English is your second language
In searching for the truth you need to ask
yourself the following questions: First: Am I a good
reader, listener and writer of English?. In reality,
where do I stand in each of those areas?. If I were to
sit in a classroom at an American University how would I
perform?. The bottom line is; you need to find out if
you can follow a lecture on an academic topic at
university level. This should include the necessary give
and take to answer questions, participate in class
discussion, and produce original papers. If you have not
done so, you need to take a TOEFL test as soon as
possible to have a first unbiased measure of your
ability. The test will also serve as a measure of future
a norm, I would seriously recommend to view a TOEFL
score of 660 as a mark that will guarantee some degree
of confidence on the ability to keep up with the daily
demands of university studies. Many Colleges such as
Endicott College, in Beverly, Massachusetts accept
students with TOEFL scores around the 600 mark,
requiring participation in their English as a Second
Language Program, as a precondition for admission. This
important step allows students to combine ESL
instruction with academic courses. The obvious advantage
is that it does not delay admission to a program of
study leading towards a Bachelor's Degree.
deciding course selection for the first semester, the
College's guiding principle is to protect your chances
for success. We all know that nobody wins, if a student
fails academically. It is your job as an applicant, to
find out if your level of English matches your
aspirations, and the admission guidelines of the
Colleges you are applying to. Suffice to say here that a
great number of Colleges and Universities alsd require
the SAT test from Secondary School graduates. As a
general rule, it is better to prepare yourself for a
while taking intensive English courses, than to risk a
denial letter from the College you are seeking admission
I afford it?
The second question in order of importance is: Can I
afford the College of my choice in the United States?.
The truth is, unless you have a demonstrated ability and
a steady "star student" record, it is unlikely
that you will obtain a grant covering all your expenses
at some of your preferred Colleges.
law, Federal (government) money is not accessible to
International students, unless they also hold a U.S.
citizenship or a U.S~ resident card. Many good
candidates will be denied financial aid assistance for
this reason. Or they will receive an offer from the
College to take their own "Grant" (gift)
money, that in reality is still short of the amount the
student really needs. Again, check your past academic
achievements, and type of funds you can realistically
obtain from your favorite College. Sometimes, you will
need to make adjustments looking for institutions that
better match your ability to pay. Don't count on
universities largesse, count on your own resources and
your ability to pay. If some money comes along the way
as a gift, see it as an added benefit.
the most part American Universities can only give their
"own money", not government money, to
International students and they will decide to whom and
how much there is to give. Confronting reality early is
a great time saving device, when searching for the right
College. The good news is that there are a wide range of
institutions available, both academically viable and
affordable. Look for what you can afford. For example,
Endicott College decided to reduce tuition as a way to
evenly benefit a wide range of International and
Domestic applicants. As a result, their tuition compares
most favorably with other Boston area Colleges,
averaging savings of eight thousand dollars per year.
When we multiply by four years, it represents some
serious savings for an international student.
the resources available
you pass the "Motivation" test, the
"English" test, and the "Reality"
test, and you can show a reasonable academic record, you
are on your way to finding a good match at a U.S.
College. The next steps will become a little easier.
Having a good idea of what your academic interests are,
you can now move along rather fast. Word of mouth advice
from alumni/e, advice from USIS and Fulbright Commission
representatives in your country, and advice from
counselors at International Schools are still paramount
and irreplaceable in a search for the perfect College.
use of these resources that for the most part are free.
For example, you can contact the Education section of
the U.S. Embassy, the offices of AMIDEAST in the Middle
East, the Institute of International Education, the
Fulbright Commission, and International Schools in your
International College Fairs in your area should be
common occurrence. In addition, College’s
International recruiters frequently visit Asian, South
American, European and Middle Eastern countries. You
should call the College of your choice, to find out when
their International recruiter will be visiting your
your application to any College or University should be
a serious affair. Please do not take it lightly, as this
is the biggest mistake many applicants make. Remember
that admissions counselors only see essays and grades
and do not have the opportunity to interact with
international applicants when they are processing their
applications. If you are tired or busy, continue to
complete your application or finish your essay the next
day. Type and correct everything. Do not act on impulse,
anything that you mail is impossible to retrieve, and it
will reach the admission office even if you change your
mind. Be obsessive, use the best available paper, avoid
wrinkles, triple check your grammar, margins, etc.
all is said and done, what you write will be your best
or worst credential. Your essays are extremely
important. Think what you write. Show a logical
progression. With the English language -at least in
America-, "more is less", meaning that less
clutter and making a point while being grammatically
correct is highly valued. Essays are a good opportunity
to explain unforeseen events that have occurred in your
life, and they can influence a reader towards a positive
decision on your application. Do not lie, report facts
and circumstances that have affected you, or major
accomplishments worth noting. Universities always check,
and lies are hard to keep up with.
you are accepted finally, remember that U.S. Colleges
and Universities are "writing intensive". You
will write many papers during your stay. Ask native
speakers to correct and edit every paper you send out.
Make it a habit. Also research your papers yourself at
the library. It is much easier to defend your point if
you have done your own research. And besides, it is the
right thing to do. In the end you will remember more for
your final examinations and you will get your money 5
worth. It will also build confidence for the next step,
be it a Master's or Doctoral Degree or your first well
remunerated job. The more you learn about Americans, and
can communicate by writing, the better off you will be.
It is a fact that most of us after College will have
sooner rather than later a manager regularly reading our
beware of plagiarism. In America it represents a serious
breaking of academic rules, and can lead to very
uncomfortable situations, and in some cases to dismissal
from courses and even the University itself.
the end, the reward for your journey will be your
effort, sense of personal accomplishment, mastery of a
foreign language and culture, memories and friends left
behind. But still the most valued reward will be, the
diploma that you will see hanging behind you in your
office and the thought..." I did take the challenge
all by myself and for now, nothing seems
back to the very beginning, my best advice remains: set
your course and stay at the helm for the duration of
your journey. It certainly will be one of the most
rewarding experiences of your life. I can only wish the
best of luck to you, and all those daring students
making plans to come to the United States, one step at a
time. Don't give up and follow your plan to the end.