will advise you not to overlook the very basic things especially in the quantitative set as this might become trickier than you thought on the actual test). It is important to know that these tests are used as indicators of intellectual and academic potential, and many schools consider them predictive of how well an applicant will do in graduate school. You do need to know that the results of these tests do not automatically decide the fate of your application. Like I always remind you, application to graduate program in the U.S is a holistic process. However, you want to give this part of the application your best shot. As much as the test preparation is up to you to figure out what method works best for you. I will recommend you get at least 4 different study guides and they must include ‘The Official Guide to the GRE’ and ‘The Official Guide to the TOEFL’ because no other person can know the tests more than the test makers. I do recommend other preparation materials like NOVA GRE, Barrons, the Magoosh GRE preparation kit and the test preparation software by ETS (ETS is the maker of the tests, GRE and TOEFL). Getting the materials is not enough, you do need to cultivate a daily habit of studying and remaining curious on concepts that you haven’t mastered. More importantly, you must put yourself in the test taking mode at least once in a week to be able to develop your test taking brain long before the actual test dates. So, if you must get a decent score on the tests, you must imbibe that goal getting spirit.
While you are studying for the GRE and TOEFL exam, I will suggest you start writing the Statement of Purpose (SOP). I can’t but spend time on this aspect of your application because whatever you write there can either make or mar your application. So, you really need to give enough time to draft the SOP, proofread, re-read and get friends to vet it for you. You can also send me a copy via firstname.lastname@example.org, I will be more than happy to vet it for you. If you need more than a month to write a great SOP, it’s worth it because the SOP presents you with the opportunity to be face-to-face with the admissions committees. You MUST NOT submit your SOP without talking about your research interests and how recent research outcomes and data in your field have spurred your interest. The people that will review your applications are deeply rooted in research – that is the language they understand! For that reason, an SOP without a research talk is mostly considered Empty. While it is good to write about your passion for your chosen course of study, you shouldn’t dwell on ‘passion’ talk too much. Show it to them by way of what you have done; don’t just tell them you are passionate – being passionate seem commonplace before the admission committees. In addition to that, it will be a great idea to use your SOP to address some weak points in your credentials. But talk about how your grades improved not how long you spent crying about your bad grades as a freshman. It might also be helpful to indicate in your SOP some Faculties that you would be willing to work with upon your admission to the school. That shows the admissions committees that you have done your homework well. And before finalizing on submitting your SOP on the school application portal, you should check for obvious errors in grammar and keep your writing as simple as possible. Lastly, ensure to tailor your SOP to fit the requirement of each program you are applying for; don’t just copy and paste same SOP to the applications of all the different schools you are applying to.
As much as you want to spend enough time on studying for the GRE and TOEFL, you also need to create time to meet with Professors who will recommend you to the graduate program you are applying to. Get me right, Professors! It will be to your advantage if the folks who are recommending you to graduate schools are Professors by designation. An all-three professor recommenders will make your application to stand out in the pool of applications. However, that you have three professors recommending you is not just enough. They should be those whom you have directly worked with; they can be your undergraduate project supervisor, former lecturer or a Professor that you worked for as a student. The reason that the school require someone to recommend you to them is so they can get to know about you from a respected individual; so, they listen to another voice talk to them about you. I will advise you to get the contact of likely Professors and start talking to them early so that it will be easy for you to get their consent when the time ripe for you to let them know about your applications. Also, you should ensure that your undergraduate institution send your official transcript to the schools by December 15 at the latest. Occasionally, you can send a follow up email to key faculties in the program you are applying to.
In conclusion, put in your best in the application, consider it an investment into your future. I understand, the process may sometimes wear you out but I can assure you that you will soon thank yourself for the sacrifice you put in. As a recap, apply for the Fall admission, send in your application early, be smart on