OPPORTUNITIES ABROAD

Postgraduate Studies: How to Invest in Your Future

Image courtesy of Colin Howley (CC 2.0 Flickr)

For many, the idea of committing to further education and postgraduate study can seem like a daunting prospect. But the benefits to your career far outweigh the time taken to do them. Here are some things to consider when deciding if postgraduate study is right for you.

 

Money, money, money

Although postgraduate study can be expensive there are lots of funding schemes available and some courses are offered part-time, so you can keep working as you do them.

It’s true that career earnings for those with postgraduate qualifications is on average higher, but you won’t necessarily start off in a job on a higher salary, so it’s worth remembering that further studies are about investing in yourself for the long-term, not immediate financial gains.

 

Career goals

Postgraduate studies can help you change career as well as develop in your already chosen field. Many traditional careers expect you to have a postgraduate qualification as standard, so make sure you know what your studies can lead to in the world of work and how things might change. The nature of work is always changing, and so are the types of skills employers are looking for. Try to anticipate what the skills are you‘ll need to thrive in your career 20 years from now.

 

Networking  

Making contacts is a great way to kick-start your career and a lot of them can be found through postgraduate studies. Your professors will always have a great number of contacts that you should make the most of. You don’t have to devote all your time to it, but it’s a necessary evil – putting yourself out there can help you land that first contract.

How Punctuation Can Improve Your English Writing (Part 3)

Image courtesy of QuInn Domborwski (CC Flickr)

 

In the previous part, we covered some uses of the exclamation mark, question mark, and hyphen. Moving on, let’s take a closer look at three more punctuation marks, beginning with the dash.

 

  1. Dash

The dash and hyphen are often confused by many language learners, as they are similar in appearance. The difference, of course, is that the dash is wider than the hyphen. However, their usage is entirely different.

 

While a hyphen holds different parts of a word (or different words) together, a dash is used to separate non-essential information in a sentence. It can also be used in a sentence instead of a comma, semicolon, or colon.

 

Used Example
to separate information that is not essential to understand the sentence Getting the train ‒ though it’s often crowded ‒ is the fastest way to the city centre.
in place of a comma, semicolon, or colon, to show breaks in a sentence He lives in a cottage ‒ which was built in the 1950s ‒ beside the lake.

 

  1. Apostrophe

There are two main uses of the apostrophe: to show possession (i.e. something belongs to somebody) and to show omission (i.e. not including something).

 

Used Example
to show how a person or thing is related to, or belongs to, someone or something Ben’s car (= a car owned by Ben)
to indicate that letters or numbers have been left out she’ll (short for  she will) | We got married in ’83 (short for 1983).
with the plurals of letters and digits He hit four 6’s in an over. | There are two m’s in this word.

 

Using an apostrophe to form the plural form of decades or abbreviations is considered incorrect these days. For example:

 

1930s ✔ (1930’s)

several MPs ✔ (several MP’s)

 

  1. Quotation mark

Known as inverted commas in British English, quotation marks can be single (‘s’) or double (“d”). They are commonly used at the beginning and end of direct speech – i.e. words someone said that are written down exactly as they were spoken.

 

Used Example
to mark the beginning and end of direct speech The air hostess asked, “What would you like to have?”
to separate a word or phrase that is being discussed His new book is called ‘The Rising Sons’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The View From Campus – Public Universities Admissions

This month’s article features Robert Hardin, Senior Assistant Director of Admissions for International Recruitment, at the University of Oregon

 

  • Describe your institution in 5 words? Green, unique, groundbreaking, welcoming, and thoughtful.
  • What is your institution best known for overseas? The University of Oregon has alumni from around the world that have made an impact, including: Phil Knight (founder and president of Nike), Daniel Wu (actor), Renee James (former president of Intel), Ann Curry (journalist), Ken Kesey (author), and Chuck Palahniuk (author) to name just a few. UO is also known around the world for having successful sports teams and individual athletes.
  • What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)?
    The University of Oregon’s top academic programs are: Accounting, Architecture, Education, Psychology, and our sciences, particularly Biology and Physics.
  • What are the top 5 countries represented at your college/How international is your institution?
    China, Japan, Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan. We are an international university with over 3,200 international students (about 14% of the student body) from 103 different countries.
  • How does your institution use IELTS in the admissions process? How valuable a tool is it in evaluating prospective students?
    IELTS is one of the few ways we allow students to prove English proficiency. It is a helpful and valuable tool for us to determine if a student has the level of English needed to be successful at the University of Oregon.

 

Making Admissions Decisions

 

Do most public universities have set deadlines for international admissions?
Yes, most US public universities have deadlines. However, some deadlines are more flexible than others. At the University of Oregon, we accept applications after the deadline if there are spaces available. However, if you want to apply for scholarships, you will need to meet all posted application deadlines.

 

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

We want to get to know a little about the applicant. The essay is your opportunity to tell us something about yourself other than your grades and test scores.

 

What needs to be in a letter of recommendation that my teachers/professors are asked to write?
Teacher letters of recommendation should go beyond what grade you received in a class. We want to know more about how you performed as a student. For example, a letter of recommendation from your math teacher talking about the hard work and effort it took to earn your grade in the class will help us better understand your true academic potential.

 

How important are test scores in university admissions decisions?

In the US, there is no standard practice for admission decisions, so each university sets different expectations. However, the vast majority of US universities value your class grades more than your test scores or other factors.What are the most important factors public universities use to determine admissibility of international students?
Grades are usually the factor that public universities consider the most important. At the University of Oregon, our research shows that high school grades are the best predictor of success for new college students. Test scores are often the second most important factor. After test scores and grades, it is common for public universities to use other factors such as grade trend, strength of curriculum, extracurricular activities, essay, and teacher recommendations.

 

How Work Experience Can Transform Your Prospects

 

Image courtesy of Matthew Ragan CC 2.0 Flickr

 

Work experiences can vary greatly – sometimes you’ll be thrown right in at the deep end, and others you’ll have to seek out challenges. Wherever you find yourself during university or after graduating, here are four things to remember to make work experience work for you.

 

Contacts

Make contacts. Lots of them.

Work experience is your opportunity to meet those people who might be hiring you one day. If you show willingness to learn and enthusiasm for the line of work, your employer will remember you as a safe pair of hands – someone reliable. So, you’re increasing your employability with every good impression you make.

 

Learn the ropes

Being able to try your hand at the job is unquestionably good. Ok, you might not be performing surgery or presenting a case in court just yet – but being in that environment (hospital or court) will expose you to how things are done and the different expectations there are on different roles.

Even if you are only supporting someone else’s work, or shadowing them, being familiar with the surroundings will make future employers more likely to look favourably at your application.

This is particularly good for when you’re interviewed for that dream job. If you can back up your grades and enthusiasm with evidence that you have worked in the field in some capacity, the interviewer will see that you are serious about your chosen career.

 

See if it’s for you

Work experience isn’t just for the opportunity to break into a career; it’s your chance to see if the work is something you’d enjoy doing long-term. It’s a good idea to speak to the people who are doing the job already, buy them a coffee and take five minutes to ask them about the drawbacks as well as the advantages. You’ll be getting a clearer picture of whether the career is really for you or not.

 

What you still need to learn

There will always be a gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. You’ll not have all the skills or knowledge to just walk into your dream job. So use work experience to get a picture of the things you can do to improve and then go away and work on them.

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

To throw somebody in a the deep end
Form : Phrase (refers to the deep end of a swimming pool, as opposed to the shallow end)
Meaning : To make someone do something difficult, especially a job, without much help.
Example : “On my first day at school I had to present to the whole class. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end!”

 

A safe pair of hands
Form : phrase
Meaning : Someone who can be trusted to do a good job
Example : I left Sandy in charge of the shop while I’m on holiday – she’s a safe pair of hands. 

 

(Learn) the ropes
Form : phrase
Meaning : To become familiar/skillful at doing something
Example : It took me a while to learn the ropes, but now I’m a skilled photographer.  

 

 

Try ones hand at something
Form : phrase
Meaning : To have a go at something (new)
Example : I’d like to try my hand at sailing one day. I’ve never done it before.  

 

 

 

A drawback
Form : noun
Meaning : A disadvantage. A feature that makes something less appealing.
Example : The main drawback of working in a bar is the unsociable hours.  

 

How Punctuation Can Improve Your English Writing (Part 1)

Image courtesy of Mark Morgan (CC Flickr)

Ever felt punctuation is just a set of decorative symbols that can be done away with? Well, think again!

 

A poorly punctuated sentence can severely distort meaning, thereby confusing the reader. Here’s a good example:

  1. I had lunch with my parents, an architect and a Labrador.
  2. I had lunch with my parents, an architect, and a Labrador.

 

What these two sentences mean are entirely different, the change in meaning caused by the presence or absence of a comma after the word architect.

Sentence 1 means: I had lunch with 2 people, i.e. my parents. One of them is an architect, whereas the other is a breed of dog (Labrador).

Sentence 2 means: I had lunch with 3 people and an animal, i.e. my parents, an architect, and a dog.

 

Though many of us make an effort to use punctuation, we often restrict ourselves to just two – comma and full stop. It’s a shame that a dozen other punctuation marks that can make our writing cohesive remain largely ignored.

 

In this series, we’ll explore the entire set:

 

full stop comma exclamation mark question mark hyphen dash apostrophe
. , ! ?
quotation marks colon semi colon slash ellipsis square bracket round bracket
“ ” : ; / [ ] ( )

 

  1. Full stop

The most common use of a full stop is to signal the end of a statement; it is also used in indirect questions and abbreviations. Do keep in mind that there is no space between the last letter (in a word) and the full stop.

 

Used Example
to signal the end of a statement I work as a teacher.
at the end of an indirect question She asked me where I had been.
with abbreviated (shortened) forms etc. | e.g. | Sept. | p.m.

 

 

  1. Comma

Generally speaking, commas indicate slight pauses or breaks in a sentence: they may separate items in a list, extra information, or clauses.

 

Used Example
to separate each item in a list We bought flowers, fruit, pudding, and sweets.
to separate extra information that is not part of the main sentence Graham’s brother, Phil, is very naughty.
to separate a clause Tim, who lives in London these days, was at the party.

 

Remember, efficient use of punctuation can make your writing a lot clearer.

 

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

do away with (something)
Form : phrase
Meaning : remove; get rid of
Example : We’re doing away with all the traditions this Christmas and not having a tree.

 

distort
Form : verb
Meaning : to change a piece of information so that it is no longer accurate
Example : Newspaper articles sometimes distort the truth. 

 

a shame
Form : phrase
Meaning : used to mean that something is disappointing
Example : It’s a shame that they lost the match even after playing so well.

U.S Liberal Arts Colleges Explained: The View From Campus

 

Reed College, USA

 

“We see IELTS Academic as an important tool in evaluating a prospective student’s readiness for the academic demands of our curriculum.”

 

This month’s edition of the view from campus features Reed College, a private liberal arts institution in Portland, Oregon. Virginia Groves, Senior Assistant Dean of Admission, explains the function of small liberal arts colleges in the U.S.

 

  • Describe your institution in 5 words?

While it is tough to use just five: Intellectual, Love of Learning (ok, I know that was a cheat), inclusive, inquisitive and intentional.

 

  • What is your institution best known for overseas?

Reed has both a unique campus culture and academic rigor.

 

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

Our three most popular programs are English, Biology and Psychology.  We also offer the option of getting your nuclear reactor operator certification, which is a popular program across all majors.

 

  • What are the top five countries represented at your college/How international is your institution?

Reed College is 8% international with many of our students coming from China, India, Canada, Vietnam, Singapore.

 

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

It is recommended that applicants submit an English Proficiency exam if they score below a 600 on the Evidence Based Reading and Writing section of the SAT or if the medium of instruction at their school is not English. We see IELTS Academic as an important tool in evaluating a prospective student’s readiness for the academic demands of our curriculum.

 

 

  • What is the most significant challenge most international students have when first considering the U.S. for post-secondary education?

Higher education in the U.S. is incredibly unique when compared to most institutions overseas, where the curriculum and institutions push students to focus on their chosen profession.

International students looking at U.S. liberal arts colleges and universities need to mentally prepare for a system that does not have one way of doing things.  You will have to take classes outside of your chosen area of study and there is no one single path that a student “should” take after they leave their liberal arts college experience.

 

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

It depends on the deadline of the institution, but typically, if a regular deadline is in early January, we recommend that our students start at least thinking about researching and learning about a school’s application process and requirements at the end of their junior (11th) year.

If the schools you are applying to do require exams, make sure to allow for enough time to take these exams twice (just in case).

 

  • What do prospective international students who are beginning their research need to know about liberal arts colleges in the United States?

You do not have to be fiscally or politically liberal nor particularly artistic to study at a liberal arts college! The goal of a liberal arts college is to prepare you for ANYTHING that you are interested in pursuing after graduation.  The variety of courses and the way that most private, liberal arts colleges structure the curriculum will enable you to learn how to think critically, analytically and creatively.

 

 

  • There are a lot of possible tests international students might need to take. For students considering liberal arts colleges are there some tests that those schools consider that other schools don’t?

It all depends on the institution and how they use those tests to evaluate their applicants.  Some will require the SAT or ACT of all students, international and domestic.  Some will require the English proficiency exams such as IELTS.

Universities will also, on occasion, use these exams to help inform what classes to place admitted students in, while others will require that you take internal placement exams when you arrive on campus.

 

Collocation: Finding The Right Words For The Job

Image courtesy of Janet Galore (CC Flickr)

Even Words Love and Hate Each Other!

 

Many of us are picky when it comes to socialising. We hang out with the people we like; and as for the others – we don’t tend to bother.

 

Guess what? Words do the same, in the sense that they are often seen together in exclusive groups. This relationship that words in a language share with each other is known as collocation. For example, you can have a drink or make a cup of tea, but you can’t do a drink.

 

Types of collocations

There are different varieties of collocations in English. Here are some:

 

Type Example
adjective + noun express train
verb + noun run a marathon
noun + noun car salesman
verb + adverb speak softly
adverb + adjective newly married
verb + prepositional phrase run out of

 

Why words collocate

There’s no specific reason. It’s just that users of a language put certain words together more frequently than they do others. This also means that there are no clear rules that govern the use of collocations. So, as a learner, you just have to know which words go with which others.

 

Why learn collocations?

When you learn collocations, you are learning words in chunks, or groups of words. Naturally, this not only improves your accuracy but also fluency. For instance, suppose you learn the word ‘good’ along with the many other words it collocates with; this will widen your vocabulary and enable you to speak more fluently.

 

Adjective Preposition Meaning Example
good at something able to do something well He is good at singing.
with something able to use something well She is good with computers.
for health having a useful effect This drink is good for health.
to me Loving, friendly My Grandma is really good to me.

 

Remember, English tests such as IELTS assess a candidate’s ability to use collocations correctly. So, learn new vocabulary in chunks, never in isolation.

 

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

picky
Form : adjective
Meaning : describes someone who is difficult to please
Example : Olga is quite picky about what she eats.

 

hang out
Form : phrasal verb
Meaning : to spend time with particular people in a particular place
Example : Sylvan enjoys hanging out with his cousins at the local pub.

 

bother
Form : verb
Meaning : (often used in a negative sense) to spend time or energy doing something
Example : Miguel doesn’t bother brushing his hair.

 

fluency
Form : noun
Meaning : ability to speak or write a language easily and to a high standard
Example : Philip is fluent in Swahili.

 

isolation
Form : noun
Meaning : the state of being alone or separate
Example : Prisoners at this prison are kept in isolation if they cause trouble.

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