College Admissions

The Value of English Language Testing in U.S. University Admissions

Image courtesy and with approval to use from SUNY-Clarkson

 

In this month’s View From Campus article, Colleen Flynn Thapalia, Director, International Graduate Recruitment & Admission at Clarkson University, shares her extensive experience in university admissions on how English language testing is viewed by U.S. colleges and universities.

 

Describe your institution in 5 words?

Leader in Innovation & Technology Education

For what is your institution best known overseas?

  • Great career outcomes.
  • Innovative solutions to real-world and theoretical problems at the nexus of science, engineering, technology and business.
  • Hockey.

What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)?

  • Grad — MS in Engineering Management, MBA, Engineering (several disciplines)
  • Undergrad – Engineering, Business, Biology/Bioscience, Psychology, Mathematics

What are the top 5 countries represented at your college?

Canada, China, India, Iran, Sri Lanka

 

How does your institution use an IELTS result in the admissions process?

As documentation of English proficiency for purposes of admission. For students under consideration for teaching assistantships, English testing helps determine whether the candidate has balance among the four key skills of speaking, writing, reading and listening.

Why is English proficiency testing so important for U.S. colleges and universities in the admissions process?

Since classes are delivered in English, international students must be ready to participate from Day 1. US institutions employ a participatory style of teaching, therefore students need to be able to speak and write extensively, as well as listen to lectures and read textbooks.

Why do required minimum test scores differ so greatly from institution to institution or even program to program within a university?

Institutions and departments have differing philosophies on this. For example, in science and technology fields, English skills are not as tied to mastering the disciplines as in other fields but help in non-scientific coursework. For programs in the Arts and Humanities, English ability is strongly connected to academic success.

Higher test scores may also be required if the student’s degree is in a field like English literature, theater, communication or speech pathology, where the discipline itself relies on a proficiency grasp of English.

Can students who do not meet minimum English test score requirements still be admitted to a U.S. college or university program?

Yes. “Conditional admission” is when students are admitted pending submission of the required English score. In this case, universities typically recommend that a student re-take the proficiency exam or complete a US-based English as a Second Language (ESL) program. But, not all universities offer conditional admission. If the website doesn’t mention this, prospective students can write and ask.

Can students who have been educated entirely in English be exempted from English proficiency test requirements?

This varies a lot. Students educated in an English-speaking country can often get a waiver. But, the definition of “English speaking” is not uniform. The most important thing is to check the university’s website. Applicants shouldn’t be afraid to ask for a waiver and explain their situation, but they should be prepared for many colleges and universities to be quite strict with testing policies.

 

Getting on to Music and Art Programs in the U.S.

Temple University, Philadelphia

 

This month’s View From Campus article features Andrew Eisenhart, International Student Specialist at the Center for the Performing and Cinematic Arts at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 

Q: Describe your institution in 5 words?

A: Large, urban public research institution.

Q: What is your institution best known for overseas?

A: Temple is internationally renowned as a top-tier research institution located in Philadelphia with hundreds of degree programs and a diverse student body of over 40,000 students.

Q: What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)?

A: Business, Education, Engineering, Film and Media Arts, Fine Arts, Medicine, Law, Performing Arts, Pharmacy, Public Health, Science and Technology, Social Work, Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management.

Q:What are the top 5 countries represented at your college/How international is your institution?

A: China, India, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam (Temple is roughly 10% international).

 

How does your institution use IELTS in the admissions process? How valuable a tool is it in evaluating prospective students?

IELTS is a very valuable tool that offers a strong indicator of language ability and how that will translate as a potential Temple University student.

 

Do students applying to fine arts programs like music, art, and film for example, have different requirements to students applying to other more traditional academic programs?

Yes. Additional requirements usually include a portfolio for fine arts or film and an audition for music, dance and theater. In many cases (but not all), institutions allow these auditions and portfolios to be sent electronically for review.

 

Are there differences in the admissions process between colleges/institutions that are exclusively fine arts and design schools and universities that offer fine arts programs among many others?

Yes. In fact, it’s best to consult each institution’s admissions process. At a comprehensive institution like Temple University, all students (including fine and performing arts students) must be deemed academically admissible by our university admissions team. Fine and Performing Arts students must also be deemed admissible by their specific program after audition and/or portfolio review.

 

Are letters of recommendation from a teacher/professor important for fine arts applicants?

Yes. These are highly valuable to faculty and administrators who review an applicant’s audition or portfolio as it provides a window into their background.

 

As an international student, if applying to a program where an audition is required, is there a way to do that remotely/virtually?

Yes. Most institutions have contracted online platforms for this, especially if a student is from a location outside the United States. At Temple University, we use the online platforms Accepted and SlideRoom which allow students to create a profile and upload their auditions and portfolios for faculty and administration to review.

 

What is the most important factor used by colleges to determine admissibility of international students to fine arts programs?

Many factors including GPA, test scores, letters of recommendation, auditions and portfolios are very important. From an admissions perspective, after looking at all of the information received from the applicant, determining if the student is the right fit for his/her program of choice is the most important factor.

The View From Campus: Finals in the USA

University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

 

In this month’s edition, Dr. Mandy Hansen, Director of Global Engagement, at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, explains some of the more striking differences about academic life at U.S. colleges and universities.

 

Q. Describe your institution in 5 words?

A. Innovative, scenic, caring, safe, and inclusive.

 

Q. What is your institution best known for overseas?

A. We have strong innovation programs and community relationships that complement our academics. For example, UCCS collaborates with the government entities on the National Cyber Security Center and is involved in a unique project with the US Olympic Committee as Colorado Springs is the Olympic City.

 

Q. What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)?

A. Business, Engineering, the Arts and Sports related program (like a sports management program for golf and soccer)

 

Q. What are the top 5 countries represented at your college?

A. India, Saudi Arabia, China, Spain, Canada/Kuwait are tied for fifth

 

Q. How does your institution use IELTS in the admissions process? How valuable a tool is it in evaluating prospective students?

A. IELTS is used for admission into our undergraduate and graduate programs. We have a baseline score that is required for admission into our degree programs. We use the test as a predictor for academic success in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. These are skills that our students need for success and to feel comfortable with as many classes are focused on group work, note-taking, and interactions that require fluency on all levels.

 

Q. What is finals week at U.S. colleges and universities like?

A. It is a time that many offices on campus pull together to offer support to their students. Here at UCCS, we assist our students during this stressful time by having a free breakfast for students to make sure they are nourished and energized for their studies and keep the library open for longer. These are a pivotal effort to assist in the students’ success.

 

Q. How do finals exams differ from what most international students experience in their home countries?

A. Finals exams abroad are often the only contributing factor to a students’ grade. However, in the United States most classes give a final grade based upon a variety of activities ranging from group work, class attendance, presentations, exams, and papers.

The final exam, which may even be a final paper, lab report, or presentation, is one part of a student’s grade. Therefore, it is essential that international students attend each class and keep up with the assignments that are due throughout.

 

Q. Is it true that how well a student participates in classroom discussions is often a portion of a student’s final grade for a class?

A. The U.S. classroom often includes group work and interactions between the instructor and other students. This type of interaction is fostered when a student enters elementary or primary school as a child.

Collaborative activities and team projects are the norm and are often values that an employer will want from employees. Having confidence in speaking up, participating, and being involved is essential for success.

Finding the Right U.S. College For You

Image courtesy of Wilson Hui via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

With thousands of U.S. colleges and universities to choose from, finding the right one for you can be a difficult task. Firstly, there’s huge choice in terms of type of institution, whether it’s private, liberal arts or big public colleges. But there are other criteria you should consider before applying as an international student.

 

Here are some of the ways you can narrow your search.

 

Find what’s important for you

Like with any major decision, some real thought needs to go in to what you want to get out of your university experience. It’s especially important for international students to think about this as you’re going outside your comfort zone for a few years in a new country.

Knowing what you want should apply to all aspects of your choice of college – not just the prestige of the institutions. Here are a few categories that you can use to make your list.

  • Your budget (for the duration of your studies, including holidays). It’s no use choosing a college that you won’t be able to afford. First, calculate your overall maximum budget and any scholarships/funding you might have.

 

  • College standing. It’s still important to go for the best college that you can, so include choices that you have the qualifications for (including IELTS band score), and will be noticed when you come to look for jobs.

 

  • Job prospects. Apart from the standing of the university helping your job prospects, there may be particular places in the U.S that are better than others for you. If you’re a software developer, you’re more likely to find a job close to you if you choose to study in California, rather than Wyoming.

 

  • Area. Do you want to live on a campus, or in a big city? It can make a huge difference to your life and options during the holidays. You may also want to see more of the rest of the country, so a place that’s too remote might not be for you. Make sure you’re clear about where you won’t go.

 

  • Extra-curricular. You’ll be spending a lot of time outside of the classroom too, so you should keep in mind your hobbies and interests and which colleges offer the most for you.

 

Once you’ve got your list you can get to work on researching colleges and narrowing your list further.

Refer back to our recent View From Campus post for more on researching U.S. colleges.

 

 

 

The View From Campus: The Application Essay

West Virginia University

 

This month, David Smith, Executive Director of Recruitment and Entrepreneurial Programs, at West Virginia University’s Intensive English Program, shares his thoughts about the significance of the essay or statement of purpose for international student applicants to U.S. colleges and universities.

 

Describe your institution in 5 words?

Public university. 150-year history.

 

What is your institution best known for overseas?

Energy-related programs of study, particularly petroleum engineering.

 

What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)?

  • Energy Systems Engineering (G)
  • Environmental and Natural Resources (UG)
  • Finance (UG/G)
  • Forensic and Investigative Sciences (UG/G)
  • Mining Engineering (UG/G)
  • Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering (UG/G)

 

What are the top 5 countries represented at your college?

  • Kuwait
  • Saudi Arabia
  • United Kingdom
  • Oman
  • Spain

West Virginia University has 2,300 international students, or about 6.5% of total enrolment. West Virginia University has many support programs for its international students, including a full Intensive English Program.

 

How does your institution use IELTS in the admissions process? How valuable a tool is it in evaluating prospective students?

WVU accepts IELTS as one of two measures of English proficiency. IELTS seems to have been an acceptable measurement tool, and requires a score of 6.5 to be considered for admission.

 

Why do colleges and universities in the United States require essays or a statement of purpose as part of the application process?

Universities often cite “fit” as an important criterion for admissions, and schools that value this concept may rely on the essay to assess it. A more practical use may be that the essay can be a “tie-breaker” to differentiate among many students who might otherwise look virtually identical to each other, with nearly identical test scores and academic records.

 

How important is grammar, punctuation, and word choice in student essays?

The best answer may be “it depends.” Certainly, taking care to be perfect in terms of grammar and punctuation is important, and mistakes are likely to be noticed. That said, international students who are non-native English speakers are likely to get some tolerance for minor errors. Sometimes, an essay from a non-native speaker that is too perfect may raise some suspicion that it’s not the applicant’s own work.

 

Should a student personalize essay answers to the different colleges to which he/she is applying?

Probably, but that’s not always practical. It’s very important to be careful not to mention “how much I want to attend School X,” when writing to School Y. That’s a common mistake in cutting and pasting essays into multiple applications.

 

How creative can students be with their essays?

In most cases, creativity is probably a plus. Admissions staff read hundreds of essays, and they start to all sound very similar. One that’s different will attract attention—the important thing is that it be the right kind of attention. If an essay is remembered because it’s highly controversial, that’s not likely to be as positive as if the same point were made in a creative way without coming across as arrogant, belligerent or one-sided.

 

Is it okay to share a student’s successes and accomplishments in the essay if those are not accounted for elsewhere in the application?

Absolutely! Admission to good schools is competitive, and if students don’t mention things that could give them an advantage, no one will ever know.

Your Guide to U.S. College Scholarships

Image courtesy of rik-shaw (look for the light) via Flickr (CC2.0)

 

The United States is a popular place to study. And it’s no surprise that that popularity makes it expensive. Universities and colleges in the U.S. will ask you to prove you have enough funds before they will accept you.

Many international students will think that it’s too much for them to afford. But there are ways to get there that won’t break the bank.

Top of that list are scholarships.

Scholarships come in all shapes and sizes. The money and eligibility will be different for each one, so don’t expect they’ll all fit you and your needs.

They are competitive too, so it’s worth applying to all the ones you can to increase your chances.

 

Your College

In 2012-2013 more than $8.8 billion in financial support was given to international students studying in the U.S.

Most of this aid comes directly from the colleges and universities.

Once you know which college you want to go to (and have been accepted at), first look for scholarships that institution offers international students. They may have some that apply to particular countries, or fields of study – so enquire with them before you go looking elsewhere. The admissions teams will be able to point you to any scholarships they might have.

 

Your Home Country

The U.S. may offer scholarships to students from your own country (or region).  Or your country might run aid programs itself. For example, the East-West Center Scholarships and Fellowships are aimed at international students from the Asia-Pacific region studying in the U.S. Contact your own government’s education body to find out what’s on offer.

 

U.S. Government-funded programmes

Open to international students in all fields (excluding medicine), the Fulbright Foreign Student Program is the most well-known of government-funded scholarships for international students. It offers scholarships for graduate students to study in the US for one year or more.

Find and contact your nearest U.S. Embassy to find out what’s else you could be eligible for.

Lastly, the Institute of International Education publishes an annual guide called Funding For United States Study. It lists over 800 grants and awards that are offered to international students coming to the U.S.

 

Good luck!

US Study: Get There with IELTS

Hear what IELTS means for international students in the U.S

 

The U.S. is a popular place for students from across the world.

Each year, thousands of U.S. colleges and universities accept hundreds of thousands of students from other countries.

If you’re thinking of joining them, then you’ll need IELTS.

IELTS is the most popular English test for people who want to live, study or work in another country. IELTS is also accepted by more than 3,300 institutions in the U.S, including all Ivy League colleges, so you have a huge choice of where to go.

An IELTS test score is proof of your English language proficiency and can help you achieve your goal of getting a place at a U.S. college or university.

Click on the video above to hear what some of the U.S. international students are saying about IELTS.

And to hear more from IELTS students who are already living their dream by studying in the U.S., be sure to check out our monthly View From Campus blog posts.

Get there with IELTS!

View From Campus: How to Research U.S. College Options

Grinnell College, IA, USA

 

This month, Jonathan Edwards, Senior Associate Director of Admission, Grinnell College in Iowa, USA, discusses how international students can best approach finding the college or university in the United States that is right for them.

 

Describe your institution in 5 words?

Open, rigorous, independent, liberal, diverse

 

What is your institution best known for overseas?

We’re known as a small school with a big heart that offers a rigorous, innovative curriculum in an environment that fosters intellectual and social independence.

 

What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)?

Economics, Math, English, Computer Science, Psychology

 

What are the top five countries represented at your college?

China, India, South Korean, Vietnam, and Japan are the best represented at Grinnell. Non-US students comprise 20 percent of total enrollment.

 

How does your institution use an IELTS result in the Admission Process?

We require proof of high-level English language competency. IELTS scores help us best understand an applicant’s English proficiency.

 

How far ahead should students start the planning process if they are planning to come to the U.S. for study?

I would say at least 2-3 years in order to prepare for required standardized tests,  as well as to do the research to find the schools that best suit them.

 

If international students come across self-described “liberal arts colleges” in their search what do they need to know about these institutions?            

Liberal arts colleges don’t typically offer one path to a particular career goal. We are more interested in helping students, who are still at an age of discovery, to explore their options, affinities, and passions.

They continue to develop the critical skill sets, work ethic, and compassion that will afford them a rewarding life, not only a rewarding job. This is why liberal arts schools encourage broad, inquiry-based learning in small, diverse, residential environments.

 

What kinds of students can be successful at liberal arts colleges in the United States?

Those that are curious, motivated, critical, and adaptable.

View From Campus: U.S. College Applications Explained

Santa Clara University, California

This month, Rosalie Saladzis, Assistant Director of International Admission at Santa Clara University in California, shares a brief overview of her institution, her views on the value of IELTS in evaluating students’ English readiness for university study, as well as an overview of the U.S. college application process.

 

Describe your institution in 5 words or less:

Innovative, Collaborative, Compassionate, Beautiful!

 

What is your institution known for abroad?

Santa Clara University is known as a mid-sized private liberal arts institution located in the heart of Silicon Valley that blends high-tech innovation with social consciousness grounded in a Jesuit education tradition.

 

What are your top academic programs (undergraduate) 

As a comprehensive liberal arts school, students can study business or engineering while not giving up their passion for the arts. Our Leavey School of Business majors such as Finance or Accounting are popular amongst undergraduate students.  Minors like Entrepreneurship and International Business are popular across the entire student body.

Within our School of Engineering some of our more popular programs are Computer Science and Engineering or Bioengineering.  The hallmark of our engineering education is a solid foundation of theory and practice that is imparted on each student. Besides developing technical skills for the workplace, SCU engineering also focuses on the development of the whole person, and incorporates a broad liberal arts-based general education into its curriculum. The idea of engineering for the betterment of society is at the core of our programs.

 

What are the top 5 countries represented at your college? 

India, China, Japan, Singapore, Philippines

 

How international is your institution? 

4% of our student population is international, coming from 44 different countries.

 

Do you accept IELTS scores for admissions and do you trust this as a good indicator of a student’s English ability? 

Santa Clara University requires proof of English proficiency.  To be considered for admission, we accept IELTS as a strong indicator of English ability.

 

Can you explain the difference between rolling admissions, early decision, early action, and regular decision at U.S. colleges?  

  • Rolling admissions permits students to submit their applications to the University anytime within a designated window. The average duration of time students are eligible to submit their rolling application is 6 months, while other Universities may indicate their intent to accept applications until the class is filled.   Students can expect to receive a decision within a few weeks of applying under rolling admissions.

 

  • Early decision programs are usually binding. ‘Binding’ means that the applicant is committing to enrolling at the university if they are offered admission.  The ED option is for students who have decided that a specific university is their first choice.  You may not submit Early Decision applications to more than one institution.  Students may apply to other Early Action programs, but must agree to promptly withdraw their applications from all other institutions if admitted into their Early Decision school.

 

  • Early Action is a non-binding admission program that allows you to get an admission decision sooner. Admission decisions may include: ‘admit’, ‘deferred to regular decision’ or ‘denied’.  Early action applicants are not limited to applying to just one University.

**Please note that Santa Clara University only offers rolling admissions for transfer applicants.

 

What are institutions looking for in an application essay/statement of purpose? 

Institutions are looking for students who are capable of writing at a university level.  It’s important that an applicant’s writing sample is grammatically correct and persuasive.  I encourage students to utilize the personal essay as an opportunity to share more about what’s important to them and how they may be a good fit for our campus community.

 

How important are deadlines in the admission process to U.S. institutions?   

Meeting application deadlines for U.S. institutions is very important.  By meeting the assigned deadline, students demonstrate that they are organized and serious about the possibility of attending their institution.

SCU utilizes Common Application.  Our application is open and available for students to begin completing as early as August 1st.  The postmark deadline for early decision/early action applicants is November 1st.  Regular decision applicants have a postmark deadline of January 7th.

 

What needs to be in a letter of recommendation that my teachers/professors are asked to write?  

Strong letters of recommendation include details regarding academic achievement, how the student engages in a classroom environment, work ethic and character.

 

Once a student sends in all the required documents to complete their application, how soon after that point will he/she receive an answer?  

Students can expect to receive an admissions decision around 2 months after the application deadline.

The View From Campus – “I’ve Been Admitted, Now What Do I Do?”

 

This month’s article features Heather Augar, Director of International Admissions, Fairleigh Dickinson University (NJ)

 

Describe your institution in five words?

  • Global
  • Diverse
  • Multidisciplinary
  • Student-oriented
  • Affordable

 

What is FDU best known for overseas?

FDU prepares students to succeed in a world marked by interdependence, diversity, and change by integrating global education in all phases of university life.

 

New Jersey’s largest private university, FDU has campuses in the metropolitan New York City area; Vancouver, Canada; and Wroxton, England. Over 100 BA, MA and PhD degree programs are offered in our four academic colleges.

 

What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)?

Undergraduate: Business, Engineering/Computer Sciences, Sciences, Liberal Arts, Hospitality Management, Theater, Filmmaking

Graduate: Engineering/Computer Sciences, MBA/Business, Hospitality Management, Public Administration, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Psychology

 

What are the top five countries represented at FDU?

  • India
  • China
  • Saudi Arabia
  • South Korea
  • Canada

As of fall 2015, FDU had 1,703 international students from more than 80 countries out of our total population of 12,000 students at our two campuses in New Jersey.

 

How does your institution use IELTS in the admissions process? How valuable a tool is it in evaluating prospective students?

IELTS has become one of the most frequent tests submitted and is widely accepted amongst U.S. universities as proof of English proficiency, as it is as FDU.

 

 

Post-Admissions Next Steps

If international students are admitted to more than one institution, what are the most important next steps they should take?

Students should carefully check their letters of admission to verify the date by which they must confirm their intent to enroll. For most students applying to U.S. universities for the fall term, this will be May 1. However, universities with spring or multiple terms as well as those with rolling admissions may have different confirmation deadlines.

Once the final university choice has been made, students must contact the other universities that they’ve applied or been admitted to in order to inform them that they no longer plan to attend.

 

What advice would you give to students making their final decision where to attend?

It is important to do as much research as possible. Take advantage of every opportunity to connect with faculty, staff, current students and alumni of the university whether in person or via social media.

Make sure that the final decision is the university that is the best match-academically, financially and socially.

 

Can international students receive financial aid from U.S. universities?

Many U.S. universities, including Fairleigh Dickinson, offer scholarships and other types of aid to international students. It is important to do research about each university of interest to learn what types of scholarships or aid programs are available.

 

Is a deposit needed to secure a place at the college or university students choose?

This varies by the institution. In some cases, a financial deposit is required to confirm enrollment. In other cases, a matriculation/intent to enroll form is required without a monetary deposit. It is important to read admission materials carefully to learn what is required and the deadlines for submission.

What is an I-20, and how can international students get theirs?

An I-20 is also known as a Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigrant Student Status. It is a document issued by a Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP) approved U.S. educational institution certifying that a student has been admitted into a full-time study program and that they have demonstrated sufficient financial resources.

Students who have obtained an I-20 form are eligible to apply for a non-immigrant student visa to the U.S. Some U.S. universities issue the I-20 at the time of admission whereas others issue this upon confirmation of intent to enroll.

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