How to Make a Successful US College Application
Getting into US colleges is becoming more and more competitive, with more candidates applying for a limited number of spaces. The US remains the top choice for most international students, with more than 886,000 international students currently studying in the US on bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs.
That should not scare you, but only make you more ambitious and determined to succeed. So, how can you improve your chances of being admitted to the US college or university of your choice?
1. Start your US college application early
Applying to US colleges will take time and concentration. Each application is different and involves collecting recommendations, writing essays, and other requirements. Entry requirements for each institution are different, but most colleges require completing an admissions test or essay, the SAT or ACT admissions tests, and providing recommendation letters from teachers. In order to succeed without stress, you need to give this step the time it deserves.
You should be starting to collect information and to compile a checklist of all the things you need to do at least 12 months prior to the college application deadline. You may also want to think of a backup plan. Not because you are not going to have a successful application, but because you are a smart candidate and you are making sure that you will have an amazing education no matter what.
2. Prove your passion for the subject
You may need to write some essays and have an interview with the university that you choose and you are probably very nervous about that. But in order to succeed at all these things, you just need to remember one aspect: US colleges love passionate students who are willing to put the effort in.
Of course, your research, writing style and the quality of your information are extremely important, but you should not avoid showing your passion for the subject. Reflect on your intellectual and practical motivation for studying at your chosen US college, and why you find the subject area especially interesting or challenging. You can also point out if there are any particular courses of interest to you and why that is.
3. Seek advice directly from your chosen US colleges
If you really want to get into a US college, don't hesitate to contact the institution personally in order to get more detailed information about the program and the application process. This will show that you are interested and committed. Never be afraid to ask questions; US universities are looking for curious and determined students, and you don’t want to lose your chance out of fear.
Even more, in order to have a successful college application, you need to build up a picture of what is expected of you as an applicant and the best way of doing that is by speaking to the admissions staff of the study programs you are interested in.
4. Put the effort in when writing your personal statement
Writing a stellar personal statement or application essay is one of the most important steps you have to accomplish in order to have a successful US college application. This will be your chance to let the university see that you are interested in the field of study and that you are willing to work hard in order to study and build a career.
You can impress US admission officers with your existing knowledge of your chosen subject. That being said, you need to take the right amount of time in order to make sure you manage to highlight all of your abilities and ambitions.
5. Use your own voice
Many students fall into a trap when trying to impress admission officers and they try to be someone they are not. But if you want to prove to universities that you are the right student for them, you need to be genuine and use your own voice. Present yourself in a positive light, and don’t try to imitate a different personality. Don’t just use clichéd statements when describing your motivation for your field of study. It’s better if you include specific details, examples and reasons; this will help you to stand out.
Try to use personal experiences and avoid overly formal or business-like language. If you wish to say something in a way that no one else did before, you need to find your own words and to allow yourself to be creative. Colleges will be a lot more impressed by someone who has a strong sense of their own identity and ambitions, rather than someone who sounds the same as every other applicant.
6. Create a calendar of application deadlines
Regardless of the quality of your application, all your efforts will be wasted if you miss a key date. That is why you need to plan ahead and make sure you are organized. After all, your future is at stake.
Create a calendar with all the relevant deadlines so that you are prepared well ahead of time to ensure that all aspects of your application are complete. An incomplete college application is the first step towards rejection. Unless you are focused and start early, you might feel overwhelmed by all the things you need to do during admission period.
7. Be honest
While you want to show the best side of yourself, it’s also important to be honest. Because you are trying so hard to impress admission officers, you may be tempted to embellish some details or try to be someone you are not. In order to avoid that, I strongly recommend that you show your application to a teacher or a good friend that knows you and ask them if it sounds like you. It’s always important to get a second opinion.
Studying at a US college is a dream that many international students have. The road to get there may seem difficult at first, but now that you’ve gathered all these tips, you will certainly manage to make a successful application.
This article was originally published in December 2015 . It was last updated in January 2020