Apply to Top universities

A student wrote to me: “Why top U.S. universities such as Stanford, Harvard, and Princeton are difficult to get in? What do I need to get accepted to these U.S. universities?

Answer: There are several reasons that students want to attend the top schools: Most of these schools have excellent faculties, many are famous scientists, artists, musicians, presidents of the large company, or established politicians and government officers. Most of their curriculum are updated frequently to meet the job market demands or even ahead of industry trends. Top schools have a very strong relationship with the industries and companies. Because of the selective nature, they also have excellent students, and the fierce competition among them create excellent graduates who are in high demand in the job market.

Top universities are very selective, you need a “perfect record” to get accepted. Besides having good grades, you need to have a good test score (SAT for undergraduate or GRE for the graduate program.) As a foreign student, you need good TOEFL or ELTS score to prove that you have excellent English language proficiency. Most top universities have a rigorous training program and highly competitive, without strong language skills, you will not be able to catch up.

You also need to write an essay explaining the reason why do you want to attend the school and what are you going to do with your career. These schools want to make sure that you can handle the required course works as evidence in your performance in certain subjects. (Your Grades) You need to show them your commitment and determination that you will be able to complete their rigorous requirements and know what to do with your career. (Your Career Plan.)

Make sure you check every word and sentence of your personal statement is spelled correctly and is grammatically correct. Ask your professors or others to review and make sure that it is complete and makes sense. Admissions officers often notice some mistakes, which lead them to think that you are a careless person. (Note: This is how they determine whether you are well-thought, smart, and passionate and motivated enough to be their students.)


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University
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