U.S. News & World Report Announces the 2015 Best Universities and Colleges

Monday, September 15th, 2014

U.S. News & World Report released its 2015 college rankings. The Best Colleges 2015 edition offers rankings and data on nearly 1,800 colleges and universities across the U.S.

According to the report, the Best National University is Princeton (NJ), followed by Harvard (MA), Yale (CT), Columbia (NY), Stanford (CA) and the University of Chicago (IL). Columbia, Stanford, and the University of Chicago all tied for fourth. The Best National Liberal Arts College is Williams College (MA), followed by Amherst College (MA) and Swarthmore College (PA).

U.S. News also put together college rankings for Regional Universities and Regional Colleges.

To create the 2015 lists, U.S. News used quantitative measures. According to their website, they gathered data from each college on up to 16 indicators of academic excellence. Each factor was assigned a weight that reflected the judgment of U.S. News about how much the measure mattered. Then the schools were ranked against the other schools in their category, based on their score.

These are the indicators used by U.S. News to capture academic quality, their weights in the ranking formula and a brief explanation of each.

Undergraduate academic reputation (22.5 percent): A school’s reputation was based on an academic peer assessment survey of top academics at other schools, including presidents, provosts and deans of admissions. For the national universities and liberal arts colleges, the survey also went to 2,152 counselors at public high schools, each of which was a gold, silver or bronze medal winner in the U.S. News rankings of Best High Schools, as well as 400 college counselors at the largest independent schools. Academic peer assessment accounted for 15 percentage points of the ranking while 7.5 percentage points were for the counselor ratings.

Retention (22.5 percent): This measure has two parts: the average proportion of a graduating class earning a degree in six years or less (80 percent of this score) and the average proportion of freshmen who entered the school in the fall of 2009 through fall 2012 and returned the following fall (20 percent). According to U.S. News, these retention rates are likely to indicate that a school offers the classes and services that students need to succeed.

Faculty resources (20 percent): The following measures were used to deduce that students had more contact with their professors: the proportion of classes with fewer than 20 students (30 percent of the faculty resources score) and the proportion with 50 or more students (10 percent of the score). The next set of measures were said to indicate a school’s commitment to instruction. The first was the average faculty salary, plus benefits, during the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 academic years, adjusted for regional cost of living differences (35 percent). Also weighed were the proportion of professors with the highest degree in their fields (15 percent), the student-faculty ratio (5 percent) and the proportion of faculty who work full time (5 percent).

Student selectivity (12.5 percent): This measure had three components: the admissions test scores for all enrollees who took the Critical Reading and Math portions of the SAT and the ACT score (65 percent of this score); the proportion of freshmen at the national universities and liberal arts colleges who graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school classes or the proportion of freshmen at regional universities and colleges who graduated in the top 25 percent of their classes (25 percent); and the ratio of admitted students to applicants (10 percent).

Financial resources (10 percent): This indicator took per-student spending into account, meaning the average spending per student on instruction, research, student services and related educational expenditures.

Graduation rate performance (7.5 percent):  They basically measured the difference between a school’s six-year graduation rate for the class that entered in 2007 and the U.S. News prediction for the class. This indicator is supposed to show the effect of the college’s programs and policies on the graduation rate of students.

Alumni giving rate (5 percent): This reflects the average percentage of living alumni with bachelor’s degrees who gave to their school during 2011-2012 and 2012-2013.

Families interested in all the data about each of the 1,600+ schools in the U.S. News Best Colleges rankings can access it online for $29.95 for one year.

International College Counselors note that the college search is not all about getting into the Best College as decided by a survey. The best college for one student is not necessarily the best college for another.

We can help you find the best ‘Best Fit’ College for your student. Contact an expert college counselor at International College Counselors.

Tips When Meeting College Admissions Representatives

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Starting in September, students will have opportunities to meet with college admissions representatives. The meeting may be a formal interview or an informal interview, or the meeting may take place at a high school college visit or a national college fair. Whenever the encounter, knowing what to expect and being prepared for the meeting will help the student get through any interaction.

Do Research.

Prior to going on a college visit or meeting with an admissions representative, students should do a little research on the school. Start by looking through the brochures and on the college’s website. Type the school name into a search engine and see what comes up. Go to their social media pages and see what’s trending. Students should know why they want to attend a school, which programs and activities interest them, and why and what inspires them about the school.

Sign in.

Students get extra points from a school for demonstrating interest. Signing in lets a college know that a student attended an event and was interested to stop by. Be sure to “sign in” to all informational sessions attended or on any sign-in sheet available. Students must remember to use legible handwriting, the same spelling of their name that they use on the college application, and the same email address they plan to use for all college admissions correspondence. If not, the college will think they are more than one person and the student may lose the “credit.” Meeting with a representative also gives students good conversation for more formal admissions interviews. It is also an action that can be mentioned in an admissions essay.

Ask thoughtful questions.

To avoid being another face in the crowd, students should ask specific questions that call attention to their specific interests about a particular college. Good questions include: “What is the personality of this college as you’ve experienced it? What kind of student is happy here? What are some of the best features of the school?” Stay away from questions with answers that can easily be found on the website or in the catalog. Also stay away from questions that can be answered “Yes” or “No.” Try to think like a journalist looking for answers.

Dress for success.

The key is to dress in a manner that suggests a student is serious and taking the meeting seriously. It’s about putting one’s best foot forward and showing respect, enthusiasm, and interest in a formal atmosphere. For men, a safe list of clothes includes khaki pants, a light blue or white collared shirt, and a jacket. For ladies, a nice blouse, a skirt that extends to the knees or pats, and possibly a jacket. Showing a flash of personality is nice as long as it doesn’t include anything provocative or profane. Students with required school uniforms should make sure to wear the more formal style. Clothes need to be neat, not as if one fell out of bed and into yesterday’s clothes.

Act like a professional.

During the encounter, students want to be professional, engaging, positive and enthusiastic at all times.

  • Smile.
  • Look the representative in the eye.
  • Show up on time.
  • Turn cell phones off.
  • Avoid giving yes or no answers.
  • Answer the rep’s questions truthfully. For example, if asked what other colleges are being considered, it’s ok to name a couple.

Follow up.

The impression a student makes does not end when the info session ends. Students should write a handwritten thank-you note after the interview or meeting to show that they are a professional, polite person who values the admission representative’s time.

Remember, if you are interested in a school, please do try to show up! If an admissions rep comes to your school or your hometown, the expectation will be that interested students will come to listen and learn.

How to Write the “Why [insert school name]” Essay

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

One of the most common school essays asks some version of “Why do you want to go to this school?” By answering this essay, schools get to learn if you truly are interested in the school, whether you’re a good fit with their values and offerings, and whether you’ll be able to contribute on campus and ultimately graduate from their institution.

Imagine you’re an admissions officer reading another essay about a student wanting to go to Tulane or NYU because they love the city; or a student wanting to go to Brown because of their open curriculum; or a girl wanting to study psychology at X school in order to help people.

What can an applicant say that’s different? What can you offer the college that no other applicant can?

Be specific. Hone in on a couple of reasons why you want to attend your desired school. Do not laundry list all the reasons why you love the school. A few really meaningful reasons that resonate with your background, experiences, and goals will go much longer in showing your understanding of the school.

Don’t rehash the school’s website info. The school does not need to know that it offers “65 majors and 80 minors.” They already know that the college’s “beautiful campus sits on 300 acres and has 50 buildings.” Rehashing the website doesn’t explain why you want to attend.

Research the classes/programs/activities. Schools want to know that you have intellectual curiosity and that their classes/programs/activities will help quench and expand your knowledge. Peruse the school websites and syllabi – are there particular classes that interest you? Is there a particular program that you want to join? Or if there isn’t a particular club or program, can you demonstrate your ability to possibly develop that activity on campus?

Research the faculty. Schools don’t want to read, “you have top-notch professors.” Via online research, is there a particular professor that impresses you? Did that professor have a particular body of work that interests you and, just as importantly, is there a way you can help that professor’s innovative research?

Cite faculty or alumni. If an admissions officer visited your school, you went on a school visit or fair, you took a summer class at the school, or you spoke with a faculty member on the phone, reference back to your experience with this person and how it changed your feelings about the school, what you learned, and how it’ll be a good fit. You can also mention alumni and their words of wisdom.

Avoid broad, generic statements. Do not give broad statements about other applicants, about other groups of people, or about the school. You’re not the busiest, hardest worker able to multi-task academics and extracurricular activities and that’s why the school should want you. Not every student at the University of Michigan or Duke is a huge sports fan. Write about yourself; not everyone else.

Reinforce interest. You always want to make the school feel that it’s your #1 choice. They want to know that if admitted, you will attend.

Other tips. If you’re applying to several schools with the same essay question, make sure to change the name of the school in which you’re applying. Make sure that the school has the offerings you’re listing. If you write that you want to major in pre-med, you’re going to be out of luck. And, always proofread.

Remember, the “Why X college” essay gives you a unique opportunity to show that you’ve done your research, that you understand the school, and that you can offer something that no one else can. We know you have a gem of an essay in you!

Tips for Getting a Good Letter of Recommendation

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

One of the most important parts of your college applications isn’t even written by you, and that’s the Letter of Recommendation. Most private colleges want one counselor and one or two teacher recommendations. Here are some tips for securing good letters of recommendation:

  1. Choose your recommenders wisely. When it comes to choosing whom to ask, you want someone who knows you well enough to write something special about you. The best recommendations provide insight about you and knowledge of your high school success. You want someone to write about your talents, abilities, and more.

    Make certain the recommender is someone who likes you. Make sure to ask a teacher whose class is one where you have great attendance, have few or no tardies, actively participate in class, are well behaved, and get good grades. Most likely you’ll never see the letter that is written about you, so it needs to be from someone you feel comfortable with.

  2. Start Early. Do not wait until the last minute to ask for your letters of recommendation. Your recommender needs time to write a thoughtful and articulate letter. The more time you give your recommender, ideally the more time he or she will have to write something reflective and complete.
  1. Make an appointment to speak with your recommenders. Don’t just thrust the letter template into a teacher’s hand the five minutes you have between periods or tackle a coach in the locker room. Additionally, school counselors usually have a full schedule. Making an appointment shows that you respect that person’s time.
  1. Help your recommender. At your meeting, make sure you give your recommenders everything they might need to write your letter and submit it on time. You gain extra points for yourself because your letter will, more likely, be properly detailed. You gain extra points with recommenders for showing them that you are taking this process seriously and that you appreciate their time and effort.

    Some information to provide includes: your full name, address, email, phone number, and detailed examples of any accomplishments/improvements in a particular teacher’s subject or class. Be careful about sending your recommender your resume. You want that person to write about you as a student in a particular class. You don’t want them listing your activities. But if they ask for it, make sure you have one ready! And for a high school counselor who does not know you too well, you may want to provide your resume.

  2. Follow Up. Remember, your recommenders are doing you a favor. Show your appreciation by sending a thank-you note.

If you have questions on securing Letters of Recommendation contact International College Counselors.

Avoid these Common Application Mistakes

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

On August 1 the Common Application went live letting students send out applications to the over 500 colleges that participate in the program. The following are some of the most common mistakes counselors at International College Counselors have seen students make on this college application.

Learning from mistakes helps them not get repeated.

  1. Failure to Follow Directions. Applicants should answer all questions on the Common App and they should make sure they are answering them correctly and completely. For example, “country” and “county” should not be mixed up. Answer spaces should not be left blank unless there are spaces on the application that clearly do not apply to the student. Students must also make sure to stick with the word or character limits on essays and other responses.
  1. Not Proofreading Applications. Spelling and grammar mistakes must be avoided. Students should have at least two people proofread their application, including the essay. Among other things, it’s a big mistake to provide incorrect email addresses, telephone numbers or social security numbers.
  1. Waiting too Long to Ask for Letters of Recommendation. Students should give their references at least one month before the earliest deadline to complete and send the letters. The earlier a recommendation is asked for, the better. Some teachers will be writing many letters and this takes time. A teacher will do a better job on a recommendation when he or she is not rushed.
  1. Repeating Information. The Common App offers very limited space for students to sell themselves to their colleges, so the last thing they want to do is to repeat themselves by talking about a certain activity twice. If a student submits a resume in addition to filling out the activity section, it should add to the story, not repeat it and contain accurate and up-to-date information.
  1. Writing a Generic or Unoriginal Essay. Admissions officers are reading hundreds of essays and looking for the ones that stand out. This is the chance for students to tell them who they are as a person. Important things to highlight are strengths, interests, personal background, and what the student will bring to a college. The essay should be used to give the admissions officers insight on the individual behind the information on the rest of the college application.
  1. Unfocused Extracurricular Activities. Students should only put down the ones they think are truly important for their application. Admissions officers are looking for quality over quantity. They are looking for passion and sincerity.
  1. Forgetting to send test scores directly from the ACT or College Board. Students fill in scores on the Common Application, but colleges must also receive the “official score reports.”
  1. Using a Name Other than a Legal Name. A student’s name should be consistent with the name that appears on their birth certificate and should include the student’s middle name. When applicants use different names or nicknames it is difficult for those who process the applications to match materials and email messages submitted on an applicant’s behalf. Middle names distinguish students from other applicants with the same first and last names.
  1. Skipping the Optional. Anything a college says is optional is actually not optional. Optional essays are an extra chance for students to reveal more of themselves, so they shouldn’t pass this up.
  2. Waiting Until the Last Minute. Students who wait too long to start on the Common App are asking to be rejected.  Their apps will be messy and easy for admissions officers to dismiss. Many students have been working on their essays all summer, so it is best to get started now.
  3. Failing to Confirm the Status of a Submitted App. It is the students’ responsibility to confirm that their complete application file was received. Students should check the online status via their Common Application account. It is also recommended that they contact a college directly to make certain everything is there.

Be Prepared: The Common App Goes Live August 1

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

On August 1, the Common Application goes live, and students can start filling out applications to the over 500 colleges that participate in the program. These schools are in 47 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, and Switzerland. The colleges and university members are of all sizes and missions and include public and private schools, even the Ivy League schools. Keeping organized is the best way to complete what will seem like a daunting task. Keep pertinent information easily accessible. Print out the following and put it in an expandable folder. Then don’t lose track of the folder.

  • Your social security number.
  • Family information— your parents’ or guardians’ legal names, addresses, occupations, employers, colleges they attended, years they graduated, and degrees they hold.
  • Your high school’s information—address, your date of entry to the school, and your guidance counselor’s full name and contact information.
  • Scores on standardized tests, including the SAT or ACT and AP, IB or SAT Subject test scores.
  • A copy of your high school transcript so you can enter your previous courses and grades.
  • A list of the high school courses you’re currently enrolled in.
  • A list of the college credits earned if taken through a college.
  • A list of summer jobs, extracurricular activities, honors and awards received.
  • A credit card for the payment of the application and to send the test scores.
  • Financial aid plans. (Do you intend to apply for need-based financial aid or merit-based scholarships?)

Students applying as an in-state resident will usually need to show a few documents for proof. For example, the requirements in Florida can be seen here.

Get started on or keep finessing your Common App essay.

The 2014-15 Common Application Essay Prompts can be found here.

Work on your resume, if required.

Students can attach a resume only if a specific school asks for it.  There will be an upload area for it within the college’s writing supplement.

Keep track of your progress on the Common App.

Students can do this by checking the completion Dashboard. When submitting the application, some materials must be submitted together, while others can be submitted independently. The ENTIRE Common App must be completed before it is submitted.

Track all dates and deadlines on a calendar.

You can do this on an old-fashioned wall/desk calendar or program the dates into your phone and set it up to alert you as the deadlines approach.

Keep a folder for each college of interest to you.

This will help ensure that you keep all the printed materials, notes, correspondence, passwords, and photos together. They will all start running together otherwise.

Know the requirements of each college.

Some colleges require applicants to submit writing supplements. These supplements may only be submitted after Application materials have been submitted. Optional writing supplements are not really optional. A number of schools have already posted theirs for the upcoming year and can be found here. Some colleges give interested applicants the option to complete and submit an Arts Supplement as part of their application. Some member schools replaced the Arts Supplement with Slideroom.com integration. Make sure you know the requirements of each college.

Make printed records or screenshots.

Whenever you send an email to a school or interviewer, or receive a response, make sure you print it out and add it to the folder. You will also want to take screenshots of completed applications and confirmations. One of our students used a screenshot to prove his application was not late. And it worked. It’s best to keep all this together.

Break down your tasks. Set manageable goals for yourself.

You won’t be able to complete the application in one night or even one weekend. And if you take it all on at one time, it’s going to be overwhelming. Pick a date for contacting teachers, counselors, or coaches who are writing recommendations. Set time aside to really work on your essays. Then remember to check the Application over multiple times before you send it.

UPCOMING EVENTS

August 21 8pm – Books & Books Coral Gables What should every public school student know about college admissions? Come hear author and CEO of International College Counselors, Mandee Heller Adler, as she reads and discusses her new book, From Public School to the Ivy League: How to get into a top school without top dollar resources.

School Admissions Consulting for Kindergarten-12th Grade

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Choosing the right elementary school, middle school, and high school can be an overwhelming process. There are many, many choices. Make the right decision and you could put your child on a better path to success. Given that, many parents have been asking us to help them choose the right schools that will best pave the way toward lifelong learning and a prestigious college education.

We are proud to say, we are expanding our services. Through our partnership with School Choice International, expert advisors at International College Counselors will now be helping families understand and navigate the K-12 public, private, magnet, charter and parochial day schools in South Florida and around the world.

Our educational consultants know the local schools and will provide clear advice about which schools are a match for each child. Through a personalized, one-on-one approach, school placement consultation services include:

  • Student Assessment & Strategy
  • School Evaluation, Recommendation and Selection
  • Essay Editing
  • Application Completion
  • Standardized Test Review
  • Interview / Audition Preparation
  • Visual Arts Portfolio Recommendation
  • Letters of Recommendation Support
  • Decision Making Support
  • Deadline Reminders
  • Encouragement and Support

Through in-person meetings (where available), phone calls, email and Skype correspondences, we provide families with the information and help needed to navigate the K-12 admissions process.

For more information, visit www.internationalcollegecounselors.com or contact us at 954 414-9986.

Applying to College as a Prospective Visual or Performing Arts Major

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

When it comes to applying to colleges as a prospective visual or performing arts major, students must approach admissions with an abundance of passion for their careers. In addition to an application, personal statement and interview, admission requirements include auditions or portfolios. This can be time-consuming and nerve- wracking.

Most importantly, students need to find the right school for their talents.

Look beyond the elite schools.

Schools such as New York University, Juilliard, the Rhode Island School of Design, University of Southern California, University of Michigan, Berklee College of Music, and Carnegie Mellon are the elitist of the elite for certain visual or performing arts. They are the Harvards and Princetons for the arts. In other words, many students want to attend but only a few will be accepted. In any given major—from musical theatre to graphic design—there are other good schools out there. U.S. News & World Report offers a listing of specialty schools. Look into the schools on the list called “Unranked Specialty Schools: Arts.”

Get an honest opinion on your talents.

Before students and their families spend the time and money on applying to college for visual or performing arts, get an expert or two to critique the student’s talent. It may be better for a child’s future to pursue an arts passion as a minor or a club activity.

Know what you need for the audition or portfolio. Know what the school requires for the admissions process.

Art programs require portfolios that show a student’s best pieces of artwork within specific parameters. Selections for a portfolio should display the student’s interest and aptitude for the arts. Typically, art colleges and programs ask for portfolios with an average of 10 pieces of art. The artwork should illustrate diversity in technique and variety in subject matter. Always check the requirements at the schools being applied to, as some will ask for specific types of work. Visual artists should also be prepared to explain their artistic perspective through an artist statement, and may be required to describe the feeling and intent behind the pieces in their portfolio.

Dance auditions often require a student to attend an open class before the formal audition. Students who attend will learn a routine which he or she will then need to perform. This individual performance will be evaluated on coordination, rhythm, technique, degree of movement, and body structure. The student’s ability to learn will also be evaluated. Certain schools accept video submissions of other performances, either as additional audition material or in lieu of attending auditions in person. Check with each school to see if this is an option.

Music departments are looking for technical competence and performance achievement; however, each program is different. At some schools, students are asked to include two or more pieces as evidence of the student’s skills and achievements. Instrumental auditions should be performed without accompaniment and should be sent in either audio or video format, as requested by the school. Some schools may also require in-person auditions. If so, many times a variety of locations for such auditions are offered. Check a college’s website or call and ask for specifics about their music audition requirements.

Students looking to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Theatre, or apply to specific colleges as a theatre major, may be required to audition. Different theatre departments have different requirements for their auditions and students should check with the schools they plan to apply to for details. Many theatre programs require a prescreening for auditions. Students who pass the prescreening process will be invited for an audition. Programs may require a resume of theatre experience, a recent photo, and/or two contrasting monologues from student-selected plays. Musical theatre requirements generally consist of one up-tempo musical selection and one ballad, as well as a monologue from a student-selected play or musical. Students who attend an audition or send in a video must make sure to wear appropriate clothes and perform appropriate material.

Attend joint auditions.

Attending a joint audition can help students and their families save money. Joint auditions mean a number of schools that offer a bachelor’s degree program in a particular major, get together and hold auditions or review artwork and offer feedback for attendees. Theater majors look into the National Unified Auditions. Visual art and design majors look into National Portfolio Day.

Pay attention to financial aid.

Many art schools and conservatories are expensive. They also tend to offer less financial aid than traditional colleges that offer a wider range of majors. Students who are interested in the arts can successfully develop their passions at traditional schools, so don’t ignore them.

Tips for International Students Considering U.S. Colleges

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

More and more international students are enrolling in colleges in the United States. This increase can be attributed to a number of reasons, including quality of education, future employment opportunities, cost, scholarships, social recognition, and opportunities for immigration. Combine this with several thousand colleges and universities to choose from, and the U.S. has options and educational opportunities for everyone.

The road to acceptance at a U.S. college or university will never be 100 percent stress-free, but there are ways to make the process easier.

Independent college advisors can help international students navigate the admissions process and offer tips on:

1. Deciding where to apply. Getting into a U.S. college is often more difficult for international students. However, a student can gain an advantage if he or she knows which schools are particularly interested in international students as a way to add diversity and cultural enrichment to their programs. Students may also prefer to be at schools with more international students. Being far from home can often feel lonely, and the presence of fellow international students to share the experience can ease “culture shock.”

2. Taking the required tests. Many universities require international students to take the TOEFL or IELTS as part of the application process. The TOFEL and IELTS test a student’s understanding of English. The minimum score requirement on each of these tests varies greatly, so be sure to check with each school’s specific policies when preparing to apply. Oftentimes, if an international student’s native language is not English, the only exceptions would be if the student studies at an English speaking high school, or if the student earned a bachelor’s degreein a particular country like the United States, the United Kingdom or Australia, or Anglophone Canada. International students may also want to look into test-optional schools that do not require the SAT or ACT as part of the admissions process. Schools that do not use these scores can be found at Fairtest.org. However, it is best to check the school’s web page for the most current information regarding test policies.

3. Building the resume with extracurricular activities. In addition to good grades, colleges like students who participate in extracurricular activities. Many international students do not have extensive resumes, so these activities can propel one international student over another in the admissions process. With these activities, a student should demonstrate to the admission committee some level of accomplishment, passion, initiative, commitment, and leadership. Activities can include drama, music, sports, dance, volunteer work, work experience or internships. Colleges prefer to see a few activities that show a student’s sincere dedication over a list of as many activities as possible.

4. Completing the application process. There are a number of elements that an international student needs to submit with an application. For one, students need to make sure colleges receive translated versions of transcripts or grades they require along with letters of recommendation. Essays are another area of the application that may cause problems for students of English as a second language. In writing the essays, international students should not try to “Americanize” or “mainstream” their applications. Schools want diversity. The goal is to stand out and not appear to be like all the other applicants.

5. Deciding where to attend. This is made more difficult because it is often impossible for students in other countries to visit all or any of the colleges being considered. Some countries have international fairs or Skype interviews so students can meet school representatives, but students should still try to visit the college prior to making their final decision.

6. Understanding financial aid. Financial aid in the form of grants, loans or need-based aid is usually not available for international students.Students should also look at each college’s financial aid services website to see if anything is available. Almost every school requires families to submit bank letters that confirm the family has enough money in the bank to pay for all four years of school. If a student does not need financial aid, they should let the college know. In many cases, international students who need financial assistance are less likely to get accepted. Students should research financial aid opportunities at EducationUSA, a service of the U.S. Department of State and the Institute of International Education. The site offers a frequently updated list of financial aid opportunities.

7. Getting scholarships. Searching for scholarships can be a daunting process. For international students who want to study in the U.S., a good place to start looking for scholarships is a student’s own home country. Some countries provide assistance to students for international study.   For example, a number of countries provide scholarships for students who do a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) program, for example. Students should look into these options and research them fully. Some, but not all, of these require students to return home upon graduation. International students should also look at each college’s financial aid services website to see if there are any merit-based scholarships. A large number of colleges have merit-based scholarship programs specifically for international students. Additionally, many private companies offer scholarships to international students. A good place to start is with one of the many free search engines for scholarships. Keep in mind that students should never have to pay to find or apply for scholarships. Reputable scholarships never charge to apply.

International students who are not working with a college counselor who knows the application process and best schools for international students should be sure to contact the international affairs department of each college of interest.

18 Tips for Writing the College Essay

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

The personal essay can help improve a student’s chances for admission.

The essay may be as short as 150 words, but those words can mean the difference between a “maybe” and a “yes.” The essay tells the admissions committee how and why one student is different from all the others.

While there is no exact formula for the perfect admission essay, here are some tips to consider when trying to make a lasting impression on someone who reads 50 to 100 essays a day:

  1. Write about yourself. The admissions committee is looking to learn about you—your achievements, your obstacles, your goals, your passions, your personality, your values, and your character. If you are asked to write about an influential person, the college wants to know his or her influence on you. Whatever topic you choose to center your essay around, make sure you shine through.
  2. Focus on one facet of yourself. Admissions committees are looking for an in-depth essay. Pick one project, one activity, or one passion. Cover too many topics in your essay, and you’ll end up with a list. The magic is in the details.
  3. Tell a good story. Demonstrate how you are compassionate—don’t just tell readers you are. If you had a difficulty, don’t give the admissions committee a list of complaints. Tell them how you overcame them.
  4. Keep it real. If you speak from the heart, it will show, and your essay will flow more easily. Choosing something you’ve experienced will also give you the vivid and specific details needed in your essay.
  5. Present yourself in the best light. Always think about what information you want colleges to know and use when evaluating your application. Don’t share anything that doesn’t make you sound good, unless you absolutely have to, or you can turn it around to show the positive.
  6. Share your opinions, but avoid anything controversial. You don’t know who is going to be reading your essay, so you want to appeal to the broadest audience possible. Write about something you like as opposed to something you don’t.
  7. Don’t repeat information already in your application. If you’ve taken six AP courses in one year, don’t list that you’ve done it unless this relates directly to the focus of your essay. Admissions officers want to learn something about you from your essay that they can’t learn from reading the other sections of your application.
  8. Avoid cliché topics unless you have something extraordinary to say. These topics include a trip to Europe, the controversial celebrity who you idolize, overcoming an injury and making an athletic comeback, and understanding the meaning of life from a fishing trip.
  9. Leverage your native culture, traditions, and experiences. If you’re an international applicant, Native American, or otherwise non-traditional student, don’t try to “Americanize” or “mainstream” your application. Schools are looking for diversity. The goal is to stand out and not appear to be like all the other applicants.
  10. Copy-and-paste carefully. Sure, it’s easier to tailor one essay for many schools than to write each one from scratch. However, read each essay over carefully, like it’s the first one you wrote. Almost every admission officer can tell tales of students who accidentally wrote how excited they were by the opportunities offered at another school.
  11. Avoid scientific words, acronyms, industry jargon, or foreign phrases. Your essay needs to be easy for anyone to read.
  12. OMG! Avoid using slang or other hard-to-decipher language.
  13. Profanity. Don’t use any. It will get you noticed. Not in a good way.
  14. Spend time on your essay. The admission committee is looking to see what you can do given the time to brainstorm, rewrite, and polish. They are looking to see what topic you chose and what you did with it. An essay won’t help you if it’s sloppy and uninformative.
  15. Check your grammar and spelling. You can write conversationally, but the grammar and spelling still need to be correct. And don’t solely rely on your computer’s spell-checker. Often times, the wrong word (spelled correctly) can slip by.
  16. Show the essay to someone who can give you objective feedback. Sometimes you can get too close to the essay and be unable to see it clearly. Other people can often tell if there isn’t enough being revealed, or your essay rambles, or if the humor is falling flat, or if you’re not making the impression you’d want to. Remember, this essay is going to someone who doesn’t know you and is going to be making a big decision based on what they’ll learn from it.
  17. Write the optional essay. Optional essays are not optional.
  18. Don’t lie or plagiarize on the college application. If a university finds out you lied on an application or essay you will get rejected, almost guaranteed. Plagiarism is always wrong, and schools are getting better at detecting it.

 

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(954) 414-9986

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