A Six-Point Strategy for U.S College Applications for International Students

There is often a disappointing answer to the general question: “what does it take to be admitted to a U.S school?” That is: “It depends.” So for students coming from overseas, the process of applying to a U.S college can seem a tough nut to crack. But it doesn’t have to be. Here, we give you a check-list to help navigate the process and reach your goals.

Thomas Abbs (CC Flickr)

Thomas Abbs (CC Flickr)

  1. One size does not fit all

‘What it takes’ depends on the institution, and how much time and effort you’re willing to put into finding the best course to match your goals. Like many countries, the U.S has a Common Application which allows students to apply online to up to 20 of over 500 mostly private colleges and universities. However, many excellent colleges are not part of this service, so it is up to you to cast your net wider to find those colleges that would suit you.

 

  1. Research, research, research

Be sure you do your research and choose the institutions that match your academic ability and aspirations. There’s no substitute for this work and it will give you a better idea of what’s on offer, what’s required and where you will thrive. It will pay off in the long-run.

 

  1. Have you got the grades?

Most colleges have online applications for admissions that students can complete, but each may require a different mix of standardized tests for admissions and English language proficiency. Whether it is the SATs or ACT for measuring academic aptitude, or English proficiency tests like IELTS (accepted by over 3,300 U.S Institutions), each college is free to accept some or none of these tests as part of their application requirements. It’s up to you do find out the specifics (e.g. IELTS band score) in each case.

In short – don’t take anything for granted. You must check, and check again to see that you have all the relevant requirements for the course you’re applying to.

 

  1. It just got personal

Another oddity of U.S. college admissions is that personal statement essays may be required at non-selective institutions too. These essays ask sometimes very basic or direct questions, like:

“Why have you chosen _______ University?”  or…

“What impact do you feel you can have on our college community?”

Other questions tend to be much deeper and harder to discern, like:

“Describe a traumatic time in your life and how that experience has helped define who you are as a person.” Some universities now accept videos answers to essay questions to allow students the opportunity to express their creativity.

In each case, this is your chance to make yourself memorable. It’s a good rule of thumb to put yourself in the reader’s position; if you were reading 1000s of applications, wouldn’t you remember the ones that tell a story?

 

  1. Recommendation letter

Perhaps the most difficult requirement for overseas students applying to U.S. colleges is the dreaded recommendation letter.

In some cultures, to ask a professor or teacher to write a letter of support for application to university could be met with a raised eyebrow or even laughter, but in the U.S. at many selective colleges, these letters are required.

Some universities may even request up to three recommendation letters before your application will be considered!

 

  1. Deadlines

Beyond tests, essays and recommendation letters, each institution sets their own deadlines for receiving applications and other required materials. There are even very different types of deadlines, among them rolling admissions, early decision, early action, regular admissions and others.

 

Our best advice to those considering undergraduate admission in the United States is to narrow your choices of institutions first to a reasonable number that you might apply to (perhaps 6-10), and then be certain to contact each institution’s admissions office and don’t take ‘it depends’ for an answer! It can make all the difference to your future.

 

English tips to survive the Super Bowl

Photo courtesy of Josh Lackey

Photo courtesy of Josh Lackey

If you’re thinking of studying in the USA, you’re in for incredible opportunities, adventure, and first-class teaching. And the more you immerse yourself in the culture, the more rewarding your experience becomes.

For international students, the Super Bowl is an American experience not to be missed. Whether you’re a fan of the sport or not, there’s something for everyone: the spectacle, the halftime show, the commercials, the chilli – it’s all to be savoured.

This Sunday, the New England Patriots take on last year’s winners the Seattle Seahawks, in a bid to lift the biggest prize in American sport.

So to help you get through the game with some idea of what is going on, we compiled a run-down of some of the unique English vocabulary that gridiron (American football) uses.

 

Audible: When the quarterback calls a last-second change to the play. It’s confusing for everyone, so you’re not alone! This has made its way into everyday speech in the USA, used when someone assumes responsibility. “Ok, the boss is away, so I’m calling an audible on this one.”

Blitz: When the defending team goes hell-for-leather to tackle the opposing quarterback. In other words, the big guys try to smash the guy with the ball before he can throw it.

Deflate-gate: The term coined for the conspiracy surrounding the Patriots’ last game, where they were accused of deflating the balls to gain an advantage. Top scientists have been explaining the physics of it to the nation for the past fortnight.

Downs: This is at the heart of the game’s rules. The team with the ball has four attempts (downs) to gain 10 yards, (the TV networks put a yellow line in for you). So, if you hear ‘3rd and 7’ it means it’s their third attempt and have seven yards still to gain. If they’re successful, the whole process starts again. If they’re too far away after three tries, they’ll usually punt (see below) the ball.

End Zone: The areas at either end of the field that are usually coloured and show the teams’ logos. Get the ball in there and you score a Touchdown.

Extra Point: After a touchdown is scored, that team can kick the football through the posts for an extra point.

Face Mask: No, this has nothing to do with beauty treatments. In football it is an illegal move when someone grabs an opposing player’s helmet to stop him. This incurs a penalty.

Fair Catch: When the guy returning a kick puts his hand in the air, he’s saying to the big guys about to tackle him: “Ok, I won’t try to run, just please don’t hurt me!”

Field Goal: A scoring option worth three points – kicking the ball between the yellow posts.

Fumble: When a player who has complete control of the ball drops it. There’s then a mad scramble for the ball, with everyone piling on top of each other.

Going for Two: Rather than kicking an ‘extra point’ after a touchdown, you can opt to run or pass into the end zone from the two yard line. The riskier option for sure, but worth two points.

Hail Mary: Desperate times call for desperate measures. A Hail Mary is when a quarterback throws the ball towards the end zone in the last seconds of the half or game, praying a teammate will catch it and win the game. When this works everyone goes berserk.

Interception: When the quarterback’s throw is caught by a player on the other team. This is about the worst thing that can happen for a quarterback.

Line of Scrimmage: The line where the ball was stopped. This is where the two teams face each other.

Pick Six: Ok, this is the worst thing that can happen for a quarterback. It’s when he throws an interception and the ball is returned by a defending player for a touchdown.

Pocket: The little space that the big guys make for their quarterback. From here he can look for the best passes up field.

Punt: A kick to the opposing team on 4th down

Quarterback: If you don’t know who this is by now, you’re better off just concentrating on the chilli and chicken wings.

Sack: When the quarterback is tackled behind the line of scrimmage. The tacklers often go for a little dance afterwards to show people how happy they are.

Snap: The start of the play when the ball is passed back to the quarter back (through the big guy’s legs).

Touchback: When a punt or kickoff is caught in the end zone.

Touchdown:  When a player takes or catches the ball in an opponent’s end zone, scoring six points. Then begins the excessive celebrations and choreographed dancing.

Unnecessary Roughness: It seems that roughness is allowed, but only where necessary. Otherwise, you’ll be penalised.

An all-nighter: If you’re one of the millions of people around the world staying up late to tune in to the big game you’ll be doing what’s called ‘an all-nighter.’ This is colloquial term which most students become familiar with at some point.

 

Enjoy the game! And follow @TakeIELTS1 for more tips on using English abroad. 

If you’re thinking of studying in the USA, and need an English test, click here.

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