"Lost time is never found again." (Benjamin Franklin: Poor Richard's Almanach 1748)

1. If you seriously plan to study in the U.S. begin to work on it ONE or TWO YEARS BEFORE the selected academic year.

Why is it important to have enough time? General reasons:
a) correspondence
b) you change your mind
c) you have to select, for different reasons, other institutions and make contact again
d) sit for the necessary admissions tests (TOEFL; SAT -GRE, GMAT, not to speak about USMLE, which requires years of planning)
e) financial aid: chances for financial aid are better if you begin as early as you can or you will have enough time find other sources
f) deadlines: you must not miss them
g) finally: have enough time to obtain your visa


undergraduates: comfortable: one and half year. One year can be enough: starting in late summer. Colleges: application deadline vary very much: until classes are full; rolling admission.

graduates: two years - one and a half. Contacts with professors, departments, building professional relationships: assistantships! The money belongs to the department: if you are good and they have money they may give an assistantship to you.

2. First to do: having chosen a desired field of study select proper institutions: academic program, major, degree, location, size of the institution, library, sports and several other aspects... (with the help of reference books, special literatur e, CD-ROM and other databases, catalogs, bulletins...)
With a list of colleges, universities in your hand: begin to write letters.

Handwritten or typed or wordprocessed: make it readable and pretty.
Do not give many details, but important things to be included are:
I. Information about yourself:
a) name (spelling and consequent use of that!)
b) level of study
c) what major
d) the academic year you selected
e) completed school(s)
f) extracurricular interests
g) exact address

II. Ask for: college/university catalogs, bulletins, application forms, financial aid forms and ANY INFORMATION ON FOREIGN STUDENTS.
Addressee: Admissions Office
Graduates: Graduate School/Department


Thanks for the materials!
You should read everything thoroughly!
Make tables! DEADLINES!
Put away those where there is no money and you need; if there is a hope: try again.
Find out: what admissions requirements
Select some institutions (5-6) where you intend to apply: depends a bit on your purse (application fee!)
Graduates: communicate with the department whether assistantships are available


Meanwhile: decide when to sit for tests then apply. Deadlines!
Leave time for yourself to practise a bit. Locate special TOEFL courses.
Send (official) score reports to selected colleges, universities.


What does your application package consist of?

a) Collecting credentials, transcripts, necessary and supporting documents.
Certified copies of original documents plus certified translations: secondary and/or postsecondary education. How and where to certify: official translator offices, agencies; your translation certified by the agency; documents certified by your sch ool, university. Translation tips for Hungarians.
Be explanatory if necessary: different grading systems: enclose a sheet on the meaning of your marks in your country.
b) Curriculum vitae (graduates): American type (narrative or thematic sections in it but: in both cases begin with your present achievement.
c) letters of recommendation: have such persons write them who really know you: your abilities, skills, knowledge, performance and personality. Undergraduates: a teacher, schoolmaster, form-master. Graduates: professor, head of depart ment, a colleague whom you work with, people with reputation in your field of study.
d) essay (undergraduates): your background, your motivation, personal values, personality.
e) project (graduates): be more specific in your field of study, tell your scientific achievements and aims. Try to make the institution be interested in you.

Try to be UNIQUE! Sell yourself! Do not be shy! Fight for yourself! This is a bargain: you want the college or university, the institution wants a good or outstanding student who contributes to the entire life of the institution.

DO NOT WRITE THE ESSAYS OR THE PROJECTS IN ONE AFTERNOON! Meditate upon it for weeks, make notes!

f) art students: send slides, video tapes, photos, original works
g) application form, financial aid form: precise, thoughtful, clear, accurate and true. Financial aid: it may have a different deadline (earlier!)
h) application fee: if possible ask for a fee waiver.
i) keep copies of your documents (lost, repeated application...)
j) send via registered airmail

If something is missing, do not panic: try to complete your application as soon as you can.


Wait for the news: admitted or not. If you suspect you should have had to hear about the institution (that is, if there are no news six weeks after the completion of your application) call them. Sometimes: phone interview for graduates: try to give your best.

After the decision of the institutions several different situations you may face with:
a) you are not admitted, rejected (reason: your academic performance)
b) admitted without financial aid
c) admitted with partial or full financial aid

If these latter two cases appear with more institutions: select where to go. Acceptance. Be courteous: notify the others about your decision (sometimes the selected one, too).

7. If your financial background is ensured: you are given an I-20 or IAP-66 form by the institution. Go to the embassy for VISA.
Dependents (graduates): prove funding for them, too. If you can afford take them with you, later it takes more time (half a year)
Housing application: halls of residence, dormitories, on-campus, off-campus living, dependents.

8. Meanwhile: go back to your adviser and inform him or her about your success and ask about the date of a PRE-DEPARTURE ORIENTATION meeting. Prepare for not only studying but living in the United States.

This handout was prepared by Ildiko Ficzko in the American Higher Education Information Center of the University of Szeged. H-6720 Szeged, Dugonics ter 13. HUNGARY * Mail: SZTE Main Library, H-6701 Pf. 393 * Phone: 36 62 544-065 * Fax: 36 62 544-035 * E-mail:

Services *** American Higher Education Information Center