Requesting Application Materials
Requesting Application Materials

Because of the work and the costs involved in putting together a good application, most students limit their applications to between four and seven programs. However, you can request information from as many universities as you like, keeping in mind any postage costs and charges for university materials that you may have to pay. You may have a clear idea of exactly which schools you will be applying to and request information only from those. Or you may prefer to request information from 10 or more schools that you believe meet your needs, and then narrow down your list once you have read through the catalog, application form, and other information you receive.

If you have access to the Internet, you will find that many U.S. universities put their catalogs on their websites, and some have even stopped printing paper copies. Many also have on-line application forms that can be completed on the computer and sent back to the university electronically, or the forms can be downloaded and printed. If there is an on-line application, you should use it. This is the quickest method for submitting your application. If you can download the application, appropriate parts of the catalog, and other information from the websites, you will not need to contact the university directly. Websites increasingly offer other features, such as video tours of campuses.

If you do not have access to the Internet and need printed copies of application materials and catalogs, contact each university by writing a letter or by sending a fax or e-mail request separately to each school. Include the information detailed in the section below, "What to Include," in your written request. Or, you may prefer to submit a preliminary application form instead; contact your nearest EducationUSA information and advising center for copies of these forms.

Due to the cost of mailing to other countries, you may receive a shortened version of course listings, and you may be asked to pay if you require the entire catalog. Check to see if your information or advising center has copies of catalogs you need. If you do not receive, or cannot find, all the information you require, write or e-mail the school again and ask the specific questions you wish to have answered.

E-mail is an easy way to obtain an application and other materials, and U.S. universities are usually quick to respond. However, sometimes you may need to make a telephone call to follow up on a particular item. In that case, send a fax or e-mail ahead of time, telling the relevant person that you will be telephoning, when you will call, and what you wish to discuss.
When to Send Your Inquiry

If you plan to apply to highly competitive institutions or to seek financial assistance, send your first inquiry 18 months before you plan to enroll. In other cases, send your first inquiry 12 months before you plan to enroll. Give yourself sufficient time for possible delays in international mail, especially if you are posting applications or requesting information in November or December when the high volume of holiday mail will often double the length of time mail takes to reach its destination. Be sure to send any letters by international airmail because surface mail can take several months to arrive.

Where to Send Your Inquiry

Address your inquiry to the Director of Graduate Admissions, using the address for the university given in the reference books. Send a separate inquiry to the Department Chair or Departmental Graduate Admissions Committee Chair requesting information about study and research in the department, and advise the department that you have also been in touch with the Graduate Admissions Office of that school. Make sure you clearly write the name of the appropriate office or department on the envelope. Also be sure to include the full zip (postal) code for the institution on the envelope to ensure that your letter reaches its destination as quickly as possible. You may also send these inquiries by e-mail.

What to Include

If you wish to write or fax your request, carefully type or print all items. Always keep a copy of everything you send. Do not send any documents with the original inquiry; wait until you file a formal application. A letter or e-mail message should include the following:
  • Your name, printed legibly or typed in exactly the same form and spelling each time, clearly indicating which of the names is the family name. In the United States, each person is identified primarily by a single family name or "last name," and it is customary to use only the father's family name as the son or daughter's family name. It is best to use your name as it appears on your passport.
  • Your date of birth, printed or typed with the month first, then the day and year as it corresponds to the Gregorian calendar; for example, May 6, 1967, is 5/6/67. If a different calendar is used in your country, convert it to the Gregorian calendar. Be sure to always use the same birth date.
  • Your mailing address. Make sure your return address is written clearly on the letter and on the envelope.
  • Your citizenship and the country that has issued your passport.
  • Your past and present education in chronological order, including technical programs, colleges, and universities or other institutions attended since secondary school, with examination results, grades, and rank in class, if known.
  • The program of study you wish to apply for, using the exact wording that that institution uses for the program, as well as the month or term (fall or spring) and year in which you hope to begin studying in the United States.
  • The total funds available to meet your educational and living expenses during each year of study in the United States, and the sources of these funds.
  • Scores from English language proficiency tests and required admissions tests, if available, or dates on which you are registered to take these examinations.
  • If you are not a native speaker of English, your number of years of English language study and where you studied.
These items will enable admissions officers to judge whether application at a particular level of study is suitable for you and to indicate your chances for admission. Sometimes schools or departments will require this, and possibly additional, information to be submitted in a more formal way as a preliminary application. Again, this allows the school to see if you are a suitable candidate for the program before you go through the whole application process.

If you have conducted thorough research to identify potentially suitable departments and programs, most or all of the institutions will respond by inviting you to submit a full, formal application for admission. They will send all the forms and instructions, and they may assign you a temporary, or processing, identification (I.D.) number. Be sure to use that number in all future correspondence with that institution.