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6 Common Undergraduate Admissions Questions Answered

Thursday | July 24, 2014 | by Jackie Vogl

We asked Jackie Vogl, Assistant Vice President for Global Education at SUNY Plattsburgh, to help us answer some of the student questions we’ve received during our webinar on undergraduate admissions. From standardized tests to financial aid, find out more on how admissions officers weigh different parts of the university application for international students.

Rishav: For getting admission into USA universities is it compulsory to take TOEFL or ILETS for a student not belonging to a non-English speaking country? For instance, I am from India.

The decision about whether you must submit TOEFL or IELTS results for admission consideration is in the hands of the institution considering your application. Some institutions may base the decision on the language of instruction in a particular country. Others may require a standardized test of English proficiency (there are several besides TOEFL and IELTS) on whether English is the language spoken in your home. And in other cases, submission of SAT or ACT would be used instead. In other words, the answer varies depending on the institution to which you are applying. You will have to check the admission criteria for each institution and, if they require TOEFL or IELTS, you may ask if there are circumstances under which they will waive that requirement.

Patricia: Do international students have to take the SAT or ACT?

There is no general answer to this question because each institution sets its own policies with regard to SAT or ACT for international applicants. It would be very unlikely that international transfer applicants, those who have already attended a college or university, would be required to submit SAT or ACT results. In addition, I know that there are many institutions that do not require submission of SAT or ACT for admission purposes for international freshmen applicants, but they may require test results for scholarship consideration. And there are an increasing number of institutions at which submission of SAT or ACT is optional. It should be relatively easy to find an explanation of the documents needed to complete an admissions application on the websites for college and universities in the U.S.

Temitope: Is it still possible for someone who has been out of the secondary school for a long time to get accepted into U.S. colleges?

Yes, it is possible for someone who has a gap between secondary school completion and application to a U.S. college or university to be accepted at that institution. It is likely that you would be asked to provide a description of your activities since secondary school completion in order for your application to be considered. The admissions office will want to know if you have attended any college or university in between completing secondary school and your application to determine whether you are a freshman or transfer applicant. Also, it would be important for you to know whether the college or university to which you are applying has appropriate housing, on or off campus nearby, for “adult students” should you be accepted and decide to attend.

Horace: Is the need-based financial aid determined by your SAT/ACT scores or by your high school transcript?

Pure need-based financial aid is usually determined by you and your family’s income and resources, not standardized test results or academic achievement. Merit-based scholarships are usually determined by these criteria. If the college or university offers need-based aid, eligibility for this aid is usually considered after it has been determined that you can be accepted to the institution. Many institutions use a financial aid application form that you and your family must complete and submit, along with supporting documentation, to determine if you qualify for need-based financial aid. Others will award need-based financial aid based on the economic situation in the country where you and your family live.

Jayant: How do I check the credentials and authenticity of U.S. colleges and universities?

There is no national government agency in the U.S. that confirms the legitimacy of post-secondary institutions. Therefore, to determine whether a degree and course work from a particular college or university will be widely accepted, it is best to find out whether the institution is accredited. There are many accrediting agencies in the U.S. To find out whether an institution is accredited, I suggest that you gather information from the website for the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). On this website, you can find very useful information about accrediting agencies and the types of institutions they accredit. You can also get information about “degree mills” and “accreditation mills,” organizations that are not legitimate or credible.

WES Advisor: Thank you so much for your advice. Do you have any last words of advice for our students?

Consider your search for the colleges and universities that will meet your expectations and goals a research project. Start by deciding what YOU need and want from your post-secondary education and prioritize them. Don’t let rankings make a decision on these priorities for you. To make a good decision, use all the tools and resources available to you: free online search engines, college and university websites, educational professionals you know, even social media. There’s a prevailing myth that there’s only one PERFECT choice for an individual considering post-secondary education in the U.S. In reality, there are likely to be at least several excellent choices. The outcome of your choice and experience is mostly about your contributions and commitment to your own education.

Jackie Vogl is the Assistant Vice President for Global Education at the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).