Admission to top colleges in the US and UK is competitive and the selection criteria are vague. Therefore, it is reasonable that many misconceptions surfaced in front of applicants and their families. We will try to dispel as many of common ones as possible in this article.
Misconception 1: Preparing for colleges in the US and the UK is so time-consuming that it would negatively affect my schoolwork and eventually hurt my chance to be admitted to the good universities in Australia
Dispelled: First thing first, school performance is one of the most important factors, no matter which colleges you apply to or where the colleges are located. If you decide to challenge yourself and apply to top colleges in the US and the UK, you would need to make sure you have a brilliant school report. Given that the admission process of universities in Australia is almost solely based on your schoolwork and exams, preparing for colleges in the US and the UK would not hurt you chance to be admitted to top universities in Australia.
As a matter of fact, only the performance in your final two years of high school affects your ATAR, which is the final result for Australian applicants, but top American colleges would see your performance since Year 9. Such a difference means that if you want to work towards these top colleges, you should have even higher requirement on your study.
Overall, the goal of applying to colleges in the US and UK would only motivate students to have a more impressive and consistent school performance.
Misconception 2: Applying to university overseas from Australia needs IB score
Dispelled: Although IB’s full name is International Baccalaureate, it does not mean that IB is the only international high school degree that is recognized by the colleges in the US and UK.
However, if your school provides IB diploma programme, we strongly suggest you to study it rather than the Australian local program, because IB is considered more rigorous and you want to show that you have challenged yourself at high school.
On the other hand, if your school does not provide IB, we do not recommend you to transfer to another school simply for its IB programme.
Misconception 3: I can only take the SAT three times
Dispelled: There is no limit on the number of SAT exams you can take. International students generally have four exams every year in March, May, October and December respectively. Some universities would allow applicants to “select” the scores to send to them. Therefore, for these schools, the number of sittings does not matter at all. As to other schools who require applicants to submit all scores, the number matters, especially when it is too high or your scores show a downward trend.
However, because SAT prep is time- and energy-consuming and the exam is well designed, we recommend you to plan well and work efficiently. Taking a lot of exams and trying your luck are not the way to go. Put it in a simple way: the more competitive the applicants are, the less time he or she spends on SAT prep.
Misconception 4: Extracurricular activities are volunteering
Dispelled: Technically, extracurricular activities include any activity that is “extra” for your curriculum. Therefore, they certainly go beyond volunteering. Watching TV, having food, and sleeping – all these are extracurricular activities as well. But do you think they can be put on your application?
To answer this question, we need to understand how top colleges in the US evaluate extracurricular activities. For example, when they see your involvement with music, most of them do not make judgement on whether you are a qualified musician to play music at college; instead, they tell the “qualities” you have proved through your dedication to music. These qualities usually include persistence, creative, teamwork, etc., which would help you achieve your goals at college.
So now you should know that any activity that could show positive “qualities” can be a part of your application, and community service is merely one category.
Misconception 5: I am not extrovert enough to apply to colleges in the US, who look for leaders
Dispelled: Based on our analysis of the previous misconception, this one is very easy to be dispelled. While such qualities as leadership, proactivity, and communication, which are linked more closely with “extrovert” applicants, are considered during the admission process, they are definitely not the only qualities that could give you a plus. Scholarly, intelligence, tolerance, and other qualities associated more frequently with “introvert” would also help a student to success, and therefore be appreciated by the top colleges.