(Studying abroad holds great promise for opportunities, experiences, and more. But the process of securing admissions comes with questions. What are the scholarship opportunities for international students? What are universities looking for? What makes a single ·featured application?Is going abroad an opportunity for a select few?Every Friday, The Indian Express invites an expert to offer advice, tips and answers to these frequently asked questions in its ‘Study Abroad’ column.Today we have Viral Doshi, Mumbai’s best-known and well-known educational consultant busting some myths about writing a successful application to an American college.)
In the second part of the series, Viral Doshi sheds light on how to create a better profile, the importance of essays, letters of recommendation and more.
Myth 6: Profile building is key to getting into a good university
Profile building goes beyond your academics and SATs to showcase your interests and passions. These include extracurricular activities such as leadership, research, community service, sports, school clubs and societies.
Now there is a large generation of applicants, especially in the last 5 years from India, who have become angry with the word “profile building”. People think it’s important to help you get into a good college.
Academics and the SAT make up 60-65% of your application. Profile construction is 15%. So I always say that applying to an American college is like baking a cake, academics and the SAT are the core, extracurriculars are the icing.
Myth 7: Essays are the most important component of college admissions
The essay is about yourself, who you are, and your ideas. Essays make up about 5-10% of a college application. But people think that by writing a great essay, they will get into a good university. This is nonsense. It has never happened. As with profiling, if you have a good academic record and a high SAT score, the essay will enhance your application.
Myth 8: Summer schools put you ahead of the curve in the application process
Summer schools are usually two- or three-week programs that allow a child to explore their interests and find out what career paths they want to pursue in the future. It also exposes you to university life. So it’s more of an exploration area and it’s very popular in the US because the idea of going to college there starts when you’re 13-14 years old.
In India, Ashoka University started a summer school. It was a big win for them. The number of applications has skyrocketed because kids go to summer school and find college really exciting and then are interested in applying. If money is not a constraint, go to a summer school for exposure. However, it doesn’t add much to your college application.
There are also some summer schools that are very selective such as the MIT RSI, Stanford Sumac or Boston Promys. They take 50 students out of, say, 3,000. This will increase your chances. But 95% of summer schools are for universities to make money.
Myth 9: Visiting universities can be key to admissions
It is useful to visit the university before the application process begins. They can give you an insight into universities, their atmosphere, rigor and location. It also helps to write the answer to “why do you want to study at this university?”.
But for admissions, it is not true. Finally, these are all secondary. This year, I had 82 accepted into the Ivy League and only 4 had visited their colleges.
Myth 10: Recommendations from celebrities can be helpful
Nothing of the sort will work. In America, they always say “less is more”. Recommendations from well-known personalities count for zero. It makes no difference. If you take additional recommendations, they should be from someone you’ve actually worked with.
Colleges want to know about interesting work you’ve done outside of your school for outreach or research, for example.
I know people who get recommendations from ministers, cabinet secretaries, departmental secretaries and industrialists. Do not work.
Myth 11: Sending more letters of recommendation and certificates will help
Totally false. On the contrary, the more you send, the chances will decrease, since the admissions committee will not know what to read. Send one, or two at most. The fewer endorsements and testimonials, the more likely you will read it. Consequently, your chances will increase.
(The author is an education consultant and runs Viral Doshi Associates)