Many parents, whose children want to get an education in the United States, strive to delve into the details of the admission process to support their offspring on this daunting and exciting path. From the very first days of acquaintance with the U.S. system of education which differs a lot from the one they are used to, they come across many aspects of the process that seem difficult to perceive and comprehend. I have selected five application process related statements that most especially and often surprise people. You will find them below as well as explanations, and additional information on the issue.
“The application process to U.S institutes of higher education may take two or more years”
It is not possible to enter an institution of higher education in any country within a week, but the assertion that admission to U.S. colleges or universities may take so much time is an obvious exaggeration in the opinion of many parents. Meanwhile, the long duration of the application process is explained by the necessity of allocating enough time for mastering the English language to cope with an academic program, getting ready for and passing entrance exams, preparing a solid application package, performing careful research in order to select the most fitting universities, and building an impressive portfolio to stand out from the crowd. Also be aware that most of the deadlines to submit documents to U.S. schools are between November – February in one’s senior year, which is eight-ten months before the starting date of the academic year, and which also extends the time that should be allocated for the whole process.
“International students can get full scholarships to study in the U.S.”
Given the fact that the cost of study at some institutes of higher education may reach up to $75,000 – 80,000 per year, the possibility that there are some schools in the U.S. that will generously give awards to international students for covering their educational expenses in such exorbitant amounts may sound like an unrealistic and unbelievable thing. Meanwhile, every year there are dozens of undergraduate programs students who manage to get a full-ride (full scholarship) or substantial partial aid from U.S. colleges and universities. Of course, not all U.S. colleges and universities have the means in their budgets to give funding to international students, and the ones which do are no inclined not hand them out right and left like Christmas treats. The list of schools giving funding to international students is limited and the pursuit of university financial aid extremely competitive. Russian students will have to compete with international students all over the world and have to be proficient in English, be strong academically, have some special talents or achievements in other spheres (sports, leadership, community service, etc.).
“Even top scores on entrance exams cannot guarantee admission to top-tier schools”
We are accustomed to thinking that exams play a decisive role in the admission process, and when the students reach the maximum scores, we assume that success is almost guaranteed. In the USA, there are several exams (TOEFL, IELTS, Duolingo, SAT, ACT, etc.) that are usually required by universities from students applying for undergraduate programs. Applicants do not have to take all of the ones on the list, but even if they do so and have received top scores on each of them, there is no guarantee that they will gain acceptance to the top and the most prestigious schools in the U.S. Outstanding test results will, of course, help candidates to pass the preliminary screening, distinguishing them from the mainstream, and will facilitate the process of admission committee officers taking a closer look at candidate’s entire application package. The holistic admissions policy that many U.S. colleges and universities follow will take into consideration many other important factors, including but not limited to the content of the application form, essays, references, extra-curricular activities, honors, leadership, community service, sports, etc. Also, be aware that this year many schools have suspended their test requirements and have made them optional due to the complex situation caused by the COVID -19 pandemic.
“Students can enter some U.S. universities declaring their major as ‘undecided’”
In the United States, many universities allow students to apply with an undecided major and to declare it only at the end of sophomore year. For many of us, this may seem very surprising, since in our educational system the choice of specialization does play a very significant role starting in most cases from the first semester of freshman year. Parents may have some concerns that the lack of choice of a concrete specialization from the very beginning of study at the institute of higher education does not allow students enough time to delve into their major, and may negatively affect a future career in the main area of interest. This system, called liberal arts and sciences education, provides students with a lot of flexibility, allowing them to try different disciplines from different fields of study to learn more about their own preferences, interests, and values. These programs are designed to develop such skills as critical thinking, communication, and team-working: all the skills that are in great demand among employers.
There is not very much difference between a 4-year college and a university in terms of prestige, level and quality of education”
This statement does not make any sense for many people, as they are sure that a U.S. university is the highest-ranking learning institution in comparison to U.S. college, which is lower in rank. In our country, many colleges offer only secondary education or are an intermediate step on the way to higher education. If there is an option to send a child to college or university in the USA, the scales of the choice will no doubt tip to the in favor of the latter. They are sure that college programs are much weaker, less prestigious, and limited in their subject offerings. All these statements are based partly on drawing an analogy with the educational system in other countries and partly on stereotypes. Meanwhile, perhaps only the last assertion has the right to exist when we discuss types of USA institutes of higher education. It is true that colleges are usually smaller educational institutions; they rarely offer postgraduate studies (although there are exceptions to the rule, i.e., and in general, even if they offer a bachelor’s degree College of William & Mary, VA, St. Joseph’s College, NY) and it is also true that the range of subjects offered is likely to be more limited. All the rest of the claims that colleges occupy the lowest level in the hierarchy of educational institutions and that they are unable to provide a prestigious, high-quality education, are absolutely groundless. Only one belonging to one or another group of educational institutions orientates us a little but does not give a complete picture of the quality of education. It is important to conduct research and understand how the educational institution suits you, and to evaluate all its strengths and weaknesses before choosing to study in the United States at a college or university.
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