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BeBeyond留学申请九步第四步:做个好的申请计划 [复制链接]

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发表于 2006-9-13 16:12:01 |显示全部楼层
The 9-Step Guide to Successful Applications to US Schools
[size=xx-large]4. Planning Your Application

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----------------------------------------------------------------------We all know that we need a plan for our application so we won't be late in meeting the application deadlines. "Experts" tell us to request school catalogs in August, take the GRE exam no later than December, and mail out applications by February 15. Is this the right way to plan our application process? Yes, but it's only partially right.

If you think that planning consists of simply allowing enough time to finish everything required by the applications, you have missed the critical point! Planning your application is about being very clear about what you want to achieve (and when), knowing how to achieve it, and having an alternative plan if your original one fails.

In other words, a good plan has three parts: (1) Goals and objectives, (2) strategies and action plans to achieve those goals and objectives, and (3) alternative (backup) plans in case things fail.

Goals and Objectives
The most important part in a plan is its goals and objectives. Without them, you are wasting your time.

Let's assume that you have thought through major issues about whether you should pursue an education in the US or not. Let's say that the conclusion is that yes, you should. And you have also assessed your qualifications and decided that you want to get into one of the best universities by August 2000. This is your goal.

Now in order to achieve your goal, you need to make your application competitive. After reading Step 3: Make Your Application Competitive and doing some long, hard thinking, you have come up with some answers to the competitive issues.

For example, you want to:

Publish 1-2 new research papers by the year end;
Have two strong reference letters ready in two months;
Score at least 1,900 on the October GRE test;
Rewrite your application essay to make it more convincing;
Take one more course to strengthen your existing academic background.
Little goals such as those five above are called objectives. Objectives are the necessary requirements for achieving your goal. According to your plan, you believe that once you fulfill all or most of the objectives, you should be able to achieve your goal and get into one of the top American universities.

Criteria for Goal Setting: There are two criteria as to whether you have done an adequate job in setting up your goal and objectives.

(1) Are the goal and objectives clear and specific? Ask yourself questions such as "What is my goal in preparing this application?" If you know nothing more than the names of the schools to which you are applying, you don't have a clear goal. If you are applying to all kinds of schools -- from the worst to the best -- with equal energy, you don't have a specific goal and you are only trying your luck like a stupid gambler.

You also need to be clear and specific about your objectives. Don't simply fill out an application form or get an application essay done on time. Think about what you want to achieve by finishing them! If you know that you want your references to show your research potential and you understand that you're taking an additional mathematics class to build a stronger quantitative background, you are clear and specific about what you are doing.

(2) Are your goal and objectives practical? Is your goal of applying to the best schools realistic, given your background and the time you have available for preparing your application? What is the probability that you will get financial aid if you change your major? It would be ideal that you can reach all the five objectives listed above. But if you realize that it is impossible to finish even half of them in a short period of time, your objectives are impractical. You need to modify your objectives or reduce the number of them for your plan.

Strategies and Action Plans
Once you have developed clear, specific, and practical goals and objectives, you have to come up with right strategies and specific action plans with time estimates for completing them.

To devise a winning action plan, keep asking yourself the following three questions:

(a) What is the best way to meet each one of my objectives? For some people, the best way to get a high GMAT score might be to study alone...while others might do better by going to a preparation school.

(b) How much time do I need to accomplish this specific objective? You shouldn't just have an objective of writing a strong essay and assume that you can accomplish it in three days. You may need three months to practice your writing before you can even write an adequately good essay. Without good estimates of the time required for actions, you will fail at the end.

(c) What is the probability that my action plans will work? If the chance is low, is it because the objective is impractical or the strategy/action is ineffective? You will only realize the impossibility of reaching some of your objectives or flaws in your action plans after you have started to pursue them. Therefore it is extremely important to keep evaluating your plans and redefining them accordingly.

Alternative Plans
Mostly, nothing will work as perfectly as planned. Therefore a good plan always has alternative plans to handle failures or unexpected situations.

If your primary plan is to get into one of the best schools in the US, what do you do if it fails? Your alternative plans can be many. For example, you can apply to some average universities in addition to the best ones. If your primary plan fails, you can still be able to go to a second-tier school. Or you can wait for next year to re-apply. In that case, your alternative plan is to try one more time.

You also need alternative plans for achieving your objectives. If you have difficulty in improving your writing skills, should you hire a private teacher to help you? Alternatively, you could give up on the idea of writing a great essay and, instead, try to get a quality recommendation letter to improve your competitiveness. To have an alternative plan also means that when you plan on taking the GRE test in October, you know you will have a second chance to retake it in December if your first try fails. (This is one of many alternatives.)

Sense of Planning, Matter of Practice
After reading this Step, many of you are probably overwhelmed by how complex planning seems to be. You might even lose confidence in or become confused by and frustrated with how you are going to plan your applications.

Don't worry! The main reason that you are feeling so is that we Chinese are very unfamiliar with making decisions for ourselves. Once you start following the guidelines we have discussed here, you will quickly improve your planning skills and decision-making capabilities. Spend time to think about and talk with others about planning issues and you will quickly develop your sense of planning. At the end, you will be handsomely rewarded by practicing your planning skills.

Remember this: if you reduce 10% of your time for preparing the TOEFL or GRE test and instead, use the saved time for planning, your probability of getting to America will increase 100% or even more. So, develop a sound plan for your application!

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