I would like to continue the conversation with Alexei Borovikov who answered my questions last time. Let us get more information from him today regarding the application process to film directing programs and learn about his experience in making a final list of schools, preparing transcripts, interviewing, and passing an English language test.
I know that you have applied to more than 10 schools. How did you manage that process? I prepared a final list of schools by the end of August. I knew then I had to perform many different tasks simultaneously as all the schools had different requirements for applicants and different deadlines. To deal with that situation, I sorted the universities by the deadlines. I also collected information about the necessary documents, required writing, and visual works that needed to be submitted for each school and organized it in the form of a big spreadsheet. It helped me to keep track of my progress during the application process and to do everything on time. There were very small breaks between some of the deadlines and there were days when I applied to several universities at once. It is important to allocate your time properly to complete all the tasks.
What were schools’ requirements in terms of the documents from educational institutions where you previously studied? These documents are called the transcripts. The first thing you need to do is to get the information about the requirements for the transcripts this or that school has. In my case, some schools asked me to upload a scan of my diploma, its supplement, as well as copies of those documents translated into English For others, it was necessary to send copies certified by Russian university officials by mail. Somewhere, I needed to send an evaluation report of my university diplomas that was made in compliance with the standards of the U.S. educational system. That evaluation was performed by special agencies which, of course, charged for it. Each report cost me $160, and I paid another $60 for sending a copy of this report to my home address ( I had to pay this). Another $25 was added to my bill to send each additional copy to each university, and it was another $10 when a school on my list did not accept e-Evaluation, requiring to receive it only by mail. Keep in mind that evaluation and submission the documents may take several weeks. Some schools could look past the delay of the diploma for a couple of days if you have submitted the application form itself on time, but it is better not to count on that and send everything far in advance.
It is not a secret that some students have a difficult time with collecting and providing the transcripts to U.S. schools. What was your experience? I did have to spend a lot of time and put forth tremendous effort to collect and certify all those documents. Most American universities require to send them copies of transcripts that are certified by the universities that issued them. It is expected that schools will send them in sealed envelopes directly to U.S universities, without applicants’ involvement in the process. That procedure does not take place in Russia, so I had to make the right amount of copies of each diploma and a supplement by myself (keep in mind that I have two degrees of higher education). After that, I translated all these documents in a translation agency, made copies of those translations, packaged them together, and then certified them at my universities here in Russia. I put each copy of the certified documents into a separate envelope, sealed it in university officials’ presence and had them put a stamp on the seam of each envelope. Given that one of my universities was in Siberia, it also took me several weeks to do that all that work.
How quickly did all your envelopes reach the schools? I would recommend allotting at least a month for sending completed transcripts to schools. As I had so many schools on my list and wanted to save money, I sent all my documents through the Russian Post (Pochta Rossii), where each shipment cost only 250 rubles. I tracked all the shipments by tracking number through the application. It turned out that the copies reached the universities in about 3 weeks on average. There were delays sometimes, mostly at customs. There were several times when the envelope stopped for God knows reason somewhere halfway and did not go anywhere further (at least, judging by the tracking number). Giving the credit to the Russian Post (Pochta Rossii), it always happened in the territory of the United States. Top universities often could not provide up-to-date information on whether documents had arrived or not because of the huge amount of applications coming to them at this time. As a rule, they checked all the components only after the deadlines and send notifications in case something was missing. In that case, I had to quickly send documents again by using the courier service, which usually delivered them within 4 days or a week, depending on the city.
Which exam/s did you take? American universities usually require international students to take TOEFL, the results of which are sent to universities electronically. I preferred to take the IELTS, which I personally like more for several reasons. One of the reasons is that the speaking part of the test is administered by a live examiner who can ask additional questions and respond to your answers. The downside of IELTS is that not all universities accept the results of it electronically. There were only three such schools in my list, so I had to order paper copies and pay and track the delivery to submit my scores to the other schools.
Was an interview a requirement to get admission to the school? Institutions do not always require applicants to do an interview. But if this is the university’s procedure and you are invited to interview, it is a good sign. If you notice that the time for sending invitations has already passed (usually it is March), and you have not heard from your school, be prepared for the worst! I did not get invitations from my top three universities, after which I predictably received the denials from them. I prepared for each interview specifically. I firstly recalled once again why I chose this or that university and its program, what I want to study there, and why. Secondly, I tried to find out whom I am supposed to talk with during the interview, how long it will approximately last, and which questions will be asked. All this information is available on the forum at www.filmschool.org, which is very useful in helping students to cope with stress while waiting for admissions results. I personally read it every day, and sometimes several times a day.