The United States is regarded as a major destination for students wanting to obtain higher levels of education at colleges and universities. Many students look forward to being educated in US colleges and universities that are known to provide quality education, scholarships, research opportunities, and interaction with the more developed world. For Nepal students, especially, it has become a dream destination for higher education.
According to the US ambassador to Nepal, Randy Berry, “13,000 Nepali students attended colleges and universities in the United States in the year 2019.” However, many Nepali students do not understand the college application process and fall into the trap of paying a considerable sum of money to consultancies to help them, when instead, resources are easily available on the internet. This article will be helpful to Nepali students who want to pursue an education in the States by providing useful tips and information about the application process.
According to US News, there are more than 4,000 colleges and universities in the US offering broad fields of study like engineering, science, mathematics, economics, literature, philosophy, psychology, and music. As such, educational institutions in the US can mainly be divided into two categories: STEM and Liberal Arts.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and STEM colleges offer majors related to these four fields. In contrast, liberal arts colleges have a diverse curriculum and allow students to explore many courses before settling into one major. Before beginning the application process, students should first contemplate their interest and shortlist the colleges that provide an excellent education in their area of interest.
While universities like Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and Princeton consistently secure top positions in universities’ world rankings, they are not the only options available to students. There are many other great colleges and universities in the States where students can grow intellectually and socially. One should thus research heavily on colleges that meet their levels of interest and comfort.
US colleges can be extremely expensive, and an undergraduate degree can cost up to NRs 3 crores. However, many US universities offer some sort of scholarship to a majority of incoming students. In any case, it is always best to strive for a full-ride scholarship that covers all tuition, room and board, textbooks, fees and cost of meals, leaving the student to have to pay almost nothing. Types of financial aids and admissions offered by universities are ‘need-blind,’ ‘need-based’ and ‘merit-based.’ In a need-blind, an institution does not consider an applicant’s financial situation when deciding admission. Need-based colleges consider the paying ability of the students while admitting them and merit-based scholarships are granted to students based on their academic excellence and social/ leadership achievements.
The next step is the process of applying, and in the US, it is mainly done through Common App, an online portal that allows students to select from and apply to more than 800 colleges and universities, and which waives the application fee for 20 colleges. The Common App opens in early August. In case a certain college is not enlisted in the Common App, one should then apply to the college through the college’s application portal.
A lot of information related to academics, finance, and college life are provided on the college’s website. However, students should not hesitate to email or call the admissions or finance departments to ask any pressing questions. Communicating with college admission officers, who are in high decision-making roles, will help a student create relationships beyond paper, and help them better navigate college life later if they get accepted. Building good communication from the very beginning can also help a student to stand out from a very large pool of applicants.
“When I told a college admission officer that I would need a full-ride scholarship, he recommended I apply to Kenyon, which I did and then received a generous financial aid,” said Asmod Khakurel, a Nepali international student attending Kenyon College in the US.
The majority of US universities accept TOEFL, not IELTS, for testing students’ level of proficiency in English. Hence, it is recommended that students prepare extensively for the TOEFL. In addition, US colleges also value the SATs and some colleges do not require a TOEFL score if a student has scored 650 or higher in the SAT’s critical reading section. TOEFL and SATs are offered several times a year at various test centers. Students can register for the TOEFL and SAT on the respective official websites.
For preparation, many resources and materials are available on the internet, so students should not resort to paying large sums of money to educational consultancies.
It is recommended that students practice from material provided by the College Board’s official SATs because they are the closest to the actual test. Making sure that the test is taken in a very timed and disciplined setting is also very important to get familiar with the actual environment and pacing of the test when taken in person.
Letters of Recommendation
US colleges require two letters of recommendation from two high school teachers and a counselor (principle, if your high school doesn’t have a counselor). When requesting a teacher and counselor to write a recommendation letter, it is important to shortlist the teacher very early on, provide a detailed description of past experiences so that they will be able to know you better, remind them politely if they are late in responding, and provide all the necessary materials and information to teachers/counselors such as transcripts and other documents.
In order to really get to know an applicant, many colleges require personal essays on a variety of prompts. This essay is a very crucial part of the application process, and can easily make or break a student’s chance of getting into the college they want.
Many Nepali schools do not focus a lot on writing, so it can be difficult for someone applying to a college in the States to tell their story in a simple, clear, elegant, and evocative way. However, there are many tips and resources online through which students can find examples of well-written essays and learn how to write their own better.
Many colleges admit students with an early decision (ED) round that has the deadline of Nov 1 or 15 depending on the college, releasing the decision by Dec 1 or 15. Since an applicant accepted by the ED must attend the college, colleges provide maximum financial aid to meet the students’ needs. Thus, applying through an ED increases a student’s chance of getting into the college with financial aid. Some colleges even offer the ED 2, which is if the student is rejected in the ED, they can reapply in the regular decision (RD) by Jan 1 or 15.
This article is meant to provide the most essential information on applying to colleges in the States. However, USEF-Nepal, the official source of information and advice on studying in the US States, also has a very comprehensive library of resources on studying in the States. It regularly organizes sessions on college research, scholarships, essays, SAT prep, communication, and the Common App. It also administers the opportunity funding program for exceptional students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Aashish Sunar, Sub Editor and Writer for Kathmandu Pati English, covers issues on politics, marginalized community, international relations, economics, and sports. Additionally, he’s Co-founder & Editor of Boliverse and Opportunity Fund Grantee-2019. He is pursuing an undergraduate degree in International Studies and Economics at Soka University of America. He tweets @imAashishSunar.