Wednesday, February 24, 2016

10 Mistakes International Applicants Frequently Make When Applying to U.S. Schools

David Mainiero's college admissions blog post for AdmitSee walks students through ten very common mistakes made by international applicants who are applying to U.S. colleges and graduate schools. 

Many of these mistakes can be chalked up to stark differences in educational culture. In East Asia, these differences are particularly pronounced. The emphasis on standardized testing and rote memorization there, as well as a results-oriented view of education, makes for a steeper learning curve for families seeking to send their children abroad. 

Below is a deeper look into the first cautionary tip from David's post: 

To many people, the idea of holistic admissions evaluations run counter to everything they previously thought they understood about meritocracy. “Shouldn’t I get in if I have 30 points higher on my SAT than my classmate?” they ask. Partially as a result of the pervasiveness of the test preparation industry, students all over the world are conditioned to focus zealously for their standardized tests. This is the right impulse, but our former admissions officers see it taken too far in almost 75% of international cases.

International students need to at least as much, if not more, time to developing application materials than they do to test preparation over the course of their candidacy. This doesn’t mean that international should spend three years writing their essays. However, it means that they need to be actively cultivating relationships with potential recommenders, strategically deepening their involvement in activities about which they are truly passionate, and working through a whole host of other application issues that are frequently overlooked by students all over the world.

International students who are required to take English literacy tests like the TOEFL or IELTS need to understand what those tests are used for, and how they are evaluated in conjunction with other data points (SAT Writing, Critical Reading, grades in English courses, writing quality of application) to make judgments about a student’s ability to succeed in an all-English learning environment. At a certain very clear point, usually slightly above a school’s TOEFL/IELTS minimum, there are hugely diminishing returns to trying to improve that score.

Remember, Harvard rejects plenty of applicants with perfect scores every year. Standardized test scores are just going to get your foot in the door, but they aren’t going to be what closes it behind you.