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How to apply to a University

Don’t know how to apply to a university abroad? This article gives you detailed instructions on the procedures involved in the college application process.

Kavitha Vijeyavelan

The most important part of your application is your SOP. This should cover reasons for you choosing the specific course at the Uni, long term and short term goals and personal background.

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Feeling a surge of excitement as you view your very first online college application to pursue higher studies abroad? Quite a huge moment, we know, and there really is no reason for you to fear the application process — usually it is quite a straight-forward one. Currently, most Unis have their complete application processes online to make things quick and easy for international students. The actual application process will require you to register on the University's website and complete a step-wise application process. If you are sure about which programme you want to apply and have scanned copies of all relevant transcripts; then at the most, it will take you about 30 minutes to complete the application process

For Starters

One year ahead of when you would like to get your study abroad journey started, we advise you to start researching all options available. Start with the application process around six to eight months in advance. For those looking to get into study at the postgraduate level, this prepping process (that includes studying and taking tests like the GRE and TOEFL) should be on-going in your final year of college. For students looking to study abroad in the undergrad level, the right time for application to Unis will be at the mid of your twelfth grade. You will need to take care of taking the SAT in this year as well. For those of you who are below 18 years of age (UG level), we thought we’d give you a heads up — you will mostly require guardianship from a local citizen.

One Too Many!

You think you would be doing yourself a favour by applying to twenty Universities? Not really! You should be looking at applying to a few schools, but not too many since you don’t want all your hopes hanging on to just one. Don’t agree?

The application processing fee for universities range from US$50 to US$100. So if you are going to apply to ten different universities then you would end up spending between US$500 to US$1,000 just on applications alone. A handful of universities require you to still submit applications and documents by regular mail. So that's additional money to be paid to DHL or FedEX to send your application forms to the University. Doesn’t seem to be a good idea anymore to apply to a whole bunch of universities, right? Good, then we are on the same page. Here’s how we think you should split up your applications:

  • Apply to a Uni that has slightly higher grades and scores for entry requirements, than what you have gotten. Apply only if you feel, after reading the admissions details, that there is hope of you landing an admit — even if it’s a bit of a long shot.
  • Apply to a Uni that has the kind of expected scores and grades that are in line with the ones that you have achieved.
  • Apply to a Uni that is sure to take you in, as their expected grades or scores are way below your achieved ones. This is your back-up option.

We also want you to ask yourself if you would be happy at the school before you apply to it. Don’t go applying away because your friends picked it — make sure it is where you want to be for the next two or three years!

Let’s Get Started!

So are you all set to get acquainted with the application procedure now? Let us take you through the general procedure in simple steps. These steps could vary depending on the University and the country it is based in.

Logging In!

Search the website for their online application for international students. Unis generally have a portion of their website dedicated just to international students. Before you get started with your application form, make sure you read their international entry requirements section clearly. It is best for you to know all that is expected of you, than be caught later in surprise and run around in haste to get it done.

You’ve started filling out the application and want to have a break before you’re done? You can! Most of these forms save all your filled in content, given you have logged in and saved this info to get back to at a later time.

Bear in mind that a few colleges (probably only a handful) still follow the paper-based application. In that case, take a print out of the PDF form to fill it out. For such Unis that are behind the race and have paper-based applications, you might need a bit more cushion time for all the documents that you need to be sending by post. This will be a more time-consuming process than the online version, needless to say, so start out even more in advance as required.

Swipe It!

Next, you will be required to make a non-refundable (in most cases) application fee of somewhere between USD 40-60. This fee will vary based on the Uni but we are giving you our guesstimate to keep you prepared. Some Unis may charge you less for online applications than they do for their paper-based ones. If you need details on online payment, look for the payment methods link on the Unis website — this is sure to take you through the procedure in detail.

Your Academic Past!

The Uni will need you to submit your original transcripts or transcripts that are attested. For online applications, these will have to be scanned and uploaded within the form as required. Some Unis are particular that you send all your transcripts (be it from secondary school or college) for evaluation through international organizations such as World Education Services (WES), Education Credential Evaluators, Inc. (ECE), and International Education Research Foundation, Inc.(IERF). Make sure you follow the Uni’s directions carefully.

The Universal Tests!

You will be asked for recent test scores of mostly the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, and the IELTS.

And the expected scores for your tests should look something like (drum roll please):

  • 550 (paper-based), 213 (computer-based) or 79 (internet-based)  for the TOEFL
  • A general score of above 2,000 works for the SAT
  • Roughly 149-153 (in your verbal), 158-160 (for your math), and 3.8 to 4.0 for the GRE
  • A score ranging from 550 and above for the GMAT
  • A band of around 5.5 – 7.0 will do for your IELTS

Again, these will vary from institution to institution so run a check on the Uni site to know the exact requirement. 

More About You!

Now, time for the most important part of your application — your SOP or Statement Of Purpose essay. This should basically cover reasons for you choosing the specific program at the Uni, long term and short term goals, personal background and any internship experiences. Stick to the length limits and make it as strong as possible using engaging language and brief stories. Ensure you personalize your SOP to make it stand out, as Unis will be receiving a ton of these and an average SOP will just not cut it. Liven up a moment in a professor’s life, who may be up to his ears with applications. Along with your SOP, you can submit a resume highlighting any work experiences you have had.

Word of Mouth!

Once you have taken care of this, you will have to approach a few professors for your Letter of Recommendation (LoR). This letter should talk about your achievements and highlight your academic and overall attitude to prove that you have college potential. Does your Uni ask you to send out two or three? Make arrangements for them to write one out for you and kindly request them to have it done by a deadline (we advise you to ask at least a month in advance — they need time). This, in most cases, is not mandatory for undergraduate students.
Along with all of these, you will also be required to produce a copy of your birth certificate and a copy of your passport.

Where is the Money!

The Uni will require you to submit ‘Proof of Financial Ability’ that will cover your living expenses and educational costs (for your first period of study in most cases) while in the country. A sponsor is generally required to provide this guarantee to the Uni on your behalf. Make sure you have the amount required by the Uni in your account. Many a times the Uni won’t even process your application without this, so don’t take this lightly.

After taking care of this, we insist you to contact the Uni and request for scholarship info. Find out all you can about what kind of financial aid is available for international students and apply for them by the mentioned deadline. This will reduce your financial burden which you don’t want too heavy on you, if you want your focus on your studies.

Say Cheeeeeese!

The Uni might want to interview you — this is usually done over Skype. Once you know the date and timing, start preparing for it. Here are a few things you should do: dress formal, look into the camera, be prepared for any technical hiccup, minimize outside noise, speak slow and careful, have everything you need (such as your resume, SOP, and all your documents) at hand, and close all other applications. Ask around and see if you can take up a few mock Skype interviews for practice.

Get Back!

Generally, the Uni will respond to your application from anywhere within three to eight weeks. So your last and final step, once you receive the letter of acceptance is to respond back within the given time period and confirm your place in the Uni. Once accepted, the Uni will offer the required approval documents for applying for a student visa! And that right there is the moment you should start packing your bags — hurray!

These are the basics of Uni application — there really is nothing more to it than this. You can confidently open your application now and start filling away!

Do you have any questions or comments? Why not let us know — our advisors would love to hear from you. They are available for any queries you may have about your study abroad process. You can have a chat with them either over the phone or meet with them in person at our offices in Chennai and Delhi. They will offer you extensive guidance on all aspects of the study abroad process including tips about finding a University, completing your application, and even about getting your visa. Contact us and we promise to help you!

Want to apply to a University abroad?

Lavanya Madhanraj Lavanya Madhanraj,
Study abroad expert.
We can help you apply to universities abroad. Request a call from our study abroad experts for assistance. Or call 1800 103 2581 / 1800 103 9634 (toll-free) today!