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.

 

The View From Campus – Academic Differences in U.S. Colleges

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This month we hear from Santosh Gupta, Managing Director at Vasyaa Certified Consultants in India, on the important issue of understanding the academic differences between U.S. colleges and universities and many other education systems around the world.

Q: Please explain your company’s role with prospective international students considering U.S. colleges and universities?

A: Vasyaa Consultants provides guidance regarding higher education in various countries such as USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Europe etc. Vasyaa is a one-stop solution since inception, for all international Higher education needs. We help our students to take the right choice with respect to the higher international education. We assist them individually in designing their career paths to suit individual profile within the available options.

 

Q: When explaining the U.S.-style of higher education in terms of academic environment compared to their home countries, how do you begin the conversation?

A: We basically do a SWOT analysis of the student and then we help them understand what the U.S. education system is like. To be more precise, the U.S. academic curriculum emphasizes practical applications and hands-on experiences more than any other education system.

 

Q: What is the most common challenge new international students face when adapting to the academic environment at U.S. colleges?

A: For international students, I would say the most challenging things students face is the open-book concept and out-of-the-box thinking, as opposed to most other national styles of education, one is used to textbook and professor notes. Whereas in US, student success is more dependent on the individual to do his homework and research about the subject.

 

Q: How much time should students be studying for each class they have?

A: It really varies from individual to individual. If the student is able to concentrate on the professor lecture, then after the class if s/he revises once, then s/he doesn’t need much time to study. Basically, American colleges say that undergraduates should study two hours for every hour the class meets each week. So, if a class meets three days a week for roughly three hours, a student should plan to study six hours for that class each week.

 

Q: How is the classroom style of professors so different in the U.S. from what most students have experienced back home?

A: In the United States, the professors’ way of teaching is something very versatile, compared to domestic way of teaching. U.S. professors’ style of teaching mainly emphasizes on the practical applications of theory.

 

Q: What role does classroom participation and discussion play in a student’s potential grade or performance in U.S. universities?

A: The discussions and active participation play a major role. The qualities which students develop during this participation will definitely help them in designing their careers, and also one can be able to work in a team or individually when they get into the corporate world.

 

Q: What kind of relationship should students expect with professors in an American college or university?

A: Based on my experience, relationships with professors are friendlier and more helpful than students might be used to back home.

 

Q: How seriously do U.S institutions take cases of academic integrity violations (plagiarism, cheating, etc.) on campus?

A: Of course, this is something followed very strictly. As we all are aware, most of the schools or colleges in US follow open book concept of exams, so there are chances of getting caught very easily if a student is doing such activities.

 

Q: How can international students best prepare to avoid potential problems with adapting to their new academic environment on campus?

A: Students must be able to do their homework on what will be expected prior to coming to the USA. At the same time, new international students should talk to their DSO (Designated School Official in the international students’ office) prior to arrival. Students also should read the orientation guide thoroughly. Most definitely, new students should not miss the orientation sessions, which usually start before the academic classes.

 

The View From Campus – Participating in New International Student Orientation

Image courtesy of Jirka Matousek via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

As the new academic year begins at many U.S. colleges and universities this month, we hear from Dr. Patriece Campbell, Director of International Programs, Millersville University (PA), on the very timely topic of the value of participating in new international student orientation on U.S. college campuses.

 

Q: Describe your institution in 5 words?

A: Comprehensive, Safe, Affordable, Supportive, Suburban

 

Q: For what is your institution best known overseas?

A: Millersville University is recognized for offering a variety of programs with a great campus location and high return on investment

 

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

A: – Undergrad-Applied Engineering & Technology Management, Biology, Business, Meteorology, Education, Music Business Technology, Education

– Graduate – Education, Clinical Psychology, Innovation and Technology

 

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

A: China, Saudi Arabia, India, Vietnam, Malaysia

 

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

A: We currently accept the IELTS at both the graduate and undergraduate level. We look at the overall score.  The requirement for undergraduate admissions is 6.0 and the requirement for graduate admissions is 6.5.  If a student does not have sufficient scores/English proficiency then we can offer conditional admission through our English Language Institute.

 

The Importance of International Student Orientation

Q: After students have gotten their visas to come to the United States, what next steps should they take to get ready?

A: It is important for international students to become as familiar as possible with the institution. Since most often, international students may not have the opportunity to visit campus prior to arrival, They are encouraged to keep in touch with their admissions counselor or international office regarding pre-arrival information and updates. They will be available to assist you with information needed as it relates to what to bring etc. Ask about special programs that might be available, such as peer mentors, host families, faculty/staff mentor, and even free airport pickup.

 

Q: What steps do universities take to help international students feel welcome on campus?

A: Many students create a series of communication to help guide the students to programs and activities (and people) that will serve as resources and be a huge impact on their life on campus. Each semester will have a variety of programming through the International Office and Student Engagement department to encourage student involvement. PARTICIPATE!

 

Stay tuned for the next “The View from Campus” post, where Dr. Campbell speaks about the role of international student orientation, how important it is for new international student and shares advice for prospective students on student life in the USA.

The View From Campus: Arriving in the United States as an International Student

 

 

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

This month we turn to the very timely topic for those students getting ready to make the journey to the United States for their higher education, preparing for arrival. Jim Crawley, Director of University Recruitment and Outreach, for ELS Language Centers, shares his best advice for international students coming to America.

 

Q: Describe your institution in 5 words?

A: Many Centers offering intensive English.

 

Q: For what is your institution best known overseas?

A: Offering intensive English to prepare international students for entrance into an academic program.

 

Q: What are your top programs for international students?

A: English for Academic Purposes; General English; Short-term Specialized English Programs; Vacation Programs

 

Q: What are the top 5 countries represented at your institutions?

A: China, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Saudi Arabia

 

How does ELS prepare students for university study in the United States?

The ELS English for Academic Purposes program not only helps the international students increase their proficiency, while preparing them to move into their academic program; but through workshops and elective coursework, students also work on their study skills and academic and workload expectation of the U.S. university classroom.

 

Once students have gotten their visas to enter the U.S., what is the most important thing you recommend students do next?

It is important that students familiarize themselves with the local area, and that they feel comfortable with their arrival information. We provide them with web sites and information brochures related to arrival, airport pick-up, housing and the local area.

 

How soon can students enter the U.S. once they have their visas?

Students can enter up to 30 days prior to the program start date on their I-20, however, we do not recommend that they arrive more than a week in advance.         

 

Would you recommend any resources in the students’ home countries to help them prepare for their journey to the U.S.?

 Many students work with counseling agencies. If they do have a counseling agency that they trust, this can be a good resource. Another reliable resource is EducationUSA. They have over 400 locations around the world, usually in major cities.They offer unbiased advice about studying in the USA, and many of the Centers offer pre-departure sessions.

 

How do U.S. schools assist international students prepare for their arrival on campus?

 It is important to communicate with the student and their family.  This is one of the most important decisions the family will have made regarding their son or daughter up until this point.  We have an obligation to make sure the student and family have as much information as possible about all relevant details including, but not limited to: the university, the location, the academic program, and their financial obligations.

Our ELS students are fortunate, as they are already in the U.S. We encourage our students to visit the school where they have been offered conditional admission. It allows them to become familiar with campus and meet some the faculty and staff who they will be working with when they ultimately transfer.

Most U.S. colleges and universities offer some form of orientation for new international students. Sometimes it is just for the international students, while other programs integrate the international students with the newly arrived U.S. students. Orientation is a great way to get to get familiarized with campus along with the other new students, while also having an opportunity to meet their new roommate(s).

 

What advice would you give students who are about to get on a plane to the States to begin a degree program?

Take time to learn about the school, and the community. You are about ready to begin an adventure that will positively affect your future. Be ready to meet many new people, some of whom will be your friends for many years to come. Be open to new ideas. You have much to offer, and much to learn.  Above all else…be yourself.

View From Campus: Student Work in the U.S. Part II: After Studies

 

In a previous post we focused on opportunities for international students in F-1 visa status to work while in the United States while they’re studying. In this post we take you through the opportunities they have after they finish their studies.

For some people, knowing how a story ends before they begin reading a book can be an obsession. When it comes to learning what lies ahead for international students after graduation from university in the United States, students and parents are eager to know the ending as well.

By law, after completion of their studies, F-1 students have either 12 months (for non-STEM degrees) or up to 36 months for STEM degrees of Optional Practical Training (OPT) work authorisation possible per degree level for bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level students. There are 240 different Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) academic degree programs that can qualify international students for the 3 years of work. The challenge is finding the job that makes sense.

 

Where to start?

When starting out the job search Marcelo Barros, founder of The International Advantage, recommends that “savvy international students are not fixated on specific job titles or firms that they may want to work for. Instead, with time on their side, it is preferred that students focus on understanding the various professional fields their careers interests, skills and experiences might be a fit for, and that they may be aware of. It’s all about creating a bigger pool of employment possibilities.”

Also, students who go to sessions on putting together a resume and cover letter that gets sent to prospective employers, are off to a good start. As Nicolle Merrill, founder of GlobalMe School, remarked that cover letters and resumes are “the main tools students use to get an interview with a company. The challenge is that nobody is good at writing (them)…. Even Americans are bad at it.”

 

Making the most of opportunities

On many college campuses each year, there are job fairs and interview days held that can open the door to the right job. However, students should not go into those fairs without proper preparation. Research is a key first step. Knowing which companies are attending and whether they sponsor international students helps a job seeker focus his/her time on those potential employers that may be a good match.

How international students spend their time with company representatives is critical. Students should know how they want to introduce themselves in 30 seconds. Ms. Merrill recommends that international students “practice your professional story. Know what you’re going to tell recruiters when they ask you to tell them about yourself.”

Ms. Merrill has an important suggestion on how to take the next step: “Follow up by connecting with recruiters on LinkedIn and sending them a personal message. You never know where a connection might lead in the future.”

 

Searching for jobs as a non-STEM graduate 

While the majority of international students in the United States are studying in the STEM fields, and have additional time available to them to work, a sizeable number are not STEM students. Barros suggests that these students “should create a competitive profile by creatively strengthening their profile with an eye towards the skills that are in demand by U.S employers.”

Merrill goes further indicating “there will be much more networking and research involved. It also takes longer to find the right role, so students need to plan for a 6-9 month search to see results…. For non-STEM students, I recommend targeting nonprofits or universities.” In addition focusing on higher education institutions, Merrill suggests “students should also target roles in less competitive locations. This means targeting less popular cities and regions such as in the Mid-West and South of the United States.”

In the end, there are no guarantees of employment for international students after graduation, but with extensive planning and preparation, significant initiative and follow-up, and meeting the right company, the opportunities exist. Good luck!

 

Advice on the U.S. Student Visa Interview

Image courtesy of xiquinhosilva via Flickr (CC 2.0)

Richa Bhasin, a former EducationUSA Adviser based in India now works in the Public Affairs Section at the U.S. Consulate in Sydney, Australia. Richa shares her experience working with prospective students as they prepare for the student visa interview.

 

What is one word you would use to describe the U.S. Student Visa Process?

Straightforward

 

What is the I-20/DS-2019 form that a student receives after they have been admitted and documented funding?

Form I-20 is a document issued to accepted students by Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified schools that indicates a student’s primary purpose for coming to the United States.

Form DS-2019 allows a J exchange visitor to apply for a visa. It identifies the exchange visitor and the designated sponsor and provides a brief description of the exchange visitor’s program, including the start and end date, category of exchange and an estimate of the cost of the exchange program.

 

What is the SEVIS fee students must pay?

SEVIS stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.

SEVIS is an Internet-based system that maintains data on foreign students and exchange visitors, as well as their dependents, before and during your stay in the US. If you apply for a student or exchange visitor visa, in most cases you must pay the SEVIS fee.

 

How soon can a student apply for a student visa after receiving the I-20/DS-2019 form?

You can apply for a visa no more than 120 days before the start of your program and can travel no more than 30 days before the start of your program.

 

Are there any in-country resources students can consult about the student visa process?

Students are encouraged to reach out to the EducationUSA network in their countries. The advisers are highly knowledgeable about the process and guide students for the visa application process. Here is where you can find the closest center – https://educationusa.state.gov/

 

What advice would you give to students who are nervous about their student visa interview?

This is the key thing all the students should be aware of – Under U.S. law, people who apply for non-immigrant visas are viewed as “intending immigrants” (who want to live permanently in the U.S.) until they can convince the consular officer that they are not. You must, therefore, be able to show that you have reasons for returning to your “residence abroad” (usually in your home country) that are stronger than reasons for remaining in the United States and that you intend to depart the United States at the conclusion of your studies.

Hence, the consular officer needs to know your specific objectives, both academic and professional, for studying in the United States. Be prepared to explain why it is better to study your specific field in the United States than to study at home. Be ready to say exactly what you will study and for what career your U.S. studies will prepare you. Calmly state your education plans concisely and clearly.

 

 

British vs American English (Part 2)

Image courtesy of Secabtien Wiertz via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

In the first part, we spoke of how Britons and Americans tend to spell and pronounce a lot of words differently. Here are some other ways in which UK and US English differ.

3. Vocabulary

This is arguably the most striking difference between the versions of English spoken on either side of the pond. Let’s do a quick comparison: in British English ‘you take the lift from a friend’s flat to the ground floor of the building’, while in American English ‘you take the elevator from a friend’s apartment to the first floor of the building’.

 

There are hundreds of such everyday things that are described using different terms. That said, Britons and Americans are generally able to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words from the context. On rare occasions, though, it could cause confusion. For example, the phrase ‘first floor’ can be found in both versions, but it carries a different meaning in each.

 

Here are some common examples of different words describing the same things:

 

British English American English
biscuit cookie
flat apartment
petrol gas
trousers pants
chips French fries
crisps potato chips
aubergine eggplant
mobile phone cell phone
torch flashlight
football soccer
the cinema the movies

 

4. Grammar

Like spelling, the way speakers of UK and US English use grammar can also be slightly different at times. For starters, Britons use question tags (a phrase added to the end of a sentence to turn it into a question; e.g. You don’t eat meat, do you?) a lot more than speakers of American English.

 

Here are some more grammatical differences:

 

British English American English
Preposition Are you in my team or his?

 

I’ll see you at the weekend.

Are you on my team or his?

 

I’ll see you on the weekend.

Tense Use of the present perfect to describe something that has happened recently

 

I’ve just had dinner.

Use of the past simple to describe something that has happened recently

 

I just had dinner.

Verb forms Some verbs are considered irregular

 

dream, dreamt, dreamt

learn, learnt, learnt

The same verbs are made regular

 

dream, dreamed, dreamed

learn, learned, learned

Collective nouns Collective nouns can be singular or plural

 

My team is / are in the lead.

Collective nouns are always singular

 

My team is in the lead.

 

 

All in all, these two versions of English have a lot more similarities than differences, so if you can understand one, the chances are that you’ll be able to understand the other too.

 

GLOSSARY

 

the pond
Form : noun
Meaning : an informal term for the Atlantic Ocean, which lies in between Britain and America
Example : This rock band is huge in Britain but relatively unknown on the other side of the pond. 

 

View From Campus: Student Work in the U.S. Part I: During Studies

Image courtesy of AliveCampus.com

 

After students arrive on campus at a U.S. college or university, one of the questions they have about their privileges and benefits as an international student involves work. For many of their American classmates, working while at college is very much a part of the day-to-day experience. U.S. students can find employment wherever they want to and can be hired. That is not the case, legally, for international students on an F-1 visa.

 

On-Campus Work

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services F-1 students may accept on-campus employment during their first academic year. That on-campus work is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session, and up to full-time (40 hours/week) during school breaks or vacations.

Many international students, like ones we have profiled on this Opportunities Abroad blog, do take on-campus jobs for a variety of reasons. Madhav now works as a resident adviser, Swati serves as a Global Ambassador for her institution, and Rasana was a graduate assistant in an international office. Oftentimes the work is a good way to help pay for personal expenses students have above and beyond their tuition and fees.

 

Curricular Practical Training

What most students hope to do before they graduate is to get some experience in their intended career field. The regulations governing this type of work for international students, called curricular practical training (CPT), allow for the college’s Designated School Officials (DSOs) to approve either full-time or part-time work for international students off-campus with certain restrictions.

U.S. colleges and universities may have very different definitions of what a required internship or practicum is. Some departments, for example, in engineering, health fields or even education, may have courses that are designated as “coop” or practicum or student teaching programs that students must register for as part of their degree requirements. Others may have a special internship course. Other academic majors may not have any options for CPT for international students, so students should be sure to check with their advisers to see what is possible.These kinds of internships can be invaluable for international students during their time in the United States.

There is a restriction that does limit the amount of authorized CPT a student can work. Students cannot exceed 365 calendar days of CPT approval if the student wants to take advantage of Optional Practical Training (OPT) after completion of their studies. We’ll discuss OPT and other work opportunities in the next The View From Campus post. Stay tuned!

British vs American English (Part 1)

Image courtesy of Mo Riza via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

With well over a billion speakers, English is the most widely spoken language in the world by some distance.

Interestingly though, there are only a handful of countries where it is spoken as a native language by the majority of the population. For the rest, English is a language they’ve acquired.

As a result, different variants of the language have evolved over time – Singlish (Singapore English), Strine (Australian English), and Namlish (Namibian English) to name a few.

However, British and American English remain the most widely recognised variants.

So, just how different is the English spoken in the UK to that in the US? Let’s find out….

 

 

1. Spelling

It’s common knowledge that UK and US spellings differ. One reason for this is that American English has modified the spelling of a number of words to reflect the way they sound when they are pronounced.

For instance, while Britons spell the printed form issued by a bank as cheque, Americans spell it as it sounds, i.e. check. Although there are hundreds of such words that are spelled differently, the difference is often minor, so it hardly ever causes confusion. Here’s a quick comparison:

 

2. Pronunciation

This is a grey area, as there are a wide variety of accents within both countries, making it difficult to clearly distinguish between UK and US pronunciation features.

To take one example, a Londoner and Mancunian (someone from Manchester, UK) may sound radically different from each other despite being from the same country, i.e. the United Kingdom.

That said, one easily noticeable thing is how Americans generally accentuate every ‘r’ in a word, whereas the Brits don’t emphasise that sound, or they sometimes omit it altogether if a word ends in ‘r’.

While it isn’t important which version of English you speak, being aware of how accents differ is always useful.

 

GLOSSARY

From Delhi to Ohio: An Indian View on U.S. Higher Education

Madhav Madan

The View From Campus – From Delhi to Athens, Ohio, an Indian perspective on studying in the United States

Are you curious about what it will be like for you if you study in the U.S.?

Hear from Madhav Madan, a third-year undergraduate majoring in sports management at Ohio University. Madhav explains how different his life is now that he is studying in the United States. See how his passion and dreams sustain him….

 

Madhav: Leaving my home country – India – to attend college in a different country was scary and a big challenge but having a passion and a dream has made it a lot easier.

My brother taught me to follow my passion. He joined an engineering college in the United States but dropped out to pursue deep sea diving and become a professional diver in Tasmania, Australia.

Looking at his example, I left my family tradition by deciding not to study science in high school.

I was drawn towards business and management. Another thing that always fascinated me is the sports industry. So, I combined my interest in business and sports to study sports management. Sports management, in simple words, is business  in sports.

To follow my dream and passion, I joined Ohio University (OU) in 2015. Why did I join Ohio University? Well, I choose OU because its sports management program is one of the best in the world. Simple.

 

To hear more about Madhav’s adventures in the United States, and how you might follow him, keep tuned to this blog.

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