Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Yale, Stanford-- for many these are not just universities but audacious dreams. Very few will pass on the opportunity to study at such institutions, but the scarcity of resources and knowledge regarding the application procedures get in the way of most. The Financial Express brings a series of articles for those who need assistance while applying. Each issue of the series will cover necessary holistic information to help future undergraduate and postgraduate applicants.
Before applying, one needs to take a step back first. Even though it is recommended that an applicant applies to a reasonable number of colleges, it is important to carefully choose the colleges.
Create student profile
While applying to universities, one needs to be completely aware of one's own academic, financial, extra-curricular status, preferences and choose the institution that align well. That is where a student profile comes into play which is created only for the convenience of the applicant's application process. A student profile is an organised portfolio containing the academic records, standardised scores (IELTS, SAT, GRE, GMAT etc.), the extra-curricular, volunteering and professional activities of the applicant.
Moreover, an approximate estimation of the annual household income or the financial situation of the applicant is also a crucial part of the profile. Since studying abroad are expensive, applicants need to know their financial situation and assess the feasibility accordingly.
Be it a preference in a country, a certain university, a particular subject or even a specific neighbourhood, everything needs to be taken into consideration while applying. The profile will make the application procedure smoother and help one get into the college that will be the best fit.
Google search and research
"One thing that I always tell applicants is to learn how to Google," said Harvard graduate and educational content creator Seeam Shahid Noor.
Research on educational institutions is the pedestal that will strengthen the entire application process. Firstly, one needs to surf the internet and compare the completed profile with the requirements and their accepted students' data. The best place to find such information is the websites of the institutions and brochures. Third party websites may show inaccurate data when it comes to sensitive information such as minimum IELTS requirements, tuition costs, etc.
There will be instances when the applicant will not get all the information on the institution website. That is when Googling skills will come in handy. They will need to cross check the data they find in different sources and use their judgement. Be it considering historical data, gathering information or opinions from forums like Reddit, Quora etc. one can use any or all methods to make one's college choices clear. In need of clarity or other assistance, it is always advised to contact the university admission offices.
During these uncertain times of NCTB board examinations, solid research beforehand can give undergraduate applicants scopes to look for other ways to expedite their admission depending on the universities. For example, applicants may shift from NCTB to the British curriculum as per their convenience and use the scores to meet the academic requirement of the universities.
Financial aid and scholarship opportunities
Finding out about the availability of financial aids and scholarships also depends on the applicant's research. In the case of the US, there are a lot of federal guidelines regarding financial aid for international students. More often than usual, international students are not eligible for financial aid. In such cases, one can log into the common app, iefa, OUAC accounts or college resources to check for financial aids that suit.
Scholarship information is usually found on college websites. Students usually can apply for two types of scholarships -- need-based and merit-based scholarships. An early peek into the scholarship requirements will give a head start for qualifying.
Keeping everything organised
After selecting the universities and accumulating their data, it is crucial for these data to be stored in a useful and organised way. An abundance of information can be overwhelming and prove to be counterproductive if not used or stored properly.
"I recommend applicants to create a Google Sheet or an Excel file and keep track of all possible information of their ongoing and future applications," advised Seeam.
Organising the data in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets with all the deadlines, requirements and other information is likely to keep the entire admission process hassle free and way more efficient. As the deadlines for admission will draw closer, you will be bombarded with more information, data and dates. Without a proper way of utilising these additional and useful information, you are most likely to face unfortunate hiccups along the way.
University applications contain various steps and each of them is significant enough to make your application shine or get you out of the race. That is why, the very first step of the long admission process that is choosing the universities is more crucial than applicants realise. Short-sighted applicants may only apply for the likes of Harvard, Yale and other Ivy League universities but disregard other exceptional universities resulting a complete waste of the admission period.
So, make your choices count so that the first foot that you put towards your dream institution can be your best one.
The writer is a student at IBA (DU).