Articles

EducationUSA | Navigating the US Admissions Process (Aug. 2018)

August 31, 2019


[MUSIC PLAYING] MR. ALFRED BOLL: Good morning
and good evening to our viewers from around the world. My name is Alfred Boll, and
I represent EducationUSA and the Bureau of Educational
and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of
State in Washington D.C. The goal of today’s
Facebook Live is to equip you with
the knowledge and tools necessary to better
navigate the U.S. college admissions process. We want international
students like you to be able to study
in the United States. And 550 EducationUSA advisors
in 180 countries and territories around the world offer free
advising services to help you. During the program, we
will be answering questions from viewers. So if you have questions on
navigating the U.S. admissions process, please post them at
any time during this program in the comments section below. I am excited to introduce our
speakers, who collectively have a wealth of knowledge in
the college admissions process. Joining us virtually
is Chenelle Goyen, Associate Director of Admissions
at the University of Georgia. Chenelle manages the
International Recruitment Plan for the Office of
Undergraduate Admissions. Welcome, Chenelle. In our studio we are
joined by Anna Wise, who is the Associate Director
of International Recruitment at Towson University. Anna serves as the university’s
NAFSA Region 8 International Enrollment Management Liaison,
and the Study Maryland Recruitment Liaison. I’m also pleased to welcome
Joscelin Rocha-Hidalgo, who is an international
student from Bolivia. Joscelin is currently
pursuing her doctorate degree in psychology at
Georgetown University. Ladies, thank you
for joining us. Joscelin, I wanted to
start our discussion by getting your perspective
as an international student. Can you share with us some
of the common mistakes students make during
the application process? MS. JOSCELIN ROCHA-HIDALGO:
Yeah, of course. I think I’m going to start
first with my background. I did my college degree at
[INAUDIBLE] College in the U.S. I’m originally from Bolivia. So I went there and do my
bachelor’s degree in Kentucky. And then now I’m doing
my doctorate degree at Georgetown University– MR. BOLL: That’s fantastic. MS. ROCHA-HIDALGO:
–in D.C. So I went through the application
process as an undergrad, and also for a graduate school. And I found myself doing
this these mistakes sometimes and found my peers
doing these mistakes. I wanted to share
these with you all. And I think the first
one I want to share is choosing only famous
schools to apply to. And it’s such a common mistake. When people start
this mistake, it’s like wanting to go
only to ivy schools. The only famous
schools I’ve seen on TV is Stanford, Harvard– but there’s so many more. There’s so many universities,
colleges around the U.S. It’s crazy that I only focus on
10, 15, that I’ve heard on TV. So I will definitely suggest
people to just search for more. Spread out your
research and look for that tiny
corner in Kentucky, that tiny corner in Maine, even
in states you haven’t heard of. MR. BOLL: That’s fantastic. That’s great advice. MS. ROCHA-HIDALGO: Yeah. That’s really
something to look at. Another thing I found it’s being
afraid of asking questions. But please check the website
before you do ask questions. There are frequently
asked questions, FAQs, that you can look
for in the websites. Make sure to get informed. And if there is
none on the website, don’t be afraid to ask the
people that are in charge. It is their job to help you get
into these universities too, and guide you. So ask for help. Another thing– when you’re
writing your personal statement for any degree,
please proofread it. Ask for help to proofread it. It’s such a common mistake. I was like, I’m
perfect in English. I don’t need help. We all need that extra– you are spending
hours on these papers. Look for help to help you with
those typos, and just phrases that you think make
sense in your mind. But you probably
have been reading it for two hours or 20 hours,
so it ends up making sense. So you need help. You need fresh eyes. Also, I know there are many
or Google websites that teach you the samples for
essays that you can write. But guess what? There are so many people
looking at these papers, too. You want to stand out. You want to be unique. So that’s something I
would definitely recommend. And finally, another
mistake that I did while I was
going through this– I’m going to be– as an undergrad
I was going to be spending four years in this
town, in this university. So don’t ignore other
aspects of the school, such as location and weather. Because you’re going to be
there for four plus years. Might as well enjoy it. And then again, please
reach out for help. That’s a common mistake. Don’t doubt it. Ask for anyone’s help. Yes. MR. BOLL: Joscellin,
thank you so much. I mean, that is– you
make very good points. Especially the one saying
that there are 4,700 accredited colleges
and universities in the United States–
a wide variety. And there’s the right fit for
everyone, for every student. Right? And that’s something that
EducationUSA advisors– whose basic services around
the world are for free– are focused on, is helping
students find the right fit for them to succeed
professionally, academically, and personally. So thank you for that message. I wanted to follow up– you
mentioned that students often don’t reach out for
help when they should. And, of course, we have
EducationUSA– the Department of State’s network of advising
centers around the world. I think you used,
engaged EducationUSA. Can you tell us a little bit
about– would you give students advice about how to engage
EducationUSA around the world? MS. ROCHA-HIDALGO: Yeah I
was part of the EducationUSA in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. I reached out to them, because
I really had no idea what to do. I found I had things
on the internet, but I really couldn’t figure
out what the right path was. And it took a little bit
for me to feel strong and go ask for help. They were so welcoming. Like you mentioned,
they’re there to guide us. And they just gave me all
these wonderful resources– not only online– but also wonderful books that
they have in their offices, and guide you step by step
on how the application process works, the exams
that you have to take, where you can take them– just every single
part of it, they’re there to help you through it. Also to read your papers– those are the people that
can proofread your essays. I didn’t have a
computer at home. I’m coming from a
low income family. I was really grateful that
this office had computers that I could use and
internet that I could use. Because I didn’t have
access to those at home. So definitely I would recommend
going to any EducationUSA office. They’re more than welcome
to help you and guide you. I know it’s a little
bit embarrassing to ask for questions,
but shake it off. Go for it. MR. BOLL: Do it. MS. ROCHA-HIDALGO:
You can do it. Yeah. You just go and ask them. And even to start with
just I am embarrassed, I don’t know what to do. Can you help me? That’s enough. That’s enough. That’s all you need to say. And they’re there to help you. And I’m really grateful
for all the people I met during that time. I also, through
EducationUSA, got opportunity to get opportunity funds– a scholarship. And I was able to apply to
four universities in the U.S. With all their
application fees paid. This scholarship was
paying for all the expenses before getting
into a university. So I think that’s really helpful
coming in from my background, to get that kind of help. And it’s not just to help you– EducationUSA Is not just to
help you to get to the U.S., but they also expose you
to different scholarships and different ways that you
can finance this possibility of studying in the U.S. MR. BOLL: That’s great. Thank you so much, Joscelin. That was very valuable insight. I know our viewers might
have some questions for you, so please hang tight. We will get back to you. Chenelle, I think this
is the perfect time to talk about
admission timelines. What advice would you give
students on the best approach for staying on track during the
college application process? MS. CHENELLE GOYEN: Hi, Fred. Thank you so much for having me. Yes, I would be happy
to talk to you guys about admissions timelines. So yeah, know the
deadlines and the timelines of every university that
you’re thinking of apply to. I am originally
from South Africa. So I know what it is to be an
international student studying here in the U.S. But working
in admissions itself, it’s important to remember
the U.S. timelines. So we’re going to
start with the summer and fall priorities here. So in June and July,
which is U.S. summer– where in South Africa
it’s the winter– you want to visit
the universities that you’re interested in. Narrow your search down to
about five or so schools that you’re interested in. And if possible,
schedule a campus visit at each of these universities
during that summer break. I came over and actually did
that over my winter break from South Africa. But so going into
August of that year, you want to map out your
final high school year. Get a calendar. Plan everything you have
in that calendar itself– everything from scheduling
exams, taking the SAT, get a study schedule, and
then include your application deadlines, as well. In September, start
looking at essays. Research the essay topics
at each of the schools that you’re interested in. Go look and see what essay
topics they’ve had in the past. And then start gearing
your essay writing towards those same topics. So for example, at the
University of Georgia we have an admissions blog. And you can find our
essay topics and examples of great essays on that blog. Our essays is not very wordy. We require for students to
write a couple of essays– between 200 and 300 words. So remember to look
at each university that you’re interested in
and see how long these essays are supposed to be. And focus on substance, and
not necessarily word count. Start early when you
write your essays, or once you have your
essay topics in hand. Answer the question
that’s been asked. Don’t recount. You want to reflect and
tell a story about yourself within this essay. Because this is really
opportunity for you in this application
process to you share a bit about
your personality, give the reader a glimpse of
how authentic you really are. And have at least one other
person read over that essay and make sure you review that. So going into October, make
sure you take SAT or ACT exams. This is very important. Again, if you’re looking
at different types of universities, they might
require SAT, they might not. At the University of Georgia
we require an SAT or an ACT for our first year applicants. Make sure you send
your final scores to each one of those
schools that you’re looking to apply to. In November, ask and gather
for your recommendations or your recommendation letters. So get all your
letters together, and get them ready
to be submitted. In December, you submit and
send your applications in. I usually tell them
most of the students who apply to the
University of Georgia to get these applications
in well prior to the assigned deadline. Don’t miss these
application deadlines. In February, some
of the students will find that they would
have to do interviews. Some universities
require interviews within the application process. For example, the
University of Georgia, we do not require that. So we will not be
doing interviews with that application process. In March, you pick
your university. I also recommend for students
to look at a back up university. So have a plan B and narrow
down the universities that you’ve researched so far. In April, you can review your
financial aid or scholarships. At some schools he will
have to indicate that you’re accepting the scholarship. So it’s important
to understand which schools and what requirements
they have within this process. In May, you will have to
submit your commitment deposit. So May 1st is the
commitment. deposit deadline. It’s a national deadline. So this is where you show the
university your commitment by your commitment deposit to
secure your spot at your chosen university. Also research which schools
are buying and non-binding when it comes to picking
your final school. So, for example,
University of Georgia– we’re non-binding when
you’re paying or making that commitment deposit. Over the summer, students
attend orientation. With my university students are
required to attend orientation. Make sure you allot
of good amount of time to be able to attend the
specific assigned orientation dates that you have available. And then after that, you will
start your selected university in August, or in the fall. MR. BOLL: Chenelle,
thank you very much. That is very valuable
advice, which we appreciate. Anna, we just learned
about timelines for taking admission tests. And I’m wondering
if you could tell us a little bit about
which tests are necessary for
international students and how they go
about that process. MS. ANNA WISE: Absolutely. Thank you, Fred. So the first thing
that I always like to make sure international
students understand is that universities
usually require two different types of tests. So the first one would
be a test of academics. So for instance, the SAT or
the ACT Test for undergraduate. And for graduate, you might
have a GRE or a GMAP test. And these are kind of
testing some of the subjects that you may have
studied previously. But then there’s also tests
of English proficiency. So these might be a TOEFL test,
a IELTS test, or a PTE test. Now usually for
these types of tests, universities will
say specifically. We don’t really care which
one you want to take. Right? So if you want to
take an IELTS, you want to take a TOEFL–
people say, which is better? It’s really about what
your preference is. Universities, when they
say it’s the same for us, it really is the same for us. We’re not going to prioritize
one over the other. But the other important
thing to realize is oftentimes students
will think, OK. I haven’t taken an
SAT or an ACT test, so I can’t apply to
university in the U.S. Right? We hear this quite frequently. So as Chenelle was
saying, some universities do require the SAT
and the ACT test. So it’s a very good
idea for anyone applying to U.S. University to try
and take that test if they have the opportunity. But if for whatever
reason your test is not as high as you hoped,
or whatever the situation is– it’s important to realize
that some universities don’t actually require these
SAT or ACT tests. Now the reason for that
is education systems are often very
specific per country. The example I like to say is
if I studied and took a Gaokao test, I’m not going to do
nearly as well as almost any student in China. Particularly, since I
don’t speak Mandarin. But if I took a Gaokao test,
I’m not going to do very well. So it’s not necessarily fair, is
what some institutions believe, for international students
and for U.S. Students to have the same level
expectations for tests like the SAT and the ACT, which
are based on U.S. Education system. So it’s always important–
which goes back what what Jocelyn
was saying– is you need to check the website. Because the
universities will say very clearly what is required
and what is not required. So it is not a valid excuse
for you to say, oh, I didn’t know you need that test. Because it’s going
to be published. But do realize that
some universities don’t require the subject test. Now all universities will
require some type of proof of English proficiency. And the reason for that
is English proficiency says nothing about how
intelligent you are or how likely you are to be
successful in university. It’s simply a
skill that you need to be successful in university. The same way I would never do
well on the Gaukau in China, because I don’t speak
Mandarin– it doesn’t mean I’m not intelligent. It means I’m not going
to do well there. So the English test
simply tests how prepared you are with that skill. So realize if somebody tells
you this is a requirement, they’re saying this
is the required English level we think is going
to allow you to be successful. MR. BOLL: Thank you very much. That’s very good advice, Anna. One of the questions we often
get from international students is about how they can
finance their education. Could you maybe tell us
a little bit about that? MS. WISE: Absolutely. The first thing to realize
is again, check the websites. We keep saying
this consistently. But universities will
usually post opportunities they have for scholarships. Now there are some
private scholarships that are available through
companies, through EducationUSA has some of that they offer. You can research
those externally. But a lot of universities
will also offer scholarships based on academic
merit, which means how well you did in school– sometimes based on
test scores, sometimes not based on test scores. And when you hear a scholarship
for academic merit, that means really the university
is rewarding you for hard work you’ve done. And that’s, you could
almost say, free money. Right? So that’s money you want to
always say yes and accept– the same way Chenelle
said sometimes you need to say yes, I am
accepting your scholarship. Now the term financial aid
can be a little confusing. Because oftentimes that
refers to financial aid by the U.S. government–
not always, but sometimes. So in that case, international
students are unfortunately not able to qualify. So you must be clear
on the difference between financial aid
and scholarships– scholarships being usually
either academic or athletic based. Now something else
you can research is some of these universities
will have special scholarships for Honors College. So if you want to participate
in an Honors College program, you can oftentimes get an
even higher scholarship. I know at our university– Towson University– we
have athletic scholarships, we have academic
merit scholarships, and those can be combined
with Honors scholarships on top of it for
international students. MR. BOLL: Thank you very much. That’s fantastic perspective. Do you want to talk about loans? Is that– MS. WISE: So loans are
another option that’s becoming increasingly popular. So these would be student loans. Now oftentimes the most
important thing to realize is understanding what
are the criteria– so what are you signing up for. So there are a lot of
very strong financing loan options available. But you need to make
sure you understand what all the terms are. Now I know this is something
EducationUSA can help with. So if you have heard
about a student loan and you want to learn more
about it, then say, hey, what precisely does this mean? What am I signing up for? When do I have to pay it back? And how much do I pay it back? Is this safe? You can bring it to an
EducationUSA advisor and they can help you review and
look at some of your options. But that can be a very
strong option for students. Because, of course,
a U.S. Education is an investment in your future. So if you receive
that U.S. degree, that can hopefully help
you pay that loan back. MR. BOLL: Anna,
thank you very much. Joscelin, can I turn to you
for your perspective on this? Can you tell us a little
bit about your situation– the difficulties
you faced and what your options were that you could
consider in terms of financing? MS. ROCHA-HIDALGO: Yeah. I could not have afford paying
a whole education in the U.S. coming from the
background I come. So I did had to choose. Like I mentioned,
Opportunity [INAUDIBLE] scholarship allowed me to
pay for all the expenses before that. That’s translations of papers–
that can become really pricey– things to English, TOEFL, SATs– so that scholarship
allowed me to do that. But I could limit it to only
four universities or colleges. So I had to choose really
wisely which those four will be. And so I had to
choose which ones will offer more scholarships
to international students, or which ones are more
likely to offer scholarships to their students
in general, which ones are more likely to
just offer you grants. And you can find those
things in their websites. So I was creating
big data sheets on how to get informed
in those information and understand the terms– what’s a loan,
what’s a scholarship. A merit scholarship–
I didn’t understand those specific terms. So I would really recommend
getting informed on those. And yeah, I was really
lucky to get Berea College. And you don’t pay
tuitions in college, which is really unique. So you get accepted and
you have a full scholarship for your tuition all ready
when you get accepted. But I also got some
Merit scholarships throughout the years that will
allow me to pay for my expenses as a student, lodging,
and food related stuff. MR. BOLL: That’s fantastic. Thank you for that
advice and perspective. It really does sound
like financing, like any other aspect of
the application process, involves really
doing your research. So 4,700 accredited
colleges and universities– many that are not
the famous names, but that have
excellent resources– professors teaching, students
will have a great experience. And so it’s about
doing the research to find the right fit for you– both in terms of the school
as well as the financing. Thank you very much. Chenelle, can I turn to you? Once students have gathered
the right documents and put together an
application package, can you share with
us some things that they should keep in
mind before submitting their final application? MS. GOYEN: Yes, Fred. I would love to share some
of the notes I have here. This is one of my favorite
parts throughout the application process here at the
University of Georgia, is really reading
the applications and getting an idea
of the type of student that is applying to the
University of Georgia. So how are you evaluated? You want to pick colleges
that reflect who you are and what you want from life. Review the college websites. You have to talk to
the school counselors and consult, of course,
with your family. Spend quality time
thinking about what you want your college
experience to be, and make a list of these things. And keep them in
mind while crafting the list of these perspective
schools that you’re looking at. And what are colleges
really looking for? Ultimately, different
schools are looking for different characteristics. Yet many have
overarching qualities, and that’s sought by all. But regardless of the school,
the main characteristics and admissions panel is
looking for is number one, an impressive academic career. Show us that you do well
in school, because you’re coming here for school again. Demonstration of
extracurricular activities and leadership interests– we value that. Quality of your written work. Make sure again, you
revise those essays that you’ve submitted
to these universities. And the last thing is getting
some solid recommenders, or letters of recommendation. Then we’re going to look at your
academic progress and trends. So your academic performance
through out high school. For us, there’s not necessarily
a minimum grade point average or a class rank that’s required. But know that you
are up against some of the best and brightest
in the world that’s applying to these U.S. universities. The more rigorous
course selection you have and the better your
grades are and the higher your class rank,
the more competitive your application is going to be. We also look at
intellectual challenges. We look at what
academic challenges the student had available,
and what the student took, as well as what the
student didn’t take. So we wanted to see if
the student did challenge themselves within that
academic environment, or if they chose to
take an easy route. We also look beyond
the transcripts, at intellectual opportunities
chosen both inside and outside of the classroom. And then we also look at work
ethic, integrity, and maturity. We look at all your
writings, your transcripts, the application
items, your recs– the recommendations,
for evidence of exceptional or poor maturity. We look at your work ethic– not just the jobs or employment
that you had in the past, but the effort of work that
goes toward your goals, and the exceptional or
poor conduct records that might come along with that. But it’s important
for you to show us that you’re a hard
worker in all the areas– not just academically. And then finally, we look at
your professional discretion– or the university then
takes a final look at the student as a whole, and
the factors and the student has presented. And ultimately, we
look at the challenges that the student
might have overcome, whether it’s significant,
personal, or academic growth. But ultimately, we’re
looking for a student that has the potential to
have a positive impact. MR. BOLL: Chenelle,
thank you very much. That’s excellent advice. Anna, to wrap up
our conversation can you share with
us how decisions are communicated to students? MS. WISE: Yes. So this is always the
very exciting part. Some universities will
actually make phone calls, or WhatsApp calls, Skype calls,
and tell you congratulations– you’re admitted. I always love making
those phone calls. Other universities will give
you decisions through e-mail. Sometimes they’ll send you
physical mail with a letter– usually a big envelope that
says you’ve been accepted. And actually, a
lot of universities nowadays have
student web portals that you can check and
sometimes upload documents and find out where am I
in the review process. So oftentimes for
those universities that do have web portals where
they have given you access, you can see your admissions
letter there first, before any place else. So if your university
is using a web portal– and again, they will tell
you that they’re doing that– make sure that you
check that portal. Because that will be the first
place for it to be posted. MR. BOLL: Thank
you so much, Anna. That’s also a very
valuable perspective. And it’s important for students
to know where they stand. And I’m sure universities are
very conscious of the fact that students are waiting
and that a lot depends on the decision
that’s being made. OK. So this was a very
insightful conversation. Let’s now take some Facebook
questions from our viewers. So we have a question
from [INAUDIBLE].. Is there an age limit
for college or university applications? Excellent questions. Chenelle, can I turn
to you for that? MS. GOYEN: Yes. So the University of
Georgia, we don’t necessarily have an age limit. However, we do require
that these students have finished high school. Obviously once
they get to campus, some students are dual enrolled. So we do have younger
students on campus, as well. But to give you a
specific number, we usually don’t see
any students younger than the age of 16. Usually it’s from 17 onward is
the age group we see on campus. MR. BOLL: And what about
an upper age limit? I mean, I’m in my 50s– which I am– can I
apply to college? MS. GOYEN: That’s
a great question. We actually have a
program for 62 and plus or over that can study here
at the University, as well. So it’s open ended. You can study for as long as you
want and be a lifelong learner. MR. BOLL: That’s fantastic. I mean, which again
is part of the ethos of American higher
education across the board, is that it is open to everybody. Right? We’re trying to welcome
as many students as possible from
around the world, and as many diverse students
as possible, in everything that that means. Going to our next
question– several viewers have mentioned difficulty in
financing their education. They are asking more
about scholarships, specifically about how you go
about looking for scholarships. Anna, can I turn
to you for that? MS. WISE: Sure. So as mentioned, there
are a lot of scholarships that are specific to
specific universities. There are also ones that are
done through private companies or organizations. So if you work
with EducationUSA, you work with NAFSA. You can find a list of some of
those external organizations that offer scholarship
opportunities. Otherwise, the best advice
to get a scholarship is really to focus on
your strong application. Because universities do have
scholarship funding available. But that funding
usually goes to students with very strong academics,
very strong motivation, very strong ethics– all of those areas that
Chenelle was talking about. So yes, scholarships
are possible. You need to do research and you
need to work hard to earn them. MR. BOLL: Can I ask a follow up? So for many American students
applying to college, also scholarships are
always an issue. And financing is an
issue for everybody. Many American students get
sort of partial scholarships depending on need. Is that something
that is the same for international
students– that they might be offered a partial
scholarship or partial funding, and then be asked to
self-fund a portion? MS. WISE: So usually
that would be the case. Usually students would
receive a scholarship that would not cover the full
cost of tuition and housing. So then oftentimes,
students will be funded by a combination
of family members. It is not a good idea to say OK,
I know I’m coming to the U.S. and I am going to work
to be able to support the rest of my education. Because one of the very
important things to understand is if you come to the
U.S. for a student visa, you are there to study. You’re not there to work. So that means that there is
a limit on the type of work students can do. Students on F-1 student visa
can work for up to 20 hours per week– on campus, only. And that should
not be considered the primary source of your
financing for your university. That’s very important. So yes, there are scholarships. Oftentimes there
will be a difference that still needs to be paid. So usually you want to make sure
that if your goal is to study in the U.S., you’ve been
identifying external sourcess– whether it’s a company,
organization, government, an uncle– oftentimes, it’s an uncle. So yes, that’s
important to realize. MR. BOLL: Thank you very much. So we have a
question from Danya, who asks what are the main
criteria for acceptance into U.S. universities? And so Chenelle,
can I turn to you? MS. GOYEN: Yeah. So when it comes to the
admissions process and things that we look at that’s
the biggest admissions items that we consider, it comes
down to your merit scores– so your high school GPA– your grade point
average coming in. We’re going to look at
your SAT and ACT scores. ‘Cause if students have a trend
of doing well in high school, we want them to
come and continue that trend here on our campus. So your grade point average and
your high school transcripts and the courses you took in
high school and the rigor of the courses is going to
be a very good indicator of how successful you’re
going to be on our campus. So that’s going to be the
main thing we look at. So again, GPA, SAT
or ACT scores– and then we’re going to look at
the rest of your applications– which includes the essay
and everything else we discussed a little earlier. But do well in high school. Have a good GPA coming
out of high school. That’s going to be the biggest
thing we’re looking at. MR. BOLL: Thank you, Chenelle. So a question from Nathaniel
on Facebook who asks, how important are recommendation
letters to U.S. institutions? Anna, let me begin with you. MS. WISE: So this will
also depend oftentimes on institutions. Most universities do require
recommendation letters– but not all. Recommendation letters are
an excellent opportunity to show some of your
leadership skills, some of your ethnic
skills, and some things that we can’t necessarily
see just from your grades. So the important
thing I always advise students is recommendation
letters are important. So you want to make sure the
teacher or principal or whoever is writing your letter
for you knows you and can say nice things. I always joke I don’t have
the person who doesn’t like you write your letter. But they know you,
they know how you work, and they can say honest,
truthful good things about yourself. The other thing about
recommendation letters is if a school tells you they
require two recommendation letters, don’t think it
is helpful to send 48. Because some students will
do that, and 48 letters is too many. They will not read all 48. If they ask you for two,
two is what you send. MR. BOLL: Send two. Got it. So follow instructions. MS. WISE: Follow instructions. MR. BOLL: Got it. Joscelin, can I ask you– I mean, how did you approach
recommendation letters when you were going to college? Was it easy to get? Did you have to explain
what these were? I assume this is not
something– well, we know this isn’t
something that is common around the world. MS. ROCHA-HIDALGO: Yeah. I had an issue with
parents will think or– I don’t know how
to explain this. But I personally
thought it was just a simple two lines, three lines
of a recommendation letter. That’s not what it was. I got informed. I asked more questions to
my EducationUSA advisor. I would also limit them to
only people who knew English. And there were so many other
people that could speak Spanish and they have no
English background, that I could ask for a
recommendation letter and then get
translations for those. So definitely I will follow
Anna’s recommendation to ask to someone
who actually knows you and can talk about you
and your skills and all those things. As we mentioned
earlier, this sometimes you won’t get the
opportunity to interview. All these papers are going
to be the only things that these people are
going to see from you. This is your way
to present yourself and how good of a candidate
you are for the university you’re applying to. So again, find people
who know you and will write things that reflect
who you are in these papers. MR. BOLL: That’s
very good advice. Anna, can I follow up? I mean, if a letter comes in a
foreign language– of course, it depends on the
university– but will many universities welcome
that with a translation into English? MS. WISE: With a translation
into English, absolutely. I would not advise
sending just a letter without the translation. MR. BOLL: Right. MS. WISE: But as long as
you include a translation into English, absolutely. MR. BOLL: So the
main piece of advice that I’m hearing from the three
of you is find someone who knows you well
and who can really testify to your qualities
and write in detail about why he or she is recommending you. OK. Thank you very much. Very good advice. So our next question says,
almost all universities in the United States look at
extracurricular activities that you have done– so
activities outside of school. I’m an international student. And in my country
there are a few options to do any extracurricular
activities or classes or activities. Will that hurt my application? Chenelle, what would you say? MS. GOYEN: That’s an
excellent question, Fred. And I can honestly say, coming
from South Africa myself, we didn’t have a lot of
extracurricular activities available at my school. Because my school was focused
on students going to school and doing well at school. If you don’t have a lot of
extracurricular activities available, that is OK. However, do you show us that
you are filling your time– the free time that you have– with positive or
impactful things. Whether that’s a
job, or volunteering at a local orphanage– the other thing that I would you
advise students to do as well is don’t just submit
an application and say oh, I volunteer
at the following places. Tell us how long you
volunteered there for. Tell us how many hours a
week do you spend there. How many hours a week do you
work, and what type of a impact would this volunteer or work
opportunity have on your life? And you can share some of these
things in your essays, as well. And share with us that
maybe your institution or your high school
does not have a lot of these extracurricular
activities available. But show us that the
ones that you have plugged into, that
you were involved, and not only that–
you aspired to become a leader in that area. MR. BOLL: So it’s not just about
doing something extracurricular that’s organized, but about who
you are as a person and whether or not you’re involved in your
community and the wider world. That’s fantastic advice. Thank you very much. We now have a question
that is coming from a viewing group at the
U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba. For English language testing,
can students apply only using IELTS or TOEFL results? Or are other exams accepted? Very good question. Anna? MS. WISE: So again,
the question is going to be– make sure you
check the university website. Because the university
will usually release a list that says
these are different ways that you can meet the English
proficiency requirement. For instance, for
Towson University we accept the Pearson
test of English, as well. We also will accept
the Duolingo English test, which we’re excited about
for undergraduate studies. This is a test that you
can take on your own. It’s a self-proctored test
you can take on a computer. So you don’t have to travel,
and it’s a little bit less expensive. This is a new test that some
universities are accepting, and some are not. Now other universities will
also waive English proficiency results if you
have, for instance, taken a Cambridge curriculum
course or an IB course. These are international
types of high schools. If you’ve taken a course in
one of those types of education systems, oftentimes universities
will also waive TOEFL IELTS. But the best advice is go to
the university website where they’ll have a listing that
says, this is what we accept. And if you think that you
might have an extenuating circumstance, you can always
reach out and say, hey, I’ve taken this thing. I’ve done this thing. I studied here. Would I be able to
qualify for a waiver? And the worst that will
happen is they will say no. MR. BOLL: Got it. So do your homework. MS. WISE: Do your
homework, yeah. MR. BOLL: OK, great advice. Joscelin, just out of curiosity,
which test did you take? MS. ROCHA-HIDALGO: I took
the SAT and the TOEFL. MR. BOLL: OK, that’s great. MS. ROCHA-HIDALGO: Yeah. And then for graduate
school, the GRE. MR. BOLL: The GRE
for graduate school. MS. ROCHA-HIDALGO: Yeah. MR. BOLL: OK. Thank you. Our next question is do you have
any recommendations for student athletes looking for
undergraduate studies and scholarships, as well
as short-term programs that allow athletes to practice
their sport and also study? We know that that’s one of
the great assets of American higher education– is that you
can both study and really be an athlete, and do both well. Chenelle, can I turn to
you for that question? MS. GOYEN: Yeah. That’s another great question. And it kind of hits
home with my background. I came to the U.S. on
a sports scholarship. So I was a tennis player. To answer the question about
how do you get these sports scholarships– it depends
on the type of sport. It depends on if the university
has that sport available. And the other thing that I
highly recommend for students to look at who are interested
in sports scholarships is to look at several
of the visions that’s within the NCAA body. So for example, if you’re
looking at a large division one school, you’re going to get
some high quality sports there. So for example, at the
University of Georgia we had John Isner
that played here, and he played in
Wimbledon this year. The other options that student
athletes should look at is looking at
division two schools. Division two schools also
offer athletic scholarships. And the third option is to
look at division three schools. Now do remember,
division three schools do not offer athletic
scholarships. However, you can
be on a sports team and they can give you
an academic scholarship. So again, go do your research. Connect with the
coaches at the schools that you’re interested
in playing in. And if you have a sport
that has immediate results, so for example tennis–
if you have a ranking– e-mail the coaches your ranking. And tell him that you’ve
looked at the school’s roster and that you think
your ranking is higher than some of
the folks that they might have on their roster. And then you can start that
communication with the coaches. ‘Cause it also depends on what
the coach’s budget looks like and how many
scholarships they have available for the
following year. But yeah, do that
outreach kind of early on. MR. BOLL: Chenelle,
thank you very much– and especially for sharing
your personal story. That’s fantastic. I want to point out that
we did an EducationUSA interactive webinar exactly
fully on sports scholarships a little while ago. And that is available on
YouTube and via the EducationUSA website, to anyone who wants
to see the full interactive. We have a question
from [INAUDIBLE].. [INAUDIBLE] already
has a Bachelor of Science degree
from his country, and would like to know
if it’s possible to do a second undergraduate
degree in the United States. It’s a great question. Anna? MS. WISE: Absolutely. [INAUDIBLE],, you can do a
second undergraduate degree in the United States. So usually universities
will have a system for you to transfer some of
your academic work that you’ve done in your home
country to our institutions, to allow you to maybe
take a little bit less than a full four
year academic load in order to earn your
second bachelor’s degree. But absolutely, you can get
your second bachelor’s degree. Oftentimes students will
do that because they want to get more intensive
understanding of the subject matter, or possibly they
studied commerce or business and now they want to move over
and study psychology– get a second type of subject area. Absolutely, we would
welcome you to apply for a second bachelor’s
degree in the U.S. MR. BOLL: That’s great
information– and also the fact that credits can be counted. So if you have a degree,
at least some part of that is going to be
counted– most likely toward a degree in
the United States. MS. WISE: Right. The one thing I
would say is if you do have a bachelor’s degree,
every university in the U.S. that offers a
bachelor’s degree has a minimum amount
of time you must be studying at that university. So do not think
that oh, I already have a bachelor’s degree. So I’ll go for one semester
and get my second degree from Towson University
or University of Georgia. University of
Georgia and Towson– every university
in the U.S. will have a limit that says
you must do– usually it’s about one and a half years
or two years worth of studies in order for us to give
you a new degree that says Towson University,
Georgetown University on it. MR. BOLL: Got it. Thank you very much. Very valuable advice. So our next question is
do recommendation letters and references need to be from
a student’s field of study? Or could these be from
people from other fields– completely unrelated? And again, very happy
to see that this is a question from our
viewing group in Havana, Cuba. Anna, can I ask you about that? MS. WISE: Sure. The most important thing
about finding recommenders is that they have
worked with you in either an academic, a
professional, or a work capacity. So it does not need to be
in the same subject area. If you want to study
history, it does not need to be your history
teacher who writes it for you. But it doesn’t have to be
someone who can say how are you when it comes to
completing assignments. Do you meet your deadlines? Are you a hard worker? So usually it needs
to be somebody who has seen you in an
academic or in a professional. So some universities will say
yes, if you had an employer, your employer can write you
a recommendation letter. MR. BOLL: Chenelle,
anything that you would like to add to that? MS. GOYEN: Yeah. I concur with Anna. It is important for us to see
in the letters of recommendation that there is some substance
written about the student or the applicant. So for example, if I read
a letter of recommendation that is only one paragraph,
that’s a little concerning. Because it shows me that
this person who wrote the letter doesn’t really
know the applicant as well. Usually when we see
letters of recommendation they will go from
one to two pages m where this person
will explain how the student handled a scenario
or a challenging academic task– and how successful the
student was after that. And also, out of the
letters of recommendation we will find other
information topics that will help shape our
understanding of the applicant. So a student might not
share that they have had, let’s say a tragic event
that happened in their family or in the past. And sometimes the counselor
or the school principal will share that story
or with that background with us in that letter
of recommendation. And that will give
us a good overview of how mature the
student is, and how they’ve handled the challenges
that’s come upon their life. MR. BOLL: Thank you, Chenelle. Very good advice. Joscelin, we have some
questions for you. Quite a few students
online are asking if you could repeat the names
of the scholarships you received at Berea and Georgetown. MS. ROCHA-HIDALGO: Oh, OK. So the one in Berea
College– the full tuition, it’s part of the– it’s
a norm in Berea College. Every student who gets admitted
to Berea College in Kentucky– they get already a full
scholarship for tuition. MR. BOLL: Automatically? MS. ROCHA-HIDALGO:
Automatically, as part of– it goes through the
application process. When you’re admitted
you all ready come with your full
tuition scholarship. It is a competitive
school to get into. But once you get into it, you
don’t have to pay for tuition. It’s also work study. So we are required–
every student is required to work for the university. We do get paid some for it. But it also goes towards
the education expenses. And that’s how I got it. And right now I’m
doing my PhD programs. PhD programs are a
little bit different. Some schools are going to
give you also the full tuition as part of that program. Georgetown University
is paying– the psychology department is
paid for the full scholarship. I’m working again, for the
university as a teaching assistant and doing
other research with them, with the department, to pay
for those tuition and expenses. But they’re giving me a stipend
as part of their program. This doesn’t happen everywhere. It’s not with all the graduate
programs– especially masters. Those are a little bit harder
to get full tuition pay. Mostly you have to pay
at least half of it. But PhD programs– some of them
are going to be more lenient. And you get full
funding and also a stipend as part
of the program. MR. BOLL: That’s fantastic. So again, it sounds
like do your research. Look at all the schools,
and look at the many options out there– 4,700 accredited universities. You know, EducationUSA,
we want to represent all of these schools. And we we’re always at
pains to tell students look, find– do your research
and find the right fit. There are so many excellent
places to get an education. So we have a question
from Monesha, who is asking if we
could speak a little bit about the admission process
for transfer students, which is very interesting. Chenelle, can I start with you? MS. GOYEN: Yeah. The transfer application process
also varies among the schools here in the U.S. So I’m going
to use the University of Georgia as an example here. It is actually
very easy to apply to the University of Georgia
as a transfer applicant. You have to meet our minimum
transfer requirements– which is 30 already transferable
hours– so 30 hours or more. And you have to have a 3.2
GPA or higher with that to be considered for admission. So in other words,
you don’t need an SAT or ACT score when you’re
applying as a transfer student. The one note that I would
throw out there with this is if you’re applying from an
international university– so a university outside
the United States– we do require that
students have to submit a TOEFL or a IELTS score to show
us that English proficiency. So our minimum TOEFL
score is 80 or above. So again, 30 transferable
hours, a 3.2 GPA, and a 80 on the TOEFL, and you
will be strongly considered for admission. MR. BOLL: That’s fantastic. Thank you. Very interesting perspective. Our next question
is whether or not colleges and universities
will accept credits from international schools. And I take that to mean
both universities, which we’ve talked about, but as
well as secondary schools. Anna, you mentioned
that you would maybe want to talk a little bit more. MS. WISE: Sure. So a lot of U.S.
universities will actually recognize major
international curriculums. For instance, if you have
attended a Cambridge School, IGCSE school, IB school– a lot of those
universities realize that you’re doing very
high level academic work. And based on your
examination results that you used to graduate, you
can receive transfer credits. So for instance,
Towson University– and again, it’s all going to
be posted on the university website. But Towson University
does offer credits for students taking AS levels
or A levels in a Cambridge curriculum. We also offer credits for
students with an IB diploma. So if students graduate
with a full IB diploma, we feel that is equivalent
your first full year of academic studies
at Towson University. So while a
traditional program is four years, if come
in with an IB diploma you may graduate in three years. So each university will
have a different system. But a lot of
universities, particularly those that have strong
international populations, realize the value
of the subjects that your studying and will
transfer those secondary school examination results in. MR. BOLL: That’s fantastic. Thank you very much. Very good information. So unfortunately, we
are almost out of time. I would like to
thank each of you. And first of all, ask you
to share a final thought for our viewers. Joscelin, can I turn to you? MS. ROCHA-HIDALGO: Yes. Oh, final thoughts– I
have so many thoughts to share with you all. I will recommend ask for help. Don’t doubt that there
are many people who are happy to help you
and willing to help you. So reach out to them. And also, do your work. Look around the websites. Do research. There are so many places
that you can apply to. Some of them are going
to be better suit for you than others. And that’s what you should
do before you apply– find the right place for you– the one place that makes you
happy academically and also personally. MR. BOLL: Thank you so much. That’s great advice. Chenelle, can I turn
to you in Georgia? MS. GOYEN: Yeah. I usually tell most
applicants that they’re about to embark on the most
epic journey of their life. And I think it’s important for
you as an international student to understand the value
in finding the right fit. You’re going to be at
a place for four years, as Anna indicated, or longer. And yeah, it’s important
to realize that this is a fun part of your life. Make sure the institution
that you’re choosing can help shape you and
help you reach your dreams and aspirations, and
help find your passions. MR. BOLL: Thank you so much. That is fantastic advice,
and a great spirit for students to come
with in approaching their undergraduate studies
and studies generally. Anna, can I ask you–
final thoughts for us? MS. WISE: I would
agree very much with Joscelin and
Chenelle’s recommendations. The other thing I
would say is it’s very easy to be overwhelmed
by this process– and to say this is
very complicated, this is very scary, and
this is not possible for me. The important
thing to realize is there are currently over one
million international students studying in the U.S. from
hundreds of countries. Those students all
started just like you. You already have
access to EducationUSA, which is a top tier program
that will help you for free. You have access. Make sure you take advantage
of what they can help you with. Make sure you ask questions
and realize a U.S. education is not some impossible thing
that no one can ever achieve. It’s possible. There are students
who started just like you, who are sitting in
seats similar to Joscelin here. So make sure that
you say encouraged, you ask questions,
work with EducationUSA, and really think about your
process step by step, one piece after the other. Because if you
think about it as I have to do all of these things,
you may feel overwhelmed. So I just think piece
by piece, step by step. It’s possible. MR. BOLL: That’s
fantastic vision, advice, and perspective. It’s all possible. There are a million students
currently that have done it. And you have EducationUSA
to help you along the way. Thank you so much. I really want to thank
you for joining us today. And, of course, a special
thank you to our guests– Chenelle, Anna, and Joscelin. A very special thanks to our
viewing groups joining us from around the world– and especially those at
EducationUSA Nicaragua, EducationUSA Medellin,
at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, the U.S.
Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala,
and many other groups around the world. You can find more information
about studying in the United States by visiting the
EducationUSA website at www.educationusa.state.gov. There you can find information
on the five steps to U.S. study, locate an EducationUSA
center in your country– one of 426 around
the world, connect with us via social media,
learn about both in-person and virtual upcoming events,
research financial aid opportunities, and much more. Thank you and please join
us for future EducationUSA interactive web chats. And on a final
note, I would just like to share this quote by
Deputy Secretary of Education Mitchell “Mick” Zais. And goodbye, from Washington.

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