From the sun-soaked Beverly Hills coastline of UCLA to the verdant eco-sprawl of UC Davis, the sheer variety of academic, social, and professional environments offered by the nine undergraduate campuses of the University of California (UC) system make it an incredibly appealing higher education option for international students. However, while most international high school seniors looking to apply to American universities are acquainted with the near-universal Common Application, many are unaware that the UC system in fact has its own specific application process. So what differentiates the UC campuses and their application from the Common Application, and what should potential international applicants to the UC system expect from the process?
1. The UC system, contrary to private universities like Harvard, Stanford, and Princeton, is a public university system, meaning that it is subsidized in large part by the state government of California. As such, California residents make up roughly 83.5% of the nearly 200,000-strong UC student body, and their applications are prioritized over those of nonresident students. By no means does this mean that the UC schools are a lost cause for international students; however, given that 171,000 students applied into the UC system for the 2016-2017 application season, it does mean that the UC system’s acceptance rate will only be trending downwards for the foreseeable future (for the 2016-2017 application cycle, fifty-four percent of out-of-state applicants were accepted to a UC campus).
2. UC applicants need only fill out the UC application once in order to apply to as many of the nine campuses as they wish. When filling out the application, the student is prompted to list which UC campuses they would like to apply to, and upon completion the application is sent to each campus listed by the student. Note that for international students, there is an 80 USD fee for each UC campus to which the student opts to apply.
3. Unlike the Common Application, the UC system application does not ask students for recommendation letters from teachers, counselors, or any other individuals. Some campuses may ask a very small number of applicants for recommendation letters after the application has been submitted, but this is the exception and not the rule.
4. The UC system also does not offer early action (EA) or early decision (ED) options for applicants, as is common with many Common Application universities. All UC applications for the Fall 2018 term must be submitted between 1 November and 30 November 2017, inclusive.
5. Much like the Common Application, the UC application does have a writing component that must be completed by the student. However, while the Common App requires the student to write a maximum 650-word personal statement answering one of seven prompts in addition to supplemental prompts of varying length individual to each university, the UC application instead offers the student eight prompts, four of which must be answered in essays of 350 words or fewer.
6. The UC application does not ask the student to submit an official school transcript; the student is instead required to input all of the academic information found on their transcript into the application itself. Students of non-American curriculum secondary schools are given the opportunity to briefly describe the structure of their academic curriculum on the application so as to elucidate any confusion on the part of the admissions officer.
The UC system offers students a nonpareil myriad of rich, world-renowned educational options in the most populous (and arguably most diverse) state in the United States – 61 researchers and faculty associated with the University of California have been awarded Nobel Prizes, and UC Berkeley alone has produced four former world leaders, eight United States state governors, and educated three members of European royalty.
Paul Stock is an Educational Consultant at Hale Education Group and a graduate of Tufts University.
Several colleges and universities in the United States offer prospective students the unique opportunity to apply for early admission. Applying for early admission can be beneficial for many reasons including:
- Admissions decisions may be released by January 1 instead of in March and April
- Acceptance rates can be higher for both Early Decision and Early Action applications
- Scholarship awards can be more generous for Early Action applications
- If you are happy with your early acceptance, you may not need to apply to additional universities
Options for Early Admission:
Early admission can generally be broken into three categories: Early Decision, Early Action (nonrestrictive), and Restrictive Early Action.
Early Decision (ED):
- Applicant may not apply to more than one college or university offering ED, but may apply to other schools offering non-restrictive Early Action
- Applicant receives an early admission decision that it is binding (meaning the student must attend that university if admitted)
- ED applicants may apply to additional colleges through a Regular Decision (RD) application, but must withdraw those RD applications if accepted through ED
- This is only a good option if the applicant is not dependent on scholarship offers, as any financial aid is unlikely in the case of an ED offer
- Possible outcomes include: acceptance, rejection, or deferral to RD
Early Action (EA), nonrestrictive:
- Applicant may apply to an unlimited amount of universities and colleges that offer EA
- Applicant receives an early admission decision, but does not have to respond to the admission offer until the spring
- As applicant is not binded to this admissions decision, he or she may still apply to other universities through RD, and weigh all admissions offers together in the spring
- Possible outcomes include: acceptance, rejection, or deferral to RD
Restrictive Early Action:
- Applicant may not apply to any other university (neither EA nor ED)
- Applicant receives an early admissions decision, but does not have to respond to the admission offer until the spring
- Applicant is not binded to this admissions decision, so he or she may still apply to other universities through RD
- Possible outcomes include: acceptance, rejection, or deferral to RD
How can you prepare?
Planning is the key to creating a strong early application. Early application deadlines are generally November 1. To meet this early deadline in the beginning of your final year of high school, applicants should:
- Complete the necessary application components, including a finalized personal statement and any required supplemental essays, over the summer
- Request letters of recommendation from your teachers and school counselor on the first day back to school
- SAT/ACT and TOEFL/IELTS tests should be completed by October at the latest
- Understand your profile! While admission rates are generally higher for early applications, you should still be a strong applicant. ED in particular is not a leap of faith, but a calculated strategy
- Be prepared for all possible outcomes! Have your RD applications ready to submit by January 1 in case you are not accepted through early admission
Remember that while there are several benefits to applying early, it is not the right option for everyone. Always apply to a balanced variety of universities, regardless of the application deadline. Applying early is just one of many paths that can lead you to your dream school.
Nana Koranteng is an Educational Consultant at Hale Education Group. She is a former Fulbright Fellow and graduate of Pomona College.
Here are some common FAQs about studying in Canada:
How do Canadian universities compare to those in the US?
As someone who has studied in both Canada and the US, I can say the most striking difference between the two is the amount of personalized attention available to students. Top Canadian universities tend to enroll larger amounts of students, and the first few years of classes involve attending lectures with hundreds of other students. In the junior and senior years, class sizes are smaller, but building relationships with professors is entirely in the student’s hands. Academic advisors are also assigned hundreds of students, and on the whole Canadian university administrations are notorious for their red tape. You should be prepared to go the extra mile to find suitable internships, research assistant positions, and academic support.
Like the US, students don’t declare a major until the end of their second year, but unlike the US, high school students must select their top three fields of study upon application, from the arts, to the sciences, to engineering, architecture, education, and social work.
Despite these discrepancies, the typical university experience is very much available in Canada. Large sporting and on-campus events, student clubs and societies, fraternities and sororities, and anything else you might be seeking are readily accessible. Mcgill, U of T, and UBC all boast billion dollar endowments, which are quite apparent in the excellent quality of their professors and facilities.
Can I study abroad while attending a Canadian university?
Yes, Canadian universities offer study, internship, and fellowship opportunities all over the world. For example, McGill students can apply to work for a summer with the United Nations World Food Programme in Panama, or enroll in a field study semester in Africa or the Caribbean at McGill’s Bellair Research Institute. U of T students can spend a semester working in a paid internship with the World Bank in Washington, DC, with the World Trade Organization in Switzerland, or conduct an international research project in human biology in China with the University of Toronto Science Abroad program.
Can I attend graduate school in the US with a bachelor’s degree from Canada?
Yes, you can pursue further studies anywhere in the world in the same way you could if you earned a degree in the US. A Canadian degree, diploma, or certificate is globally recognized as equivalent to those obtained in the United States or Commonwealth countries.
Can I work in the US if I earn a degree from Canada?
Yes, but just as anywhere, your professional network is more likely to be in the city in which you study. Applying to jobs in the US from Canada is possible, but you will need to secure an offer of employment and visa sponsorship before relocating to the US.
Alexandra Newlon is an Educational Consultant at Hale Education Group, former Fulbright fellow, and a graduate of McGill University and Washington University in St.Louis.
While many students in their final year of high school anxiously anticipate their move to university — living away from home, choosing from a wider array of courses, the general increase in independence and autonomy characteristic of the college experience — some students are eager and ready to enter this kind of academic and social environment at an earlier age. If you are one of these students, then it may make sense for you to consider the possibility of spending your high school years at a US boarding school.
As an academically focused and rather independently minded 13 year-old, I myself explored the possibility of attending one of the aesthetically collegiate and tradition-steeped New England boarding schools. Many of these schools are nearly as old as the United States itself, and have sculpted a steady stream of world-famous authors (like JD Salinger, Valley Forge Military Academy), titans of industry (like Mark Zuckerberg, Exeter), and politicians (including a healthy number of US presidents — both Presidents Bush (Andover), President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Groton), and President John F. Kennedy (Choate) to name a few. The natural beauty of the campuses, often adjacent to quaint little New England towns ahue with lush foliage on rolling hills, combined with the jaw-dropping facilities — libraries containing rare book collections in glass cases, gymnasiums equipped with state of the art indoor tennis courts and tracks, theaters designed by famous architects and suited to accommodate guest speakers from all over the world as well as the world-class musicians who would be my student peers — were both awe-inspiring and alluring. Thacher, situated in Ojai, California, gives each student a horse to care for during his/ her tenure. Even when compared to the best-funded private day schools, the resources of these boarding schools are unparalleled.
Top US boarding schools boast campuses and resources that rival universities. Indeed, when it comes to applying to US boarding schools it bears remembering that, in addition to undergoing your education at one of these institutions – and as is the case when you apply to college – the school you choose will also be your home for four years. Students should carefully consider the differences among the various boarding schools, as well as their own individual personality, social inclinations, preferred academic environment, and readiness to live thousands of miles away from family and friends.
In addition to the phenomenal academic, athletic, and artistic offerings characteristic of top US boarding schools, here are a few of the more qualitative takeaways and criteria worth bearing in mind as you weigh your secondary educational options:
Particularly if you are a student who finds yourself not especially challenged by the rigor of your school or curriculum, US boarding schools may be worth considering. These schools are incredibly selective in their admissions (top-ranked boarding schools like Groton and Thacher report admissions rates as low as 12%), which means, not unlike top US universities, that their student bodies comprise some of the brightest and most advanced young minds out there. The average incoming class at your given highly selective boarding school is guaranteed to be filled with students who have spent their prior academic lives rising with ease to the very tops of their classes. If you are such a student, then a US boarding school can provide you with both a breadth in course offerings and a peer group that will never cease to challenge you. You will never “finish” the math curriculum; you will not find yourself unable to study a subject, however obscure, because it is not “offered.” The dynamic and expert instructors, 80-90% of whom at top boarding schools hold master’s degrees and/ or PhDs in their respective fields, will work with you to create a course or independent study that challenges you appropriately or affords you access to the subject matter of your interest if those areas are not adequately covered in the school’s annual course catalogue.
Realistically speaking, due to the highly competitive admissions typical of top US boarding schools, you are unlikely to be admitted to such a school if you are unable to cut it academically. Given that boarding school is an all-encompassing experience of which academics are only one part, however, prospective boarding school students should think carefully about whether they are developmentally and personally prepared to thrive in the boarding school environment. Several of these prep schools take care to recruit international students (Andover boasts a 9% international student body from over 40 countries); however, especially with respect to the elite New England boarding schools, it is worth remembering that many of your classmates will have grown up together and be coming from many of the same schools within a relatively small radius of the given prep school. How do you feel about entering an environment in which you will know no one, while many others will already know each other? Are you the sort of person who feels comfortable striking up a conversation with someone you’ve never met before? Are you the sort of person who will get involved in new activities and organizations regardless of whether or not you know people already associated with those activities and organizations? Keep in mind that you will be living at the school in addition to studying there — understanding the social components of the experience and your own social proclivities are essentially important to your making the correct decision about whether or not boarding school is right for you.
That being said, and regardless of which specific institution boarding school alums attended, one widespread consensus on the experience seems to be that friendships formed in boarding school consist of some seriously close and long-lasting bonds. I have heard more prep school alums than I can count say that their closest friends are and will always be the friends they made at boarding school. I have heard this said by people ranging in age from 18 to 88, literally. High school marks some of the most challenging and formative years in a person’s development, and it seems as though the process of undergoing these years intimately amongst and alongside a group of peers with whom meals, classes, extracurriculars, and personal spaces are shared predictably results in the forming of perhaps uniquely close friendships and connections that will last a lifetime.
Ultimately, I decided to stay at home and attend high school in my dynamic hometown of San Francisco. Two years after I made that decision, my younger brother left for Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts. He is happy he went; I am happy I stayed. As is true when approaching the college application process, it is important that students look beyond rankings and surface attractions and focus upon the kind of experience and environment in which they will flourish as both intellectuals and individuals. Whether or not a US boarding school is the place for you, these schools have a great deal to offer and may well be worth your consideration.
Katie Buoymaster is an Educational Consultant at Hale Education Group, former Fulbright Fellow and graduate of Williams College. To learn more about applying to Prep Schools, please call 04 299 0077.
Canada often takes a backseat to the US and the UK as a study destination for international students. Yet the number of international students in Canada has been rising steadily over the last decade. Between 2008 and 2015, the number of foreign students in Canada increased by 92%. The 2016 edition of A World of Learning: Canada’s Performance and Potential in International Education reports that there were 353,570 international students in Canada in 2015. Interestingly, while 26 % of UAE students abroad study in the US, only about 3% choose to study in Canada. A similar trend is visible in Saudi Arabia – of all Saudi students who choose to study overseas, only 5% study in Canada, while more than 50% choose to attend university in the US.
So why don’t more students choose to study in Canada?
Canadian higher education institutions have a strong educational reputation worldwide, and overall Canada offers the most affordable option for university studies compared to the the US, the UK, and Australia. Here are some reasons to explore Canadian universities as a viable option after high school:
Globally Ranked Quality Education
University of Toronto
On the QS World Report of top global universities for the year 2018, U of T was ranked number 31. Located in Canada’s largest city, the university is famed for its research innovations, including the discoveries of insulin and stem cells.
The 2018 QS World Report saw McGill losing its place as the number one Canadian university- it is now ranked 32nd in the world. Located in Montréal, McGill has around 40,000 students, of which 25% are international. It has the highest number of Rhodes scholars and Nobel Prize winners among any Canadian university. McGill has a long list of notable professors and alumni, including John MacLeod who first identified DNA as the building blocks of genetics, and went on to serve as a senior science advisor to U.S. presidents Kennedy and Johnson, Thomas Chang, who constructed the world’s first artificial blood cells, Roger Tomlinson who invented Geographic Information System (GIS), which now drives Google Maps, and Ernest Rutherford, the father of nuclear physics.
U of T and McGill are globally ranked ahead of famed US universities like UCLA, London School of Economics, Carnegie Mellon, NYU, Georgia Tech, Brown, and Dartmouth. These rankings are based on academic reputation, number of citations per faculty, and reputation among employers, international faculty, among other factors.
University of British Columbia
UBC now ranks 45th in the world. Located in Vancouver, the university’s student body of 61,100 includes 13,200 international students from 155 countries. Notable alumni include David Cheriton, Google founding investor and computer science professor at Stanford University, Martin Glynn, President and CEO of HSBC Canada, and Justin Trudeau, the 23rd Prime Minister of Canada.
Streamlined Application Process
Canadian university applications require minimal supplemental materials, with no personal statement, no SAT or ACT requirements for international students, no letters of recommendation, and no interview.
Three-Year Bachelor’s Degrees
Those applying with IB, A-Level, and, in some cases, AP credits can earn up to a full year of university credit, thereby obtaining a bachelor’s degree in only three years instead of the usual four. This applies across all disciplines, from a Bachelor of Arts to a Bachelor of Engineering degree.
Possibility of Immigration
After completing your studies, the Canadian government offers a direct route to employment and permanent residency. As an international student, you can apply for a work permit after graduation without an offer of employment, and that visa is valid for up to three years. This employment period can also lead to permanent residency, to which you can apply without having to leave Canada. That means from your first day of university, to your first day as a working professional, to your application for permanent residency, you can start building a life for yourself in Canada without any disruption.
Lower Costs of Attendance
The average total cost of attendance at Canadian Universities is significantly lower than that of US universities. The total cost of attendance for a B.A. from U of T is between $45,000 and $52,000 USD, and a B.A. at McGill costs between $34,000 and $38,000 USD including tuition, housing, and other costs of living. Compared to Harvard and Boston University, with a total cost of attendance of $63,000 and $70,000 respectively, a Canadian degree is more affordable. Just as in the US, work study and merit scholarships are available to international students.
Access to Both a Cosmopolitan and Outdoorsy Lifestyle
Canada’s top universities are centered around cities that offer a cosmopolitan, international lifestyle with vibrant cultural events, excellent professional opportunities, reliable public transportation, and safe, walkable neighborhoods. What’s more, coastal cities offer easy access to some of the world’s best hiking and beaches, and Toronto is surrounded by nature reserves and sites on Lake Ontario, part of the five-lake system of the Great Lakes of North America. For those that can’t decide between the city and the countryside, Canadian universities offer the best of both worlds.
Alexandra Newlon is an Educational Consultant at Hale Education Group and a graduate of McGill University and Washington University in St.Louis.
As the global economy continues its shift towards technological innovation and entrepreneurship, questions have been raised as to the perceived value a liberal arts education holds today. Does a liberal arts degree offer as strong a return on investment, both in terms of future earning potential and personal growth, as a STEM degree? Can liberal arts prepare you for “the real world?” And what can a person even do with a degree in history, much less, one in philosophy?
As two happy liberal arts graduates, we can attest not only to the immeasurable value of a liberal arts education, but also dispel some of the common misconceptions and misgivings surrounding the applicability and pragmatism of studying at a liberal arts college.
Here are some of the most common myths surrounding the usefulness of a liberal arts degree, and our efforts to debunk them based on our personal undergraduate experiences.
Myth #1: Liberal arts schools are not academically rigorous.
Reality: The keystone of the liberal arts curriculum is an educational philosophy which holds that a diverse and dynamic undergraduate study, coupled with an in-depth study of a specific discipline, is the best type of undergraduate education with which to endow a student. Many liberal arts schools have General Education or Distribution requirements, which compel students to take a certain number of classes across the arts, the soft sciences, and the hard sciences. The minimal and comprehensive division requirements also make it quite possible for students to double major. Students can major in both physics and philosophy, both French and economics, both studio art and astrophysics, unforced to choose between their niche-est of interests and their most practical sensibilities. Also, an increasing number of liberal arts colleges are creating partnerships with larger universities to create 3-2 programs which allow students to receive a bachelor of arts, as well as an engineering degree.
We at Williams (go Ephs!), never tire of pointing our peers to the annual Forbes college rankings. In 2017, Williams was ranked the #2 undergraduate program in the country, after Stanford University (#1), but in front of the entire Ivy League. Of the 2017 top 10 schools, 4 were liberal arts colleges (Williams #2, Pomona #7, Wesleyan #9, Swarthmore #10). In 2017, Pomona College (go Sagehens!) had an acceptance rate of 8% – the second lowest undergraduate acceptance rate in the state of California after Stanford’s – while Dartmouth College, for example, had a 9% acceptance rate. Make no mistake; one cannot slouch one’s way into a top liberal arts school, anymore than one can happen upon a Harvard acceptance.
Myth #2: The study of liberal arts is not suited to the modern economy.
It is true that the demand for computer scientists and biochemists in today’s economy is substantial. Some of the largest and fastest growing areas of the US and global economies appear, on their surfaces, to be places wherein a humanities major might have little place. But this is not the case! Tech and entrepreneurial innovation do in part require a healthy number of scientists and engineers, but they also require people with the creativity and dynamism to come up with the next great idea. People with the perceptiveness, savvy, and holistic critical thinking skills are needed to recognize an idea worth investing in, from the venture capital side of the table. Not to mention the scores of people needed to brand, market, legally represent, and implement that idea in order for a company to grow and endure.
Investors and computer scientists alike over the last several years have highlighted with increasing urgency that liberal arts graduates are acutely vital to the kind of innovation famously born in the Silicon Valley, for example. One former tech giant went so far as to say, “technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing.” That giant’s name? Steve Jobs. Also, while there may be countless programmers around the world that can code, how many of them have the creativity to conceive of the next Uber, Airbnb, or Snapchat?
Because of the sense of camaraderie and tight-knit communities characteristic of so many liberal arts colleges across the country, such schools also possess phenomenal alumni network resources. Alums from schools like Amherst are famously committed to mentoring and advising Amherst students and young alums that succeed them, be it through summer internship direction, graduate school tips, or personal and career advice.
Myth #3: Liberal arts colleges are way too small and are not diverse.
Saint Anselm College’s Alumni HallA liberal arts education isn’t just an American phenomenon, it’s one that’s relevant to all students from around the world. Liberal arts colleges attract all types of students and are only seeing increases in international applicants. Many liberal arts colleges boast significant percentages of international students such as Claremont McKenna College (16.6%), Bryn Mawr (23.4 %), and Mount Holyoke (26.3%) according to US News Report.
Although many liberal arts schools report enrollments of only a couple thousand students in total, such numbers do not necessarily reflect the size of the academic community of which the given liberal arts school is a part. Pomona College has an enrollment of approximately 1,600 students, but is part of the larger Claremont Colleges Consortium, which provides students with access to a broader academic community that encompasses students from five other institutions. Undergraduates in the consortium can not only enroll in classes at the other colleges, but can also enjoy the dining options of four other campuses (which include Scripps College, Harvey Mudd College, Pitzer College, and Claremont Mckenna College).
Furthermore, a small school can offer class sizes and student-professor interactions unprecedented for the average undergraduate student. At Williams, for example, tutorial-style classes mirroring the Oxford model are offered each semester across all departments. Tutorials are classes comprised of two students and one professor, wherein a pair of students meets weekly to discuss reading and their own written material with a professor. That’s a 2:1 student-teacher ratio! Williams, a liberal arts school with only a handful of graduate students and slightly over 2,000 students in total, can offer this kind of student-teacher ratio, generally reserved for advanced graduate students, at the undergraduate level to students of any age and in any subject.
So have we sold you on a liberal arts education yet? Well, if all of our myth busting didn’t persuade you, then hopefully the words of American billionaire Mark Cuban will — “I personally think there’s going to be a greater demand in ten years for liberal arts majors than there were for programming majors and maybe even engineering, because when the data is all being spit out for you, options are being spit out for you, you need a different perspective in order to have a different view of the data.”
There is no wrong choice when it comes to selecting a college, so long as your choice is an educated one.
Katie Buoymaster and Nana Koranteng are Educational Consultants at Hale Education Group, and former Fulbright Fellows. Katie is a graduate of Williams College, and Nana is a graduate of Pomona College.
It seems so real, you can almost touch it. There’s the famous statue with its sage inscription in ancient Greek. And behind it, the library donated by that revered patron of higher learning. Dream school, here I come!
Well, not yet. You’ve done your college research (lost count at 30 schools), you’ve written your personal statement (a frame narrative detailing how your immersion into La Nouvelle Vague symbolizes your commitment to exploring new things through a balloon art metaphor… hmm, too much?), you’ve started working on your supplements, you have all your affairs in order. You’re ready to open that acceptance email in a few months, and ready to fly off to the US.
And then you realize that, at the end of this long process of putting together a coherent picture of you as a university-ready adolescent, the finish line is barred by red tape – You still need to get your student visa.
This vital process can be confusing, so let’s take it step by step:
To get your so-called F-1 student visa, the first thing you need is to be accepted by an academic institution in the United States. When that happens, you’ll be required to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. Then, your school will provide you with a Form I-20.
This is a form you will need to bring to your interview. Once you have it, you will need to complete an online visa application, which involves filling in the Form DS-160.
You can schedule your F-1 visa interview with the local US embassy or consulate. Do this as soon as possible. An F-1 visa may be issued up to 120 days before your course of study starts, but you will only be able to enter the US with an F-1 visa 30 days before your start date.
Be sure to bring the following items to your visa interview:
- A valid passport
- The Form DS-160
- The application fee payment receipt
- A passport photo
- A Certificate of Eligibility for Non immigrant (F-1) Student Status (Form 1-20)
You may also be asked for transcripts, diplomas, degrees, certificates, test scores, proof of intent to depart the US after your program is complete, as well as proof of financial stability.
During the interview, be careful how you convey your intentions to stay in the US past your undergraduate course of study. The F-1 student visa is only granted for the duration of the study for which it is issued; the number one reason students are rejected for student visas is they express their intention to permanently stay in the US. You can be legally employed in the United States by transitioning to an Optional Practical Training (OPT) visa, which allows students to work a cumulative maximum of 12 months with most studies and 29 months with certain STEM degrees. Beyond this, you may continue working in the United States if a company sponsors you for an H-1B Visa. Make sure you understand this, and that you make clear to the interviewer that you will faithfully comply with US immigration regulations.
After the interview is done, you will have to submit your passport, into which the visa will be inserted. Et voilà! you’re ready to go.
Tim Laas-Nesbitt is an Educational Consultant at Hale Education Group and a graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of Amsterdam.
I still remember when I first informed family and friends of my decision to attend Mount Holyoke, an all women’s college in the US. They facetiously remarked,
“Is that a medieval convent in the US?”
“Aren’t you going to miss boys?”
“ALL girls school for four years…You will forget how to talk to boys!”
While many of my friends were seemingly startled by my choice, I knew it was one of the best decisions of my life.
Young women, particularly in the Middle East and Asia, should consider the benefits of attending a women’s college. You may be surprised, but there are over 40 institutions of higher learning in the US dedicated exclusively to educating women. The most reputable women’s colleges are the “Seven Sisters” – founded with the premise of educating women at a time when Ivy League schools were predominantly reserved for men. The Seven Sisters include Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe (now part of Harvard), Smith, Vassar (now co-ed) and Wellesley. For generations, women at these colleges have discovered their passions, stretched their horizons and realized their true potential.
Some may refute the relevance of women’s colleges today. After all, society has made positive strides forward with regard to gender-related issues. Women are leaders in finance, successful entrepreneurs, and hold important positions in Government. While we may have progressed in the past century, the hard truth is the world continues to lack in gender equality. According to the Institute of Women’s Policy Research, women earn about 20% less than men for doing the same jobs . In terms of economic loss, this translates to a whopping $840 billion that women lose in wages every year! 
Gender equality is indisputably imperfect. Women-only colleges; however, are specifically designed to prepare the next generation of women leaders. Hillary Clinton, the first female presidential nominee of a major U.S. party, attended Wellesley. Drew Gilpin Faust, the first female President of Harvard University, went to Bryn Mawr. Moreover, graduates of women’s colleges constitute more than 20% of women in Congress and represent approximately 30% of Business Week’s list of influential women. 
Attending a women’s college makes a powerful statement. Juniors trying to finalize their college lists should research and include women’s colleges as a viable option.
The most unique aspect of women’s colleges is the individualized attention students receive to facilitate success. By nature, women’s colleges strive for academic excellence and provide support services that are conducive to intellectual and professional development. .
Through the small classroom experience, you are encouraged to speak, analyze, and forge solutions as well as hone leadership skills. This helps cultivate strong relationships with world-renowned professors who guide you not only through your four years at college, but also your entire personal and professional life.
Furthermore, faculty advisors are dedicated to creating a sustainable career plan. Discussions with advisors include topics pertaining to hundreds of funded internships globally, and opportunities to conduct research, engage with communities, and collaborate with leaders.
Women colleges draw a large international population. Despite the cultural differences, women at these colleges are connected via unifying forces – pride, spirit and identity. It is a fantastic opportunity to maintain social, cultural and religious values, yet gain a wider perspective on life.
In particular, shared traditions bring the community closer together. Tradition instills a sense of sisterhood among the students. Mount Holyoke; for instance, has a long standing tradition of the big sister / little sister program. As a first year Mt. Holyoke student, I was assigned an older, more experienced “sister”, to ease homesickness, guide me through my selection of classes and inspire exciting new adventures.
The strong alumnae network also connects you to thousands of graduates from around the world who truly support your dreams. Alumnae of women’s colleges are simply an email away to provide life advice.
This close-knit community of advisors, alumnae, and students creates an enriching experience, exposing students to strong, powerful, and successful female role models. Female role models are instrumental in empowering students to pursue leadership roles, both inside and outside the classroom. Hence, you will find students who not only lead STEM research projects, but also serve as captains of sports teams.
Many women’s colleges are part of local consortiums that enable you to enroll in courses at nearby institutions.
Mount Holyoke and Smith; for instance, are part of the Five College Consortium – Amherst, Hampshire, and UMASS Amherst – all located within a 12 mile radius in Massachusetts. They provide cross-registration opportunities for a wide range of courses and a free shuttle service for transportation.
Wellesley also offers a cross-registration program with MIT as well as the option of a double-degree program to earn a B.A. degree from Wellesley and an S.B. degree from MIT over the course of five years.
Moreover, Barnard is affiliated with Columbia University in New York. Barnard students receive unlimited access to Columbia classes, professors, libraries, and events, while maintaining their own campus and faculty. Bryn Mawr students also enjoy the benefit of close partnerships with Haverford and Swarthmore in the Philadelphia area.
Apart from the academically stimulating experience, the consortia enables you to socialize with students, including men, from other prestigious liberal arts colleges. Students from nearby schools often visit the Seven Sisters to enroll in classes, study or simply hang out. This provides access to a network of like-minded students and opportunities to collaborate on several social or business initiatives.
In sum, women’s colleges provide support in all spheres of life – academic, personal and professional – with a specific focus on women’s needs. The experience of studying alongside ambitious, smart and independent-minded women is incredibly transformative, just ask any proud alum!
Mona Khan is an Educational Consultant at Hale Education Group and a graduate of Mount Holyoke College.
You’ve been accepted, received your visa, and packed your bags. But what should you expect from your first few weeks in college?
What is Freshman Orientation?
Every college arranges a freshman orientation for its first-year students; one or a few days of events designed to welcome students to campus, help them settle in, and foster strong social bonds in the freshman class. Typically, the orientation consists of smaller group activities, through which students get to know their new classmates, the campus, and the area surrounding the college. Students are also assigned to a leader or mentor, an older student, who will help guide their group of students through their first weeks on campus.
Expect lots of fun events during these days, and participate in as many as you can! The exact activities vary from college to college, but may include:
- Move-in support
- Comprehensive campus tours
- Ice cream socials
- Welcome lunches and/or dinners
- Ice breakers
- Scavenger hunts
- Residence hall and hallway bonding activities
- Assistance with selection of first semester courses
- Extracurricular activity fairs
- Department open houses
- Campus-specific initiating traditions, such as the Illumination Ceremony at Tufts University
The week ends with the Matriculation ceremony, when you will officially join the college as a student!
Most activities are not mandatory, but why would you pass up on a chance to make new connections, or potentially even the opportunity to enjoy some free food?
International Orientation – What is it, and should I participate?
Most colleges arrange orientation programs that are specifically designed for international students. These are typically scheduled before normal freshman orientation begins. You’ll learn more about living on a college campus as a foreign student, regulations around the student visa, and – most importantly – have the opportunity to make friends from around the world!
Here are some other activities that may be included in international orientation programs:
- Shopping trips for college and room supplies
- US phone and banking set-up sessions
- Cross-cultural and US culture workshops
- Excursions and day trips around the city
- Group bonding activities
International orientation programs are a great way for students to be introduced to the campus and become a part of the tight-knit student community already during their first days. Participating in International Orientation will NOT restrict your social circle; you will still have plenty of opportunities to make American friends. Plus, at many colleges, American students (including US dual citizens) are actually one of the largest national groups that participate in these programs! International Orientation is really just meant for students with a global outlook.
As a transfer student myself, I participated in international orientation programs twice: once as a freshman at a larger state school, where the program was a one-day course on the student visa immigration status, and once as a transfer student at a medium-sized private college, where the program was filled with activities and ran for three full days.
The experiences were very different, but both left very strong marks on me; I would even go as far as to say that they defined my college experience. Being a freshman at a large university, the program was a way for me to find a social circle on the otherwise overwhelmingly large campus. As a transfer student, I had felt nervous about making friends, but was relieved to find a welcoming and like-minded community in my international orientation group. And it didn’t stop there; I met all my closest friends during my participation and involvement in the program, and actually loved my experience so much that I returned to the program as a peer leader, program coordinator, and alumni support staff and interviewer.
Other orientation programs
Not interested in International Orientation? Then look for other pre-orientation programs that interest you! Many colleges offer specialized options, such as programs focused on outdoor activities, fitness, mindfulness, or community service. NOTE: Transfer students have their own orientation program, but the activities and events tend to be similar to the freshman orientation program.
Participate in the programs and events that suit you best – your first weeks in college are the best time to explore and make new friends!
Frida Lundgren is an Educational Consultant at Hale Education Group and a graduate of Tufts University.
SAT. Every year, these three letters strike fear into the hearts of high schools students around the world. The irony is not lost on those who know that the college entrance exam originated in 1926 as an IQ test designed to evaluate US Army recruits. Since that time, there have been many changes to the SAT: In 1994, antonym questions were removed, longer reading passages and open-ended math questions were added, and calculators became permitted; in 2005, analogies were eliminated, more advanced algebra concepts were added to the math section, and the scoring scale changed from 1600 to 2400; in 2009, university applicants were permitted to send their best SAT scores only, instead of sending every set of test results; the most recent change was in 2016, when major alterations included changing the scoring scale back to 1600, and removing the penalty for guessing.
The SAT examination board, also known as the College Board, has said that one reason for the 2016 change was an attempt to cut off any possibility of cheating. International locations, especially in Asia, have been rife with cheating scandals; for example, in May of 2013, both the SAT and the SAT II scores were cancelled throughout the entire country of South Korea after questions were leaked. However, even after the 2016 changes, cheating scandals continue to abound. In January of 2016, the SAT was canceled at test centers across Asia because of a security breach. Reuters revealed in March of 2016 that College Board has always and will continue to recycle old test material, explaining the vulnerability to cheating for both new and old SAT exams.
The most recent news in the world of College Board is the cancellation of the international June and November SAT I exam. After this major deletion, international students only have access to four test dates per year, in October, December, March and May, compared to the previous six. These more limited test dates come hand in hand with the introduction of new security measures, including providing law enforcement agencies with the names of all individuals and test prep companies suspected of stealing test materials.
Fewer test dates complicate a student’s strategical test-taking timeline, and make it more difficult to plan out the college application process. Students who are applying early for the November 1st deadline will now only be able to take the SAT in October. Some schools, like Georgia Tech, have an even earlier deadline, leaving students with no chance to take the SAT in the fall. Additionally, the October test date may fill up very quickly, leaving students with only the month of December as a backup test date.