- Choosing a school solely based on rankings
Many international students are unable to visit each prospective school in person due to financial or time constraints, and tend to default to lists of rankings to make school selections. In some countries, a list of rankings may be a true indicator of the quality or reputation of a program, or how people should prioritize a certain school.
However, don’t rely completely on the rankings. While a school’s notoriety can be a great advantage, you should consider other factors like student culture, long-term ROI, which schools place the most graduates into positions in tech, consulting, or whatever other industry you want to work in in the future.
- Omitting unique personal experiences in essays
In some cultures, and especially in East Asia, modesty and humility are strongly emphasized. Proactively sharing unique examples of your successes are considered boastful and not always seen as positive. As a result, international applicants may be tempted to focus on things like GPA and class grades in an essay.
Essays are supposed to help admissions officers get to know you at a personal level, and help them understand how you are a cultural fit with their school.
The key to a successful graduate school application is showing exactly what you—and nobody else but you—can bring to the program. Don’t be afraid to let your originality and true personality come through in your essays, and try to avoid using your essays to restate things that are already contained in your resume and transcripts.
- Trusting Graduate School Message Boards
It is easy to put a lot of trust in message boards, especially when you are far away from your target schools in America or Europe and lack ways to learn about them.
While graduate school message boards can provide useful information, they also often contain inaccurate statements or misleading and uninformed opinions that can steer you in the wrong direction as you consider application strategies.
Nobody except the admissions committee knows exactly what is happening with interview invites, acceptance rates, waitlists or anything else of importance for prospective students. Use message boards as a source of information, but don’t assume everything you read is accurate.
- Not managing recommenders effectively
It is your job to educate your recommenders about the criteria for a strong letter of recommendation for a top graduate school. It is also your job to remind them about the things you have done that meet those criteria that they might discuss in the letter. If a letter is generic or does not provide specific examples of times that you have overcome a challenge or worked in a team, it may not be persuasive. A good recommendation will contain examples that set you apart from everyone else, written by someone who knows you extremely well. Overly generalized statements of work ethic, or a willingness to work late at the office, from people who have a high title or alumni status but have never overseen your work, and who don’t know you well are not helpful.
Look at the criteria your target schools say they look for in graduate students – they often have guidelines that outline specific things they ask recommenders to highlight. Then, ask our recommender to build their statements around those guidelines, if possible.
- Waiting to apply in later rounds
Applying in later application rounds around March or later for a September intake is difficult for anyone to pull off; and it is even more difficult for international candidates. Applying in one of the earlier rounds increases your chance of acceptance since there are more spaces available. It also minimizes the risk of running out of time to apply for a student visa.
The earlier you apply, the more time you have to secure and provide proof of funding, whether through savings, loans, family or other means. At some schools, scholarship offers are awarded at the same time as admissions offers, so more funding is generally available the earlier you apply.
Don’t wait and try to cram everything into the last month if it is within your control. Space things out, be prepared and get your application in early.
The logistics and preparation for graduate school are especially complicated for international applicants. If you are planning to apply to graduate schools next fall, it is now time to seriously consider your strategy. If you’d like any help chatting about strategy or which programs might be a strong fit for you, feel free to reach out to us at Info@TranscendAdmissions.com anytime.