International Counselor University Tour/Program (Boston)
Sunday 29th June 2003 – Thursday 3rd July 2003
E.C.I.S. College Counselor Tour of Rhode Island/Connecticut
Sunday 6th July 2003 – Thursday 10th July 2003
O.A.C.A.C. Conference, Brown University, Providence, R.I.
Thursday 10th July – Sunday 13th July 2003
Report by Martin Campion for:
South Island School, E.S.F. Vacation I.N.S.E.T. Committee
The purpose of this I.N.S.E.T. stems from:
a) The focus of the Careers and Higher Education Curriculum Group 2001/2002
to “develop our knowledge of and links with U.S. Higher Education.”
b) The retirement within the next 2-3 years of South Island School’s U.S.A.
Higher Education Counsellor and the consequent need to ensure that the Head
of Careers is confident in both counselling students and managing
Opening Remarks
It is worth noting that the invitation to join the Boston College Tour came directly as a
result of my attendance at the College Board Conference in Washington D.C. in July
2002, as did a similar invitation from the University of Miami to a conference at
Chinese New Year. The O.A.C.A.C. Conference was strongly recommended to me
by those running the College Board Conference and the two tours coincided well in
terms of timing and location. E.C.I.S. always organise college tours around the
O.A.C.A.C. Conference and my acceptance on to that tour ensured a busy and
productive two weeks. These circumstances emphasise the value of the ‘networking’
element of such training opportunities.
As a result of this year’s INSET, I am now an individual member of both O.A.C.A.C.
and E.C.I.S. (now C.I.S.), two important communities in international education. My
name and those of South Island School and the E.S.F. are now more widely
recognized not only among U.S. Higher Education institutions but also other
international schools worldwide. While it is difficult to measure the effects of such
links on individual student applications, I am convinced that they will be of
considerable benefit in the near future. It is of no surprise that counsellors from
H.K.I.S. and C.I.S. are regular attendees at these conferences.
While contacts with Admissions Staff from H.E. institutions is of obvious benefit,
interaction with counsellors from other international schools was also very valuable.
As a relative newcomer to this field, I did a great deal of listening, particularly to the
sorts of questions that experienced college counsellors were asking of both faculty
and students on our college visits. These were often more informative for me than the
formal presentational elements.
International Counselor University Tour of Boston
Sunday, 29th June 2003 – Emerson College
Emerson provided a spectacular venue for the opening reception of this program in
the form of the recently restored Majestic Theatre. The theatre is one part of an
unusual campus that includes both modern and historical buildings in and around the
area of Boston Common. The theatre
reflects Emerson’s concentration on
communications and the arts in
which it holds a high reputation. Its
downtown location in one of the
complements this focus and makes it
a very attractive option for many
students. One South Island student
will became a freshman in the fall.
Unfortunately, there was no college tour as such and this was the least informative of
our visits.
Monday, 30th June 2003
Brandeis University
Founded by the American Jewish community in the years after World War 2,
Brandeis is a small liberal arts and research university of approximately 3,500
undergraduates. Linked to its origins, it puts particular emphasis on areas such as
social justice and conflict resolution.
Although only 6% of students are
‘international’, it has a strong international dimension in its teaching and research.
Social Sciences prove to be the most popular majors, although it does have a high
reputation for Science. Although there is no College of Engineering, it does operate a
‘3 +2’ arrangements whereby Science majors can go
on to complete an Engineering degree at Columbia.
Some scholarships and even financial aid are
available for international students.
The Brandeis campus is in Waltham, 10 miles from
downtown Boston but there is easy access to the city
by the ‘T’ or by shuttle. The campus comprises of
modern buildings in a pleasant and safe suburban
setting. 85% of students live on campus and most
social activity takes place on campus. Many
students study for a year or semester abroad during
their course. Students value the close relationship
they have with their professors who both encourage
and guide independent study.
Bentley College
Bentley is a nationally recognized business university. Its
beautiful campus 10 miles from downtown Boston houses
85% of its 5,000 undergraduates, 50% of whom major in the
Liberal Arts and 50% in Business. It has stayed small to
retain the merits of a small liberal arts college. Graduate
courses such as MBA or MSc Taxation can be completed in
5 or 6 years. We were addressed by a newly recruited
British professor who had previously taught at L.S.E. and
Warwick: this was to stress the international outlook and
reputation of Bentley. Also stressed were the interaction between Business and the
Liberal Arts, ‘Service Learning’ (such as the installation of a network in a local high
school) and the embracing of technology “for people”
Bentley was keen to show its best face and a demonstration of its
‘trading room’ simulating a stock exchange, presented by a
younger member of the faculty, was extremely impressive. It is
keen to emphasize the quality of its faculty and study body.
Major companies recruit on campus each year.
Students seeking an advanced business education will find
Bentley a very attractive prospect. One S.I.S. student will attend
Bentley this academic year. Particular strengths are Accounting
and I.T.
Harvard University
Harvard’s reputation precedes it and this was reflected in the low-key presentation
given to the tour program. Though intensely competitive, it does offer the rare
advantage of need-based financial aid for all applicants
regardless of citizenship. It is enormously wealthy and
boasts a world-renowned faculty.
Although the Harvard Campus is not as beautiful as
some, it does have the advantage of a residential house
system that gives the intimacy of a smaller college for the
6,500 undergraduates of Harvard College. Cambridge is
a town in its own right but just a short ‘T’ ride from
downtown Boston.
Tuesday, 1st July 2003
Babson College
Babson is another Business speciality school in the Boston suburbs that also enjoys a
national reputation. It has only 1,700 students and therefore a genuinely ‘small
college’ feel.
Babson boasts a ‘hands on’’
approach to its curriculum. 1st years
are divided into groups of 30 and
pursue an integrated course together
for the whole year. Team teaching is
Each group is given
U$3,000 to run a business and most
make a healthy profit.
Significantly Babson boasts over
20% international students. Merit
scholarships are available for international students but not financial aid.
Mathematics is a valued component in admissions, including S.A.T. II. Babson hosts
2 Careers Fairs each year and 98% of students are employed within 6 months on an
average starting salary of U$40,000. Alumni contacts are extremely useful in this
Particular strengths are Entrepreneurship and Finance.
Wellesley College
Wellesley was the one all female college that I visited on this trip, a relatively
unfashionable concept in the rest of the western world. It dates back to 1870 and has
a beautiful and quite large suburban campus, 30 minutes from downtown Boston. It is
a liberal arts college with 2,300 undergraduates with an impressive staff/student ratio
of 9:1.
While we did tour some of the facilities and
student halls, the most memorable part of
the visit was a student forum. Four young
women from different parts of the world
gave us an insight into the Wellesley
experience from their perspectives. They
came across as extremely confident,
independent thinkers who were enjoying
and exploiting the breadth of choice within
their curriculum. They certainly gave the
impression that they would make quite an
impact either in the USA or more probably
in their home countries. Wellesley defines itself as a ‘liberal arts college for
exceptional women’ and this was the certainly the
impression we were given.
It should be noted that Wellesley isn’t a convent and that
male students from other colleges can take classes there and
vice versa. Wellesley also gives students a range of
opportunities for internships and study abroad. In terms of
careers, the alumni of female colleges seem to have a
particularly strong network.
Suffolk University
Located in the Beacon Hill district of downtown Boston, Suffolk comprises a College
of Arts and Sciences, the Sawyers School of Management
and a Law School. Of the 1,000 undergraduates in the
School of Management, 30% are international.
There is a great deal of flexibility within the curriculum
of the College of Arts and Sciences and many
opportunities for fieldwork, ‘coops’ and research.
Suffolk has campuses in Madrid and Dakar. It is possible
to do a 2 + 2 degree starting in Madrid with no Spanish language requirement.
Suffolk has acquired the New England School of Art and Design and has some very
good programs in this field including Interior Design.
Suffolk’s downtown campus might prove a strong attraction
to students craving a vibrant urban environment.
Wednesday, 2nd July 2003
Tufts University
Tufts is a university of 4,800 undergraduates and 3,600
graduate studentss but its campus has a much smaller
feel to it. Similar to a number of Boston Colleges, it is
a very attractive suburban campus 5 miles from
Tufts is most noted for the Graduate Fletcher School for
Law & Diplomacy, the oldest school of international affairs
in the USA. This international dimension is also reflected
in undergraduate study where international relations is the
most popular major.
Other features that Tufts wished to emphasise were:
It’s Chemical and Biological Engineering program that satisfies Pre-Med
requirements and which offers the opportunity to complete a Masters in 5
years. An Engineering MD program also allows Engineers to qualify as
medical doctors after a further 4 years study. 50% of seniors (4th years) have
done research or internships as part of their degree.
EPIIC – Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship – this is an
integrated, multidisciplinary program designed to ‘promote the active
engagement of young people as ethical, informed leaders.” (see
This program involves active work in many parts of the world, including links
with 2 HK universities. 40-45% of undergraduates spend at least one semester
Boston College
Bigger than it sounds, B.C. as it is known to
locals is, in effect a Jesuit university of
almost 9,000 undergraduates. It is, of
course, open to all faiths but spirituality and
commitment to service is emphasized in
addition to the traditional Jesuit emphasis
on learning. Its students are enrolled in one
of the 4 colleges of Arts and Sciences,
Education, Management and Nursing.
Of 22,000 applicants, last year, about 7,000
received offers and 2,200 were placed. There is a 13:1 staff/student ratio and while
there are some lectures of 300, most are less than 30 students. A peer advisor system
exists for international students, and there are many social events also. Boston
College’s ‘Global Proficiency Program’ encourages activities with international
focus. However, Boston College has a relatively low 1% of international students but
does have many overseas U.S. students.
Sports is ‘BIG’ at Boston College (Division 1++)
and the basketball stadium alone would be
enough to impress many of our ESF students.
Boston University
BU, as it is commonly referred to, is a comprehensive university of 30,000 students in
total, 15,000 undergraduates and 15 schools and colleges. It has a large, linear urban
riverside campus that is largely modern but incorporates some ‘Back Bay’ charm.
It boasts a very wide range of courses
(250+) and regards itself as a top research
institution. It also has the largest number
of international students in the city, at
both undergraduate and postgraduate
level. Not surprisingly, it has its own HK
The School of Management has a
particularly strong reputation. Boston
University received 29,000 applications last
years, 2,000 of these from overseas. Of the
latter, 900 were accepted with a ‘yield’ of
250 and an average SAT of 1247
(U.S. applicant average = 1327).
The size of Boston University and the
degree of freedom that is offers in its
academic programs means that it is suited to
students who are independent and possess
the initiative to ‘have a go’. The staff student ratio is 14:1 and faculty are very
While there is no financial aid for international students, ‘Trustee’ scholarships are
available through nomination by the principal, for students with 1400 and above on
their SAT. Half tuition scholarships are also available for those with scores around
A good I.B. diploma record can earn as many as 32 credits (equivalent to one year).
Boston University was keen to stress the research opportunities available to
undergraduates through the U.R.O.P. program. Also emphasized was the value of
being part of the Boston College network.
Thursday July 3
Northeastern University
Northeastern describes itself as a private national research university that is ‘practiceoriented’, student-centred and urban. It boasts the number one ‘co-op’ program in the
U.S. and stresses its partnership with the Boston community. It has 23,000 students,
14,000 of whom are undergraduates. 7% of these are international but they want
more. Students alternate between academic semesters and co-operative employment
opportunities in Boston, elsewhere in the U.S. or overseas. Individually assigned
advisers provide academic and co-op counseling. Internships are integrated into the
In its academic curriculum, it
emphasizes interdisciplinary links,
flexibility with many dual majors and
major/minor combinations. Its core
curriculum includes global elements
and there is a strong emphasis on the
use of technology to assist leaning.
There are 7 colleges and 80 programs
with an honors program for students
with a high SAT or GPA.
Admissions trends are similar to
many universities in the U.S:
No.of applicants
Average SAT
% admitted
While there is no financial aid for international students, a ‘Dean’s scholarship’ is
available and fees are offset to some degree by the paid internships.
A very full 6 week orientation program is organised for oversees students.
Accommodation on campus is guaranteed to all students for two years and there is a
good chance that this can be extended for all four years. We actually stayed in some
recently built student dorms that were very clean and quite spacious. The campus
overall has a modern urban feel about it: it is just outside the centre of Boston which
is easily accessible by the ‘T’.
Founded in the 1860s, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was established as a
place of learning where ‘minds and hands’ could combine for the benefit of society.
Entry was not to be based on class but on merit. It still is a place for students who
like to make or build things and ‘thereby effect positive change in the world’.
There are 5 schools:
Engineering, Science, Architecture and Planning, Management, Health Sciences and
Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
The stress at M.I.T. is on excellence in certain areas – some things such as Music are
not offered. However, it regards itself as a ‘liberal arts’ school with a technological
edge and is keen to stress that it is not all work and no play (sports are recreational
rather than serious at M.I.T.). In their learning, students are encouraged to problem
solve and think on their feet. The U.R.O.P. program facilitates research at
undergraduate level and the idea that even undergraduates can make new discoveries
is very much alive.
M.I.T.’s large monolithic 20th century buildings located on the Cambridge side of the
Charles River give the impression of a very large institution. In fact, there are only
about a thousand in the freshman class and admission is intensely competitive. Of
about 2,000 international applicants, only 100 are admitted each year. Admission is
need-blind and financial need will be met for all students, domestic and international.
(overall fees are currently U$42,000). Admission staff look at students in their own
context; they look for evidence of initiative, the ability to research and for success in
competitions ( Maths Olympics etc). They also look for evidence of leadership and
fellowship. There is a stress on SAT 2s in Maths and Sciences but SAT 1 is not
required for non-English speakers.
E.C.I.S. College Tour – Rhode Island and Connecticut
Monday 7th July
Providence College
With 4,000 undergraduates, Providence College is a mediumsized college with a strong regional reputation, particularly
amongst Catholic high schools in the North East. Its philosophy
is strongly influenced by its Dominican foundation. The
Dominican tradition of humility stresses that the individual
should see himself as the instrument of God. As a result, public
service is a key feature of the undergraduate experience.
One unique feature of all undergraduate programs is a 2 year
course in ‘The Development of Western Civilization’. There is
a 13:1 staff student ratio and PC is keen to stress that no T.A.s
are used. Average class size is 19 and the big majors are
Education, Business, Political Science, History and Biology. The
top 10 to 15% of students join a liberal arts honors program
(SAT of 1370.).
2003 saw 7,500 applicants with 970 admitted. Admissions staff
look at the whole student and assess whether they have taken
advantage of the opportunities open to then. They look for
performance level in Year 12 and the first semester of Year 13.
The student essay is very influential. They use the Common
Application form but ask for a personal statement about “why
P.C.?” Merit scholarships that are need-blind are available to all
applicants. Need-based aid is limited to U. S. applicants. The
average freshman SAT. score is 1240 but there is some flexibility
for international students. However, a TOEFL score of at least
213 is required (no ESL).
P.C. is a Division 1 (NCAA) school and basketball and hockey are the big sports. All
first and second years are accommodated on campus and 97% of all students live
within 1 mile of campus.
Johnson and Wales University
Johnson and Wales is a private, co-educational university with several campuses
across the U. S. It offers a practical vocational education in food service, hospitality,
business and technology. Students follow two or four year courses in what is
described as an ‘upside-down curriculum’, meaning that they choose a concentration
in a major from day one. There is a liberal arts element
in the curriculum but majors are all vocational.
Students work a four day week and put their academics
into practice over the long weekend. Big name
corporate partners help J and W to provide internship
and co-op experiences. J and W also run a number of
their own hotels, one of which we stayed in. J and W stresses that it is the largest
hospitality educator in the world and that 98% of its graduates are employed within 60
days of leaving.
The ‘Culinary Arts’ program is very highly regarded and attracts applicants from
‘elite’ schools who are looking for a ‘hands-on’ approach. A two-year culinary arts
course can become a 4-year degree in Culinary Arts or in Food Service Management.
The downtown Providence campus has 9,000 undergraduates
and just 700 graduate students.
10% of students are
international and these students can work for up to 20 hours per
The university provides a college type campus
environment in Providence with housing, sports, fraternities etc.
Some scholarships worth U$5,000 are available for international
students. Tuition is U$15,000 to U$18,000.
Formal entry requirements are not stringent but motivation is a key factor in assessing
applications. A number of starting points in the year are available and admission is
Tuesday 8th July
University of Connecticut
UConn is a large public university with over 12,000 undergraduates, located in rural
Connecticut about 25miles from Hartford. 82% of students are from the state and, as
yet, there are few international students (only about 50 in the freshman class).
However, what makes UConn worthy of consideration is the State of Connecticut’s
determination to turn it into a ‘flagship’ institution through an investment of billions
of U$. The scale and the quality of current renovation are very impressive with
buildings being demolished rather refurbished and replaced with state-of-the-art
Engineering, Education, Nursing and Agriculture are strong departments. There are
professional schools in Medicine, Dentistry, Law, Social Work and Pharmacy. It has
a strong undergraduate honors program where students are involved in research in
many fields. Class sizes are 25-35 on average, although some general education
classes can be over 300. While professors do the formal teaching, TAs often take labs
and discussions. However, students stress that faculty are accessible.
The campus is large but its ‘bulls eye’ shape means that walks are usually 10 minutes
maximum. While it is remote, it is largely self-sufficient and both Boston and New
York are close enough to visit for a weekend. Sports
are very big and the ‘Huskies’ compete at Division 1
NCAA level in a range of sports, basketball being the
Average SAT scores are in the 1100-1150 range. Fees
are around U$24,000 inclusive for overseas students but
there is no aid/scholarship money available. TOEFL,
ELPT or 400 on the verbal SAT are required ( there is an ESOL only program).
While this isn’t a university that would suit a student looking for lots of other Asian
faces, it is an institution that is going places and that has plenty to offer in terms of
extra-curricular life. Its size ensures that there is a good degree of diversity.
Trinity College
Located in a working class district of Harford, Trinity has a beautiful and spacious
campus that contrasts with its surroundings. It is an intimate liberal arts college of
2,000 undergraduates with limited diversity and 7% international students. Trinity
has a strong, well-established academic reputation and 80%
of its students go on to graduate school. It is quite selective
with theaverage SAT I in the mid 1300s and a demand for
SAT IIs and TOEFL for international applicants. Fees are
US$38,000 for tuition and board. At the time of writing,
financial aid for international students had been cut sharply
by the President who was about to leave to the obvious
delight of the staff and students that we met.
Freshmen at Trinity are organized into ‘seminar classes’ of
15 with their own advisers and mentors. Students generally
receive close attention and enjoy faculty that are accessible.
Classes are generally 20 or less and many science and
engineering undergraduates have the opportunity to engage
in research. Trinity’s library boasts 1 million books and is
part of a consortium with a number of other institutions.
96% of students are accommodated on campus and many get
involved in service to the local community. The immediate
area beyond campus looks decidedly ‘rough’ but we were
assured that campus security was sound. We were also told
that Trinity’s reputation as a ‘party school’ was exaggerated
somewhat. Sports are Division III except for squash in
which Trinity are regularly national champions.
Wednesday 9th July
Rhode Island School of Design
Popular with South Island School students and often regarded as the top Art and
Design college in the U.S., R.I.S.D. is a small school of 1,000 undergraduates located
in a mixture of buildings in a historic district of Providence, close to Brown
University. Undergraduates all follow a foundation year and can then choose from 17
majors. Unlike an art college in the U.K., there is a strict liberal arts requirement (1/3
of credits) and a strong belief in the value of a ‘holistic’ education.
From talking to and observing the students at work, it became quite obvious that
RISD students immerse themselves in their work with an average of 30 hours per
week in formal classes and probably more than that in addition. Students also take
advantage of winter and summer sessions, overseas campus links (e.g. Rome) and
various internship opportunities. Students can also cross-register for classes at nearby
Brown University. The staff student ratio is 11:1 and many staff are also working
professionals in a variety of design fields.
intensive summer program
at RISD both as a ‘taster’
and as an opportunity to
develop their portfolio.
SATs are required (av.
1200) and TOEFL (237)
for international students.
Portfolios should include
12-20 pieces of ‘best work’ and shouldn’t show breadth just for the sake of it. At
least 3 pieces should be drawings, even for photography applicants. No interview is
required but students write a ‘Statement of Purpose’ with which they shouldn’t be
afraid to ‘have some fun.’
Over 15% of students at RISD are international and they are well advised on a 1:1
basis. All freshmen are accommodated in the ‘Quad’. Those with a love of art and
design but also a strong work ethic will thrive at RISD.
University of Rhode Island
University of Rhode Island is a public university of 10,000 undergraduates located in
a rural setting. 6,800 of the students live on campus and many of the others choose to
have rented accommodation on nearby beaches. There are few international students
(30 to 40 a year) and URI is keen to increase the number.
URI is keen that undergraduates succeed and it claims a
good record of sending students to graduate schools.
Freshmen are grouped into ‘learning communities’ of 20
and there is an Academic Enhancement Centre for those
needing advice and assistance. An ‘Early Alert System’
involves older students contacting freshmen to ensure that
they are coping both academically and socially.
URI is nationally known for its School of Oceanography.
Other popular majors are Psychology, Engineering.
Landscape, Architecture, Fashion, Nursing, Pre-Med and
Pharmacy. Some classes are large and opinions on the
quality of faculty vary. Admission is not particularly competitive with a mean SAT
of 1120 (TOEFL 213). ‘Centennial’ scholarships are available for those with SAT
scores above 1150.
Salve Regina University
Salve is a truly unique institution, not the least because of its location in one of the
most opulent mansions on the cliffs of Newport, Rhode Island. Founded by the
Sisters of Mercy, Salve is a small private Catholic university of 1,900 undergraduates,
68% if whom are female and currently only 1% international.
Salve provides a small, safe and caring
community where classes average 18
and have an upper limit of 35.
Freshmen are organized into ‘learning
communities’ of 15 and support
services include a very good E.S.L.
program. At the core of the liberal arts
program is the theme of world
citizenship and there is an emphasis on
study abroad. ‘Honors’ students take 2
successive semesters of a foreign language. Education and Health Services are
popular majors.
Although it is becoming more competitive, Salve does admit 55% of applicants who
have an average SAT of 1100 (SAT 1 is not required for non-English speakers).
Scholarships are available for international students with high scores (no need to
apply separately). There is some provision for students with special needs. Fees are
US$28,000 per annum for tuition and board.
For students who aren’t looking at the most competitive U.S. colleges but who value a
safe and intimate environment Salve Regina is certainly worth a look.
Thursday 10th July
Bryant College
Bryant is unashamedly a ‘business’ college of 3,000 undergraduates, located on
impressive modern campus situated 15 minutes drive from Providence, Rhode Island.
(The land was donated by the founder of Tupperware). The campus is wireless and
all students receive an IBM laptop. New buildings such as a state-of-the-art trading
room are very impressive. The college has strong alumni and internship connections
that ensure a high level of successful placements on graduation.
While Accounting and Finance have strong reputations, Bryant is keen to point to its
emerging courses and impressive facilities for Communications (including a TV
studio) and the fact that 50% of a student’s courses must be in the liberal arts.
Academic classes are capped at 35, although this didn’t seem to be achieved 100%.
Admission is competitive, though not excessively so (mean SAT is 1100). Applicants
are expected to have a solid Maths background and TOEFL of 213 for international
students (3-4% of student population). The Intercultural Centre assists international
students with immigration and other issues.
Students can be accommodated on campus for all 4 years and, unusually, there is
ample car parking for all who need it. Sports facilities are impressive for college of
this size.
Fees are US$35,000 all in, with some scholarships available to international students.
The President spoke to us and came across as a genuinely approachable ‘guy’. He
challenges freshmen to a game of squash and claims that he always wins.
Brown University
Brown is the most ‘liberal’ of all the Ivy League
universities. It has an ‘open’ curriculum with no
compulsory core, leaving its 6,000 undergraduates with a
daunting degree of choice over their academic program.
It is also liberal in the sense of political activism and it is
consciously less ‘grades driven’ than its competitors.
Students at Brown are very positive about their
experience and it is one of the nations ‘hottest’ colleges
and a popular choice with South lsland School students.
10% of undergraduates and 25% of graduate students are
Programs with a particularly strong reputation are
History, Geography, Computer Science, Engineering,
Religious Studies and
Pre- Med. The staff student ratio is 8:1, although some
classes can be very large. Various counseling services
ensure that students are well advised on academic and
social matters.
Admission is, of course, very competitive with average
SAT scores of 1400 to 1500. Unusually, admissions
staff stressed that interviews could be significant, as a chance to reinforce one’s own
strong qualities. In terms of English, they are looking for 600 plus on the SAT verbal
or 250 TOEFL. Fees are around US$36,000 all in and financial aid for international
students is limited.
Brown is located in the historic College Hill district of Providence on a 140 acre
campus. There is a vibrant and purposeful atmosphere and many opportunities for
service and sports, both inter-varsity and intra-mural.
10th Annual O.A.C.A.C. Summer Conference
Thursday 10th July – Sunday 13th July
In effect, this was a two day conference (Friday was merely a reception) at which 2300 college counselors from overseas schools joined with admissions staff from a
large number of U.S. universities to examine issues of common interest. It was far
less substantial than the longer College Board Conference that I attended last summer
but was, if nothing else, a very valuable networking opportunity.
I was invited to assist in presenting a workshop on the Saturday called ‘When in
Rome, Geneva, Brazil, Hong Kong…’ that was a session aimed at U.S. university
visitors giving practical advice on local conditions for their visits. I felt that I should
contribute and, in the end, the session proved very popular and was deemed a success.
However, it did mean that preparation with colleagues prevented me from attending
some morning sessions that day.
While some parts of the conference involved all participants, others were chosen from
a menu of alternatives. Below are summaries of the sessions I attended:
Opening Session
They keynote speaker was Dr. Sergei Kruschev, son of Nikita Kruschev and former
leading scientist in the Soviet nuclear missile program. He is now a senior fellow of
the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.
The theme of the conference was ‘educating peacemakers’ and Dr. Kruschev focused
on the understanding of different cultures in his speech. Frequently using Russia as
an example, he made the point that different cultures often think in a completely
different way and that it is unrealistic and
perhaps dangerous to try to ‘level out’
cultural differences.
He contrasted
Americans’ respect for the law with the
Russian tradition of distrusting the law but
placing faith in the ‘good will’ of the rulers,
from the tsars to Putin. He took us through
a rather depressing analysis of the last
decade or so of Russian history and touched
upon the war against terrorism. In a speech
that included a good dose of humour, he
emphasized the need to understand and respect other cultures, even where one can
never fully share such a culture.
Reverse College Fair
Staged in a large hall in the centre of
Brown’s campus, the fair saw schools take
the place of colleges to ‘sell their wares’.
Fortunately, I had sent ahead a good
number of South Island School and
English Schools Foundation prospectuses
that soon disappeared. This was a good
opportunity to put us on the map.
‘When in Rome, Geneva, Brazil and Hong Kong..’
This was a workshop presented by myself and two other counsellors from Brazil and
Switzerland for the benefit of college admissions travelers (see earlier note).
Canadian Education: Not just Igloos and Sled Dogs
I chose this Workshop because of our focus on
Canadian Higher Education for 2003/2004.
The workshop gave a good general overview
of Higher Education in Canada, distinguishing
universities from colleges and university
colleges. It clarified the different types of
degree programs and progression to
professional courses in Law and Medicine
from the 3rd year awards.
To some extent, this was a promotion of Canadian Higher Education and its strengths
were presented as:
Quality control because of public funding - all are accredited (while the likes
of McGill and U.T. have name recognition, a standard of quality is guaranteed
throughout the system).
Low Tuition Fees – particularly in comparison to the U.S.
(tuition + board) are around US$15-17,000 per annum.
The flexible nature of degrees where one can often declare a major after the
first year. Dual majors are common.
Overall fees
Variety – while publicly funded, Canadian Higher Education varies by
province, language (English, French), by type of institution and student
diversity (large international element).
Improved Facilities – thanks to cash injection for the ‘Double Cohort’.
Common Misperceptions
Distance –often quite small (eg. In Ontario)
Weather – many universities are further south than U.S. cities
Language – you don’t need to be bilingual.
Canadian universities don’t recruit athletes (you must satisfy academic standards) but
student life, including sports, is vibrant.
Support for international students was emphasised in terms of academic and career
counselling, health and the ability of international graduates to work for a year or
more in Canada. Scholarships of one type or another are also available and this
differs by institution (eg. merit scholarships at U.T.).
Application Process – the simplicity of the process was stressed. It is chiefly based on
grades (Transcript, SAT, predicted A levels or I.B.) Universities do like to see midyear or interim grades in Year 13. Some applications (eg. Art, Vet. Science) require
earlier application or a portfolio. For Ontario, international applicants can apply
through O.U.A.C. or directly to the institution.
Immigration issues are best dealt with through your local Canadian Education Centre.
A number of useful websites were identified and it was pointed out that the
‘Peterson’s Guide’ includes Canadian institutions.
Immigration/Visa Update
This presentation by a representative form the State Department looked at the student
visa and monitoring situation since 9/11. This was an information-heavy session with
all sorts of technical detail but the main points made were:
Although none of the 9/11 terrorists was a student at the time, press reports to the
contrary led to a call for an end to the abuse of student visas.
Consular Staff will automatically assume that applicants for student visas will try to
immigrate. Student applicants must show ‘compelling ties’ to their own country –
e.g. family, business, property etc. This is not defined in law and it is tougher to
provide such evidence in developing countries.
The decision to refuse a visa is always explained in writing and is very rarely reversed
on appeal.
Since 9/11, some auxiliary forms have been introduced , particularly for male
applicants ( re. military training etc) and 25 countries have been identified as of
‘special concern’. All names are checked by the F.B.I. Although only 3% go to
review this process has caused long delays in granting visas.
From August 2003, the requirement to interview an increasing number of applicants
has put stress on the system. Students can now apply earlier than before (up to 90
days) to cope with this.
S.E.V.I.S. is the electronic monitoring system that keeps track of international
students in the U.S.A. and colleges have had to step up the counseling and advice
given to international students to ensure that all immigration requirements are met for
the whole duration of a student’s course.
Why I.B.?
I attended this session for obvious reasons. The presenter was Joy Halsey, I.B.
Coordinator and College Counselor at the American Community School in
Hillingdon, U.K. and an admissions officer from the University of Tulsa that strongly
favours the I.B. in its student recruitment. The session was something of a ‘hard sell’
but informative nevertheless.
Particular strengths of the I.B. emphasised were:
That it was a ‘liberal arts’ program in keeping with the best U.S. educational
That it sets expectations for students, parents and schools and raises standards.
Its emphasis on ‘analytical writing’ that should prepare students well for the
writing component in the new SAT (2006).
It develops oral communication skills.
It allows students to see the interrelationship between subjects.
It prepares students for the strong academic load they will face at university.
The last point was given most emphasis, in terms of students developing a set of skills
and certain intangible qualities that would ensure a greater chance of success in
Higher Education. Tulsa emphasized the 100% completion rate of its I.B. students.
The growth of I.B. in U.S. high schools, particularly in Florida, California and Texas
was pointed out, as was the fact that I.B. is already well established as a qualification
for entry to N. American universities and colleges.
At one point, I referred to the U.K. examination marking fiasco and asked if the
I.B.O. could cope with the sudden expansion in schools taking I.B. in terms of
marking etc. I was told that this was a very good question but received no specific
reassurance in this regard. However, in response to another question about
accessibility, Joyce Halsey said that in a non-selective school, only 30% would take
the diploma and only 10% would actually complete it.
Some Concluding Remarks
The college tours revealed a variety and diversity of institutions that is unparalleled
elsewhere in the world – this is largely the result of the number of private colleges in
comparison to other national systems that are predominantly government-funded. It
also means that through endowments from wealthy alumni and other sources, many
institutions have funds that U.K., Canadian or Australian institutions can only dream
about and they have facilities to match. Frankly, this variety is a joy and, with the
sheer number of institutions to choose from (3,500), it is something that makes the
Higher Education research process both fascinating and challenging.
Attending one of the ‘top’ institutions is not only getting more expensive but much
more competitive as the media (e.g. U.S. News) provides the hype and increasingly
ambitious and hardworking students look beyond their own states for the ‘best’
education that their parents’ hard-saved cash can buy. It is now more important than
ever for students and parents to look ‘outside the box’ and recognise the number of
great colleges that are out there and that might well be a much better fit for them.
The financial picture is not a totally bleak one for international students. There are a
number of institutions that offer financial aid for international students and many
more that offer scholarships of one type or another: it takes time and patience to
research these. Given sufficient time and resources, we would like to provide more
help to families in exploring these options.
It was noteworthy that a large number of the colleges I visited were keen to stress the
same things:
That faculty (professors) rather than T.A.s were engaged in teaching and were
accessible to undergraduates (the extent to which T.A.s are used is not always
easy to get a straight answer to).
That undergraduates have a high degree of choice and flexibility in terms of
majors and change several times during their studies, often delaying that
choice until the 3rd year. There was a good deal of evidence for this amongst
our student guides. There is also a good deal of advice and counseling
available in terms of such choices and in terms of the mix of classes for each
That undergraduates were directly engaged in research. A number of colleges
formally call this their U.R.O.P. program.
That a ‘Writing Centre’, staffed usually by graduate students, is available on
campus to advise undergraduates on writing. I found this particularly
interesting, partly because we tend to assume in the U.K. that such skills are
already sufficiently developed. It reinforces the noticeable American
emphasis on a fundamental ‘liberal arts’ skill that has perhaps been forgotten
across the Atlantic.
That sharing a room is still very much part of the college experience, again in
contrast with U.K. trends. Although always online, rooms are quite modest in
comparison to other facilities.

International Counselor University Tour/Program (Boston) Sunday