Choosing The Right Study Abroad University
According to the US Education Information Centre, there are over 4,700 degree-granting institutions in America. The UK has over 100 universities and counting. And Australia has 40 universities. That’s the kind of number we are talking about when you are thinking about your university options. Obviously, most students are thinking of Oxbridge in UK and the Ivy League plus MIT and Stanford in USA. However, a top-ranking university may not be the right university for you. It is best not to follow the crowd and to develop your own criteria for university selection. Factors for consideration would usually include: location, size of campus, profile of student body, acceptance rate, faculty, accreditation, programs, tuition fees, living expenses, campus safety and weather. In USA, a usual practice is to pick 2-3 dream schools, 3-4 reach schools and some safety schools. In the UK, you can only apply to a maximum of 5 universities via the UCAS central system. And you cannot apply to both Oxford and Cambridge, you can only choose one or the other. To further complicate the process, both Oxford and Cambridge have over 30 colleges each and you have to apply to a college which will process your application, interview you and accept or reject you. For example, you have to apply to Christchurch College in Oxford University or King’s College in Cambridge University. In Oxbridge, the college is the place where you live, socialise and learn. Each college has its own history, culture, facilities and rules. Both Oxford and Cambridge universities only look at academic potential in their admission exercise. They are not interested in your character, leadership position, sports achievements or community involvement programs. Both are 100% academic universities.
Study Abroad Campus Visits
Before you make your application, you should try to visit your target list of universities, either in person or virtually. Attend the information sessions, visit their websites, take a campus tour, talk to students, meet faculty and sports coaches, attend a campus event, eat a meal on campus , read the college’s newspaper and if you can arrange it, stay overnight in the student’s dorm. You must like the vibes of the campus and the city which it is located. For example, a student had wanted to apply to Yale University, a top Ivy League university. She visited the campus in New Haven, Connecticut and realised that safety in the city is a major concern with its high crime rate. For American universities, you can check out: www.campustours.com, www.campuscorner.com and www.collegiatechoice.com
For UK universities, you can visit: www.studentroom.co.uk
Study Abroad University – The Application
The main components of your application would include: online application, admission test results, letters of recommendation, academic transcripts, portfolio (where appropriate), resume, financial evidence and application fee. Some admission officers look for a “hook” – a special advantage that makes a student stand out from others. Examples include special talent, minority status, alumni connections, financial ability and nationality. In United States, a common application (www.commonapp.com ) has been devised to save time and money and about 400 universities and colleges are on this platform.
Most students do not give this area enough thought and generally leave to their teachers to write what they want. It is critical to choose only teachers who know you and can write a good recommendation for you. Remember that your teachers have to write letters of recommendation for your school mates as well and it is not part of their job description. You can make life easier for your teachers by providing as much details as possible on what you have accomplished in school. List all your extra-curricular activities, leadership positions, community work, prizes and awards. If it is appropriate, highlight your special qualities and talents. It is not uncommon for some teachers to ask their students to write the recommendation in a template and the teacher will edit it to his style before sending it out to the university.
Essay and Personal Statement
A good essay can make a good impression on the admission officer reading it. There is a lot of subjectivity in this area as some readers look for content while others look for style. Most importantly, the essay or personal statement must be unique to really stand out from the hundreds that an admission officer has to read.
University Admission Tests
Depending on your choice of program, you have to take the relevant admission tests. For undergraduate study in USA, you take the SAT or the ACT. For MBA, you need to take the GMAT. For other graduate-level programs in USA, you need to take the GRE.
In USA, there are no bachelor’s degree programs for law and medicine. So you need to complete a bachelor’s degree in another discipline before you enrol in law school or medical school. For law candidates in USA, you need to take the LSAT and for medical candidates, you need to take the MCAT. In the UK, law students have to take a screening test, the most popular of which is the LNAT.
Most universities do not interview their applicants. In cases where you are called for an interview, use it to boost your application and stand out. Be unique. This is your opportunity to impress the interviewers and help them to make a decision in your favour. Remember that the interview is just one of the many factors in the admission decision process.
Study Abroad Money Matters
For most students, money is a major consideration in the university selection process. Private universities like Harvard cost more than public universities like University of California, Berkeley. It is important to choose an institution based on your financial ability. You do not want financial stress on top of your academic stress. You will find budget planning templates on most university websites. Be realistic. In USA, there are generous financial aid schemes for qualified and capable students. The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid ( www.fafsa.ed.gov) for US citizens and permanent residents. International students who need financial aid should apply using ISFAA, the International Student Financial Aid Application. You can also apply for scholarships and study grants. Check Edupoll’s Global Scholarship section on this website for a listing of scholarships in Asia, USA, UK and Australia. Alternatively, you can also check out part-time work opportunities at Edupoll’s Internship and PT Work section.
Admission Decision Process
Typically, a short-listed application is stored in a folder. Every piece of paper submitted by the applicant relating to that application is in the folder. Depending on the size of the university or college, the folder may be seen by an admission officer, faculty representatives, administrators or an admission committee. They will look at your transcript for evidence of academic ability. If you apply to an engineering program at MIT in USA, they are likely to look for As in your science and math grades. For medical programs, top grades for chemistry and biology are almost non-negotiable.
Beyond the transcript, you need to do well in your admission tests. For undergraduate programs in USA, good scores in SAT or the ACT is a must. The average SAT score composite for Harvard College is 2260. The median GMAT score for Harvard’s MBA program is 730.
Admissions officers will also look at your extracurricular activities such as volunteer or charity work. They will look at your leadership achievements in some of these activities. For branded universities such as Harvard, Princeton and Yale, alumni connections do matter.
Other factors include your high school reputation with this university, whether in-state or out-of-state, minority status, veteran status and of course, the interview if you have one.
Admssion to Singapore Universities
How are Singapore GCE A-level graduates considered for admission?
Admission of Singapore-Cambridge GCE A-level graduates to the University is based on an applicant’s University Admission Score (UAS) comprising the grades of six A-level subjects as follows:
• Best three H2 and one H1 content-based subjects, with at least 1 content subject from a contrasting discipline
• General Paper (GP) or Knowledge and Inquiry (KI)
• Project Work (PW)
The best Mother Tongue Language (MTL) subject grade (e.g. H1 MTL or O-level higher MTL) will be considered only if the candidate provides the result for the University’s consideration. The University will include the MTL subject grade in the scoring only if it raises the competitiveness of the candidate.
3. How are polytechnic graduates considered for admission?
For the admission of polytechnic graduates to the University, the Singapore-Cambridge GCE O-level examination results and the polytechnic’s semester GPA are both taken into consideration. These grades translate to the University Admission Score (UAS) which is used to evaluate the applicant for admission. Some NUS undergraduate courses will only consider polytechnic graduates with accredited diplomas. Please refer to the list of accredited diplomas at: http://www.nus.edu.sg/oam/apply/local/prerequisites/BYA-prerequisites.html.
Singapore GCE A-level applicants could use the UAS calculator below to calculate their University Admission Score (UAS). The maximum UAS is 90 and if an applicant has taken 4 H2 subjects at the GCE A-levels, then the 4th subject will be treated as a H1 equivalent for the purpose of computing the University Admission Score for National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University.
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