Preparing an Application to a Top University


International ranking of universities

Getting into one of America’s leading research universities is no easy task. Americas best colleges are particular about the students they admit, and the competition for admission is fierce– only 5.9% of applicants to Harvard were accepted in 2012. Applications must demonstrate a student’s record of academic success, motivation for study, and ability to keep up with a challenging program. Those characteristics can be difficult to prove, but with a little time and effort, you’ll be able to prepare an application that impresses even the admissions offices at leading research universities.

The College Application

The first thing to know about preparing an application to a competitive university is that there is no shame in getting college application help, though it is still important that the application reflects you as a candidate. It is recommended that you complete the application fully before requesting input from an outside source. That person can make suggestions, as long as they don’t alter the essence of your application. Be sure to answer all questions with great detail and with careful attention to grammar and spelling.

Also be sure that any information you list on your application is entirely accurate. Check your grade point average against your transcripts, confirm course titles, and carefully scrutinize the names and dates you’ve listed. Applications that appear to have dubious claims will be promptly rejected.

The Statement of Purpose

Leading research universities tend to place a lot of stock in your personal statement. The goal is to provide the admissions committee with an idea of who you are as a student, what you can bring to the academic community, and what your motivation for study is. Look online for examples of college application essays, but be careful to write one that reflects you personally. Just like we suggested with your application, don’t ask for outside input until you’ve completed a first draft. It’s important that your essay is reflective of you.

The Curriculum Vitae

Many leading research universities will request a resume or CV, and many applicants submit ones that aren’t helpful to the committee. Much like a work resume which details your qualifications for a particular job, an academic resume should detail your qualifications for study in a particular academic discipline. A brief section about relevant employment may be warranted, but more important is an explanation of your relevant educational credentials. List coursework in your academic discipline, any publications you’ve syndicated, and any degrees or certifications you hold. The goal of a CV is to demonstrate that you possess adequate background knowledge to succeed in a program.

Applying to leading research universities can be intimidating, but the process doesn’t have to be anxiety-inducing. Take your time, recruit a proofreader, and most importantly, compile an application that accurately reflects your passion and experience.

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