The Most Generous Schools for International Financial Aid

I remember sitting in on international committee day at our admissions office. The stakes were high, the school admitted less than 8 % of the applicants who applied (and that was four years ago…now the numbers are more like less than 5%!). The most stressful day; however, was the day of “international financial aid committee,” because so few were going to be considered for admission. These students literally had to walk on water. We all sat down with every member of the admissions office who read international files around the table, and post-it notes were prepared to indicate which countries on a world map hung on a wall would have successful students.

Since the university I worked for was not “need blind” for international students, when I read application files, I had to right off the bat divide up the students who were elite enough to pay (one pile) with the students who couldn’t (the other pile). Getting out of the international student financial aid pile was something short of a miracle…those stats were less than 2% some years.

While it is incredibly difficult to be awarded financial aid as an international school at the majority of universities in the U.S., it does happen. Today I want to showcase and applaud the schools that are the most generous to international students in terms of aid. Read the article carefully, as U.S. News and World Report explains the that some schools are need based while others are merit based. This could be good news for international students who would be considered middle class, who are excellent students, but wouldn’t qualify for full tuition at some of the “need based” financial aid institutions. These families may be able to afford some of the tuition but certainly not the hefty price tag of $50,000 USD a year.

If you are academically talented, have great test scores, and think you are competitive in a highly selective applicant pool, try applying to these schools with high endowments that invest in international diversity:

inter_aid_ranking

Advertisements

Being Poor at America’s Rich Colleges

“… while poor kids are underrepresented on elite campuses, the wealthiest kids are overrepresented. At Harvard, 45.6% of undergraduates come from families with incomes above $200,000 — in other words, incomes in the top 3.8% of all American households.” 

For all the lip service to being schools that are open and welcoming to all students, many institutions like Harvard are still recruiting, admitting, and educating the nation’s wealthiest students.

Forbes author Maggie McGrath tackles a challenging topic in this article that examines the experiences of middle and lower-income students who find themselves in some of the privileged worlds of American higher education. They have the brains, motivation and toughness to succeed, but sometimes their backgrounds set them apart from their wealthy peers. I remember when I was a student at Dartmouth, wealth wasn’t always in your face, but if you thought about the fact that only about 50% of students receive financial aid, it meant that the other half of the students had families that could pay the $53,000+ a year with cold hard cash. I think there was even a discount for families that could pay the entire tuition in a lump sum. My parents were certainly not in that category.

While I applaud elite, highly selective universities and colleges for opening up their doors to low income, first generation students in order to diversify their campuses, it’s not enough just to admit the students. Faculty members are not always adept to deal with students from different backgrounds, making assumptions of students and families that can be harmful. There must be support systems in place for these students who are at times out of their comfort zone, especially in campuses were talking about wealth, money, and family background can be taboo. It’s great that schools like Stanford have invested in creating offices where students can learn about others and share experiences that they don’t feel completely isolated on a campus that seeps wealth and everyone has a seemingly carefree attitude. Many students from low income backgrounds have faced challenges in high school and beyond, but had mentors or community based organizations that supported them to be admitted to their highly selective schools. Universities need to ensure that the support continues throughout the undergraduate years to ensure that students don’t drop out. One of the best ways is to create mentoring networks of students from similar backgrounds: 1) to show that there is a community of students like them, and 2) to teach younger students how to navigate semi-adulthood while succeeding academically.

“… take it from someone who’s still navigating this often tricky terrain. Harvard’s Christian Ramirez remembers feeling alone as a low-income student at an Ivy League institution at first, but slowly realizing there were many other students like him and it was okay to ask one of them, or an administrator, for help.” 

 Did you face isolation as a student because it was taboo discuss money on your campus? Write to asian.am.education[at]gmail[dot]com to share your story!Widener-Pic

 

 

 

International Students Day 11/13 — Huge Virtual College Fair!

Screenshot2013-10-29at31355PM_zpsf6d80fb1

 

The State Department, EducationUSA, and CollegeWeekLive are hosting a virtual college fair on 11/13! Sign up here: http://international.collegeweeklive.com/custom-signup/Education-USA/signup.html?refcode=INT_EDUSA_Post_Facebook Participating schools include UCLA, U of Arizona, and Amherst! All amazing schools!

Next week is International Education Week!

Woo hoo!!

Reader Response: Educational Attainment in the Hmong Community

Today I want to share a heartfelt letter from a young Hmong woman who explains the lack of educational attainment in her community. Since I worked closely with the Hmong community at Stanford, and I was able to do recruitment programs in Fresno, Sacramento, and other Central Valley cities, I was really interested in her perspective. I think that the lack of peers and adults with higher educational degrees can be a limiting factor for students, and I hope that universities understand that in order to break that cycle, they have to be very aggressive about recruiting talented students from these communitites.

I read your article, “Highly Qualified Students from Low-Income Backgrounds Don’t Apply to Top Colleges”. It reminded me how frustrated I felt when my high school senior baby sister wanted to stay home and go to a community college for a “Nursing” degree because the mentality that “it is not where you attend school, it is how hard you work and how you utlilize your degree”. That mentality is dangerous considering her applying for the Gate Millenium Scholarship.

 

I asked her, “You are applying for the Gate Scholarhsip and you want to use that fund to go to an over-crowded community college?” She said yes and my parents and my other siblings supported her decision. Here is a kid who is graduating valedictorian, who have such a promising college career but her thought is, “Other people got their degree here, so why not do the same?” She doesn’t understand the world consist of a lot more than a brain drained town.

 

I agree that in the Hmong community, if one sibling get accepted to a high caliber school then the younger siblings will follow suit. Part of my frustration is that I wasn’t that sibling; I could have but I didn’t aim that far because of the fear that I didn’t want to burden my parents with the debt of attending such high caliber university with a big tuition. There was no one to hold my hands when I was a high senior. But I am here telling her she can do better than a overcrowded university or some burned out university that is cutting classes and prolonging graduation. The response I get is, “Why didn’t you do it then?” Because I didn’t do so; therefore, she think she don’t have to as well.

 

Other people come to the defense of her decision by saying, “I  went to a community college; those UC kids, they’re not all that! They’re pretty stupid too, you know”, which is beyond the point why I push her to attend anything else either than a community college. I grew up in an environment in which if you have a high school degree or a doctorate then people will bash you for not knowing anything because you only have a high school degree, or being a “smart ass” because you have doctorate degree. And because of stories about young Hmong folks who go off to big universities and come right back to this town to work at the fields instead of being a doctor or a lawyer. Or come back and tell people here the way we live here is wrong because they got to induldge in culture unlike here where the Hmong population is big and stigmas are strong. That really discourage people to seek more because if it is going to turn them into ignorant brats then they don’t want to go there and spend that much money. That instill a mentality that if you see that there are folks who aren’t successful by attending a high caliber university then you don’t have to go there because even people who went there aren’t successful; therefore, it is not the school but the person.

 

But I see it differently. It is the school that provide the resources and people that one needs to have in order to be successful. It is the school: either you attend one where you constantly fight for classes or where you know you will have a spot in the classroom. She can go where she can meet people who will push her to be successful or stay here and kind of just hang out like all of us here. I feel like a mother who push the child to do something I couldn’t accomplish but it is for her own good. I an older child and I didn’t have a sibling as my personal driver or bank account when I was in high like how she have me and my older siblings as her driver and bank. It is so frustraing and disheartening, it make me sad. Until someone in the family go out and beats the odds and prove everything that had been said about going away to a high caliber university is wrong; until someone break that old mentality that as long as you have a degree then you will be fine in life (employers still care about where you attend school); then everyone will just keep following the same path.

 

My boyfriend is the same. He wanted to attend [A High Calibe University] for their great English Department but he changed his mind that he don’t want to study English anymore; he want to be a [another degree] so he will settle for his local university. That is not bad but when given the top 10 choices for him to pick from, he said he don’t want to because it is cheap to go to the local school, even though he will be transferring out from the community college with honors and a GI Bill package. Money is not the problem here. The problem is people are too well rooted where they are. But he is bright enough to tell me, “You don’t want me to stay here because you don’t want me to be rooted here just like you. You don’t want me to get stuck here in this small town just like you.” OF COURSE. Plus, he is the youngest child and he don’t need to stay home and work to provide for his family. Everyone else can take care of themselves so why is he limited himself?

 

My suggestion is to break the poor man’s mentality that he should be complacent with what he have. If we are all complacent with what we have, our people and our community will not advance. High school counselors are not trained to do that. They were trained to tell us how to apply for college. They don’t know why we think any college is good enough for us. Rick Santorum said people shouldn’t attend college, they just need to work hard. The reason is he don’t want other people competing with him – he don’t want young poor colored kids to learn about working smart where you don’t have to shed a sweat, competing with him for equal power and money. We are just going along with it when we settle for last.”

Thank you so much for sharing your perspective, and I hope that as educational professionals, family members, and community leaders, we are able to support our young people reach their highest goals for education.

Do you have comments that you’d like to share with this reader or me? Please write at us at asian.am.education[at]gmail[dot]com

Image

Stanford University’s Hmong student group used to help with recruitment outreach with an overnight admissions visit and workshop! It would be so wonderful if students at different univesrities could help their siblings and communitites in this way too!

To Early Or Not to Early…that is the Question…Reader Q About Stanford REA

Image

This is a question from a young woman thinking about applying REA (Restrictive Early Action) to Stanford University:

I have another question for you… I’m considering applying Restrictive Early Action to Stanford this fall. I know that I would be really happy there, and it is the only school I am considering applying early to, yet I’m not sure that Stanford is my first-choice college right now. I understand that Early Action is not binding. Do you know if applying early affects acceptance rates at Stanford? The percentage accepted seems to be higher for Early Decision applicants than Regular Decision applicants at many schools, but I don’t know if this trend holds true for Stanford as well. If applying early could increase chances to get into Stanford, then I will likely go for it, but if not then I will consider applying Regular Decision and using that extra time to continue strengthening my application.”

My Response:

Sounds great that you are considering Stanford. Having worked there for two years (and I grew up in the area because my mom went there), I can tell you it’s a beautiful campus, and people are really bright and happy and seem to have balance in life there! Always a good sign.
I am happy to discuss REA at Stanford – the deal is that only about 7-8% of students are admitted overall to Stanford from a pool of 34K applicants. The truth is that if you look at the stats, more people get in (almost double) through REA in terms of the admit statistics. So, the easy conclusion is that it is easier to be admitted through REA. The truth; however, is that it is a MUCH MORE competitive pool. The students who apply during REA are students who are SERIOUS about Stanford being their first choice, and they know that they have the strongest grades, recommendation letters, and awards and recognition from their out of school activities (having won regional or national recognition even before half of of senior year is over)…SO, what all of this means is that they have an application package that is as strong as it is by November, and they aren’t worried about having better grades by the end of first semester of senior year, and they don’t need to get to know another teacher to get a senior year instructor to write a killer recommendation letter. Therefore, the applicants that we see during the REA cycle (it goes by super quick) are SUPER strong, and stand out in the broader applicant pool. Also, Stanford defers fewer students than some of our peer schools, like Georgetown, so if you are rejected, that’s it. Does that make sense?
My recommendation is that if you think that your application is as strong as it can be by November of this year, then it is a good time to apply during REA. If you think that another debate championship, art award, regional concert for band, other volunteer activities would strengthen your application, in ADDITION to getting super strong grades for first semester your senior year, PLUS you think you want to get to know another teacher who can write you a strong recommendation…then you should wait until Regular Decision. Hope that makes sense, and let me know if you have more questions.

Also here are some official words from Stanford:

Restrictive Early Action is a non-binding early application option for students who have completed a thorough college search and are confident Stanford is their first choice.  Admission decisions are released by December 15, and admitted students have until May 1 to respond to their admission offer, which allows them to compare financial aid awards across institutions. To students who apply for financial aid, Stanford provides an estimated award at the time of admission. The application deadline for Restrictive Early Action is November 1 at 11:59 p.m. (Pacific time).

3 Possible Restrictive Early Action Admission Decisions

  1. Applicant is admitted and has until May 1 to respond to the admission offer.
  2. Applicant is denied and may not reapply for Regular Decision admission in the same year.
  3. Applicant is deferred to Regular Decision and will receive a final decision by April 1.

Stanford’s philosophy is to make final decisions whenever possible. As a result, only a small percentage of Restrictive Early Action applicants are deferred.

ALSO! HERE IS A TIP FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS:

  • The student may apply to any foreign college/university on any application schedule.

“Personal Statement”- Hilarious YA Novel About Admissions Arms Race

Image

Screaming “Let Me In” at the top of your lungs….

Thanks to the generosity of Ms. Saira Rao over at In This Together Media, I spent the last three days engrossed in Personal Statement, a hilarious young adult novel about the perils of the college admissions arms race. The author, Emmy-nominated Jason Odell Williams, has the keen ability to climb into the minds of over-stressed, competitive teenagers in a privileged suburb of CT as they plot and plan their way into their perfect “personal statement” scenario: natural disaster volunteering. On their journey, they discover that perhaps they’ve lost their way, and question whether or not the stress they face is worth the battle! I commend Mr. Williams for taking often ignored but bubbling under the surface topics like race (Asian American stereotype – one of my favorite topics), class, privilege, the technology revolution and its impact on education and pressure to succeed by any means necessary(!!!) all in this short novel targeted toward young adults getting ready for the college process!

The four characters, Emily Kim, Robert Clinton III, Alexis J. Could, and Rani Caldwell, all read like familiar applicants…probably because I read personal statements from many students like them during my former career as an admissions officer at Stanford University. The four of them are highly motivated, academically excellent, cut-throat competitive and don’t take “NO” for an answer. They are also personifications of privilege and wealth, and aside from Emily and two romantic interests that come and go, almost all benefit from their parent’s educational background and societal know-how. I was impressed how Mr. Williams can ferociously mock Asian American stereotypes (with the Korean American immigrant parents dressing Emily in Ivy League one-zies) as well as wealthy legacy African Americans (using “summer” as a verb and trying to keep connected with their “folks in the community”), while at the same time keeping up with teenage tech and lingo…I would recommend it to parents just that they can get a primer on the newest app that their kids are using! (While at the same time, I worry that the technology citations will make the book lose it’s “newness” as trends come and go…)

For me, two things really stood out: the parents who don’t listen to what their kids want, and the kids who are “racing to no where” with their ambitions in hand. All of the main characters are balancing their genuine and sometimes desperate need to please their parents and their own intellectual curiosity and desire to make a difference. Everyone sees college as an end goal – from the kids who want to post their acceptances on social media to the parents who can’t wait to brag to their gym buddies about the future of their offspring! I saw so many parents just like this in information sessions at Dartmouth and Stanford, raising their hands high Tracy Flick style and asking questions about “HOW WILL MY SON MAKE FRIENDS HERE?” while their child was slumped to the side taking a nap. Lady, chill, it’s not about you. I especially loved the dialogue by parents who talk like they themselves work in the admissions offices (ex. “I know for a fact that XXX got your sister in to Princeton”), even though when they applied most of these universities were letting one out of every three applicant in. The main take away from me was that parents should focus on the kid in front of them rather than wishing for someone else, and for students to take a moment to truly reflect on what will make a satisfying and meaningful college experience that will contribute to their growth and happiness. Of course, that’s easier said than done. All in all, I couldn’t put this novel down, and the first few chapters were especially hilarious that I laughed out loud. Thanks and congrats so much for your debut novel and hope to see more of your writing in the future!

One last word about In This Together Media — which I think is a wonderful publishing organization (started on Kickstarter? How cool is that!) that supports authors who write novels that focus on girls’ empowerment! I was even excited to see one of my former colleague’s books on the site as a Amazon best seller! Keep up the great work! If you’re ever looking for non-fiction about college admissions, please let me know! I’d love to work with you!

Student Share Admissions Essays About Money, Economy, and Class

As the dust settles from the past admissions season, the conversations around the impact of the economic crisis on the student experience still abound. Today, Ron Lieber of the NYTimes published four student admission essays about the subject of class, money, and the economy. The title video essay by Lyle Lin is truly impressive.

I recommend any student who is thinking about writing their college essay this summer watch and digest this great essay. Here’s an excerpt:

“Instead of diplomas and accolades, my parents’ room emits a smell from the restaurant uniforms they wear seven days a week, all year round. It’s funny how I never see my mom in makeup, expensive jeans, lavish dresses, or even just casual, everyday clothing that I often see other moms wearing. Yet, one must possess something extraordinary to be able to stand in front of a cash register for 19 years and do so with pride and determination.”

I personally love essays like this that reflect on personal challenges, family history, one’s place in the United States/immigrant experiences. Of course, these subjects need to be authentic and reflect your values. Done well, these essays can be truly moving. My old boss, S. Abbot (currently working @ NYU), obviously was moved saying:

“His essay brought his family’s circumstance and background into Technicolor,” Mr. Abbott said. “He paints a very vivid picture of what life is really like in his home. I think he’s proud of his accomplishments and work ethic, but there’s also a humility each day when he takes off his preppy blue blazer in front of his mom.”

Very well done. Working with low SES Asian American students during my time as an admission officer was one of the most meaningful experiences of my career, and I hope that teachers and parents can support these students feel pride in their own experiences that prepares them for college.

Check out all of the essays that the NYT selected here. I also love that admissions officers from schools like NYU and Hamilton openly discussing why these essays worked and ensuring transparency in the system. I can understand why Princeton wouldn’t want to comment, because it can open the door to angry parents wanting explanations on why their child was rejected…but students should get some perspectives on what admissions officers are looking for.

Have a great weekend!