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Application Process

Applying for a course in a US university requires you to fulfill certain eligibility criteria. Here we discuss about the application process for a graduate course in a US University.

The US academic year is usually divided into 4 semesters - Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer. The semesters are usually 13 weeks long.
The Fall semester starts somewhere between August and September and ends in late December or early January.
The Spring semester starts in January and ends in May.
The Summer semester starts in late May or early June and ends just before the Fall semester begins.
Not all universities have a Winter semester but if they do, it is a very short semester squeezed between the Fall and the Spring semesters.
The semesters correspond very roughly with the eponymous seasons.

Most universities in the U.S. accept applications only two times in a calendar year for the Fall and the Spring semesters of the academic year. Please beware, some universities only entertain applications for the Fall semester. The application process for the Fall semester usually starts one year before your joining during October and ends on December or January.

For applying for a graduate program in US universities you need to take the General Record Examination (GRE). Apart from this you also need to take a Test Of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam, if you are from a country whose native language is not English. (For more information on these exams visit our companion blogs about these exams.)

There are a number of documents you need to submit with your application. All universties have detailed and specific guidelines in their application brochure about the documents required. Here is a list:

  • Test Scores: You need to submit your GRE and TOEFL scores along with your application. In most of the cases, these scores are send by ETS directly to the University.
  • College Transcripts: A transcript is another name for a marksheet provided by your college or university at the end of each semester, that lists in detail the courses taken and the grades obtained in these courses. Since you will usually send out your applications before you have graduated from your college, you can provide the marksheets only up to that semester.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Most universities require you to provide three letters of recommentation. The faculty members in your department are the best people to ask for these letters. However, if you did an internship at another institution or corporation, getting a letter from your mentor or supervisor would be a big plus.
  • Statement of Purpose: This will possibly turn out to be the most important document in your application. A statement of purpose can best be described as a document for your academic past and the future. It should clearly describe why you chose your particular acadmic discipline, why you are interested in pursuing graduate study in that discipline and why you are interested in a different discipline than the one you did your bachelor’s degree in. It should also clearly outline the ideas you have about what you would like to do and what you are interested in researching.
  • Financial Support Statement: Another important document is the financial support statement. This is usually in the shape of a form provided with the application. In this document, you will usually provide declare your financial assets to show that you will be able to support the first year of your graduate education at the university. You will probably need to provide notarized bank statements along with this statement. However, it is entirely possible that you may not need to submit this until you have been granted an admission to the university. It usually depends upon the university admission policy.

A bit of advice: Apply to atleast 5-6 US universities. Your decision should be a mix of Excellent, Good and Safe. Excellent universities are those which have extraordinary rankings but is difficult for you to get in due to your academic records. These should be kept to a minimum. Good universities are where you have a fair chance of getting selected. Apply mostly to these universities. Safe universities are those which are not as good but you have an almost definite possibility of getting admissions. You should keep them to a minimum but don't ever leave these out.

Also, do keep in track with the application deadlines of the University of your choice.

Best of Luck!!!

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