Top 5 questions about US undergraduate admission


Apakah hanya peraih medali Olimpiade internasional yang bisa ke sekolah Ivy League? Bisakah kamu mendapat beasiswa untuk studi di AS? Bagaimana dengan beasiswa penuh? Community College atau 4-year university, manakah yang lebih tepat untukmu? Bagaimanakah cara meminta surat rekomendasi dari guru SMA? Apakah itu early action dan early decision? Dalam tulisan ini, Charlotte West, seorang mantan international student advisor di Green River Community College yang telah menasehati ratusan mahasiswa/i Indonesia dan kenal dengan sistem pendidikan Indonesia, dan juga Kirk Daulerio, mantan admission officer di universitas-universitas ternama seperti Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania dan Bowdoin College, meluangkan waktu mereka untuk menjawab pertanyaan-pertanyaan di atas khusus untuk pembaca Indonesia Mengglobal. Mari simak artikel yang satu ini yang dijamin akan membuka matamu tentang admission ke universitas-universitas di Amerika. Jangan lewatkan juga tulisan berikutnya mengenai penulisan esai aplikasi yang akan diterbitkan tanggal 4 Desember 2014.

You can submit your questions about U.S. college admissions to the AdmitHub forum, Besides the free forum, AdmitHub also provides an affordable application review service and hourly college counseling on an individual basis. Check out this page for more details on their services. AdmitHub was also just featured on TechCrunch! AdmitHub is offering a 20 percent discount on its services until December 31, 2014 to Indonesia Mengglobal readers using the promo code INDO2014.

1. Is it true that only international Olympiad medalists can go to Ivy League schools?

No – as a former Ivy League admission officer at Princeton and University of Pennsylvania, I can tell you that Ivy League universities are seeking exceptional students across the board, ones who excel in academics, extracurriculars, and personal qualities.  Winning an International Olympiad medal is certainly one way for a student to display intellectual talent and academic commitment, but it’s not the only way to stand out as an applicant.

Ivy League admission officers are looking for students who have made the most of the opportunities presented to them, whatever they may be.  First and foremost, however, you need to take the most rigorous curriculum available in your school, and perform well in it.  Also, since the Ivies aren’t (yet) test-optional, you’ll need to present strong standardized test scores, as well.

After that, the door is wide open for you. You should feel free to explore your passions, both in terms of academics and extracurriculars, and delve deeply into your areas of interest. Maybe you conduct an independent research project on an academic area of interest and publish your results. Perhaps you take a course or two at a local college and perform at an exceptional level. The possibilities are endless and not limited to one type of activity.

It is important, however, to properly highlight and detail your personal background, skills, interests, talents, and accolades in your college applications.  Many students aren’t aware of how admissions committees perceive their application, so they miss opportunities to display themselves in the most complete and positive light.

– Kirk Daulerio, Co-Founder of and former admission officer at Princeton, Penn, and Bowdoin

2. Can I get scholarship to go to the US? How about a full scholarship?

International students are not eligible for U.S. federal student financial aid, but many universities (especially private school) do have scholarships for international students. Some schools automatically consider you for these scholarships, while others require you to submit a separate application. Check with the schools you are interested in. In an effort to attract more international students, some public schools have also started to offer in-state (resident) tuition for international students. Most of these schools do not currently have large international student populations and may be located in more rural areas.

There are also scholarships that are not specific to a particular institution. EducationUSA has a list of scholarships that are available to international students. The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs also has a variety of scholarships for international students to come to the United States, such as the Community College Initiative and the Fulbright program for graduate study and research.

– Charlotte West, former international student advisor at Green River Community College

3. Community college or 4-year university: which path should I take?

If cost is a factor for you, community colleges can be an affordable option as tuition is about half as much per year a public four-year institutions (As an international student, you will pay non-resident, or “out-of-state”, tuition at both two-year and four-year public schools). Some of the other advantages of community colleges include an open admissions policy. That most often means you don’t have to take the SATs or ACTs and you have a lot of contact with your professors. Many community colleges in the United States also offer intensive English language programs to prepare you to succeed in college level classes. Community colleges can also be a good option if you have less-than-stellar grades in high school as your transfer application will be evaluated based on your college grades rather than your performance in high school. Some community colleges also offer on-campus dorms, which will give you a college experience that is closer to what you might see at a four-year school. Community colleges also have smaller class sizes which will give you more contact with your professors.

Despite all the benefits of community colleges, you might also look at four-year options. It’s a common myth that private schools are going to be more expensive than public schools. However, non-resident tuition at public institutions is often equal to or more expensive than private schools. As an international student, you will pay full non-resident tuition at most state schools. Private schools are more likely to offer scholarships and other financial aid to international students. One advantage of four-year universities is the student life. You will be with the same classmates for all four years and most universities have very active student organizations. There are also a lot more opportunities for undergraduate research and internships.

One thing to keep in mind is that students who start at a community college and then transfer to a four-year school sometimes experience “transfer shock” their junior year when they find themselves alone on an unfamiliar campus. It can be a challenge because you essentially have to start over in terms of making friends and learning to navigate your new campus.

Check out this AdmitHub post for more information on transferring from a 2-year to 4-year school.

– Charlotte West, a former international student advisor at Green River Community College

4. My high school teachers are not experienced in writing letters of recommendation. What should I do?

First, I would schedule a time to sit down and have a conversation with your teacher, to talk about your goals and to provide a timeline for submission deadlines.  I would also suggest providing your teacher with a few resources to assist them with this process:

1. Give your teacher an outline to work with, which addresses the following:

  • words to describe you in class (e.g. engaging, inquisitive, focused)
  • your personal highlights from the class
  • your academic goals for the future
  • any personal information you’d like the teacher to relay in his/her letter
  • an anecdote or two of specific instances when you stood out in class
  • a written timeline of submission deadlines

2. Check online resources – e.g., MIT Admissions provides a wonderful guide for teachers and counselors on writing recommendations.

Kirk Daulerio, Co-Founder of and former admission officer at Princeton, Penn, and Bowdoin

5. What are early decision and early action? Do they affect my chance of getting admitted?

The distinct difference between Early Decision and Early Action is the binding commitment that accompanies Early Decision.

Essentially, when you apply under Early Decision, you are agreeing to enroll at that college if admitted, and to withdraw all of your other outstanding applications.  You should only apply under Early Decision if you have a clear top choice in a college.  If you are unsure of where you would like to attend college, and would instead prefer to weigh your options in the Spring, apply under Early Action, Rolling, or Regular Decision.

Early Action simply means that you may submit your application by an early date, and receive a decision earlier than Regular Decision applicants.  There is no binding commitment with Early Action – if you are admitted, the choice to enroll is yours.  You may be academically and socially ready to apply under EA if:

  • Your transcript is strong enough from Grade 9 through 1st quarter of Grade 12 to present a compelling academic background (i.e., you don’t need the entire 1st semester of Grade 12 to display improvement or strength in grades);
  • Your standardized testing is complete and strong enough to submit without the need for additional testing (if the college requires testing);
  • You’ve worked hard to prepare a complete and detailed college application ahead of the EA deadline.

For more information on specific types of admission plans, check out NACAC’s webpage on this matter.

Kirk Daulerio, Co-Founder of and former admission officer at Princeton, Penn, and Bowdoin.

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Next articleWhat Top American Universities Look for in Admissions is a place where students from around the world can get free, expert college admissions advice from the people who know the process from the inside out. The site was founded by Kirk Daulerio, a former admissions officer at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, and Bowdoin College, and Andrew Magliozzi, an education technology entrepreneur and author of How to Get Into Your Harvard. has a team of former admissions officers and international student advisors from highly selective colleges and universities across the United States, including Bowdoin, Brown, Carleton, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Harvard, Haverford, Macalester, New York University, Princeton, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore, Tufts, Wellesley, and more. The AdmitHub team also has extensive experience assessing applications from international students. Several team members have also worked as international student recruiters and international student advisors, including in the community college system.


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