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The Non-academic Part of your U.S College Application

US_educationI’m sure you’ve all heard the age old adage, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,’ at least once as a child; either while reading a bedtime  story or in PE class at school. Well, apparently now it won’t get him into college either. Read on to discover how academic performance is only one part of the equation when it comes to college admissions abroad.

Going to the USA for undergraduate studies is becoming increasingly popular in India. In fact India is second only to China in terms of the number of students that go to the USA to study every year. When I decided to do my undergraduate studies in the USA, I was asked a whole bunch of curious questions by my neighbours; almost always about the SAT. “How many times did you take it?” “Is it really necessary to get a perfect score to apply to the Ivy Leagues?” While it was a little trying answering their questions, I realised that test scores were the first thing that came to my mind too when I decided to apply to colleges in the USA. The process of admission to Indian universities is pretty straightforward; the only criterion for admission is a number, be it the result of the Grade 12 Boards or the test scores on a common entrance exam. It’s no wonder the application process to universities in the USA can be difficult for Indian students to digest, it being so different from the Indian college application process. With the number of students applying to US universities increasing rapidly, however, many top colleges in the US have to reject students that they might have otherwise accepted, based on grades/scores alone. Therefore, while academics (grades and standardised scores) is an important factor that affects admission, it is only one of many. In addition to considering standardised test scores and grades, colleges also look at recommendations from teachers and counsellors, the student’s essays, and his extracurricular activities.


The Essay

First up is the common application essay. This essay is sent to all the universities and colleges that use the common application, which is a single form sent to multiple universities. Universities use it to get a feel of what the student is like as an individual and that’s why it’s important to get this one right! To get a better understanding of this let us look at the topic of one of the 2012 common application essays:


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