Three of my friends and I went to the same school. Then, we went to the same college. Finally, when it came to taking the GRE, we went to the same coaching centre. After a few months of gruelling studies, I got into my targeted program at MIT. None of my other three friends did.
I have to say – they are all as smart and hardworking as I am. In fact, our test scores are almost identical. Yet they did not make it and I did. It did hurt me when I got to know that they will not be able to attend their dream post-grad program. But when I asked them more, I saw a pattern of mistakes. They worked on these mistakes for a year and finally got into the programs of their choice.
My point is – the preparation for getting into a foreign university goes way beyond just preparing for the entrance test. You can work on it and ace it. But, if you forget about these particular things, no matter how well you score on the test, you will not get in.
Here are the five key areas where my friends did not pay enough attention and had to pay the price with a year’s delay:
My friend Rajat had the best profile among all of us. He was a topper in our school, his test scores were good and he also had good recommendations. He made one mistake – he started the application a week before the final deadline. Although other things were in place, he couldn’t write essays that would highlight his profile. As a matter of fact, he submitted his application a minute before the portal was about to close for the year.
Later on, when we saw his application, we saw that it was full of factual and grammatical errors. In the face of it, this was a small issue. Yet it cost him an entire year of his life. He could’ve avoided it entirely by working on his application a few months in advance.
If something is so important for your life, you have to be proactive about it. Recommenders may deny, the application may ask for more documents, you might have a family emergency or the internet may die – any number of things can come up at the last minute. If you submit the application in time, you are immune from all these probable issues.
It is usually recommended that Indian students should submit their application by the end of the second window if the program has multiple windows for the same period of intake.
One of my friends was applying for an international student card. He couldn’t find a proof for his employment history. So, he decided to forge it. At the very last minute, he got sweaty and decided not to do it. This was not one of the reasons his application was rejected but it could’ve been one.
If you follow the first point you will have enough time to locate and get the legitimate documents. Under no circumstances should you forge your documents. Someone somewhere will catch hold of it, irrespective of how good you or the person doing it for you is.
No one wants to lead a life while looking over one’s shoulder. Hence, be proactive and produce genuine documents.
My friend Gurmeet got into UC Berkley for a post-graduate program in machine learning. He also got a loan from SBI. That said – the loan did not fulfil the capital requirements for getting the visa and his visa application was rejected.
His I20 form which was submitted on the guidelines of his school state that he will need at least $25,000 for his first year at UC Berkley. So, he had to show at least $50,000 in his bank account for satisfying the capital requirement. He was not aware of this nuance and this got his visa rejected.
Rajat, who was late with the application, applied for the loan a day before the results were to be announced. The bank took six weeks to revert and the fee-payment deadline was in two weeks after the result announcement. You can call it fortune in the most unfortunate way, but because he did not get into the program in the first place, he did not have to worry about the fee-payment deadline.
So if you are taking funding from banks, lending institutions, your employer or even friends & family – make sure the amount is adequate as per the visa policies and deposited in your account at the right time.
I personally did not even think about this one question before I started writing my application. As soon as I saw the questions I understood that I will have to have a well-organized career map ready. I worked on it for a few weeks and then was able to fill the application quite easily. The interviewers later told me that they were happy with my preparation on the career front.
A career map will help you show the admissions team that you are prepared to be in the program. It will also put some pressure on you to be proactive with networking.
One of my friends in the group, Dhwanit, was applying only because the other three of us were applying. He did not even have an active interest in the field he was applying for. He is a smart man and was able to ace the GRE. But his application did not show any enthusiasm for the field. After his application was rejected, he got the time to think and discovered that he wanted to study business administration, not engineering. He is currently pursuing an MBA at an IIM.
If you build the career map beforehand, you will be naturally forced to think about this as well.
Be proactive with your application, submit genuine documents, plan properly for the funding, have a career map and don’t be a part of the herd. These things don’t directly contribute to the acceptance of your application, but they safeguard your application for getting rejected for stupid reasons. Good luck!1