Saturday, 22 June 2013


Wow it has been awhile since I last wrote. I recall wanting to write about my trip to LA on the last spring break but I kept delaying until I got to a point where I didn't feel excited to write about it anymore *sigh*. Anyhow, just about two or three weeks ago, I wrote a document on Facebook about how to apply to U.S. colleges and shared it with a couple of groups that I'm in on Facebook. I felt like doing it because apparently almost at the same time I have a few friends who are in their preparation under the American degree program in Malaysia and some who had already got their scholarships to pursue their studies in the US asking me about how to literally start from the beginning upon applying to American colleges, hence I thought it will be the best to just share the same thing to everyone or else I would keep repeating over the same thing for each persons asking.

Rumbling done, let's start now.

How do I know which university to apply to?

You could start by surveying the schools which offer good programs/courses for your intended major.
  • You may want to check the ranking, although you don't necessarily have to rely on it; it is always a good thing to check out the list of good schools for your major. For instance, Blossom is planning to do a major in Chemical Engineering. She could check out this list from colleges.usnews for Chemical Engineering

            Or this one from QS World Ranking:

Note: You may want to make sure that the schools that you are looking at are for undergrad NOT the grad schools because some programs might be excellent for grad studies but not necessarily for undergrad.

  • And go to each of the colleges that you're interested in and check the courses that they offer.
This is a comparison between University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Texas-Austin.

Note: You can think of "School" and "College" like "Fakulti/Faculty" in Malaysian universities. For instance, in the US we might call it College of Engineering while in Malaysia it could be called as Faculty of Engineering.

What are the tests that I should take before applying?
  • Standard Aptitude Test I (or known as SAT I)
  • Standard Aptitude Test II (or called SAT Subject Test or SAT II)
Note: For both SATs you could start by going to College Board. This is where you will register for the tests. They also offer some practices and books that you can purchase to prepare for the test.
  • TOEFL test
Note: Link to TOEL website.

Some colleges require you to take more than one SAT subject test, some require you none. You have to check what they want for the application.

Here is an example for University of Texas-Austin

How to apply?

Now this part gets a little tricky. There are apparently two ways of application.

  • First is through The Common Application or CommonApp for short. A lot of the colleges especially the private ones use this site. It is in fact easier because you basically have to fill in the basic information like your personal information, school activities and test scores ONCE. The difference is this one section called as Supplements. For this part, each colleges will ask you specific questions for short answers and long answers (or essay).
This is an example of the Supplements for University of Chicago. Note: look at the last page for essay questions

  • The second way is through the college's application site. This works mostly for public/state universities like University of California and University of Wisconsin. For these universities, you can't apply through the commonapp, but you would have to go to their own specific application website. 
Here's an example for University of California's application website

Based on my own experience applying to University of California, if you apply to more than one colleges say UC Berkeley and UCLA, you will just have to fill the application once (including the essay questions) and send the same application to both. The more you apply, the more that you have to pay; this works not only for state colleges but also when you're applying through the CommonApp.

I think I have covered mostly everything. The application process can get a little tricky sometimes so I hope I could untangle any technical problems that you might encounter and to give you the idea of what should be going on so that you can concentrate more on writing for the application.Feel free to email me with your questions if you have one. If you're currently applying, I wish you all the best!


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