Monday, January 9, 2017

A Year in the Life of a Study Abroad Applicant - Part VII: Starting my Application to Study Abroad

Hi everyone!

(Almost) welcome back for the spring semester! I know class is still one week away, but I’m already thinking about the things I need to do when I get back to campus. This semester will get off to a busy start for me – and all of my fellow Tulane students out there who are planning to study abroad in the fall – because our Tulane applications are due on February 17th! The application is online on the OSA website – basically, when you are visiting the program brochure page of the program you’d like to apply for (as an example, here is the University College Dublin program brochure), you can just click the “Apply Now” button on the top right-hand side of the page. Then you log in to the site using your Tulane username and password, select the term and, voila, you have created an application!

Before I get into the weeds here, I want to make sure that everyone understands the difference between the Tulane application and the secondary application. In order to study on a Tulane-approved program, you have to apply through Tulane on the OSA website. This post will go into a lot of detail explaining that application! Many other programs have what we call a “secondary” application as well that you will have to complete. For example, to go to UCD (University College Dublin), you have to fill out the Tulane application and the University College Dublin application, which is available on their website. These applications are not due by Tulane’s deadline, you can fill them out in advance of their deadline. It’s always a good idea to look at the secondary application while you’re filling out the Tulane application in case the secondary app requires something like a faculty recommendation or language evaluation – you can get them at the same time that you’re talking to your professors and advisors for the Tulane app! You can determine if your program has a secondary application by looking at the top part of the program brochure.

OK, back to the Tulane application: Make sure that you select the program you’re really interested in when you start your application! (If you decide to switch to a different program before the deadline, you should email the study abroad office to let them know instead of creating a new application. They’ll be happy to switch it over for you.)

Once you log in, there are two different places that are really useful to look. One is the Applicant Home. (I put a screenshot below – it’s one made by a staff member in the office, so it doesn’t have any of my info on it! She has a few more program applications out there, so ours won’t look exactly the same…) You can get there by clicking the little house icon on the left side of the toolbar. The applicant homepage is nice because you are able to see all of the messages that have been sent to you through the online system. It’s really important to check on those every now and then, in case the actual messages don’t make it through your spam filter…These emails usually contain really important information like deadlines and visa info and official letters…don’t ignore them so you don’t miss anything important!

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The second place where I will be spending a lot of time is the actual application portal. You get there by clicking on the program name on the left-hand side of the screen, under application! Once you click on the program name, you get to the application itself, which has a number of boxes on the right hand side. Basically, you should just click through each of the boxes and read the instructions. I’ll point out some of the things I think are really important for us to think about.

First off, there are some application requirements that we can control, time-wise, like our academic statement, the list of courses we plan to take, and our signatures on a bunch of the forms. They’ll be finished as soon as we finish them. On the other hand, we also have to rely on other people to complete the application! So, I’ll focus on those items today and in my next post, I’ll talk about the other requirements.

The big one: the passport! If you don’t have a passport yet, get one ASAP. Why? Well, first of all, you need to submit a copy of your passport as part of your study abroad application. If your passport application is being processed, you can write that and your study abroad application will still be considered, but I’d advise everyone to get their passports as soon as possible. Your passport should be valid for at least six months after the end of your study abroad program. So, if you’re going to Dublin until May of 2018, your passport should expire in December 2018 or later. (Seems like forever from now!) The reason for this is also the reason that you should get your passport ASAP: Visas and Customs!

Most of us will need to apply for a visa in order to study in our host country. (More details on that later.) Both, the staff who process visas and the officials that work in customs want to see that your passport is valid for at least six months after your program ends, so start doing that math and if you need to get a new passport, go ahead and apply before the semester gets too crazy.

The other part of the application that will require you to rely on other folks are all of the advisor approvals and a faculty recommendation! Since somewhere between 300 and 400 Tulane students study abroad each fall, professors and advisors have a lot of requests, so I think it’s a really good idea to ask them as early as possible. Most programs only require that a professor “approve” that you are a good candidate to study abroad. They don’t really even need to write a letter. With your academic advisor and major advisor, you’re expected to meet with them and go over the classes you plan to take and how you think they’ll fulfill your requirements at Tulane. (I did this at the end of the fall semester.) Then, just ask them if they’d sign off on your application. If they agree, you’ll type in their email address and the application system will automatically send them an email!

If your secondary application also requires faculty recommendations, language evaluations, or any other approvals, you can get all of this at the same time, or at least talk to your professors all at once. It’s definitely a good idea to know what your secondary application requires when you start the Tulane approval process

The last thing I will do is order an official transcript so that I can upload it to the application system. Ordering a transcript is super-easy and free, if you just walk over to the registrar’s office to get it. You can get one free transcript per week, and just keep in mind that it takes 3 days to process, so try to go get one as soon as you get back to campus. If you don’t mind spending a few bucks, you can also order them through. If you don’t mind spending a few bucks, you can also order them through your Gibson account online. The transcript should contain all of my grades from up to the fall semester, so just be sure that you request that the transcript is held until all of your fall grades are posted.  

OK, for those of us that don’t like big, thick paragraphs, here is a very concise pictograph to explain what I’ve just written!
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