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Studying overseas

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The application

Once you have narrowed down your search and established your criteria, you will need to start making your application. To say that you need to take care with this is a statement of the obvious, but it is surprising how many people send in sloppy applications which have not been properly proofread. The application process is complex and you need to make sure that you allow sufficient time to go through the various stages, and that in particular you don’t mail something you haven’t had time to proofread.

The bottom line is that all institutions are looking for people who show the potential to complete the course with good marks, also that any institution worth applying for will have more candidates than places. American universities in particular are looking for good all-rounders; people who are not just academically bright but who have other dimensions to their lives, shown as extra curricular activities in sports, the arts, etc. Such people will enhance campus life.

Most institutions will be aware of the different grading structures of foreign schools, and also of the fact that some schools do not have the facilities for extra-curricular activities. Application systems vary, but a typical application for a US university might require the following:

  • Application form.
  • High school transcript.
  • Results of any standardized tests, such as the Official Scholastic Aptitude Test® (SAT) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language™).
  • Letters of recommendation.
  • One or more essays, which may ask you to describe an important achievement, discuss an important personal, local, national or international issue and how it has affected you, describe how a particular person has influenced you, describe your role in a community project, etc.
  • Application fee.

You also need to show that you have some idea of your future direction, both academic and career, how the institution can help you achieve it, and how you think you would survive in a foreign culture.

Application for an MBA is even more complex and you are advised to place an application between October and December for entry the following academic year for a good university. Bearing in mind the time taken to get everything ready, you need to start in July to prepare for a December application, which means that you will be initiating the application process 18 months before you start your course. Typically, you will need the following:

  • The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT®) and TOEFL™ test results (remember, you need to allow time to register, and you will also want to study and practice, especially for the GMAT®).
  • School and college transcripts.
  • Letters of recommendation.
  • Financial statements showing that you or your sponsor have sufficient funds to cover your studies.
  • Essays, in which you can describe your past accomplishments, your aspirations, how this particular course will help, and what qualifies you for desired success.