(Studying abroad holds great promise for opportunities, experiences, and more. But the admissions process comes with questions. What are scholarship opportunities for international students? What are colleges looking for? -what distinguishes an application? Is going abroad an opportunity for a privileged few? Every Friday, The Indian Express invites an expert to offer tips, advice and answers to these frequently asked questions in the “Study Abroad” section. Today, we have BombayViral Doshi, the go-to and best-known education consultant, busts some myths about writing a successful application for an American college.)
— Doshi viral
Over the past 10 years, I’ve seen a jump of over 200% in the number of students applying to America. There are four reasons for this: growing wealth in India, foreign currency being freely available, the internet becoming a level playing field, and more international schools coming to the country.
About 15 years ago, there were about 30-40 International Baccalaureate (IB) schools. Today there are over 200. It is also important to note that the rush today does not come from the big cities like delhi and Bombay, but second, third and fourth tier cities such as Pilibhit, Badlapur, Bhusawal, Coimbatore and Asansol.
The entire application process is no longer the preserve of the urban elite. It became free for everyone. Indians today want the best education for their child and if they can afford it, why not?
However, there are myths that are created and I think it is important that we demystify them.
Myth 1: Studying in an international board in class 11 and 12 offers an advantage over Indian boards
No way. I think the advice makes no difference. How well you do. Finally, the majority of Indian students do Indian counseling. Let’s say there are three students – one is in IB, one has done ISC board and one has done state board. Now, if everything is tied, they prefer the international board.
But if someone in IB has 80%, Indian council 85% and state council 90%, they prefer state council.
Over the years, admissions to top colleges have been split equally between Indian schools and international schools. The best admissions I have seen are not necessarily from international boards but from national boards.
It’s about how you plan. And possibly when they compare you first with the people in the school, then with your city and necessarily with the whole country.
Myth 2: Your predicted scores in the 12th Tables are crucial for US admissions
When you apply to colleges, they look at class 9, 10, 10, 11 grades and first term grades for class 12. The predicted final board scores are only 1/6 of the entire component. It’s not the alpha and omega. They are more interested in your educational background.
In contrast, in the UK, where you get a conditional offer, the predicted scores become very important.
In American high schools, there is no concept of predicted scores. Predicted scores were started by IB and A level schools in India as they usually predict scores for UK. This trickled down to US admissions.
Myth 3: Advanced placements (AP) are crucial to getting into a good university
APs are first-year college courses offered by the college board to enhance your candidacy. APs were previously used primarily in American high schools for students to distinguish themselves in order to go to a top college. Eventually, hotspots became international.
If you are doing international consulting, access points are not necessary. However, if you’re doing Indian counseling, hotspots might come in handy. They can match you with the international jury in terms of rigor of content.
An AP subject is usually equal to an IB subject or an A-level subject. Thus, it puts you on a level playing field with international bodies. Traditionally, some of the Indian council students who have gone to top American universities have done PA with their courses.
Myth 4: Making an “early decision” to go to college is a bonus
American colleges have early demands. There are two subdivisions here. One is called “early action” where you apply to college before November 1st. In mid-December, typically, the college will get back to you and tell you if you were admitted, rejected, or deferred. If you are admitted, this does not commit you. You can wait for all the other responses until the end of March and then decide if you want to go with it or not.
With “early action” you can apply to as many colleges. Here you apply early, decide on an admission and show your commitment to them. Therefore, it can increase your chances by 10-15%.
If you decide to make an “advance decision”, i.e. the choice is binding, this improves your application. But there is one very big caveat – you must have a strong application by November 1.
Many people believe that an average application coupled with a quick decision will result in admission. Never. It is always a good candidate.
If you have a weak application, wait three to four months until January, strengthen your application and apply on the regular schedule.
Myth 5: Many colleges have decided to make the SAT or ACT optional and admissions to top colleges are easier without them
If you look at any of the top colleges, over 95% of students enter through SAT or ACT scores. The competition is tough – when you have 50,000 applications for 2,000 places, the SAT becomes advantageous. But there are many colleges where the SAT is optional. But if you are aiming for a top university, having an SAT or ACT will be an advantage. There are exceptions to everything. But overall, only people with SAT or ACT went to top colleges.
If your SAT is not there, but your academics are strong, you can try applying without it. But if you are looking for a top university, it is very difficult and rare to get in without the SAT or ACT scores. One in 10 students in this category would have gone into something else, like sports. It’s optional, but if you can try the SATs, do it.
Remember that the SAT was only optional two and a half years ago. Due to the pandemic, and the SAT centers not being able to issue the SAT exams, it was difficult to take the SAT.
(Part 2 of Viral Doshi’s article on the remaining myths surrounding US college admissions will appear next week on Friday)
(The author is an education consultant and runs Viral Doshi Associates in Mumbai)