Although institutional requirements vary, the standard components of a complete application include the following:
- Academic Background
- Standardized Test Scores (TOEFL/GRE/GMAT/SAT/IELTS)
- Letters of Recommendation (link)
- Statement of Purpose/Personal Essay/Institute Specific Essays (link)
- Documents attesting Financial soundness
- Application Fee
- Academic Background
A complete academic record or transcript usually includes all courses completed, grades earned, and degrees awarded. The official transcript is issued directly by the school or university. In the United States, it is common practice for official transcripts to be sent by the issuing university directly to the receiving university. In many other countries, the practice is to issue official transcript and degree certificate directly to the student, who mails it to the University. However, it should be noted that the transcripts must be sealed for protection from tampering. (Always request your institution to issue additional copies).
If your institution does not provide this service, you may have to seek an alternate source of certification. As a last resort, you may send a copy of your official transcript, explaining that you have only one original, and ask the school for guidance about the kind of certification it recommends.
The standardized tests that are generally mandatory in US universities are:
- Test for English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) – an English language test required of all non-native English speakers.
- General Test of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) – test to measure abilities for admission to all non-business programs.
- Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). – mandatory for almost all Business programs (eg. MBA/MS (Business related majors like Finance).
- Test of Spoken English (TSE) – Used as a criteria for providing Teaching Assistantships.
- Subject test of the GRE – required for specific programs like Computer Science by top ranking universities.
The Educational Testing Service (ETS) administers these standardized examinations. Questions may be addressed to their offices in Princeton, New Jersey.
Following are contact addresses and telephone and fax numbers. The Web site for ETS is http://www.ets.org.
P.O. Box 6151
Princeton, NJ 08541-6151
Educational Testing Service
P.O. Box 6103
Princeton, NJ 08541-6103
P.O. Box 6000
Princeton, NJ 08541-6000
Since test centers fill up quickly, it is important to register as early as possible for all standardized tests that are required. Information about registering for the examination is available at U.S. educational advising centers associated with American Embassies or Consulates. The examinations are offered in almost every country of the world.
The format of some of the examinations is changing from paper and pencil to computer based. According to ETS, the computer-based test registrations are made usually at least six weeks prior to the test date. Reporting of the scores to the universities to which you have applied for admission occurs a month to six weeks after the test date. It is advisable to begin planning for the standardized examinations at least six months prior to the application deadlines of your desired institutions, even though the computer-based examinations may have a shorter time line for registration and score reporting.
When you register for the test, be sure to indicate that the testing service sends the test scores directly to your proposed universities. This is the quickest and most economical way of reporting the test scores. Furthermore, most universities require that the original test scores, not a student copy, be sent to them directly by the testing service.
Many universities in the U.S. set minimum required scores on the TOEFL or on other standardized examinations. Standardized test scores are an important consideration to many graduate programs. However, most institutions and their graduate departments take into consideration a number of factors in addition to standardized test scores. Therefore, it is not necessary or recommended to wait to begin the application process until the receipt of the test scores. To delay the mailing of your application until the receipt of the test scores may cause missed deadlines and negatively impact the outcome of your application. Also, in order to assess your relative chances of admission to certain institution, you may plan to take the test early enough to know your scores before the application deadlines.
Note- The standardized test scores, important as they are, are not the only deciding factors in admission consideration.
Letters of Recommendation
In most institutions, the candidate is required to submit two to three letters of recommendation. Someone who can specifically comment on your academic achievements or professional potential, such as professors or employers, writes these letters.
Some universities provide a special form for the letters of recommendation. If possible, you should submit your recommendation on the forms provided.
Letter of recommendation……
Statement of Purpose
Most graduate programs demand a personal biography, which is commonly termed as statement of purpose. The formats and questions may vary from institution to institution. The statement of purpose is an opportunity to present yourself as an excellent candidate for admission. The statement of purpose need not be too lengthy, but it should include at least three basic components:
- Personal introduction and description of previous academic history
- Immediate academic interest
- Future professional and academic objectives
Give some thoughts to demonstrate the opportunity for you to persue graduate study will ultimately benefit others.
Sample Statement of Purpose……
Documents attesting Financial Soundness
This document is required by the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service, USA) to issue the I-20 (Visa-specific) documents. INS instructs the universities to check the financial capabilities of International Students. International Students are required to submit their sponsors’ current bank statement showing the amount approximately equivalent to their tuition fees and living expenses for a complete academic year.
Although it is part of the complete application package, this is usually not taken into account while determining admissions. Most institutions make their admission decisions without regard for the source and amount of financial support. If you are applying for financial assistance, either from the universities or from outside sources, do not hesitate to describe your situation on the application form.
Most universities also require an application fee, which must be paid to initiate consideration of the application. These fees may range from $25 to $100.