The path to follow

Navya Gupta
Monday, 4 June 2018

With the SSC board results approaching, here are a few tips to keep in mind while applying to colleges abroad

The road to college is not a smooth one. It is filled with bumps and turns. Naturally, it is easy to get a little lost. As a student applying to universities this fall, I am familiar with the directions to a dream college and might be able to act as a Google Maps for you. Here are the main components of an impressive college application.

The SAT-1 and SAT Subject tests are the most important part of a college application and are used by admissions officers to filter through all the applications they have received. A high SAT score exponentially increases the chances of acceptance and it is essential for any prospective applicant to take the exam seriously. In order to prepare for the exam, students should use resources provided by the College Board as well as publications like Barron’s and Princeton Review. 

Additionally, the Khan Academy SAT Prep section is phenomenal. Taking multiple practice tests is also very important as it allows you to understand how the test day will be like and enable you to improve and reach a high score.

Somehow, during the process of foreign applications, many students give insufficient importance to their academic performance. They feel that an abundance of extracurricular activities and a high SAT score are more important than a strong school report. Although extracurricular activities and your SAT score do have a huge weightage, having higher school grades boosts the chances of college admissions and can often be a deciding factor. Throughout your high school years, it is essential to prioritise grades. They show college officials that you are a capable student, and you don’t struggle with putting effort, dedication and perseverance into your work, which is essentially what college life is all about.

An essential component of an impressive college application is community service. Colleges like to see the students being aware of their surroundings and understanding the need of social contribution. They understand that working towards the betterment of society instills indispensable qualities like teamwork, leadership skills, strong oratory skills, a knack for problem-solving and out-of-the-box thinking. 

The opportunities for social service are aplenty. 

In India, working with NGOs like Teach For India and the Akanksha Foundation, participating in cleanliness drives, volunteering at orphanages and old age homes are just a few of the many areas where one can contribute. Throughout the four years of high school, each prospective applicant should aim to do at least 72 hours of social service, if not more.

Colleges recognise that there is more to a student than academics, which is why they strongly encourage students to develop co-curricular skills. Based on the fields they are passionate about, students should participate in activities each year. For example, a student interested in a certain sport should aim to play at a competitive level while a student interested in writing and literature should write a blog or work with a publication or school magazine. Using the summer vacations to excel in these activities through an internship or summer programme is also a great way to show colleges your level of dedication towards the activity.

Application essays are the pinnacle of college applications as they allow applicants to deftly describe his/her high school accomplishments. Through the essays, admissions officers are able to understand the applicant and visualise the applicant’s high school journey. 

A good college essay is formal and cohesive but also creative. In order to create an admirable essay, I would definitely suggest starting the writing process well in advance. 

At the end of the day, colleges look for a student with a story. They look for fluidity between the interests and activities of an applicant as well as a strong academic profile. So do make sure that all your activities enable you to build a story that is worthwhile.

Myrtle TJ Francis, school counsellor, and lead teacher: student leadership and life skills program at Delhi Public School Pune, explains the dos and don’ts of applying to universities abroad

Why do you feel that students are hesitant in applying to foreign universities?
Students fail to understand the availability of funds and scholarships for foreign education. They are indecisive about the move to go abroad and are also hesitant on account of various racial sentiments.

What components should a balanced application have?
A balanced application will show not only academic progress but also all other co-curricular activities that help mould the personality of the student. These activities include: 
a) Sports Activities
b) School Competitions
c) Volunteer Work
d) Hobbies (Pursuing them 

The Universities try to judge the personality of the student and also comprehend how they can benefit from granting admission to the student.

What advice would you give to students interested in applying to foreign universities?
Take the leap and apply. Try your level best to write your own essays, be genuine. Approach various university alumni and research the programmes available. 

Stay on track, you aren’t applying for a vacation visa, you are building your vocation. It matters that you make the right choice.

How would you suggest students cope with the SAT and school exams?
Start studying for the SAT immediately after the Class X Board exams. Give your tests as soon as you are ready, earlier the better. If you are focused on your goals, this is quite possible. Your SAT scores are valid over a period of five years, until or unless there has been a change in the criteria for SAT. So attempt SAT in Class XI if you are prepared. Contact your school about the application process instead of paying humongous amounts of money to various help centers. Your school is responsible for communicating with the university. A good essay, great recommendations and above average to high exam scores should be sufficient.

How would you suggest students manage the application and tuition costs?
Look up scholarships from various universities. Many universities offer excellent scholarships. Banks offer great student loans, I have had students who have cleared their loans within a year or two of completing their graduation.

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