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Applying to US Universities for UAE Based Students

UAE-Based Students Interested in Applying to US Universities Should Ideally Commence Their Preparations by January of Their High School Junior Year

Students that start planning at least a year in advance of university application deadlines are much better prepared than their peers, according to Carian College Advisors of Dubai

Too many Dubai high school students delay the commencement of the US university application process until a few months before deadlines take effect and only seriously start to think about it during the fall of their senior year. This poses a particular problem for students that may not have completed standardized tests necessary for admission – such as the SAT, SAT II, and the TOEFL – or are at a loss to describe their extracurricular activities, if they have none. “There is a general misconception among UAE students that applying to American universities in the US is similar to American universities in the UAE; in regards to deadlines, nothing can be farther from the truth” says Peter Davos, of Carian College Advisors. “It is very important to understand that US universities will assess your entire high school record, so ideally students should start thinking about the process even before they enter high school; for many students, however, starting to focus on it during January of their junior year gives them enough time to prepare and submit strong applications,” he adds.

Top US boarding schools such as Phillips Academy Andover and Exeter Academy provide their students with a college application timeline and blueprint, which contains important deadlines and milestones, by January of their junior year in high school. “Compared to other international students, Emirati students tend to be far behind in beginning and completing their applications on time,” says Chi Pham, of Carian College Advisors. “For example, Chinese students serious about studying in the US begin the process even earlier – in the summer after their sophomore year.” It is important that students understand that they must give themselves enough time to take important standardized tests more than once, craft and revise their essays, and provide their teachers enough information and time to complete an insightful recommendation. Other important factors taken into consideration in the admissions process, such as demonstrating a strong, consistent record of participation of extracurricular activities, take years to establish.

“The goal of college application process is not simply to complete the forms and submit them; those are the last steps. Critical stages such as building a support network, researching and visiting schools, having meaningful summer experiences, and strategically selecting appropriate courses in high school all support a successful application,” says Davos. “Most Emirati students overlook these steps and end up rushing to submit the forms on time or otherwise apply to schools that are not appropriate for them. Often these schools are not their first choice or true reflections of their academic curiosity and interests. With some forethought and planning, many UAE students could enroll in schools that best fit their goals.”

Between January and March of their junior year, high school students should begin to build a support network of people that will guide them, as they go through the application process. Parents are typically the primary supporters, but students should also reach out to their counselors, teachers, coaches, mentors, and older peers that have gone through the process themselves. Many students also seek help from certified admissions counselors, such as those employed by Carian College Advisors, which provide comprehensive services to students through the entire application process. A clear timeline for completion of major application prerequisites should be completed at this stage, which should be followed religiously.

April, May, and June are important months when students should study and prepare for the SAT. Between the end of the academic year and August, students should engage in volunteering, completing additional academic coursework, particularly through a US university, if circumstances allow it, or engaging in an internship or summer job. Summer also provides UAE students the perfect opportunity to visit colleges in person and create a preliminary list of universities of which to apply. “Ideally, high school students should try to visit campuses when regular classes are in session, so they can talk to current students and interact with professors, but this is typically not practical for the international student,” says Davos.

The Common Application, which is accepted by over 400 US universities, goes live on August 1. Students should sign up for a free account shortly thereafter and familiarize themselves with the online interface, personal statement questions, which typically change slightly from year to year, and discover which universities will require individual supplements, which can be quite time consuming and challenging. Completing the common application as far in advance as possible will ensure that students can spend more time on other aspects of the application process.

September, October, and November are critical months in which to complete the application process. Students should ask for recommendations from teachers during this time and ensure they forward all required materials, such as score reports and transcripts, in advance of the deadline. The autumn months are also the time when students can retake the SAT exam, if they are not satisfied with their previous results, and take the TOEFL, if they have not done so already. Students interested in submitting Early Decision or Early Action applications are submit all materials by the end of October, but ideally, all students should complete the process by then, in order to reduce stress and follow up on any missing materials requests from the university.

Early preparation is critical for success in applying to US universities. Students that submit their applications early, particularly under Early Decision, Early Action, or Rolling Admissions programs, are notified of the universities’ decisions much earlier than those of their peers that submit their applications closer to deadlines. Students that apply late may not have their applications reviewed at all or find out that there is no longer financial aid available, causing them to potentially have to wait an additional year before pursuing their studies. “There is a direct correlation between a student’s level of planning and his success in this process,” says Davos. “Well prepared students make informed decisions, suffer less stress, and produce higher quality applications to universities than the last-minute applicant who struggles to find anywhere that will possibly accept him.”

Article Courtesy of Peter Davos
Carian College Advisors
+971 4 311 6580

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