Dear Past Self – Affan (UC Irvine ’18)

Looking for some practical college application advice? Muhammad Affan (University of California Irvine 18’) has got you covered with this nifty little cheat sheet.


Dear past me,

The US application process is complicated, isn’t it? Well, don’t panic! Here is a cheat sheet I made for your reference.

SAT Prep
Everyone aims to get a perfect SAT score, but in reality it’s really difficult, especially for those who have certain limitations, such as time, since the exam itself is about 3 hours and covers subject matter such as grammar and math. My suggestion is to start early and do the SAT exercises with your friends. If you do it alone, you would only refer to the answer scheme and don’t necessarily understand your mistakes.

Post SAT
Once you’ve gotten your results, you may or may not be satisfied with it. Don’t be discouraged as you can register for another SAT exam. Be mindful of the SAT exam schedule so that you can organize your schedule ahead of time, especially when you are studying, say, in a Pre-University program.

Average SAT score
You’ve tried your best but still didn’t get a 2400 SAT score (LOL). Don’t get too frustrated about it! In the US, admission counselors look at your credentials holistically. They try to accommodate most of their applicants through many channels such as going through your academic performance, co-curricular activities, letters of recommendation, personal statement and prompt-based essays. These are the ways that you can utilize to impress them.

Which University?
There are many factors that can guide you on picking a university that fits you. Some people may decide to study at a university where most of their friends go to. I chose to be in somewhere different simply because I’ve always wanted to study in California. Besides that, a university’s ranking can be a factor, as certain students choose a university that has high rank. The weather can also be a factor, as some students prefer temperate places such as in the west coast (Oregon, California, Arizona), while some just want to have fun in the snow like in the east coast (Pennsylvania, New York). Essentially, just do some background research on their programs, tuition fees, and learning environment so that you can find a university that makes you feel at home.

I’m stuck. I can’t do this by myself. I really need someone to guide me.
If, let’s say, you are filing information on the university’s application form and find yourself confused, just shoot the university’s counsellors an email. Don’t get too intimidated with sending an email because counsellors are humans too and they want to help you as a prospective student. Besides asking counsellors, ask your peers or someone who has undergone the process of applying for advice. I’m pretty sure they’d be glad to help you. You know what they say, “malu bertanya sesat jalan.” 

Muhammad Affan Bin Othman
University of California Irvine 18’