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7 Ways to get Positively Noticed as a Graduate School Applicant by Dr. Don Martin

When attempting to accomplish anything important in life, there are many do’s and don’ts.  When it comes to applying for graduate school abroad, the don’ts can profoundly affect the likelihood of being accepted. However, even more important are the do’s.

Over more than three decades as a graduate school admissions dean, I witnessed dozens of positive steps taken by applicants. Of these, seven particular and simple steps, beyond the preparation of applications that all candidates undertake, will help you get positively noticed by the admissions committee.

1.  Carefully consider and prepare for your first contact.
For better or worse, it is not a cliché: first impressions are lasting and take a long time to change. At some point you will engage in a first contact with the admissions office. Whether via email, phone or in person, it is critical to make sure you do everything possible to plan and prepare your first outreach. As you do, focus on leaving a lasting positive impression. After that first contact, take the time to send a hand-written thank you note. Despite an “instant messaging” world, a hand-written note really stands out and is a great way to positively reinforce your initial interaction.
2.  Follow directions.
This cannot be overstated. Do what you are asked to do—no more, no less. If you have a legitimate question about an application requirement, ask. But please do not assume. One’s ability to follow directions sends a very positive message and allows a candidate to move through the application review process without the unwanted attention many applicants receive simply because they did not do as instructed.
3.  Choose recommenders who really know you.
While submitting a letter of recommendation from someone famous or a prominent graduate may seem like an impressive strategy, if these individuals do not really know you the impact is entirely lost. Your best approach with recommenders is to ask someone who knows you very well, has been associated with you for at least a year, and can point to and validate specific personal, professional and academic qualities that make you stand out.
4.  Smile.
A smile is part of the universal language. It is simple, easy to do and can make a huge difference. When meeting any of the admissions staff or even speaking on the phone, smile. It sounds so simplistic, but it works. It helps lessen nervousness, lightens the moment, and makes personal interactions more relaxed. It also demonstrates that you are a nice person. And believe me, admissions folks, like all of us, respond positively to nice people.
5.  Stay calm and keep your cool, always.
Admissions personnel are not perfect. They sometimes make mistakes. It is not altogether uncommon for certain elements of one’s application to be misfiled or disappear. This is obviously not deliberate, nor is it a test.  Given the amount of time one takes to prepare an application, and even more, if the institution is one’s first choice, it would be easy become unraveled if something goes wrong. But do not let that happen.

Keep your cool and see it as an opportunity to practice handling disappointment and the mistakes of others, which you’ll undoubtedly be doing throughout your life. Be appreciative and positive. Do your part to correct the situation as soon as possible. Believe me, when application issues arise, admissions staffers often receive quite negative reactions from applicants. So remain calm and responsive. It will help you stand out in a very positive way.

6.  Demonstrate that you did your homework.
In American universities, graduate school students, staff and faculty have great pride in their institutions and expect the same from applicants. Showing that you have a broad understanding of the institution, the program, and the application process will make a positive difference.

One excellent way to impress and demonstrate due diligence is familiarizing yourself with faculty research. Select one or two faculty members with whom you would like to study and review their published research. When communicating with decision-makers or faculty, be prepared to discuss elements of their expertise in appropriate context. Demonstrating that you cared enough to explore academic information of this depth at this stage in the process, and can discuss it intelligently, will make a strong impression.
7.  You want in. So, let them know.
Let the admissions committee know you want to attend. If a program is honestly among your top choices, or your number-one choice, it is perfectly acceptable to let the admissions office know that. But here is a critical tip: when you do, be prepared to explain what you believe you bring to the table as an applicant. Provide specific and relevant reasons that illustrate the match. Also, focus on issues that are important and highly valued by that institution. Remember, the application process is a relationship-building exercise. Therefore, begin the relationship motivated not only by the value the program gives you, but also by the value you bring to the program.
All the best with your graduate school application(s)!
Dr. Don Martin, Ph.D., is a higher education enrollment expert, author, and former admissions dean at Columbia University, University of Chicago, Northwestern University and Wheaton College.   For additional tips on the graduate school application process, visit

The complete guide to buying your first car in the U.S

As an international student, expat or international professional in the US, your options for securing a car loan with reasonable rates are limited—let alone being able to buy your first car. Many foreigners relocating to the US need a vehicle to go to class, work or simply need to commute on a daily basis, but due to their lack of credit history buying their first car can be difficult. Today, international students and expats can rely on car loan providers such as Lendbuzz, but a comprehensive understanding of financing is still important when buying your first car.
Whether you’re searching for car loans, auto financing solutions or the lowest auto loan rates possible, you’ve come to the right place. Below is your guide to buying your first car in the US.

Step One: The Importance of Building Credit History
As an international student with no credit history or SSN, you will need to understand the difficulties that lie ahead when purchasing a vehicle in the U.S. A lack of U.S. credit history leads to limited options for taking out any loan, specifically a car loan. Having thin credit history leaves you with few car loan options, where you will most likely have to accept high interest rates or even have to lease a vehicle instead of buying.
If you’re an international student or professional, you could search for lower-interest rates through international manufacturers. These manufacturers can offer rate reductions to foreigners, but they generally don’t reduce them below 10%. If you have a basic line of credit, be prepared to pay a 10 to 20 percent down payment for a car. You will also need to finance or lease the vehicle within the timeframe and term of your U.S. visa.
Step Two: Finding a Car Loan Lender
Since international students have little to no credit history, it is very difficult to find a car loan lender that will give you a loan at a low interest rate. Most car loan lenders will charge an 18% to 20% APR (annual percentage rate) which is the amount of interest you will have to pay annually on the car loan. A reasonable APR rate for a car loan should be between 4.9% to 12% APR.

You can search for car loan lenders through your local bank, credit card company (some credit card companies such as Capital One offer car loans), or your local car dealership can recommend an auto loan lender for you. However, the easiest solution for international students would be to take out a car loan through an online lender such as Lendbuzz since they offer reasonable interest rates by taking into account factors such as educational background, job experience or family income.

Step Three: Selecting a Vehicle
Next, you will need to choose the right vehicle. While some requirements are essential, it’s a good idea to finance your car around the above-mentioned expenses. First, determine your area of residence and find local car dealerships in your area. Keep in mind that if you’re living in the city, a smaller economy sized vehicle will save you money in the long run and will be easier to park. If you’re in the suburbs, consider car that is economical on gas.
Step Four: Facing the Insurance Problem
Once you’ve leased or purchased your vehicle, you’ll need to get auto insurance. In America, financial institutions require auto insurance plans if either a lease or loan is present on a vehicle. Your auto insurance rate will be determined by two things:
  Your U.S. credit history
  Your U.S. driving history
Again, having thin U.S. credit history is a problem. Similar to obtaining a loan, your criteria for securing car insurance as an international student or professional can be expensive. U.S. insurance companies do, however, offer specific rates for foreigners. Do the necessary research and find an insurance quote comparison website, and make sure that you search for insurance quotes for individuals with a thin credit history.
Step Five: Registering Your Vehicle
Your vehicle can’t be legally driven in the U.S. until it is registered. To register your car, you will need to acquire and present a valid U.S. driver’s license—which can be obtained at your local Department of Motor Vehicles. Then, you will need to provide proof of insurance coverage.
During the registration process, you will need to pay the sales tax on your vehicle. Unfortunately, the sales tax amount is not included in the vehicle’s original price and needs to be paid during the time of registration and delivery. If you are leasing a vehicle, you can pay the sales tax via monthly payments.
Although, it is more challenging for an international student or professional to purchase a car in the U.S., there are now more financing and car loan options available to you such as Lendbuzz. Taking a car loan is also a great way to increase your credit score so that you can take out other loans in the future. Just remember to finance your vehicle responsibly, secure a quality car loan, receive your US driver’s license and find the best insurance quote for your vehicle.
Lendbuzz is an online lender for expats & international students in the U.S. Our car financing platform offers international professionals attractive car financing solutions – without U.S. credit history or SSN.
If you are looking to buy a car –  new or pre-owned – Lendbuzz partners with a wide range of auto dealers, to offer you a seamless car purchasing experience. Lendbuzz offers the lowest rates, quick & easy online approval (less than 5 minutes), and consulting services on how to build your U.S. credit history and receive the best car loan rates.

Visit Lendbuzz or contact to learn more: (617) 528-9834

Lendbuzz is an online platform providing car loans and financing for international students and car loan for expats in the U.S.
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Misconceptions about America and US culture

As an international student, studying abroad is more than exams and classes. It is also about learning new cultures and meeting different types of people. Sometimes though, we go into a new culture with stereotypes and biases. American culture has a very different feel than European or Asian cultures and there are some misunderstandings about Americans. Here are some common misconceptions about America that are not always true.

Americans are not curious about the world
The reason that this is believed is because in many parts of the world, people watch America’s media and listen to American music, making American culture widely known.  However, Americans do not pay too much attention to other countries media so they are not as aware. And while Americans are statistically not good at geography, it is taught in schools and there are options to take geography in higher education. Still, try to get over these stereotypes: usually in colleges or universities, American students get more and more open to the world around them and you will surely have great conversations about cultural differences with your new friends on campus. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of American students spend a semester or year abroad and get exposed to other cultures through this experience.
Americans don’t appreciate football (soccer)
Yes, it is called soccer in America. However, soccer participation among youths in America is among the highest in the world. Soccer is the third most watched sport in America after (American) football and baseball. You can even watch popular games on TV as there are some American channels that show soccer games and follow all types of international sports: FoxSport, ESPN, Gol TV are among the most famous sports channels. Playing sports on campus, whether it is soccer or American football is a great way to meet new friends and to get into the local culture. Do not miss those opportunities.

Americans are overly patriotic
This is true in certain cases, Americans are very proud to be American. You can see the American flag easily in the streets. However, it is not uncommon in Europe and the rest of the world to be patriotic of your own country. If you meet someone from India or Russia or anywhere in the world, they are just as patriotic as Americans. Americans also know how to have fun with their patriotism. The 4th of July is a holiday celebrating American independence and it is one of the most fun holidays. There are a lot of fireworks that are free to go and see and Americans usually have cookouts and grill hamburgers. This is a good opportunity to try some American cuisine and get invited in American families or with your new friends on campus.

If you don’t have healthcare, you won’t get any help
Yes, America does not have universal health care. However, even if you don’t have healthcare coverage you will still be taken care of. Doctors have taken the Hippocratic oath that says they must take care of any and all patients that need their help. You may receive a large bill in the mail later though…
All Americans are obese and lazy
Probably the most popular stereotypes about Americans is that they are all obese and eat nothing but McDonald's and other types of fast food. While there are some who fit the stereotype, most Americans aren’t fat and actually care about fitness and health and eating healthy. Sports and fitness are an active part of American society. You will surely experience it on your campus while studying abroad. You might be surprised by how young Americans can be body conscious and how you can easily find healthy food and places to exercise. It is all a matter of choice.

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Celebrate American holidays while studying abroad

Holidays in America can be an exciting experience, especially American specific holiday’s such as 4th of July and Thanksgiving. International students should experience these holidays while they are studying abroad in American universities. However, religious holidays are a bit different depending on your religious beliefs. Christmas is a big holiday in America and you should not have a problem finding a church near you. As for other religions you will be free to observe your holidays or prayer requirements. As long as you give your professors notice and communicate with them you may get exemptions for your religious practices. Admissions, registration, class attendance, exams and assignments may be pushed back, but remember to communicate this with your professors. You will not be penalized for missed classes though you most likely will have to make up the work.

General holidays in America
Some holidays are more popular than others in the US. The 4th of July is widely celebrated with beer, barbecues and fireworks along with many events to attend that are 4th of July themed such as concerts, firework displays and sporting events. In addition to the 4th of July there is also Thanksgiving and New Year's which both feature famous parades and, for Thanksgiving, there are always football games to watch. That is if you watch American football. It is kind of a tradition in many households to watch football on Thanksgiving and there could possibly be some sort of gathering on campus somewhere to celebrate thanksgiving and watch football during your studies abroad. It is also important to mention Halloween, though it is not a holiday per se, it is an American tradition. Halloween is mostly advertised toward children and parents, however college students celebrate it as well. As an international student you should experience halloween by making or buying a costume and going to have fun in a Halloween party or parade. Other holidays such as Martin Luther King day and Columbus Day are recognized, but are not really celebrated.

Below is the list of the Federal holidays
On these days, you most likely will not have classes, and most people in America do not work on these days. Government offices will also be closed on these days:

January 1st: New years eve
January 15–21 (Floating Monday): Birthday of Martin Luther King
February 15–21 (Floating Monday): Washington’s birthday
May 25–31 (Floating Monday): Memorial Day
July 4 (Fixed): Independance Day
September 1–7 (Floating Monday): Labor Day
October 8–14 (Floating Monday): Columbus Day
November 11 (Fixed): Veterans Day
November 22–28 (Floating Thursday): Thanksgiving Day
December 25 (Fixed): Christmas Day

Religious Holidays
Depending on your religion or culture you can probably find somewhere on or off campus to celebrate it. For example most Universities have prayer facilities for all major religions, as well as religious student organizations. For example, many universities have a Hillel, which is a Jewish student center, for celebrating Jewish holidays and organizing events. If you ask around campus or look on your University’s website you will probably find a group event. Additionally, you will definitely find an event off campus and friends who observe the same religion will probably be open to inviting you to celebrate with them and/or their family.

Holidays are always an exciting time, whether they are new to you or not, especially when you have never experienced them before. Remember to find an event to go to or a group to stick with during a holiday. You will not regret it. It is also important to know that any holidays you personally celebrate, religious or not, there will be an event for you or a group of people who also celebrate the same holiday. No matter what you do, have fun and make the most of your time abroad.

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Best tips to study well on an American campus

Summer is almost over, you are happy and are thinking about your new life as an international student on your dream campus. Of course, you should enjoy this great and exciting period after all of the stress of the application process, however, preparing yourself to succeed during your study abroad adventure is key. You will experience a lot of changes once on campus such as the method of studies, the food, the culture, the social events. You will need to adapt and learn about yourself. You might discover a lot about your skills and limits.

One important preparation is to get ready to study and learn on an American campus. Once you receive your schedule of classes for the semester, you might find it to be very light, but it is just an illusion, a lot of work will be required from you.
Here are our best tips, to prepare yourself for the studying habits of an American campus:
Schedule and classes rhythm: You will be surprised once you get your semester schedule, seeing the low number of classes. Compared to many universities in Europe and in other parts of the world, the system of learning in American universities gives a lot of autonomy to the students. Still, do not fall into the trap, usually if you have 1 hour of class you might need several hours in the library to study and prepare for it. Your schedule will probably have about 10 to 15 hours of class per week, but this means double the amount of personal preparation work! If you are a future law student, you should look up the Socratic method which is used on American campuses. In a nutshell, in any class, you may be called upon by name to give an answer for a question from the professor, in front of the whole class. Therefore, you need to be prepared.
Plan out your study schedule and stick to it: All this freedom is great and exciting but this might become a significant issue at the end of the semester, before the exams, if you did not study regularly. You should prepare a schedule for your week: studying, classes, homework, sports, hobbies. Regularity is the best advice to succeed in your study abroad experience. Utilize real discipline and stick to it.

Read, read and read again: You will end up with a certain number of reading suggestions from Professors after each class: manuals, quizzes, online classes. This is not optional! Read, read, and read again. Actually, all the learning material your Professors will give you is essential in the understanding of the class, and this is also why you will not have so many hours of classes. It is essential to read and study all the materials and books recommended for each class.
Do not hesitate to contact the Professors: Contrary to many other countries, on an American campus, you might experience a different relationship with your teachers than the ones you had in your home country. The Professors are extremely involved in the studies of their students, they are easy to contact and you will also learn a lot from them directly. Do not miss out on this opportunity! The relationship is less formal than in many other cultures and you should really take this opportunity to improve in your studies. You can go have a coffee with your Professor and talk about your studies and future aspirations. You never know, maybe that Professor will end up being your advisor for your doctorate or a recommender for you. And, the Professor’s experience can contribute a lot to your success.
We hope these tips will help you to succeed in your study abroad experience, and to fully take advantage of this adventure.
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