Feature in Cache Journal: Rank and File: Ditch the Misleading League Tables When Choosing A University

Program Director Jeremy Craig penned a feature in the first issue of Cache Journal regarding how one should consider university rankings when deciding on schools. As the title suggests, rankings should be taken with a grain of salt:

USEIC Pro-Tip: Consider the College Navigator to Help Discover & Select Your Ideal Schools

The College Navigator is a free consumer information portal designed to help students and parents to access information about 7,000 institutions of higher learning in the USA.

The site is provided by the US Department of Education with data derived from the National Center for Education Statistics. This interactive website allows you to explore and compare features of different institutions, including programs and majors, admissions considerations, acceptance rates, and much more:

University education is one of the largest investments you will make in your lifetime. Advisors at USEIC have the experience and tools to guide US-bound students and their parents through the college selection, application, and admissions process.  For personalized service and further clarification, make an appointment today with USEIC at www.useic.org or 6233 4566.

Featured Higher Education Event: Linden US Education Fair

On Saturday, February 28, representatives from top universities in the United States will be at the Pan Pacific in Singapore from 1:00 - 4:00 PM. The representatives will be available to provide information about their respective institutions to qualified students that plan on pursuing their undergraduate or graduate degrees in the United States. The event is hosted by Linden Educational Services and is free and open to the public: Currently, almost 5,000 Singaporean students are studying in the U.S., making it the preferred destination for Singaporeans seeking degrees overseas.  The universities exhibiting at the fair range from large public universities to small private colleges and offer a diverse and extensive array of academic programs.

Please visit the Linden Tours website for additional information and to register. You can also connect with Linden via YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Recent News from American Universities...

For those following American university admissions, there have been three noteworthy news stories recently.  Taken in isolation, each might indicate that “top” American universities are getting nearly impossible to get into.  However, when viewed together in context, they indicate that American universities are getting better across the board.  Here are the stories:

1)   The SAT is changing!

Test takers will face a new SAT from May 2016.  The changes were finally clarified with some details on question type and test format, and were hardly unexpected.  The SAT has been losing ground to the ACT for years and the new test is a bit more “ACT-like” at first glance.  The new version will have less arcane vocabulary, more questions on contextual usage and rhetorical style, data analysis, a more straightforward but conceptually more difficult math section, and a longer (optional) essay.  If you or your child is in the class of 2015 or 2016 there is nothing to worry about here as the new test will only come into play for the class of 2017.  If your child is in the class of 2017 then make sure your son or daughter works hard in school, tries to develop a reading habit (Hunger Games is better than nothing!), and do  nothing whatsoever SAT-specific until Junior year.  Worrying about the test before a full version is even released places undue pressure on students and takes away from all the time and energy which can spent doing more interesting and rewarding things.

 2)   Student gets into all 8 Ivy League schools!

A very bright and well-rounded student named Kwasi Enin from Long Island applied to all 8 Ivies and was surprisingly accepted by all of them.  Remember that the Ivy League is just an athletic conference of 8 old schools in the North East, but full credit to this young man.  He was clearly an exceptional student but he also was a varsity athlete, sang, played multiple instruments in the orchestra, acted in school plays, was in student government, and in general epitomizes the type of applicant that top schools strive to attract.  He was in the top 2 percent of the class (not valedictorian) and scored a very strong 2250 on his SAT (not the 2300-plus that parents often think is a prerequisite for any top school).

3)   Stanford admit rate hits 5%

Joined by many peer schools, Stanford was the first large undergraduate college to have a 5% admit rate (5.07% actually, but who is counting decimal places?).  Out of 42,000 applicants, 1 in 20 got in – these numbers are probably worse for students from Singapore as Stanford is perennially a top choice.  What isn’t immediately reported is that the number of applicants four years ago at Stanford was about 32,000.  Top schools haven’t gotten markedly better in the last 10 years, the number of applicants to them has grown tremendously.  It is easier (but still onerous) to apply to American universities and all students are applying to more schools.  Emerging Asia also has its eyes on top American universities; China sent 235,600 students to America in 2012-3, up 29%.  Add to this the American demographic phenomenon of the “baby boomer bounce” and top schools simply can be much more selective than they used to be.  Admit rates are a core component to the silly college rankings that come out each year so it is rare to hear a university telling a student not to apply.  Finally, a US$90 nonrefundable admissions fee paid by 42,000 applicants turns into real money, real quickly.

The good news!

With the SAT changing, news of a student accepted by all 8 Ivies, Stanford (and others) are getting even difficult to get into, what is the good news?  Quite simply, taken together these stories indicate that the American university system is in rude health.  A change to the SAT means that schools will look much harder at other factors during the transition period to the new test and these things you have more control over.  These other factors are clearly what helped Kwasi Enin and the lucky few who got into Stanford and peer schools.  To stand out from the crowd of top GPA and top SAT/ACT students, students need to embrace sports, music, drama, chess club, whatever, to set them apart.  Harvard states that 80% of applicants would do just fine at Harvard, and a good 74% of them aren’t accepted and go to another great school.  As a result of this nearly all American universities have been able to be more selective and the level of student and instruction keeps getting better every year.  Have a look outside silly top 50 rankings at schools that are a good fit and please, do something useful with your life over the summer holidays other than test prep.

The University Admissions Interview

The admissions interview is an extremely important part of the application process to American universities.  Besides the application essay, the interview is probably the only way to get the university admission office to get a sense of your character, personality, passions and concerns.  Most elite universities make an enormous effort to interview every undergraduate applicant to their school regardless of where the applicant lives.  In Singapore, as in almost every country, applicant interviews to American universities are facilitated through school visits, education fairs and alumni volunteers.  Since competition for top university places is, in general, more fierce in Singapore than in the U.S., applicants located outside the U.S. must place a high importance on making the best impression possible in order to separate themselves positively from their peers.  Here, we highlight a few of many suggestions to make that winning impression and get the most out of your interview.

Know the school:

A university interviewer is aware that applicants apply to many other schools.  However, he or she wants to see that the applicant is particularly interested in attending the university, and for the “right” reasons.  Stating that a school is prestigious is NOT a good enough reason.  Explain why: research the website and hardcopy brochures.  Know the types of majors and courses offered and what departments (faculties) and professors are famous for their research and teaching.  Find out what qualities of the school sets it apart from others.  Even more important, through questions and comments, you should make it clear that you have done the research.

Know thyself:

Hopefully you did a written self-assessment before you even started the application process.  With your self-assessment, researching schools becomes more tailored and less exhaustive.  Do you know which teaching style, academic and extracurricular activities interest you.  Have you thrived in small sized classes?  Enjoyed doing volunteer work? If so, what kind of work?  Do you thrive in situations when surrounded by students with similar or differing backgrounds and perspectives?  See whether the school website and brochures (or third-party analysis of the school) answers these questions.  If not, be sure to raise them during the interview.

Set an agenda:

You should have a list of questions that you want answered, but are not easily found on the school website. All interviewers are closely involved with the school, either as an employee of the school, or as an alumnus or alumna, or both.  They serve as a rich resource of information about the school and can often answer the not-frequently-asked questions you compiled while doing your research.  Most importantly, market yourself as best as you can.  Have a list of core aspects about you that you want the interviewer to know before the interview ends.  Prove to the university that you and your interests are a fit for the school and it’s environment while showing your academic and non-academic uniqueness.  These attributes contribute to the diversity that is sought for and cherished by American universities.  Diversity, a somewhat misunderstood concept, does not refer solely to racial and ethnic identity, but to what you, as a student, can uniquely contribute to the school community.

Be professional:

The interview is casual, but the interaction with the interviewer before and after the interview should not be.  Play it safe and treat the admissions interview process similar to that of a job interview (that means you should groom yourself and dress business casual). Emails written in all lowercase lettering with SMS-style language leave a poor impression.  Any emails to the interviewer should be written with the principles of standard written English.  Check for grammar and spelling mistakes (especially the interviewer’s name!) before sending your message.  Defer to the interviewer as to the place and time of the interview, unless you have a compelling reason. Sending a follow-up message thanking the interviewer after the meeting sets you apart from the others.