How I got into one of top 40 universities in the US with a beginner’s English level

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Armaya Doremi
Armaya Doremi

In this article, our contributor Armaya Doremi encourages us to believe in ourselves. Armaya writes: If I can get into one of the top 40 Universities in the U.S. with a beginner’s English level, why can’t you?

Having a degree in one of the top universities in the U.S is a perfect dream for everyone. American universities come in a variety of forms that serves different educational needs for international students. On top of that, a strong diversity and inclusion in the country make the education culture itself become the most attractive feature in the U.S. higher education system. Because of these reasons, it is arduous to get into Northeastern University, one of the top universities in the US.

As all we know, lots of requirements need to be completed before applying to the university, such as your English proficiency, standard GPA, personal statement, recommendation letters, and so on. Though you may have met all the requirements, it is possible that you might not get accepted if you failed to align with the University’s expectation. Universities want to make sure that the major that you choose would benefit you in the future. If you can’t have a vivid explanation as to how you are going to apply the courses in the future, they might give the opportunity to another candidate.

I sometimes ask myself “why is it harder to get accepted than to finish the program?” The answer is because the requirements before getting accepted are a lot more than after getting accepted. There are thousands of people who want to get the degree, so we just need to put in 100% effort to make sure that the university accepts our application. And it’s easier to finish the program because, with your commitment and diligence, I’m sure you’ll be successful as a student and can make the educational experience less stressful.

Armaya and the president of Northeastern University.
Armaya and the president of Northeastern University.

Here’s what I did to get into one of the top universities in the U.S. (it’s acceptable for a private or scholarship).

  1. Why?

Understanding why you want to study abroad and how you will achieve that are pivotal, and they must be specific. You may want to have a couple of good points on your pocket as to why you need to be here. For instance, you want to expand your international networks after completing the degree so that you can use that connection when you go back to your country, you want to get the international degree so that it will help you to work in the U.S, or you want to challenge yourself to learn the new culture so that it will make you have a broader mindset. This is important because you don’t want to end up playing and not doing anything just because “this country is amazing.”

Also, there will be lots of distractions and, once you get distracted, it will be hard for you to catch up.  Since I have a clear goal as to why I want to study in America, I have been doing very well in school. I have always been able to manage my study life and my personal life properly. However, it doesn’t mean that I have never gotten a distraction. I remember that, 2 years ago, I was busy making my YouTube channel and spent most of my time editing my videos. I forgot that I had to focus on my studies, and it brought my grade went down drastically since I wasn’t really focusing on my assignment.

These are all about the process. In the end, you must be able to answer yourself “why you are here.”

Armaya and friends
Armaya and friends.
  1. Learn the language seriously!

Don’t ever think to get a degree abroad if you can’t even speak the language unless your aim is to study English in that country. If that’s the case, then you’re on the right track. In a university environment, you will have tons of assignments and reading materials, and most of the materials use a formal language. For instance, I have zero knowledge of English before applying to Northeastern University. “Apple”, “Love”, “I like you”, and “I miss you” were probably the most common words I had known. I couldn’t speak, write, or read at all.

At that point, I knew what my weaknesses were, and I knew that it would be a big mistake if I couldn’t speak the language. If I had not learned the language, I wouldn’t have been able to write my personal statement when applying even though my English teacher helped me to fix the grammar. Some people would hire someone else to write their personal statement, but I totally disagree with that. For me, a personal statement is the first start to practice your writing skills. I recalled that I could only write two sentences when preparing my personal statement and it took me two months to get it done. Remember? I was still in the beginner level.

Learning English has also motivated me to do my research because most of the information on the Internet is in English. It will make you get used to the English environment where you must speak, write, and read in English. Don’t waste your time preparing if you don’t have any motivation to learn and improve your English. If you’re already fluent in English, you can skip this step.

  1. Do proper research!

It takes some time to get the right information that you need. Thus, you should give yourself some time to get what you want and do it step by step. For instance, my first research was finding which university had the major that I wanted. However, make sure you pick the states and cities that you want to go. Boston was my choice, so it was easy for me to choose the university that has the best benefit for my future. You can also compare the rankings among the universities because you don’t want to study in a college that has a smaller reputation.

Once you got some choices for the universities with the major you want, make sure you read all the requirements and prepare for them. English proficiency and other additional exams, such as GRE and GMAT, are some of the most important requirements you must complete. That’s why I mentioned on my previous point that you should learn the language; otherwise, your preparation will be useless. Some universities might not accept the language proficiency score that is below the requirements while other universities might. Thus, please make sure you’re aware of that.

Also, try to create separate notes from the requirements and make a timeline of how you will prepare them. Don’t forget to check the lists that you have done. Trust me: it’s going to make your preparation much easier.

  1. Ask Questions!

Even if you know the country very well, make sure you get the current information. Most of the previous information that you have might have changed. For example, living expenses in Boston in 2015 and 2019 are different, and you don’t want to mess up your budget planning. Also, the TOEFL requirements are sometimes different every year. I recalled that for me to get into my program, I needed at least 90 for the TOEFL. However, the TOEFL requirement for the following year was much higher.

Hence, it is vital to update your sources. Not only did I ask questions to the staff at the university, but also to the random people who live in the country. Social Media, Instagram, was also a platform that I used to gather that information and connect to other students. Once I arrived in Boston, I had some friends already. Isn’t that cool?

However, you want to make sure you ask the right people. That’s why you should do your proper research.

With coworker leading summer orientation.
With coworker leading summer orientation.
  1. Are you willing to sacrifice your time?

If you really want to study abroad, you should prioritize everything that is necessary. Believe it or not, I had more than one year of preparation before applying for Northeastern. It was the longest journey that I have ever had to prepare for a school.

One thing that I realized at that moment was that I couldn’t speak English by any means. So, what I did was put my whole effort into learning English at English First in Jakarta, Indonesia. I would always arrive at my language school at 11 AM and come back home around 10 PM. I stopped working and just focused on fixing my grammar while trying to have a conversation in English. I always tried to speak English with my classmates, and it became a habit while I was outside the language school. Many judgements were thrown at me just because I barely speak Indonesian. I just wanted to be able to speak English. I had no choice. Figuring out how to improve my English was my priority. I had to force myself so that I could also write and read in English.

I watched several English movies and read English books, which I sometimes had no idea what I read. I studied until 2 AM to practice my TOEFL exam. Some may disagree with the idea of studying until late midnight. They said that I had to study smart, not study hard, which is the opposite of my opinion.

In the end, I believed in the process, and it paid off. And I was 27-year-old at that time. Imagine a 27-year old woman who couldn’t speak English, and she is now taking her last courses before getting her Master of Science at one of the top 40 universities in the U.S.

  1. Do you believe in the prayer?

This one is quite personal, but it helps. It is not about religion; it is about being honest to the universe that we need a hand.

  1. Double check your lists!!

Double-checking what you have done is necessary because you do not want to miss anything that you are supposed to prepare. Suppose that my timeline is to study every day, but, in the real time, I only study for 3 days. I missed my timeline already.

When you double check everything, it helps you to gauge whether you are doing your process properly. When you miss something, you will remember when you get everything check listed so that you can enjoy your time since you know that you are done for your preparation. What do you think? Everything is about process. Do it and feel as if you will the way you live.

One important key: believe in yourself.
One important key: believe in yourself.
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Armaya Doremi
Having struggled in learning English in her late 20’s, Armaya Doremi is finally pursuing a master’s degree at Northeastern University. Armaya Doremi, who was born in Medan, Indonesia, is doing a Corporate and Organizational Communication program at Northeastern University, concentrating in Public and Media Relations. She had complete her diploma at University of North Sumatra, Medan, Indonesia, and her bachelor’s degree in Communication at Prof. Moestopo (beragama) University, Jakarta, Indonesia.Armaya Doremi is always interested in Communication field. She is now expanding her knowledge in Social Media Marketing. Thanks to her ability to easily get along with others, Armaya Doremi currently works as a Student Life and Social Media Coordinator at Northeastern University. She tries to apply her communication skills on her day-to-day’s job in the university. For her, everyone might know what communication is, but not all of understand how to utilize all theories of the communication itself.Her goal after taking the program is to be able to manage all communication function in a corporation. Follow her social media networks: Instagram: @armayadoremi | Youtube: Armaya Doremi | Twitter: @armayadoremi | Facebook: @armayadoremi

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