Thursday, 13 June 2013

Applying US Universities and Visa: A Checklist for ADFP/ACTP Students

Assalamualaikum and Hello everyone! :)

As I have promised, here's a post I dedicate specially to those who are applying for universities in USA. Feel free to share it with your friends.

1) First phase: Enrolling in the American Degree Programme (ADP)
 - Some of colleges offering ADP that I know -- Taylor's University Lakeside Campus, International Education College (INTEC) Shah Alam and INTI College, Nilai. (Not sure about KDU though)
- I don't think this point needs any further explanation.

2) Second phase: Getting ready for SAT Test (And SAT Subject Test)
- First question crossing your mind might be -- what the heck is this test?
Basically, SAT is an entrance exam required to enter the universities in US. To apply for a university, you will need SAT test with a certain score in all sections. Each university has its own standard scores requirements, which means the possibilities of you getting accepted into the university is higher if you score your SAT above the scores that they have asked for.
- Second -- How is the score calculated?
I am only going to explain about general SAT Test. It has 3 sections which are Reading, Mathematics and Writing. Total score would be 2400 marks with each section carries 800 marks (800 + 800 + 800= 2400). Do 800 marks equal to 800 questions? Heaven NO... Each section would have about 30 questions and the exam board has provided a certain range for each section depending on the score you receive. Further information can be obtained from this website : SAT @ College Board   
- Bare in mind that SAT Test and SAT Subject Test are two different tests with SAT being a general test involving English and Mathematics whereas SAT Subject Test is a test offered for many specific subjects (eg. Math Level 1, Math Level 2, Mandarin, Chemistry, History, American Government and such)
- SAT Test is compulsory or strongly recommended for many universities, whereas SAT Subject Tests are recommendable. Usually universities would like people to sit for Math Level 2 and Chemistry (or Physics). One mathematics subject and one science subject.
- There are a lot of bombastic words that you have never even found on newspapers and books. So you need to memorize these words and familiarize yourself on the usages of each and every words in a sentence. I tell you, the Reading section can be pretty difficult and very tricky -- and the each passage are two to three pages long.
- You can send your SAT score to FOUR universities for FREE. Unlike TOEFL, SAT allows you to change/add your university choices until 7 days after the test. But if you miss it, you need to pay up to a few bucks per university requested. Thus to play safe, please make sure you have selected at least four universities latest by the day before your exam.
- Start early, you need at least two months to get prepared.
- Your score is valid for two years.

3) Third phase: Getting ready for English test : TOEFL (equivalent to IELTS test)
- Internet-based are recommended over paper-based.
- Unlike IELTS, TOEFL test apparently doesn't like you to communicate with people. Hahaha. You will deal with computer for four hours -- you read passages and answer questions based on them on the computer, you listen to conversations on computer, you record yourself speaking in English on computer, and finally, you write English essays also on computer. It's a four-hour stress.
- Full mark is 120, with each section contributes 30 marks. There are four section which are Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing.
- You can send your TOEFL score to FOUR universities for FREE. Please make sure you select at least four universities before 10 am of the day before your exam. If you miss it, you need to pay up to $18.00 per university requested which is a waste of money. Consider the exchange of currency and no. of universities you apply to, let say, 4 univs. 4 X RM 3.1x $18 = RM 223.2. You have just wasted 200 bucks for something that is supposed to be free of charge! Membazir itu saudara syaitan.
- Your score is valid for two years.
- I wrote my experience attending TOEFL test here : My TOEFL Test Experience

4) Fourth phase: Applying universities
- This is the most annoying phase, I tell you.
- Check out the websites of universities you are interested in. Go to "Undergraduate Admission" and make a note of everything that they require from you ie high school transcripts, financial statement etc
- Don't forget to check for the application deadline!
- Make sure whether the universities require you to apply using Common Application (commonapps) or simply apply on their website.
Commonapps is a website that provide online admission application for undergraduate programs to many universities in US. It actually helps making application easier because instead of you applying to each separate university, you can actually use the very same application for all universities you want to apply to. Thus, you don't have to fill in your personal information and education background over again. I think all ivy leagues use Commonapps.
- High school transcripts - read what the school wants. Sometimes they want your transcripts for five consecutive years, so you need transcripts from Form 1 to Form 5! Transcripts must be in English. If your high school produced bilingual transcripts (English + Malay, English + Tamil or English + Chinese), then there's nothing to be concerned about. Just use those transcripts. Please request the transcripts from your school at least ONE MONTH earlier prior to sending your applications. You don't want to make your teacher get pissed off, right? Each university requires original transcripts, which means NO PHOTOCOPY. Please ask your teacher to print out at least, I don't know, four to five copies of each exam transcript? Depending on number of universities you want to apply to.
- Financial statement, ah for this one, I recommend you to ask your University Placement Counselor. For scholars, request the Financial Statement/ Financial Affidavit from your sponsors. Make sure the financial statement includes the name of the university, your intended major and amount of money that they will sponsor you through out the years of your study (Coz different universities have different rates of tuition fees).
- Essays -- Usually, universities that use commonapps as a medium of admission application require several essays which are compulsory. Ask few people that are trustworthy to comment on your essays. START EARLY!

5) Fifth phase: Injections and health-related issues.
- In case you don't know, 'jabs' is a synonym for injections/vaccinations.
- Some universities require a heaven lot of injections, some don't. So again, please check the university's website okay? :)
- Among injections that are compulsory/strongly recommended/recommended are:
  • Full Medical Check-up (with Blood Test and X-ray)
  • Tuberculosis (TB) Screening Test
  • Hepatitis A
  • Meningitis/ Meningococcal Vaccines
  • MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) Vaccine
  • Hepatitis B (strongly recommended)*
* - Hepatitis B vaccine is a series of three shots of injections administered over a period of approximately 4-6 months. The second shot is due 2 months after the first shot. The third shot is due 5 months after the first one (which means another 2 months after the second shot). So you need to plan early. If you are flying off to the states on August, that means you need to start doing the first shot by January or February. Take note.

6) Sixth phase: Admitted to a university.
- Congratulations for your acceptance into any university!! You nailed it! :)
- At some point, some of you might be having more than one admission offer. Think thoroughly, rest assured that you got enough time to make up your mind on which university you want to enroll yourself in. Don't forget the deadline where you need to confirm your enrollment by paying the Enrollment Deposit and Housing&Dining deposit. Usually, they make it compulsory for those who are flying off as first-year student (Freshmen) to take one of the meal plans provided by them and also, to stay in the on-campus hostel for the very first academic year. That's how they make extra money. But actually it's good to stay on-campus for the first year as you are not yet familiar with the place and stuff.
- They will communicate with you through emails and mails. Check your inbox frequently!
- You need to make your own checklist of things needed to be done. Most of the forms (and letters) have their own deadlines so it's safe to settle everything off before it's due.
- This is where applying passport (for those who do not own one yet), visa and paying SEVIS Fee comes.
- If you have any seniors there, do contact them. I'm sure there are several Facebook groups created for this purpose.
- Usually the university would want your final exam transcript (ADP final exam), so it's up to you either you want to request for official copies from the ADP office and mail to the university yourselves, or you want the university to directly send the transcripts on your behalf (which makes things much easier, isn't it?). The latter was what I did recently, but unfortunately the university I'm heading off to told me this morning that they haven't received my transcripts yet. I'm quite worried because I've requested it for nearly a month. So what happened?? Anyway, make sure to call your ADP office and ask them for the progress of sending your transcripts. Give them two weeks before you make a call, okay.
- Choosing your hostel and meal plan are something you're going to do online. You can even choose your roommate/(s). Not going to explain this further.

7) Seventh phase: Transferring Credits
- Read the overview of ADP here : American Degree Program (ADP)
- If you are applying as a transfer student, you don't have to worry about this.
- This is for freshmen. Apparently, going as a freshman means that you need to start from zero -- learn all the basic subjects again (Calculus 1, Chemistry 1, English 1 etc) like any other freshmen do. The reason why someone would apply under the category of freshman instead of as a transfer student is because he/she intends to fly off one year early (in another words, do his/her ADP for only one year). Kindly note that most of transfer students, but not all of them, do their ADP for at least two years. Why is that so? This is because all universities have set certain requirements to classify someone as a transfer student.
For example, 'a transfer student must have at least 33 credit hours'. If he is not up to the challenge of taking more than one heavy subjects every semester (coz heavy subject has higher credit hours), he might need four to five semesters to reach that 33 credit hours. Well, I'm just making this up. Refer to the website for correct numbers! But, you get the idea, don't you?
- You will be asked to mail your course descriptions for every subject you took together with your exam papers, quizzes, lab reports, assignments and exercises. This thing has its deadline. If you don't want to keep your exam papers anymore, then feel free to just mail them to your university. However, unlike some people, I prefer to keep the original exam papers with me, so I made photocopies of all my exam papers and sent them those instead. Why did I do that? Well, firstly, I admit I am a hoarder. I can't resist the temptation to keep, umm, things with me. Secondly, if I were to give the original exam papers, what is left with me? What if something happens to the document on the way it is being delivered? What if it went missing? Then, I won't have any proofs for my marks, my projects and such. I don't want to risk it. You've got to prepare for the worst, friend. But I am taking it to the States with me later, you know, in case they insist to see the original ones.

8) Eight phase: Passport - Apply/ Renew
- In case you haven't renewed your passport/ own a passport, please do so quickly. You're gonna need it to pay for Visa Application Fee and to fill in the DS160 Online Form. Your passport needs to be valid for at least until six months after you go for the States. My former passport was actually valid until early 2014, which was good enough as it exceeded six months. However, I don't want to have the trouble of renewing it later in the States, so I decided to renew my passport so that it will be valid until the month I'll be graduating. Saves me the troubles.

9) Ninth Phase: Receiving Your I-20 Form and Paying for SEVIS Fee
- You'll get your I-20 form and instruction to pay the SEVIS Fee from your university. They will mail it to you as soon as you're done with paying the enrollment deposit.
- I-20 form is required when you are going for visa interview. Keep it safely. The university won't produce it twice.
- You can pay for SEVIS Fee here.
- SEVIS Fee is compulsory to all students intending to study in USA. It's about $200.00. Additional of $35.00 if you want them to send the receipt of your payment within a week, which they called as 'expedited delivery'. It is an online payment, with the link to the website written on the instruction paper. You need to pay SEVIS Fee first before you can apply for Visa. This is because you will need the code number from SEVIS form (eg. N000xxxxxxxx) to finally submit your DS160 online form later.
- After you have submitted the online payment, you will be instructed to print out your confirmation form (contains your personal details, your code number etc).
- You need to bring BOTH SEVIS Fee confirmation form and SEVIS Fee receipt to the visa interview.

10) Tenth Phase:  Visa Application (Visa Application Fee, DS160 Online Form and Visa Interview).
- For full instructions on how to apply for US visa, click here. The steps are pretty easy to follow.

a) Visa Application Fee
- The amount varies with the rate of currency exchange. It's $160.00 which for the time being is equivalent to RM 496.00.
Payment can only be made at Standard Chartered Bank (any branch would do, just google for nearest branch).
- Don't forget to print your bank deposit slip first and carry it with you to the bank. It's like a general statement stating that you are paying for visa application with the exact amount written on it (eg RM 496). The bank deposit slip can be printed from here, choose 'Deposit Slip - $160 MRV Fee'. There's a due date for using the slip. If you failed to pay your fee by the due date, then you need to print the new bank slip, which has a different amount. Keep the receipt safely. You're going to need your receipt number to fill in DS160 online form. The number on your receipt that you need is only the "Unique ID" number. DON'T INCLUDE YOUR PASSPORT NO.

b) DS160 Online Form
- Fill in your DS160 form here. Read the instructions here.
- Background for your passport-sized photo must be of white color (It used to be blue, remember?). Visit here for the photo requirements.
- Print out the form confirmation page. You'll need it for your visa interview.
- After filling out the DS160 form, you can schedule an interview with the US embassy in Malaysia.

c) Visa Interview
- Set your appointment online here. Pick the earliest slot lah. Haha. Honestly, if the 7.40 am slot were still available, I would go for it. Unfortunately, I had to go for the second slot at 8.20 am, which is still considered early but umm, I hate waiting. And tak suka lambat- lambat. Haha. Early bird catches worms, remember? :)
- Your visa will be approved within two- three days if you passed the interview.
- If you failed, then you need to start all over again. (Pay visa fee, fill in DS160 form...)
- If you want to know about my interview experience at US Embassy, click here.

Thanks for reading. Hope it's going to benefit you guys, insyaAllah.

May Allah (God) bless.

MizaFirzana B. 


  1. Assalamualaikum, kak, can you recommend any reference book to help me with SAT? And what can i do with my english to prepare for that SAT writing? Is it different from spm? Please, give me some tips to improve my english, i feel so insecure with my english right now. How good you would need to be to score in SAT?

  2. Hello there. If you are looking for a preparatory center to do your SAT exam, you can contact Brixsten Academy at 0377326554


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