(Studying abroad holds great promise for opportunities, experiences and more. But the process to secure admissions comes with questions. What are the scholarship opportunities for international students? What are colleges looking for? What makes an application stand out? Is going abroad an opportunity for a select few? Every Friday, The Indian Express invites an expert to offer tips, advice and answers to such frequently asked questions in the ‘Study Abroad’ column. Today, we have Mumbai’s go-to and best-known education consultant Viral Doshi bust a few myths about drafting a successful application for an American university.)
In part 2 of the series, Viral Doshi sheds light on how to build a better profile, the importance of essays, recommendation letters, and more
Myth 6: Profile building is key to get into a good university
Profile building is going beyond your academics and SATs to show your interests and your passions. It is about extracurricular activities such as leadership, research, community service, sports, school clubs and societies.
There is a huge generation of applicants now, particularly in the last 5 years from India, who have gone berserk with the word “profile building”. People think that it is important to help you get into a good college.
Academics and SAT account for 60-65% of your application. Profile building is 15%. So, I always say that applying to an American university is like baking a cake, academics and SAT form the core, extracurriculars are the icing.
Myth 7: Essays are the most important component of college admissions
Essay talks about yourself, who you are, and your ideas. Essays are around 5-10% of the college admission application. But people feel that by writing a great essay, they will get into a good college. That is nonsense. It has never happened. Like in profile building, 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 in the application process
Summer Schools are typically two to three week programmes that allow a child to explore his interests and find out what career paths he may want to pursue in the future. It also exposes you to college life. Hence, it is more of an exploratory area and is very popular in the US because the idea of going to college there starts when you are 13 to 14 years old.
In India, Ashoka University started a summer school. It has been a big win for them. The number of applications have shot through the roof because children go to summer school and find the college very exciting and then are interested in applying out there. If money is not a constraint, then go to a summer school for exposure. However, it does not add much to your college application.
There are also some summer schools that are highly selective like the MIT RSI, Stanford Sumac, or Boston Promys. They take 50 students out of, say, 3,000. Those will enhance your chances. But 95% of summer schools are for colleges to make money.
Myth 9: Visiting colleges can be key to admissions
It is a helpful thing to visit college before the application process starts. They can give you insight into colleges, their atmosphere, rigour, and location. It also helps in writing the answer to “why do you want to study in this college?”.
But for getting admissions, not true at all. Eventually, these are all secondary. This year, I had 82 Ivy league admits and only 4 had visited their colleges.
Myth 10: Recommendations from well-known personalities could be helpful
Nothing of this sort is going to work. In America, they always say “less is more”. Recommendations from well-known personalities count for zero. It does not make a difference. If you take extra recommendations, it should be with someone you have genuinely worked with.
Colleges want to know the interesting work you have done outside your school for outreach or research, for example.
I know people getting recommendations from ministers, cabinet secretaries, secretaries of departments, and industrialists. They do not work.
Myth 11: Sending more recommendation letters and certificates will help
Totally false. On the contrary, the more you send, the chances will reduce, as the admission committee will not know which one to read. Send one, or maximum two. The fewer the recommendations and certificates, the higher are the chances they will read it. Consequently, your chances will go up.
(The author is an education consultant and heads Viral Doshi Associates)