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Top 3 mistakes to avoid in your US student application

What not to do when applying to study in the US

Your student application for any US university is your ticket to success. It is not the application form alone, but other documents including application fees receipt, Statement of Purpose, Letter of Recommendation, financial documents, transcripts, resume, test scores, etc. that make up an application in whole. Given it’s the most important step of your study abroad journey, be careful not to make any silly mistakes.

Mistake 1: Filling up application forms in haste

The most common mistake that students make while making an application is to fill it up in haste and thus make errors. It is important to fill up the form with a calm head and revise it well before submitting. If have never made an application before, it is advisable to take assistance from an IDP International education specialists to rule out any first-time student errors. 

Mistake 2: Not allotting enough time to LOR and SOP 

The second most common mistake concerns the Letter of Recommendation (LOR). Students do not give enough time to their recommender to work on their recommendations. It is imperative for the recommender to have the time to draft, add relevant pointers and re-work on your recommendation if required. Keep in mind their schedule and other commitments if you want a well-written and articulated LOR. You also need to provide the recommender with complete information about the course and University they are applying to. 

Students make the same mistake with their Statement of Purpose (SOP). They allot too little time to draft it. The SOP should be written well in advance with enough time to revise and make amendments. Your SOP or the Admission Essay demands your focused time. It is the most crucial document as this is where you can voice your opinion and talk about your aspirations. The admissions committee lays enough importance on a student’s SOP or Admission Essays. Remember, our SOP (it is qualitative) is not your resume (it is quantitative) and should be approached appropriately.

Mistake 3: Not taking standardised tests seriously 

Students tend to get confused about the special standardised tests they need to prepare for their admission into a US university. Most often, they do not take these seriously and get lazy on preparation. For pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the US, standardised tests such as SAT/ ACT are not typically required now but if you plan to take them, it is important to prepare well. If we talk about a master’s degree, you’ll have to take the GRE/GMAT/IELTS exams. I suggest, you should take several mock tests before attempting the final exam. It helps you be accustomed to the test format and prepares you for the real exam. However, English proficiency test may it be IELTS, or any other test are required for both bachelors or masters, hence practice is essential no matter which test you take. 

Note: US Universities evaluate each application holistically. It is a good idea to make your decisions in time and apply early, so you have ample time to prepare for your tests or making an application. 

Financial aid for US universities 

I would also like to touch upon the financial aids available for international students as it is a critical factor while making decision to apply for any US universities

For a bachelor’s degree, scholarships are offered based on a student’s profile, academic merit, and English language proficiency test scores like IELTS. It is important to applying for these early so you can beat the competition and stand a chance to be reviewed. it’s best to apply by October- December of the year before your target year. For undergraduate studies, assistantship is also offered to students depending on their profile and their GPA while in a US university. 

For masters, besides applying early, it is important to fill out forms correctly. There might be additional information or forms that might be required to assess your profile for scholarships or assistantships. Good news is, more assistantships are available for masters in the USA.  

There are various other ways to fund your studies while studying in the US. All international students, be it undergraduates or graduates, can work up to 20 hours a week during their ongoing semester and up to 40 hours per week during vacations. Students pursuing postgraduation can also apply for merit scholarships or assistantship i.e., Research Assistantship (RA), Teaching Assistantship (TA), Graduate Assistantship (GA), etc.

The students can also apply for Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) or work study programs, which are usually embedded in the program. Post the completion of the degree, the student can work full-time under Optional Practical Training (OPT) for one year. If enrolled in a STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Management) degree, the students can work for additional two years. 

Summing it up, it is important to apply early to US universities well ahead in time (start planning about 18 months) to secure your admission. Knowing that it can get a little daunting to do all independently, you can always come to us at IDP, and our US destination experts will be more than happy to guide you realise your study abroad dreams.  

Updated on July 30, 2021

IDP Study Abroad Insights

For students like you interested in studying in the US, we have a wonderful series – Study Abroad Insights. This web series covers most commonly asked questions about studying in the country answered by industry experts.

Read more articles by our US experts

Financing your US education as an international student

Institutions in the US and online education

Choose your US university by location

Get yourself a winning Letter of Recommendation

Types of offer letters

Do’s and don'ts when writing your SOP

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Yukti Jaswal

Yukti Jaswal is a part of IDP Education’s US client relations team at the South Asia headquarters in Gurgaon. 

In her current capacity, she’s responsible for training IDP India counsellors on US higher education and interacts with the US Universities regularly. She has travelled to numerous US institutions to understand the nuances of the application, visa, and student life in the US in detail. 

Yukti has an experience of more than 10 years in the field of US education. She has also worked briefly with the USIEF's Education USA Advising Services (EAS) and has guided many students aspiring US education.  


is there an eligibility criteria for a post-study work visa?
by divya
You must have at least 2 years of academic study in Australia at the Bachelor level or above.
How many years of PSW can I get if I choose to study at UWA?
by prajun
University of Western Australia is located at Perth, which is now considered to be Regional sector, so you can get 3 years of PSW.
Why does a masters in the UK take only 1 year to complete?
by Dev
UK masters is a 1-year degree with the Trimester model and worth 180 credit points.

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