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Application season’s on!

Choose carefully and put in enough effort, say some successful entrants to top-of-the-line US universities reports Arjun Sethi

education Updated: Aug 11, 2010 09:39 IST
Arjun Sethi
Arjun Sethi
Hindustan Times

The foreign university application season is in full swing. So, if you are a high school senior, this article will help you get started. I caught up with some students who have made it to universities in the US and video-interviewed them.

I asked them what they would do differently about the application process if they were to approach it again. Their suggestions were great and I hope you too find these useful. I’ve compiled some of the interesting responses here.

Preet Angad Singh Stanford University ‘14
Apply early to schools you’re especially interested in. Using the Early Decision (ED) or Early Action (EA) programmes to apply to a school tells them that you’re really keen on attending it and typically boosts your chances of getting in.

Moreover, you get your admission decision by mid-December and that relieves a lot of anxiety pertaining to the application process.

Choose your colleges carefully. As you narrow down your list of colleges, make sure you get to know every school and know exactly why you want to go to the schools on your list.

American universities believe in right-fits and look for people who want to go to a school for reasons other than rankings and location. Also, make sure your list has the right mix of Dream, Reach and Safety schools.

Do a summer programme, if possible. Many universities organise summer programmes for high school students. These programmes span a variety of interests and you can gain an understanding of the college system in the US in general, and the particular university, while making friends and possibly earning some college credit.

Write essays that tell colleges about you. A well-written application can sometimes win you more points than other applicants with better academic records.

As admission directors read your essays, they try to visualise a picture of you and imagine how you will fit in their class.

Your essays should tell them things about your personality which they don’t already know from your scores and recommendations.

Urvi Nopany Yale University ‘14
Start the process early. In fact, I had, right from Class IX, started building my resume because before this process I hadn’t quite realised the high level of extra-curricular and academic achievements required for really good US colleges.

Manya Garg University of Virginia ‘12
Do extensive and personalised research. Do not underestimate the need to know particulars about each university and department you apply to.

This will always be an asset to help you recognise the college that is best for you, and also to secure admission in the same.

Aditya Chirimar Cornell University ‘14
I would have taken the Advanced Placement Tests before applying rather than after because they add a new dimension to your academic standing as a student.

Utsav Agarwal Bucknell University ‘14
Convincing my family to go with my choice of Bucknell was tough because they were so committed to rankings. But I am glad I made an independent decision.

Ultimately, I chose a college taking into account factors other than rankings. I’d advise people to go where they think they’ll fit in best.

Rohitashwa Bagaria Harvey Mudd College ‘14
Many students select colleges based on their published ranks, or how others perceive them. Researching colleges on the basis of the field you’d like to study, or certain professors you like to study with, are better criteria.

Harvey Mudd College is a small science-, engineering- and maths-focused college and a member of the consortium of Claremont colleges offering high level of research opportunities to undergrads. This works for me.

Project another skill through your application. I wanted to major in science and I was good at it but I was also good at writing. I was a member of the editorial board and edited another club publication. So, projecting a skill other than your major works really well.

Shivranjani Gupta Carnegie Mellon University ‘13
I had applied to nine colleges and eight were liberal arts colleges (LAC). The only non-LAC was Carnegie Mellon University. Once I was admitted, I visited colleges and experienced the environment first hand. I was admitted to several small LACs and Carnegie Mellon University (which is a mid-size university). But after the visits, I felt small schools were not for me and I was so happy that I had applied to Carnegie.

Rukmini Chatterjee Brown University ‘14
I was certain that I’d go to medical school after graduating from college but I chose Brown over several other top feeder pre-med schools because education abroad is about exploration and Brown’s academic and residential life offered me much more than those schools.

Harshita Sood Rochester Institute of Technology ‘13
Academics at each college are conducted differently. Shopping week, trimester, semester systems, double majors. Choose colleges more smartly based on your learning preferences.

Yuvika Diwan Carleton College ‘13
I realised that my applications to universities were based on very little personal research and mostly what others recommended or what sounded good.

If I had another chance to apply, I would consult more people, especially alumni of those colleges, or people living around that college, to know what the actual atmosphere is like and whether I would fit in.

The author is an independent college admissions counsellor and can be contacted at
The video clips of the interviews are available on my blog

First Published: Aug 10, 2010 11:37 IST