The application review process is holistic and requires a great deal of intention and attention. The way you treat your application is used to judge how you will fare as a student. Therefore, before you begin the process of applying to study in the United States (US) or Canada, it is crucial to know the top reasons US/Canadian schools reject international students for admission. This will help you avoid them as you prepare your application.

Below is a list of reasons to keep in mind as you complete your application

Incomplete application:

The requirements for admission are outlined on every program’s/university page. So, aspiring students know what they need to submit and the deadline for the application. Ignorance on the applicant’s part is not an excuse for failing to meet these requirements. Additionally, as an international student, you need to review any specific sections to note additional requirements that may apply to you. If you submit an application missing one or more requirements, there is a high chance your application will not be reviewed until it is complete, or you may be outrightly denied admission.

Missing the deadline:

The application deadline could be fixed or rolling. You have to submit by a specific date with fixed deadlines, or your application will not be reviewed. While rolling deadlines are flexible and later in the cycle, admission is offered as applications are reviewed. Either way, you want to plan to submit your application as early as possible and certainly before any fixed deadline. If you submit your application late, you stand the risk of being more strictly reviewed due to more applications available for comparison or denied because the class is full. Remember, admission committees comprise people who have multiple responsibilities beyond reviewing your application, and universities have internal deadlines they have to meet for admission and funding decisions. 

The application does not meet the minimum requirements:

Many programs indicate their minimum qualification, grape point average, and standardized test score requirements. If your application misses multiple of these minimum requirements, there is a higher chance you will be denied. Therefore, as you select schools for application, it is important you pay close attention to these minimum requirements and pick schools that you are at least at their minimum or preferably above. Some universities screen out and immediately reject applicants that don’t meet their minimum requirements.


In arranging and preparing an application, you tend to want to put your best foot forward. However, it is important to be careful and not let that become outright lies about yourself or your application. Universities now have multiple ways of verifying the documents you submit are original. Some schools now incorporate interviews where they get to assess those skills you claim to have. It goes on and on. Lying on an application can lead to you getting denied admission or rescinding an admission offer if it has already been made.

Application Errors:

No one is above making mistakes in an application. It can happen to even the best of us. This is why the approach to dealing with errors/mistakes is to review your application multiple times. Often, applicants make grammatical errors, submit a document meant for a different school, or have the wrong year or course in their application. I recommend you have a master document with clearly highlighted sections to edit when working on personal statements and letters of recommendation. This way, it is easier to edit the university’s name, research interests, the reason for choosing the university, etc. It is crucial to make it a habit to review documents multiple times before submission.

Weak and/or Vague Application:

You are probably applying to different schools, which is supposed to increase your chances of getting admitted. But, don’t make the mistake of submitting generic applications, or else it will defeat the purpose of submitting multiple applications. Instead, apply to each program like it’s your only option. Start each application process early to give yourself enough time to turn in a competitive application. Show the admission committee that you are passionate about the university, the program, the faculty members, the research area, etc. And, be specific (where possible) in the examples you use to highlight this passion.

A Poor Fit with the University:

It is your responsibility to establish your fit with a university or program. In your application, you want to highlight how you fit with the school’s mission, research priorities, program initiatives, and your fit with your specific area of interest. The reviewers on the admission committee will be looking for this. The easier it is for them to find this in your application, the easier it will be for the admission committee to choose you. You will be rejected if you don’t do a good job highlighting this and the admission committee doesn’t identify a strong connection between your application and the school. This part is taken seriously by the reviewers as they want to know if the school and program can fulfill your desires. I discuss this point further in the video below

Watch Video on How To Identify Schools That Are Tailor Fit For You As An International Student

Class Sizes and Acceptance Rates:

Everybody wants to go to top-tier schools, which is a good thing, but every school has a quota and class size they cannot exceed. Also, the competition for admission fluctuates with every application cycle, and the class size may not change as much. Therefore, while researching schools, pay attention to the ranking and admission rate. On the other hand, do not fill up your school list with notably more challenging schools to get into. Also, I cannot overemphasize how important it is to submit your application early. When the class is empty, the competition is very different from it has only one spot left.

Copied essay:

Plagiarism is a severe offense, and the seriousness increases the higher you go in education. A copied essay or personal statement means automatic disqualification. There are plagiarism software that can identify unoriginal essays by comparing them with other essays that have been submitted. You can get help when writing your essays and have people help you proofread, but it is unacceptable to submit any work that isn’t yours. When the admission committee identifies any form of plagiarism, you will either be denied admission or your offer could be rescinded. 

Weak Personal Statement:

Your personal statement is one of the most vital aspects of your application. It is where you get to tell your story and pull all the pieces of your application together. You cannot afford to write a vague statement or one that doesn’t accurately reflect you. Instead, you want to ace your personal statement and impress the reviewers. You also want to showcase your writing and critical thinking abilities. There are multiple components of a personal statement and reviewers will be looking out for them. Check out this post for more information on how to write very strong personal statements. We offer services that can help your prepare your personal statement, check them out here.

Poor letters of recommendations:

The recommendation letter is another opportunity for you to shine in your application. You need to choose people who are credible and who will take the time to write strong letters for you. You cannot afford to have vague and generic letters. Where possible, offer to either draft a letter or highlight the qualities and specific interactions you would like them to highlight in your letter. These letters weigh heavy in the application process, and so a poorly written letter is a disservice to you. Check out these posts on important things to note when requesting letters of recommendation and the secrets to strong letters of recommendation.

Watch Video on Things To Note When Requesting Letters of Recommendation As An International Student

Weak resume or cv:

Schools don’t want to produce graduates that cannot use the knowledge and skills acquired to make meaningful contributions to society. Besides a solid academic background, programs look for other things in applicants. They pay attention to current and past leadership positions, problems solved during internships and other work experiences, conferences attended, volunteer activities, awards received, scholarships and grants awarded, etc. These need to be outlined in a CV or resume. It’s also never too early to put a CV or resume together. So, even my undergraduate applicants, you can talk about those things you have done in your secondary/high school or in your community.

I hope these tips have been helpful. This post also includes links to other videos and posts. Please take advantage of all the resources we share at Winie’s Student World. We are rooting for you.

As always, we are a community and would love to read your comments and feedback. 


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