A non-political, non-profit community of Malaysian college and university students aimed at collecting and distributing information about education, opportunities and the future generation of Malaysia. Comments, suggestions, e-mails are welcome!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Tips on US Applications

I would provide here some basic information on US Universities
applications, in view that not many is clear on that application

For US Universities application, the application deadline would be
around November (for Early Decision/Early Action) and around end of
December (for Regular Decision)

I would strongly encourage everyone that hopes to apply to US top
universities to try and apply for Early Decision/Early Action. Some of
the universities are having Early Decision and some are having Early
Action. For both of this case, you would apply to those top
universities in Nov (instead of Dec), and you would be offered
admission in Dec (if you get admitted). You could get deferred to
regular decision as well (i.e. you are not good enough to get admitted
in early decision/action, but you are border line case, so they keep
you for regular decision). You might get outright rejection, if you
are far from possibility of acceptance. For Early Decision, if you get
an offer, you would need to decide whether to accept it or not. If you
accept the offer, you have to withdraw your admission from other
universities. For Early Action, there is no such clause. You should
apply Early Decision/Early Action for those universities that you
really want to go. Early Decision/Early Action typically has much
higher acceptance rate.

All the applications would have similar stuff that you would need to
do. Application essays, recommendation letters, interview. These are
the 3 main aspects that you really need to focus on. Other aspects
would include your academic results (SPM, PMR, school exam results,
and any other post-SPM results (STPM, A Level, foundation program, IB
etc), standardized test score (SAT1, SAT2, TOEFL), resume/cv, co-cu,
special talents, your creation of stuff (research, art work, music

I would elaborate a little on each of these:-

Application Essays:- This is where you can showcase yourself very
well. Showcase your passion, your dream, your future, your
perspective. It is a place, where you can showcase your unique
characteristic, why a particular university would be better off having
you, and how you can build up yourself being at that particular
university. You should put in a lot of effort, and try to get as many
people to help you edit as possible. You would need to write a lot of
draft, and you would need to work hard on this.

Recommendation Letters:- This is where you can get those people that
you have worked closely with (teachers, teacher advisors for your
clubs etc, and anyone that you have worked closely with, be it inside
or outside of school). You would need to submit a few recommendation
letters. And the recommendation letters need to be very focused. It is
for the recommendor to write something about you that you couldn't
show through your certs, cv, results etc. It is about their personal
observation, personal experience dealing with you. Recommendation
letter that sounds like this "He/she is very hardworking. He/she is
very smart. He/she has won this and that competition. etc...", would
be not useful at all. What the recommendation letters should do is
about unique personality experience that the recommendor has or
observes, eg: How you help to transform the prefects group in your
school, how you reduce the truancy rate etc. It is about personal
observation and often answers the word "How".

Interview:- This is another important segment. This is where you could
showcase yourself to the alumni interviewer. You could bring your
unique art work, music compilation, research report, model built etc.
Anything that uniquely displays yourself. It is about the university
understands the other aspects of you, and you to know more about the

Academic Results:- Most applicants would have done well in this. So,
not much emphasis or differentiation on this. You can apply to most US
universities, with even SPM, or even without SPM. STPM/A
Level/American Degree Foundation Program etc could help. But it is not

Standardized Exam:- SAT 1 and TOEFL are required for most
universities. SAT 2 would be required for most of the top
universities. Again, most applicants would have pretty good results in
all these tests. Little bit extra, eg:- 700 in SAT1 verbal vs 650 in
SAT 1 verbal is not going to make a difference. What matters are the
first 3 aspects that I mention: application essays, recommendation
letters and interview.

Resume/CV: Listing of your activities. You could send some certs, but
only the main ones.

Special Talents: You should include as many of those art work, music
compilation, research report, community service done, etc. Anything
unique that you have done, that most other applicants would not have

Anyone could apply to US universities, including all the top ones. And
you do not need any specific level to apply. You could apply before
you take your SPM (only do so, if you are really talented and have
quite a number of strong achievements), after SPM, after American
Degree Foundation Program, STPM, A Level. If you are taking STPM or A
Level, do note that you would need to take your SAT1, SAT2, TOEFL, and
do the applications while you are preparing for your STPM/A Level. It
is doable, but you would need to plan your time well.

Do start preparing early. To all those in Form 4/5, or even lower
secondary school students that hope to study in top US universities,
do prepare from now! Build up your achievements, know more about the
application process etc.

And do note that at least 4 of the top universities (MIT, Harvard,
Princeton and Yale) are need-blind. This means that if you get
admission from those universities, you would be offered a financial
package to ensure that you could study there. They would evaluate your
parents' income and decide how much your parents should contribute,
how much loan you should take, how many hours of work you should do in
universities (it won't affect your studies, but rather build up your
experience), and how much grant that they would give you to ensure
that you have sufficient to spend to get your degree. It would be a
wholesome package.

By Yeoh Chen Chow
Chen Chow is an alumnus of Cornell University who is currently working in Kuala Lumpur. He is also involved in the Experiences KL 2006 education fair.

Relevant links:
Experiences KL 2006 post on Tinkosong
Experiences Kuala Lumpur 2006 website