College Admissions

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

This month, Marci Fradkin,, Director of International Outreach and Admission, at Valparaiso University in Indiana, discusses how international students can best approach finding the college or university in the United States that is right for them.

Q: Describe your institution in 5 words?
A: Experiential learning, Connections, Result Driven, Friendly, and Beautiful.

Q: For what is your institution best known overseas?
A: Being a STEM paradise and being a top 20 undergrad engineering program.

Q: What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)?
A: Undergrad-Engineering, Computer Science, Biochemistry, Psychology, and International Relation.  Grad-MS Information Technology, MBA,  MS Analytics and Modeling, Public Health, and MS Economics and Finance.

Q: What are the top 5 countries represented at your college?
A: India, Pakistan, Nepal, Nigeria, and China

Q: How does your institution use an IELTS result in the Admission Process?
A: We use it for undergrad and graduate admission and it is taken into consideration in awarding scholarships for both.

Q: What is the most significant challenge most international students have when considering the U.S. for post-secondary education?
A: What is the best fit university for me, because we have over 4,000 universities in the US.

Q: How far ahead should students start the planning process if they are planning to come to the U.S. for study?
A: I recommend students start their planning for studies overseas in their sophomore year so they have time to research university options and to prepare to have the proper courses.  Also that will give students time to prepare for taking test and to save money.

Q: What factors should students use to narrow their range of choices from over 4000 accredited colleges and universities down to a manageable shortlist of institutions? 
A: I always encourage students to look at the success of the graduates, for instance Valparaiso University 97% job or graduate school placement.  I also encourage student to look at class size, Valparaiso average class size is 19, student to faculty ration, we are 11:1, and to look for research and internship opportunities are available.

Q: If international students come across self-described “liberal arts colleges” in their search what do they need to know about these institutions?
A: Liberal Arts Colleges can have strong STEM programs, they teach students to make connection in their education, and they teach their students to be leaders in their fields.

Q: What kinds of students can be successful or “good fits” for liberal arts colleges in the United States?
A: The student who is a best fit for liberal art college are inquisitive, like to make connections, and to be part of a community.

The View From Campus – How Public Universities Make Admissions Decisions

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

About the university

Q: Describe your institution in 5 words?
A:
Green, unique, groundbreaking, welcoming, and thoughtful.

Q: For what is your institution best known overseas?
A:
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.

Q: What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)?
A: The University of Oregon’s top academic programs are: Accounting, Architecture, Education, Psychology, and our sciences, particularly Biology and Physics.

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

Q: 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

Q: Do most public universities have set deadlines for international admissions?
A:
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.

Q: What are institutions looking for in an application essay/statement of purpose?
A: 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.

Q: What needs to be in a letter of recommendation that my teachers/professors are asked to write?
A:
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 maths 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.

Q: How important are test scores in university admissions decisions?
A:
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.

Q: What are the most important factors public universities use to determine admissibility of international students?
A:
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.

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.

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