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Friday, 6 September 2013

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International University Admission Factors Analysis 2013

The college admissions process has many steps, and if you apply yourself, you can gain admission to a better college than you might think. The admission's office handles thousands of applications at some colleges, so your first goal is to stand out in a good way. Beyond your test scores and GPA, several other factors come into play, especially sports achievement, and extracurriculars. One source noted that four of every five colleges accept more than half of all applicants, and three-fourths of students who apply to colleges are accepted by their first choice college. 

Depending on the size of the school, admissions criteria can vary from being almost entirely formulaic to involving significant subjective judgment. One benefit of the essay is to help very-selective colleges further differentiate students who may have uniformly high grades and top test scores. Institutions place different weight on criteria: for example, some schools do not require the SAT or ACT test for admission. College admissions personnel spend very little time reading each particular application. At most colleges, an average admissions officer is responsible for analyzing over a hundred applications. Admissions officers seek to learn how a person thinks, what kind of person they are, and their level of intellectual promise. For example, Harvard University's admissions staff has rejected applicants who later became quite successful, including Warren Buffett, Ted Turner, Tom Brokaw, and John Kerry. A typical college application receives only about 25 minutes of reading time, including three to five minutes for the personal essay if it is read. Some colleges extract information from the federal FAFSA financial aid form, including names of other schools which the applicant is applying to. A key attribute which admissions evaluators look for is authenticity, ie, a real person who comes through the application, not a packaged artificial entity crafted to impress the college admissions' office. 


Admissions' Critera Factoring

Factors in the college admissions' process are listed below in order of decreasing importance:
1. GPA in AP or honors courses
2. Strength of high school curriculum
3. SAT or ACT scores
4. Overall high school GPA
5. Essay
6. Early decision committment
7. Class rank
8. Teacher recommendation
9. AP test scores
10. Extracurricular activities
Several reports suggested that colleges are not looking for the "well-rounded kid" but rather a "well-rounded class": Colleges have been reported to have mathematical algorithms which recalculate an applicant's high school grade point average by weighting different course grades by such factors as perceived course difficulty and strength of high school curriculum. The number of college-enrolled students is expected to increase through 2020 when there will be approximately 23 million students in college. About a quarter of high school seniors apply to seven or more schools on average, paying an average of $40 per application. Many colleges, particularly mid-level liberal arts colleges, are scrambling for students, and are trying to adjust their offerings to appeal to diverse groups of students. New developments in college admissions include increased numbers of applications, increased interest by students in foreign countries, more students applying by an early method, applications submitted by Internet-based methods including the Common Application, increased use of consultants and guidebooks and rankings, and increased use by colleges of waitlists. One estimate was that 80 percent of college applications were submitted online. Educational funding has shifted during the past few decades from families to the students themselves via loans, although many of them are federally subsidized; as a result, many students graduate from college with considerable debt. The overall time span for higher education is lengthening, such that college is more likely to be a pathway to graduate school. Higher education, itself, is undergoing rapid technological change, with new online-based course options and even entire institutions built around the use of Internet-based learning such as the University of Phoenix. Specialty colleges such as the United States Military Academy at West Point have particular admissions requirements. Online universities offer new choices for students seeking to get the best education with limited funds.

Early decision

Early decision is technically a legally binding decision, meaning that students must withdraw applications to other schools if accepted. There is a commitment involved with penalties for withdrawing and, as a result, advisers suggest that Early Decision is only for students who are absolutely certain about wanting to attend a specific school. If financial aid is a concern or if a family is "shopping for the best deal", then it is usually advised to apply early action or regular decision instead. The one stipulated situation under which a student may back out of the 'early decison' agreement is if the financial aid offer is insufficient. Admitting early decision applicants benefits schools because there is an almost certain probability that the admitted applicants will attend and, as a result, colleges can increase their yield by admitting them. In addition, early decision helps admissions departments spread the work of sifting through applications throughout more of the school year. There is strong consensus that applying via early decision brings a statistically greater chance of receiving an acceptance letter. The average early acceptance rate according to one estimate was 15 percentage points higher than regular decision applicants. Early decision is essentially "applying blind" because a student has agreed to attend before seeing the financial aid package that they may receive. 


GPA

High school grades are probably the single most important factor in winning admission. Maintaining high grades is particularly important for the fall semester of senior year, as well as winter grades if applying by regular admission, Many colleges are paying greater attention to a student's grades throughout their senior year. Particularly important is academic performance in core courses, and having a high grade point average in AP-level or honors courses. In fact, an ideal academic record is one of increasingly better grades in courses of progressive difficulty. Colleges look for patterns with both grades and test scores; high grades with low test scores suggested a hard-working student, but high test scores with low grades suggested a picture of a lazy student. Public universities are more likely to evaluate applicants based on grades and test scores alone, while private universities tend to be more "holistic" and consider other measures carefully. One college adviser suggested that it is optimal to try taking the hardest courses that are offered at your high school, and that the worst thing you can do is to drop a hard course. 


ACT and SAT Test Scores

Students should plan on taking the SAT or ACT test twice, so that a low score can possibly be improved. One advisor suggested that students with weak SAT or ACT scores could consider applying to colleges where these measures were optional. Generally over half of juniors retaking the SAT or ACT tests during the senior year saw improvements in their scores. Most colleges accept either the SAT or ACT, and have formulas for converting scores into admissions criteria. The ACT is reportedly more popular in the midwest and south while the SAT is more popular on the east and west coasts. College counselors recommended taking the SAT or ACT test only once or twice, otherwise an applicant may appear "score obsessed." One report suggested that a benefit of the ACT test was that it allowed the test-taker to have greater freedom to choose which scores to send to which colleges. Counselors suggest that students practice taking the test under actual testing conditions. The use of standardized tests by colleges has been criticized as being ineffective at predicting ultimate life success; one study suggested that SAT results "don't mean much long term". Regarding whether to choose the SAT or ACT, the consensus view is that both tests are roughly equivalent and tend to bring similar results, and that each test is equally accepted by colleges. There is no penalty for wrong answers on the ACT so advisors suggest that it is okay to guess if time is limited; but on the SAT, incorrect guessing is penalized. One report suggested that the SAT favors "white male students" from upper income backgrounds. The ACT has more questions geared to higher levels of high school mathematics, suggesting that students who do well in math may perform better, but that the SAT is a better choice for students with an excellent vocabulary. The SAT is more focused on testing reasoning ability while the ACT is more of a content-based test of achievement. Some SAT questions can be trickier and harder to decipher while some ACT questions may be longer. The SAT has a separate vocabulary section while the ACT has a separate science reasoning section. Several sources suggested that the SAT subject tests were becoming more important in evaluating applicants. Scores on Advanced Placement exams could be helpful in the evaluations process. Taking 12 AP tests just to get an average score on so many exams, is not as helpful as taking five and doing well on those five. 

Extracurricular activities

Applicants who achieve a leadership position in an extracurricular activity are regarded more highly than applicants who merely participate in a bunch of activities. Some universities, such as the University of California, have formal programs for spot-checking applications for accuracy, such as sending a follow-up letter to the student asking for proof about an extracurricular activity or summer job. Advisors recommend that extracurricular activities should never interfere with a student's overall academic performance. A student with lots of extracurricular activities in the senior year, but little in preceding years, isn't going to fool the admissions' comittee. 


Admissions Essays

Counselors suggest an admissions essay should reveal insights into an applicant's character, such as how one coped with a setback. Essays are becoming more important as a way to judge a student's potential, and essays have supplanted personal interviews as a way to evaluate a student's character. Writing is easy, but rewriting is hard; a serious essay deserves to be rewritten several times. Lots of kids think the objective is to write about something that will impress the admission office. Essays must emphasize personal character and demonstrate intellectual curiosity, maturity, social conscience, and concern for the community. Topics to avoid in an essay include babysitting experiences, pets, encounters with illegal drugs or experiences involving lawbreaking or illegal activity. Applicants should not express opinions too strongly. One report suggested that colleges seek students who will be actively involved on campus and not spending every day studying alone in their rooms. Admissions tries to screen out difficult people, spoilers, and "self-involved brats". Many colleges are "afraid of aggression", and recommends avoiding "harsh humor" or signs of severe emotion, anger, and aggression. Admissions evaluators look for signals indicating difficult people, such as disrespectful criticisms by an applicant, or evidence of a drug or alcohol problem. Colleges try to weed out dependent people who either follow their parents too closely, or do only what the "cool kids" do. The admissions' essay topic should be something the applicant cares about, and which shows leadership in the sense of "asserting yourself to help others have more success. Applicants should present a broad perspective and avoid simplistic words such as "never", "always", "only", or "nobody", which suggest narrow thinking. The best essay topics were a slice-of-life story, with poignant details, in which the writer shows, and does not tell. Applicants should not try to come across as a preppy kid, and downplay parental status. There should be no spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes in your college essay. If a college has space for an essay but says it is "optional", it should be treated as a mandatory requirement. 


Legacy Admissions

In some cases, a parent's attendance at a related graduate school counts as a legacy, but most colleges do not count this. Many selective private colleges have a higher admit rate for alumni children as a way to "keep the larger set of alumni happy and giving." Admitting legacies encourages future donations, and in turn these incoming money flows help the school subsidize the education of more minority students; Legacy admission was criticized by Daniel Golden in his book, The Price of Admission, in which elite schools gave "heavy preferences to the wealthy." In certain cases, family wealth of applicants is considered, based on potential to make a substantial donation to the school. Counselors and admissions directors tend to agree that in a few selected cases, connections were important. Who you know does matter, since higher-level administrators and prominent alumni can exert pressure on the admissions departmentss. More colleges are resorting to computerized fact-checking software, as well as anti-plagiarism tools such as Turnitin, which checks documents for unoriginal content on the web. Supplementary materials generally carry "no weight" in college admissions. Students who take a "gap year" between high school and college can benefit if the year was enriching and developing and helped the student mature. One report suggested that even by May, there were 375 colleges which still had space for freshmen or transfer applicants for fall of 2012. 


Transfer Students

Transfer admissions is another pathway towards graduating from college. While most college admissions involves high school students applying to colleges, transfer admissions are important as well. Estimates of the percentage of college students who transfer vary from 20% to 33%, with the consensus position being around a third of college students transfer, and there are many indications that transfer activity is increasing. One report suggested that nearly half of all undergraduates in the nation were attending community colleges. A common transfer path is students moving from two-year community colleges to four-year institutions, although there is considerable movement between four-year institutions. Reasons for transferring include unhappiness with campus life, cost, and course and degree selection. Many community colleges have agreements with four-year schools, particularly flagship state universities, so that matters such as the transfers of credits are handled appropriately. There are indications that many private colleges are more actively seeking transfer applicants. 


College Wait lists

About half of colleges use a waiting list, particularly those which accept fewer than half of all incoming applications. Colleges use wait lists as a hedge to make sure they have enough students in the fall. Some schools "under-invite" applicants in the regular admissions season to appear highly selective and then about-face and accept them from their wait lists later. Recently, Stanford and Yale wait-listed approximately 1,000 students while Duke wait-listed nearly 3,000 students. Overall, one survey suggested that 30% of wait-listed students are eventually accepted. There is a report suggesting that in recent years, wait-lists are more fluid than in previous years, and have become more of a "safety net" for colleges rather than students. Estimates vary about how many college applicants find themselves on a wait list; one report indicates that 10% of applicants were wait-listed. Students who are wait-listed should actively stay in touch with the admissions office to declare that they will attend if accepted. A former dean of admissions at Franklin and Marshall College suggests that students not view a wait-list letter as a "polite denial," but rather as a continuing opportunity to gain acceptance. A downside to wait lists is that by the time a student is accepted, there may be much less money available for scholarships or grants.




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