Elements of a Great University Application

When one applies to MS programs, there are typically 6 components that go into the application process:

  1. Academic Transcripts (for the GPA)
  2. The GRE Score
  3. The TOEFL / IELTS score
  4. A Resume
  5. A Statement of Purpose
  6. Letters of Recommendation

While past academic success (as evidenced through a high GPA, a great GRE score) and proficiency in English (shown by a high TOEFL / IELTS score) are basic hygiene factors needed for top universities to consider your application seriously, it’s really the quality of your Resume, Statement of Purpose and your Letters of Recommendation that will drive the admissions committee to an admit or reject decision. That’s why it is important to make sure that these parts of your application are crafted in a compelling manner.

Now there are several ways to write these components in an effective manner – but after analyzing hundreds of applications, we’ve found out that no matter what the style of writing is, the common thread between all great applications are the following elements:

Proof of research and technical aptitude

Primarily, MS programs are research oriented and so universities will prefer selecting candidates that have shown flair for it. The best way to show this is by citing examples of technical papers that you might have published, or by writing about any applied research project that you might have implemented. These accomplishments can be written as line items in your resume and the details of these can be described in your Statement of Purpose. You could also write about any technical work you have carried out either as a full time job or as an internship. While writing about these experiences, it’s important to specify the area of work / research and quantify the results as best as you can.


Clear articulation of goals

Universities obviously want students who will go on to do great things. This quite frankly, takes time. Most great people start out by identifying goals early in life and then work relentlessly towards achieving those to become successful years later. So, the admissions committee wants to know if you at least have taken the time to reflect and identify your true calling – because a person without goals, is like a ship that has set sail without a destination.


To articulate your goals clearly, be as specific as possible and do mention why that particular goal is important to you. By adding why the goal is important to you, your application becomes much more authentic and persuasive.


Interest and fit for the program

Once you have articulated your goals, and mentioned them in your SOP, you need to convince the admissions committee why going to that particular university and program is so important to you and how you are a great fit for the program. Are there any courses available only at the particular university that you are applying to that will help your career progression? Or is the university carrying out research in an area that is core to your career goals? Find such details and add them to your application. Additionally, reflect on how you are a fit for that university. Normally, each university has its own culture. Your job is to find out and communicate how you not only fit, but will also contribute towards strengthening that culture. For example: MIT clearly states on their website that they value rigorous analytical thinking, ingenuity, hands on problem solving and big new ideas. So if you’re applying to MIT you have to show that these qualities are a part of your personality and explain how you will contribute positively towards this ethos.


Unique strengths supported through tangible examples

While you will end up directly or indirectly communicating your strengths in your Resume or Statement of Purpose; universities will want to see proof of this through examples or through validation of your strengths in Letters of Recommendations. Your strengths should enable you to achieve your career goals and should be illustrated through detailed, tangible examples. Write about times when you leveraged your unique strengths to achieve something extraordinary. Or, you could have your recommenders give such examples on your behalf.


Strong writing

This might be the most crucial element of a great application because without it, it’s impossible to get all points across effectively. Strong writing is characterized by a solid structure, a logical flow, succinctness, correct grammar and spelling. While this is a high standard to adhere to, it’s not necessary to hit all the checkpoints in the first draft of your resume, SOP or LORs. This comes with practice and editing. Often, a good way to approach writing is to first lay the points, arrange them in logical flow and then build sentences and paragraphs around the points. Finally, check your writing for grammar and spelling.


We are confident that if you include all the above elements in your application, you will maximize your chances of getting into your dream program. To get more insights about the application process or understand how you should craft your application, schedule a free one on one counselling session with us. Just leave your details in the enquiry form on this page and we’ll get back to you soon.