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What NOT to do during the admissions process
Karan Gupta
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February 12, 2008

Sanket Shah applied to US universities last month and now anxiously eyes the postman everyday. Just like thousands of other students, he too is waiting for that fat acceptance envelope from the university.

Universities generally respond to candidates one to four months after the students have sent in complete applications. The waiting period is probably the hardest part of the application process but is also the most crucial. Students should take great care not to upset universities by constantly emailing or calling the admissions office asking for a decision on their applications.

"The single most annoying factor is a student calling us after every two days asking us to rush his or her admission decision. We are overwhelmed with international applications and getting the admission committee together to make a final decision on an application often takes time. Students who rush us unnecessarily risk being denied at our university," says an admission official from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor.

What then should students be doing in this interim period?

Be patient
If you have sent your application by courier and have a tracking number, you can track your application packet online to see if it has reached the university. If you have confirmation that your application has indeed reached the university, give the university at least two months before making any contact with them.

Universities generally write to students about missing documents and sometimes even send a letter or email acknowledging receipt of the application. Universities may even send you an online username and password so that you can check your application status online. Some students may receive an interview call or email from the university in the waiting period.

However, not receiving any document or intimidation from a university after a month of applying is not necessarily a negative sign. The key is to be patient and wait.

Additional information
If your circumstances have changed after applying to the university, you can even send in an additional letter to the university explaining the new situation. For example, if you have recently been promoted at work, sending a letter of recommendation from your employer to the university may in fact enhance your chances of admission.

Similarly, if you have done very well at a mid-term college exam or improved your standardised test score, you can send official transcripts or test copies to the universities. Sending positive additional information after you have sent out your applications is not a bad idea.

At the same time, be careful not to send repetitive material or material that is already evident in your original application.

Do not panic!
Don't panic in this waiting period. Just because your friend with similar academics did not get into a particular university does not mean that you will not get in. Universities view each application independently and on its own merits. And remember that rejects come faster than admits. So if you have applied to six colleges and have already received two reject letters, it does not mean that you are in an undesirable situation.

Once you're in...
Once you have received official confirmation from the university by email, snail mail or phone, you can then breathe a sigh of relief. Many universities ask you to sign a letter of acceptance and send it back to them along with a non-refundable deposit ranging from $100 to $500.

Sometimes a university can even ask for an entire semester's tuition fee as a deposit. Make sure that you conform to the university's acceptance deadline. Sending your acceptance back even a day late can cause you to lose your acceptance offer in your dream college.

While you are waiting for colleges to respond to your application, go through your list of colleges carefully and decide which college is your first choice. It's not ethical to confirm an offer of admission if you don't plan on going to that particular college.

Also, it's not legal to send your acceptance to more than one college. Remember, there are students who are put on a wait list and if you accept more than one offer, wait list students suffer. So be considerate and ethical and in the event that you are accepted at many colleges, accept only one offer of admission.

Some universities may even ask you to send health forms along with your acceptance deposit. Others may ask for on campus housing forms. Make sure that you send all the documents that the university is asking for on time. Not sending housing forms on time will result in you being denied on campus housing.

Read the acceptance letter carefully for any terms and conditions set forth by the university. For example, a university may ask you to achieve a distinction in your final year exams. If you fail to satisfy this condition, your offer of admission will be revoked.

You have already worked very hard. You have taken the SAT, GRE, GMAT, TOEFL and/ or IELTS. You have prepared excellent essays and have sent remarkable applications to the universities. Now all you have to do is have confidence, believe in yourself and wait. The fat envelope is on its way.

Karan Gupta is an overseas education consultant and can be contacted at

~ Are you a student who is studying/ has studied abroad? What advice would you have for other students who may soon be pursuing studies in a foreign country? What are your experience as an international student? What were the things you wished you knew before you left home? Write to us at and we will feature your experiences right here.

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