Pursuits

How Your Children Can Increase Their Chances of Studying in the U.S.

Do international school rankings matter? How many schools should one apply to? What makes a strong application?
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  • EducationUSA, under the United States Embassy, is working to dispell the notion that studying in the U.S. institutions ae costly
  • Interested students can set up a schedule with an EducationUSA adviser.
  • It summarizes the journey into five steps: (1) researching your options, (2) financing your studies, (3) completing your application, (4) applying for a U.S. student visa, and (5) preparing for your departure.

College applications are beyond competitive, and when it comes to applications to schools in the United States, one of the world’s top destinations for studying abroad, even more so.

The statistics can be intimidating but it shouldn’t be the case, according to Matt Keener, the cultural affairs office of EducationUSA Philippines, the educational arm of the United States Embassy.

It summarizes the journey into five steps: (1) researching your options, (2) financing your studies, (3) completing your application, (4) applying for a U.S. student visa, and (5) preparing for your departure.


WEIGHING YOUR OPTIONS: FINDING A U.S. COLLEGE 


Doing the research

Figure out what your priorities are in studying abroad and what you want to obtain from that experience. Make sure that you consider all the options out there and what opportunities are available to you,” Keener says. He says some students jump at the first opportunity they get, when they should really be considering all the options. 

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Becoming aware of scholarship opportunities

Oftentimes, the perception that studying in the States may be expensive puts off some Filipinos, but if they look hard enough, they may find that there are resources that cater to whatever their needs are. “A lot of students will be surprised to find out how many institutions out there are willing to help them offset the cost of their education and make the cost of their education more accessible,” Keener says. Before that, he talked about how it was essential to either meet with an adviser or seek out a representative from the school directly. 

More: How Much It Costs to Study at Some of Manila's Top High Schools

Finding an adviser

One of the initial steps students can take is to sit down with an EducationUSA adviser. “They have a wonderful awareness of the different financial assistance programs and scholarships available in specific U.S. institutions,” Keener tells us. These advisers are just a social media message or an email away. They sometimes even come to you by hosting cohort advising sessions in various institutions around the country. “We [also] have an enrichment series that offers advice from U.S. admission representatives on different steps and phases of the process and they’re always available to answer questions via email or the phone or in person.” 

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Narrowing down your choices

With more than 4,500 accredited higher education establishments in America, there are options to spare, so organizing your applications can be a daunting task. Keener helps narrow it down by asking the question: Does this university offer the right combination of location, program of study, cost, and weather? “Sitting down and focusing on those specific needs that any student has is what’s most important and this certainly something that our adviser also helps the students with.”

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HOW TO STRENGTHEN YOUR U.S. COLLEGE APPLICATIONS 


The right number of U.S. college applications

Keener recounts how some applicants come in knowing exactly what they want and focus only on their Plan A schools with tunnel vision. He doesn’t advise this route. “I would give myself a few options. There are so many institutions in the United States and you should give yourself at least three or four institutions that you think meet your needs.” What’s the magic number? The organization likes to recommend applying to somewhere between one and ten institutions. “If you go above ten, you’re spreading yourself a bit thin and not focusing as much on specific program areas that you need.” There’s also the concern of cost, as most schools require an application fee.

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How to look at school rankings

A quick look at international college ranking systems, and you’ll see that the lists are dominated by U.S. institutions. There are schools deemed to be the “best” but these schools are not a one-size-fits-all deal. Keener says, “Most students look at the United States and say, ‘Oh, Harvard and MIT—those are the schools that I want to go to’ because those are the schools they’ve heard about. Certainly, those are spectacular institutions and I won’t discourage anyone from going there, but there are literally dozens if not hundreds of outstanding universities that score incredibly well in international ranking systems.”

He encourages potential applicants to look beyond the rankings or use it as a guide “to help you figure out which universities excel in certain areas, but don’t let that be the basis for your decision in the end.” Rankings aren’t everything after all, he reminds us.

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Completing the college application forms

Applicants, and sometimes even parents, frequently ask how they can stand out through their applications. Keener is quick to recommend that applicants mind the structure and technicalities before the content: “Follow the directions carefully and pay attention to everything the application asks for. Proofread very carefully—you don’t want to make any mistakes on your application.” After making sure everything is in order, his insider tip is to focus on what makes them unique. “Most universities consider students as an entire package. It’s not just about their academic background, but [institutions] also look into [the applicant’s] leadership experience, their academic activities, their civic engagement, the unique family background that they may have.” 


PLANNING FOR YOUR DEPARTURE


Getting a student visa

Applying for a student visa is not as difficult as people might think. “We almost always approve student visas for students who have been accepted into an institution and can demonstrate they’re a legitimate student, and then finally preparing for departure,” Keener assures us.

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Attending a pre-departure seminar

EducationUSA hosts a pre-departure orientation every year so the newly accepted students are fully prepared for their journey. 

Finding your home away from home

Once in the United States, students can lessen their homesickness by joining a community or a group. “We have networks that students have developed [for the purpose of] Filipino students [to] communicate among each other, help each other cope with the transition.” He notes that some universities also house groups catering especially to international students, or in some rare cases, to Filipinos specifically.

More: Leaders of Tomorrow: Bright Young Achievers From the Class of 2018

To learn more, visit EducationUSA.state.gov.

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Hannah Lazatin
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