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Lot of students are under the impression that getting into a US program is easy. As opposed to rigorous selection based pathways like Engineering at IITs, MBBS, or MBA/PGDM from IIMs, many people are under the impression that getting into a top class program at US is a cake-walk. They think that they can prepare their application in a few days/ weeks and can easily get into an IVY. Nothing could be further from truth.

MIT accepts about 150 international students from a pool of over 4000 students to its flagship undergraduate program. That is an acceptance rate of around 3.7%.  Stanford’s acceptance rate for its famed MBA program is closer to 6%. When you overlay this statistic on the pool of extremely visible demographic like Indians or Chinese, then you are actually looking at an acceptance rate closer to 1%. That is not too much further from the acceptance rate at IITs and IIMs. Additionally, the average preparation and seriousness of the people who are applying to these overseas programs is extremely high (in large part driven by the relatively higher cost of applying to these programs) and therefore a 1% acceptance rate implies the toughest selection process, way more difficult than IITs or IIMs.

You need to prepare extensively to get into these places. As opposed to the prevalent notion, it takes many years to prepare a great admission application. It is true that you don’t have to clear an extensive exam like a JEE (needed for IIT entrance). However, you need to clear general aptitude exams like SATs (and subject tests as well). Further, you need to spend a lot more time in building a narrative that aligns with your personality and in the process develop deep skills. Showcasing them through your application is another aspect of the admission process. Given the fact that you need to build and demonstrate deep skills, successful students often start out as early as grade IX or grade X. The process is extremely rigorous and given that it is spread out over 4-5 years, it is extremely good at separating the grain from chaff.

For a serious contender to these colleges, there are a few implication of the above points. Firstly, you need to start early and in earnest. You need to work hard and give it as much of seriousness as you would give to (let’s say) IIT JJE exam preparation, probably more. You need to start out early – better to do that in grade IX or grade X rather than later. And finally, take help from advisors and mentors who have a first-hand sense of the process and can guide you appropriately by focusing on your strengths and building deep skills. Packaging alone won’t deliver the goods!

A number of applicants take help from us and go through the proprietary UAH Mentoring model. While, all of our students are able to get into one of their top five choice of colleges and programs, we see substantial variations among those who start out early and the ones who don’t. Typically, students who start out in grade IX or grade X are twice as likely to get their top three universities as opposed to those who start out in grade XI or grade XII. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that successful applicants to top colleges started out preparing much earlier and have put in substantive number of hours in getting ready for a top-class program.

The conclusion is clear enough. In order to get into a top-class program, you may want to prepare well and take help from the right set of mentors. Top programs are extremely selective; however with right guidance and sincere efforts, you can definitely get into such a program. All the best!


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