Yocket Undergrad
on 25 May, 2016

What after ACT/SAT?


What after SAT / ACT


So now you’re done with the SAT/ACT! Congratulations on your score! You’ve now finished 1/10th of the application process so that’s great!

Here are some of the other things you should be finishing soon.

  1. Deciding your List of Universities
  2. Filling the Common Application (CommonApp)
  3. Filling applications to any other universities not on the CommonApp. (UC system, UIUC, GeorgiaTech, etc.)
  4. Giving your TOEFL / IELTS
  5. Getting your Letters of Recommendations (LOR) in
  6. Checking your Grade Transcripts
  7. Organizing the Bank Statement of your parents/guardians
  8. Résumé

The Common Application

Each student applying to the United States for their undergraduate studies is required to fill some sort of application form. A large amount of universities came together and decided that they could have a common component in their applications. The Common Application is that common component. It consists of all your personal information, academic records, extra-curriculars and an essay. Each college has its own section on the Common App and you choose which ones you apply to with a simple click of a button. Some colleges may have supplementary materials in addition to complete their application.

1. For further details about the CommonApp and the process.<link?>
2. Get the full list of Universities on the Common App.
3. Go to our CommonApp Walkthrough article.

Note:
Not all colleges are on the CommonApp! The list will be given in the next section.

 

Non-CommonApp Universities

So you started your CommonApp but you realized that some of the Universities you want to apply to are not on the CommonApp! That doesn’t mean you can’t apply to them it just means that those Universities have their own separate application process. This doesn’t mean that the University is better or worse than CommonApp schools or even that the application will be very different. This probably means that these schools want your information in a different format for their admissions officers to read.

 

List of Top Ranked Universities not affiliated with the Common Application

 

Arizona State University Cal Poly Pomona Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
California State University Florida State University Florida A&M University
Georgetown University Georgia State University Indiana University – Bloomington
Iowa State University Kansas State University Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Michigan State University (MSU) Penn State University Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Rutgers University (All Campuses) Texas A&M University University of Arizona
University of California (All Campuses) University of Central Florida (UCF) University of Florida (All Campuses)
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) University of Minnesota – Twin Cities University of Texas (All Campuses)
University of Washington, Seattle University of Wisconsin-Madison  

 

You can find a brief overview of the application process of each of the universities listed above here.

 

Making your list of Universities

This is one of the most important steps in your application process. Picking the colleges you are applying to. Below you will find some factors used by a majority of applicants to choose the colleges they apply to. After that you can double check your list by making sure you have a good ratio of schools where you have a good chance of admission, an average chance of admission and a low chance of admission.

 

How do I narrow down my Universities?

Planning to pursue higher studies in USA often gets complicated as one doesn’t know on what basis he/she should select a university. Selection of a university depends on the following factors:

  1. Major/Stream
  2. Placements and/or Recruiting for the Major
  3. Tuition Fee and Living Expenses
  4. Location
  5. Graduating class size and individual class size
  6. Acceptance rate of International students
  7. Weather
  8. People and lifestyle at the University
  9. Family in the US

 

1. Major/Stream

Your Major is the most important factor I picking Universities. If you have a general idea or even an exact plan about what you want to do in college, pick colleges that have a good department for your major. This doesn’t mean you go down a list of rankings for the major. If you have friends/seniors who are at the college doing a similar program, talk to them and ask them about the department. Other than that make a list of 30 odd schools and go on each school’s website and see the programs each department has.

 

2. Placements

Placements are always at the back of our head when we think of colleges. Most of us want internships while we’re still in college and jobs when we finish. We have a few companies in mind and we have a few internships in mind. An important factor to check is that companies where you want to work/intern actually come to your school looking for future interns and employees. If it is your dream to work a Deloitte but they don’t recruit at your school, it’s going to make reaching your goal harder.

 

3. Tuition and Living Cost

Cost is a big concern when students go to the US. Some universities cost USD 36,000 a year while others can hit up to USD 70,000 for just tuition. Living in a city is usually more expensive than living in a college town removed from civilization for 40 miles all around. These are the factors that you should consider when choosing a university. On average Public Universities (Colleges that are associated with State or Federal Governments) are cheaper than Private Universities.

 

4. Location

Location, Location, Location. Not only is it a real estate mantra but also an important college choice factor. If you think you’ve lived in Bombay and you cannot be productive with 3 months of temperatures dipping below freezing point pick a college on the West Coast. If you think a Delhi girl like yourself needs a city life to survive, do not apply to colleges where the closest city is a 5 hour bus ride away. If you’re into Investment Banking think of a university in New York or if you’re a Techie think of a University near Silicon Valley.

 

5. Class Size

Class size is very important once you reach colleges. Some college classes will have one professor addressing a group of 17 students on a round table. Others will have a professor with a mike addressing a hall of 700+. You need to think of which environment is most conducive to your academic growth. If you need more personal attention to thrive, pick a college with a graduating class size of about 1000-2000 people. If you can handle huge classes and enjoy the variety of opinion think bigger. Make sure you can thrive in that environment, and you can apply to universities with a graduating class size between 4000 and 6000. Another aspect that you must consider is that are you comfortable with 40,000 other people on your campus or do you want a smaller population where everyone know everybody (sort of) of around 3000.

 

6. Acceptance Rates

Your dream school only admits 200 international students a year. Does that mean you don’t apply? Not at all! Just remember that there is a higher chance that you may be rejected. It is important to make sure you are not super ambitious with your list. Do not fill it with a group of super-popular and super-hard-to-be-accepted-in (Reach) Universities. Leave spots for colleges where you think you have a guaranteed chance (Safes) and colleges which you think are at your level (Targets). An ideal list will have about 40% Reach Schools, 40% Target Schools and 20% Safety Schools.

 

 7. Weather

Weather factors into the whole Location thing. The East Coast gets snow from late October to mid-February. The West Coast gets practically no snow and has sunny weather year long. In some places it gets so cold that frostbite warnings are issued. In states like Washington it rains about 9 months a year. Consider if weather affects your mood and activity patterns. Keeping all that in mind choose colleges where you can survive. That said, there are people who adapt like chameleons. This may not be as big a factor for them.

 

8. People and Lifestyle

Every year Huffington Post and several other agencies release rankings that are very important. “The Happiest Colleges in the US”, “Colleges with the Happiest Freshmen”, etc. The lifestyle at the college will grow on you but it is your duty to see if you will fit in or stick out. If you go on the Class of 20XX group of any university on Facebook you can see the type of people who are accepted and the type of people who attend. You need to know that you can make friends and spend 4 years at the college being happy. Pick Universities that excite you. Where you think you will find like-minded people who you can cherish for life.

 

9. Family

I know what you’re thinking… how is this a factor? The truth is, no matter how much you think it is not going to happen, you are going to fall homesick a few times. If you don’t have any relatives in the US then I guess this isn’t a factor but if you do, it’s nice to have them close. They could be in the closest big city or the neighboring state. Trust me, driving to your Mausi’s house on the weekend for hot Paranthas is the best feeling!

Once you have taken all these factors under consideration, you should have a short list of around 10 universities that you are ready to apply to!

 

How many Universities should I apply to?

You can apply to as many universities as you wish, with only one factor restricting you, MONEY! Yes, the cost is pretty heavy on your pocket. On an average each college application costs you around USD 120. Sure you want to know what costs so much. The split is as follows:

  1. Sending from Common Application : USD 70 approx. (varies from $50 to $100 depending upon the university)
  2. Reporting your SAT scores through CollegeBoard: USD 11.50 (official scores are compulsory)

- - OR - -

  1. Reporting your ACT scores through ACT: USD 12
  2. Reporting your TOEFL score through ETS: USD 17 (official scores are compulsory)
  3. Reporting your AP scores through CollegeBoard: USD 23

Now, there is no rule book to how many universities an applicant should consider and whether it's easy or difficult to get in but generally, students apply to 8-10 universities with 4 Reach, 4 Target and 2 Safeties (Huh?!? What’s this??)

  1. Reach: A Reach university means the acceptance rate is low and only the top students get into these schools. With your profile there is a chance but not a very large one..
  2. Target: A Target university means the acceptance rate is medium and the chances of making to these universities are above average or somewhat realistic for your profile.
  3. Safety: By now you would have understood what safe means. Yes, it means the acceptance rate is pretty high and the chances of your profile getting accepted are very high (though it is never 100%)

 

TOEFL/IELTS

TOEFL isn’t an important criterion for withholding your admission process. Basically, TOEFL is a test of your English skills. Its role comes into play at the time of VISA. It is always better that you are done with all the exams before applying to the universities.

If you have spoken and written English for your years in high school you need not waste any time in preparation. The TOEFL is offered on a few days every month so find a suitable date and go take the test. It tests your Writing, Speaking and Reading Comprehension. There is no ‘ideal time’ as of such as TOEFL scores are valid for 5 years. Take it anytime in your 11th or 12th grade.

To register make a free account on www.ets.org. Find details of dates and test centers near you.

 

Letters of Recommendation

So on the CommonApp, each University has a page where you select one/two teachers who will write Letters of Recommendations for you.

A Letter of Recommendation is written by a teacher to a University about a student. In the letter, the teacher highlights why the University should accept the student giving details about how the student is in class and what the student can contribute. These letters are usually written by teachers who students have a good and healthy relationship with. It helps if the relationship has been a longer one with constant interaction. For example a teacher who has taught you for 5 years will have a more weighted opinion than someone who taught you for 3 years but hasn’t taught you in the last two years.

Make sure you establish a good relationship with the teacher who you want a recommendation a while before you ask them to write one. It is important you know how to butter them without coming across as a sycophant.

Remember you cannot see the final draft but it is your responsibility that the teacher sends the recommendation to the counsellor on time! You do not want a missing Letter of Recommendation when you’re sending out applications.

 

Checking of Grade Transcripts

Make sure that before you start sending off your documents, you check your grades. Colleges want your grades from the 9th to how much ever of 12th you have finished. While your school may keep an academic record, it is important that you take all your report cards to school one day and cross reference your grades/scores on your transcript with your report cards. Make sure that everything is reflected correctly before giving the okay to your counsellor to send them off.

 

Bank Statements

Frankly speaking, arranging this document isn’t very difficult. Firstly, you need to know how much are you and your family/guardians are willing to pay, or in other words, how much can you spend for the next two years in USA (roughly around USD 100,000). Talk to your bank manager and get attested copies of the bank statement which is a proof of your financial solvency.

So, once your finances are in place and you've had multiple meetings with your bank manager and decided the amount with or without loan, final papers should be ready by November first week but it is advisable that you start approaching the bank early in October.

 

Résumé

This is a document highlighting your achievements. It usually consists of your academic achievements, SAT/ACT, AP and TOEFL scores, Co-curricular and extracurricular activities and any awards in them, explanation of your academic projects and personal details. You must add skills like the number of languages you speak, whether you know any coding languages, any musical instrument, etc.

Keep your resume to one side of an A-4 size paper. As you’re still a high school student you are not assumed to have “achieved” much. Only put in your most relevant awards and achievements. Making a resume too long is a common mistake of most people.

 



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