You have made the big decision to be an international student, and you are planning to start applying to universities abroad. And, it is quite natural to get confused with the list of things that you need while applying. Considering that such requirements can vary country to country and university to university (yes, it can differ among courses too), things can be quite overwhelming.
Take a deep breath and let’s get started. Here is a list of the general set of documents you will need during the application process:
The Application Form
Every university you apply will ask you to fill up an application form. In most cases, you need to submit online forms and submit your personal, educational, and other relevant information. While this may sound very simple and easy, please don’t fill up the form in a rush. Any mistakes here, can lead to unforeseen problems.
Certificates and Mark Sheets
Whether you have just completed your high school, or have already finished your bachelor’s or master’s, you will have to submit the certificate and the academic transcript. If you are enrolled in a degree program at the time of applying, you may be required to submit partial transcripts.
In case you do not have these documents with you, please request your institution for these well ahead of time. Don’t wait until the last minute as the process may take a while for some institutions.
In most cases, you need to submit the electronic versions of your academic credentials, and thus, please make sure your scanned copies are of high quality and easily readable. If your university requires a hard copy submission, please make high quality photocopy.
Standardized Exam Scores
If English is not your first language, you may need to submit either IELTS or TOEFL (or other similar tests) scores for your admission. Many universities may also require other aptitude test scores like SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.
If you need to sit for any of these exams, register your exam date early, as the seats get booked up well in advance. If you postpone registering for a date until you have finished preparation, you may find out at the time of registration that there’s no available date in the next 1-month window.
Remember, each of these test certificates has a validity of 2-5 years. If you had taken these tests a few years ago, check whether they are still valid.
Statement of Purpose
This document is probably the most important document of all and it can be the key to your way into your desired university. Since you need to convince the admission committee on why they should choose you over hundred others, you should invest a lot of time in writing and editing this. Unfortunately, many applicants delay writing the statement of purpose till the very end and struggle to submit a quality application.
Letter of Recommendation
In most of the cases you will require one/two/three letters of recommendation. Collect your letter of recommendation from your professors or supervisors ahead of time. Make sure you ask for a recommendation letter from someone who has a good impression about you and your work. Your recommender is most likely a busy person, and most likely more busy than you are. So be considerate, and make sure you notify them well ahead in time, don’t rush them at the last minute!
As I already mentioned, what documents you need to submit can differ from university to university. So, I will recommend that you modify this list, if need be. Since preparing all these documents takes a good amount of time, it’s better to start earlier so that you can increase your chances of getting selected.