All the Webinars in the World

5 Ways to Use Gifting to Reduce Webinar Fatigue

IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ EVERYTHING, SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM. THERE’S A LOT OF USEFUL INFORMATION. I SWEAR. (Formatting to follow.)

Anyway, here goes…

Hey everyone,

I feel like I blinked, three months passed, and early applications are due. Anyone else?

So, what’s new in the world of college admissions consulting? Everything is online. Also, everything is online.

In one sense, the new norm is kind of awesome – online webinars even the playing field for students who can’t demonstrate interest through in-person college visits; e-brochures put tons more information in front of students; and test-optional policies give students so much more breathing room to shoot for their moons.

In the other sense, the new norm, as expected, sucks. Every week, I sign up for fifteen new webinars, and every day, I miss parts of those webinars as I try to juggle my desire to know more about the admissions landscape with my need to help students RIGHT NOW.

As emails from universities come in, I frantically try to read, sort, and forward to the students who I think would benefit. And every week, I think – ok, I’ve got to just post the information somewhere and let parents and students take it from there. Then I blink, and my defective time machine flings me unwillingly forward a few more weeks.

Unfortunately, Twitter, which would definitely be my best bet here, is my least followed account, and I just don’t have the willpower (or youth) to build a following right now. Help me out – go follow www.twitter.com/IvyEdgeGlobal! Go tweet me, or twit or twat, or whatever the correct social media verb is that equals both our lives becoming a tiny bit easier.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s get to the webinars. Note that this is just the tip of the iceberg on what’s available. Reach out to universities to ask about brochures, info-sessions and webinars. Reach out to me with questions. I wanted to post more webinars in this article, but I didn’t realize how many are “counselor only” – I try to incorporate the information I learn there into my own webinars.

I’m rambling now and shouldn’t be – I don’t actually have the time. Essay editing is calling my name again and I must answer. (Oh, the irony and luxury of rambling when one of my core job functions is to help students be more concise.) I thought about waiting a few more days so that I could polish this before publishing, but I’m afraid my time machine will spring into action again and you’ll miss the next three weeks of webinars. So from my sleep-addled brain to your eyes, here goes…

Upcoming InfoSessions/ Webinars:

Different But the Same: Virtual Workshop on U.S. Public and Private Institutions – Caribbean, October 1 2020, 5 PM CT/ 6 PM EST (Franklin and Marshall, Michigan State, Rice, U. of Illinois – Urbana Champaign)
IvyEdge Global: College Admissions Overview, October 2nd, 6:30 PM EST
IvyEdge Global: Financial Aid, October 3rd, 6:30 PM EST
IvyEdge Global: Athletic Recruiting, October 4th, 6:30 PM EST

Columbia, Penn and Princeton Open Information Session: Caribbean, October 5th 6:00 PM EST
VirtU-8 Virtual Visits, October 5th – 9th (Chapman, Johnson & Wales, Lynn, Northwestern, UTampa, Rollins, Sewanee, Santa Clara University) – inquire if you want to know more
NYU Abu Dhabi: Common App Webinar Oct 5th
NYU Abu Dhabi: Essay Writing Workshop Oct 7th
Johns Hopkins, University of Chicago, Barnard, Columbia: Writing Meaningful Supplemental Essays, October 7th, 7:00 PM EST
Trinity, SMU, George Washington: Applying to Universities in the Age of COVID, October 7th, 7:00 PM CT, 8:00 PM EST
Jesuit Excellence Tour – 27 Jesuit Colleges and Unis, Oct 11 (Code: JetTour2020)
Urban Jesuit Information: Creating a Winning Application, Oct 14th (Fordham, Loyola U Chicago, Loyola Marymount)
Carleton College, Case Western, Haverford, Macalester: Open Session, October 20th
Destination California: International Application Review or How Do I Get In? Oct 20, Oct 27
Urban Jesuit Information: Student Panel, Oct 28th (Fordham, Loyola U Chicago, Loyola Marymount)
Jesuit Excellence Tour – 27 Jesuit Colleges and Unis: Nov 5 (Code: JetTour2020)
CollegeVine Webinars: various dates (cautionary note – I don’t agree with everything presented in these)

Samples of Recent Webinars:

(Students of mine – if you see something that interests you below and you want me to find the recording, I’ll dig through my emails to see if I can find.)

AAU Universities Latin American & Caribbean Tour: Up in the Air – Learn what happens to your application after submission, September 30th (CU Boulder, UFlorida, UMissouri, UOregon, UWisconsin-Madison)
US Liberal Arts Colleges European Tour, September 25th (Bard, Amherst, Barnard, Bowdoin, Claremont McKenna, Davidson, Haverford, Kenyon, Middlebury, Oberlin, Smith, Swarthmore, Wesleyan)
CollEDGE Fair, September 18th
AAU Universities Latin America & Caribbean Tour: Tips for completing the Common App and essay writing, September 16th

Keep checking back because I’m going to keep updating as the weeks go by! I will also post to my Twitter account, but not to my Instagram or Facebook, since the last two are just for my personal offerings.

Comments and questions are welcome below.

Should you be doing the SAT/ ACT this year?

Decision-Making for US College Applications: A COVID-19 post

This is the first mini-article in a series of minis focused on how COVID-19 may affect the decisions parents/ guardians and students have to make when applying to US colleges.

Decision 1: Should you be doing the SAT/ ACT this year?

Reasons to take the SAT/ ACT:

  1. Students have more free time to study right now than they may ever have again.
  2. Schools that have shifted to test-optional for the Fall 2021 intake may shift back for 2022, so students who are applying next year may still be required to take the test.
  3. Students who are unsure which colleges they want to attend should take the SAT/ ACT to preserve optionality.  Note: some schools that are test optional for international students may still require the exam for ISPS and Maple Leaf students.
  4. CAPE/ CSEC uncertainty creates a situation in which the possession of other test results may create a competitive advantage for a student.
  5. In normal times, taking the SAT/ ACT offers more scholarship opportunities.  I believe this will hold true for some universities this year.
  6. Taking the SAT/ ACT does not mean that you need to use the scores, so a high score is an advantage, but a low score is not a disadvantage.

Reasons to not take the SAT/ ACT:

  1. The past two years have seen a big push of colleges offering test-optional and test-flexible policies, particularly to international students. Because of COVID-19, more colleges than ever will be test-optional this year. The growing list includes Cornell University, the University of California colleges, and Boston University.
  2. The test may present a financial burden right now that can be avoided.  Each test costs ~$100 USD to take. Then, there are the added costs of test prep, sending test scores to colleges, and retaking the test.
  3. Students who are dealing with pressure of any kind should NOT stress about these exams – what you have will be more than enough. Furthermore, universities are doing everything they can to accommodate unique circumstances.
  4. This may seem obvious, but if you are most likely going to study outside the US, I would consider opting out of taking the SAT/ ACT this year.

Overall Recommendation:

This is not a one-size fits all decision, but I would lean towards taking the exam for the reasons above. Since each student’s case is unique, I recommend that new students book one of my free 30-min consults to discuss.

IvyEdge Plan:

This year, there will be an international August SAT exam (barring no complications) for the first time ever.

  1. Classes begin June 8th.  The schedule, prices and registration details have been posted.
  2. Classes will be virtual to begin and will change depending on the climate.  I have a lot of experience teaching virtually with great success, including students accepted to Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, Vanderbilt, University of Virginia, Amherst College, University of North Carolina, and more.
  3. I will offer a series of options, ranging from free to regularly-priced classes, so that students experiencing financial difficulty because of COVID-19 can still benefit from IvyEdge guidance.
  4. Classes will be over a longer period of time and will be smaller than my typical classes of 10 students each. I want any students who decide to take the SAT this year to see a significant improvement over three months, with the hope that this is the only time they will have to take the exam.
  5. Classes will be more driven towards SAT plus general knowledge, so that students will be better equipped to deal with college coursework and college writing.
  6. As always, IvyEdge Global will provide all classwork and homework material to students.

Spring and Summer Learning Options for Students on Lockdown: A COVID-19 post

Everyone’s circumstances are different.  So if you are just in survival mode – physically, mentally, or emotionally – you should not feel like there is pressure from me or anyone else to do more.  This post (and future posts about how to spend lockdown) is for students who might have extra time on their hands, are looking for ways to contribute, or want to learn something new. It is for students whose anxiety about the future may be alleviated by boosting their resumes or doing something productive.

For me, the best way of facing this challenge has been the continued act of counting my blessings. And that leads me to the inevitable conclusion that those blessings are not shared by everyone and I need to help out however I can or, at the very least, take advantage of my privileges by using this time to the best of my ability.     

There are countless resources out there for spending your time at home, but here are my favorite learning opportunities for students Grades 9-12. I hope to send out another email soon regarding opportunities to become a digital volunteer, start a business at home, or work for a company remotely.

Paid Educational Resources

Lockdown Language is a really cool non-profit where anyone interested in practicing languages can purchase conversation sessions from people who are out of work because of COVID-19.

“Spend your summer at Brown” (online) for 3, 4 or 5 weeks. There are some extremely cool courses here, ranging from mythology to neuroscience to cyber security. This is also a great way for Grades 9-12 students to get a feel for real world applications of what they are currently learning in school. Deadline: June 2020

Get chosen to participate in a selective online research program that is a partnership between Pioneer Academics and Oberlin College. There is a rigorous application process that takes 6-8 weeks, but students get to receive college credit and recognition from top universities if they are selected for this program. This is for top students only. Deadline: April 26th 2020

Free Educational

Check out 437 courses offered by the Ivy League universities. These courses typically last anywhere from 4 to 15 weeks and range in price from 0 to 90 dollars.

Here are 600 new courses launched by 190 universities in the areas of Computer Science, Mathematics, Programming, Data Science, Humanities, Social Sciences, Education & Teaching, Health & Medicine, Business, Personal Development, Engineering, Art & Design, and Science.

Take a free Intro to Aviation course with Embry Riddle. The course is low commitment (1 hour per week) and comprises nine video lessons for students who want to get a better feel for the aviation field.

If you are still looking for other options, take a look at this link containing descriptions of and links to Udemy (coding), KhanAcademy (free courses), Better Money Habits (seminars on personal finance), Skillshare (project-based learning), Coursera (free courses), Duolingo (language learning), MIT OpenCourseWare (free courses), Treehouse (tech workshops), edX (free courses), OEDb (free and for credit courses), TEDTalks (videos), Academic Earth (courses and lectures), Udacity (tech skills), Microsoft Virtual Academy (Microsoft training), U.S. Small Business Administration (starting and running a business), Foundation Center (philanthropy), Media Bistro (media, visual arts, marketing).

This takes some searching through, but here are 800 free eBooks for iPad, Kindle, etc. A lot of classics in there: think about starting with Pride and Prejudice, Great Gatsby, Brave New World, 1984, anything Shakespeare, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and much more.  If you don’t like philosophy or the classics, this link probably isn’t for you.

This also takes some searching through, but here are 1000 free audiobooks. This list is super similar to the list of free eBooks i.e. mostly classics and philosophy. You can also sign up for an Audible 30-day free trial and Amazon is offering free audiobooks during the crisis.

Mildly Interesting and Somewhat Educational

Google Earth launched virtual tours of some of America’s best national parks. If you’ve been on Google Earth, it’s basically that, but in pretty places.

Browse 2 million plus works of art from 20+  world-class museums. Maybe make a list of places you want to visit or study abroad when you’re in college.

Watch Broadway plays online.  The classic Broadway plays are only available if you have a US VPN.

Virtually visit some museums, zoos, and theme parks. I used to keep a puppy cam and a zoom com up in different corners of one of my work monitors – it’s surprisingly soothing and really not that educational.

Getting Ahead of Yourself – a list for the super motivated

Think about your college admissions essay.  There are going to be a LOT of COVID-19 essays out there, so see if you can brainstorm different topics.  If you do end up writing about COVID-19, your story needs to stand out, not by shock and awe but by being personal.  Pay attention to nuanced parts of your day while in lockdown.  Consider journaling for 10 minutes at the end of each day so that you can look back at which aspects of this pandemic affected you the most – it may surprise you when you look back.

We have no idea if travel restrictions are going to be lifted and I’m sure many families will have to think about tightening budgets after the lockdown. That said, here are some in-person courses that are scheduled to take place this summer.  You can always read the list to find aspirational activities for next summer!

Here are even more options that are less educational and more enjoyable: cooking, drawing, playing guitar, drawing, creative writing, etc.

This is a list of 1500 free online courses.  There is probably some overlap with the first two free educational resources and I would stick to those links since they contain programs offered by recognized universities. You would probably only use this list if you’re looking for something that is really niche.

I included the Ivy League MOOCs (massive open online courses) in the free educational resources above, but you can also browse all the MOOCs out there.  Be careful – this can easily become overwhelming.

IvyEdge Virtual Initiatives

So I have to spend a little time talking about what we’re developing here at IvyEdge.

Right now, we have CAPE and CSEC Math, Physics and Chemistry virtual teachers on board and even more in training.  We are also working hard to develop a virtual speaker series that will introduce students to specific majors, careers, salaries, etc. to make more informed decisions about their futures. Finally, we will soon be releasing webinars for students and parents addressing the changing landscape of international admissions in the time of COVID and how to best prepare for the storm.

The initial impact of Covid-19 on US admissions for internationals

I wrote the following email on March 26th and it was so well-received that I decided to post it on the website:
Has Covid-19 affected admissions and will it continue to do so? In a nutshell, yes.  Covid-19 has already affected admissions this year and I hesitate to make firm predictions regarding next year’s intake. That said, I hope this email can shed some light on pros and cons of US admissions in the current climate. Everything is in constant flux and a lot can change. With this understanding, here are some of my current observations and thoughts:

 (Trinidadian) students are being rejected and wait-listed from more schools than usual  
College admissions is tough.  But this wave of rejections and waitlists, particularly from the prestige schools, is not typical. 4 out of 5 candidates will get rejected from at least one of their reach schools, but with students reporting rejections and waitlists across their targets and safeties as well, I have to sit up and take notice. Parents and students, we need to brace ourselves for some tough decisions ahead.  

Rejections are up because more need-based candidates are applying to the need-based schools, giving these universities a greater pool of applicants to consider. Waitlists are up because universities are worried about their yields (i.e. the percentage of students colleges admit who will choose to attend.). Universities recognize that, in this uncertain climate, some students have applied to more schools to preserve optionality and other students may choose to stay closer to home (see point 3.) By creating a larger than usual waitlist, these universities are making sure to have strong candidates to fall back on if yield is down.

The bad news – if you’re on the waitlist, so are a lot of other people.  The good news – if universities’ yields actually do go down, more people will be accepted off the waitlist than usual.

 Financial aid is going to be tough and will matter to some schools more than ever before
Many students who have received acceptances report financial aid lower than expected or no financial assistance at all.  With endowments down, need-aware schools are clearly practicing their right to choose students who can pay the full sticker price of admission. For the lucky few students who will be accepted from the waitlist, this pool will most likely skew heavily towards those who do not need money.  
 
Other universities are offering higher scholarships, which is good news
While some universities are battening down the hatches because of endowments, others are struggling to meet enrollment numbers and are worried that their applicant pool will be smaller (and less diverse) if students choose to apply to universities closer to home. This is good news for the students, because it actually creates opportunities for applicants to get into colleges and/or to receive higher scholarships if they fit the right criteria. In fact, some accepted students reported increases in scholarships when they tried to withdraw those applications in favor of a different school. If your first choice school has accepted you, but has not offered the money you need, make sure to turn this into a conversation. Make your commitment to the school clear, and hope that they can increase their aid packages slightly in order to secure your enrollment.

 Trinidadian students are rushing to send in applications to Trinidadian tertiary institutions
“Should I stay closer to home this year?”
“It’s too early to say, but if you’re asking should you keep your options open, then the answer is most definitely yes.”


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had variations on this conversation over the past week. There are many reasons that COVID-19 has students thinking about staying closer to home: it’s cheaper, it’s nearer to loved ones in case something goes wrong, it’s unclear whether travel bans will still be in place in August, there will be a shortage of foreign currency available. If you’re not thinking about it yet, these are all good reasons you should consider sending in local applications. Another good reason – many US universities will accept transfer credits and the transfer process is fairly straightforward. Hopefully, an increase in applications doesn’t make the acceptance rates at local institutions too competitive.
 
Universities are doing everything they can to figure this out alongside you
This environment is scary for sure, but the universities are right there, working hard to do the best thing for current and future students.  Based on numerous conversations with admissions officers over the past few weeks, here are some of the key takeaways:

1. Admissions officers recognize that students may not have access to the same funds they did pre-pandemic and are pushing to increase aid for their students. They are open to conversations about all student concerns in this time of uncertainty. 2. A large number of universities are going test-optional for 2020 and 2021 intake, recognizing that standardized tests have been canceled or may represent a greater financial strain for parents this year. 3. Professors are rapidly converting class materials to better teach remote classes and online curriculums if necessary.  4. More universities are open to students who get accepted and choose to defer that acceptance to spring, summer or the following fall.

We all have so many questions about how education will be impacted for students of every age over the coming year.  From light-hearted jokes about homeschooling to deeper concerns about how this will affect low-income students, it boils down to the same thing: we are all just trying to navigate uncertain waters. This week, I’m going to send out online university courses that will look great on student resumes and help to expand their horizons, digital volunteering opportunities, and suggested reading lists for summer.  

It’s important to recognize that none of us knows how this will play out but we’re all figuring it out together, from universities to counselors to parents and students. Flexibility and innovation will be critical in the coming months and I welcome questions and observations that I can incorporate into my own response to this pandemic.

Sprinting Down the Athletic Route: Part 1 Understanding Requirements

This year, I was fortunate enough to work with two dedicated, national track and field athletes, so please excuse the “sprinting” pun in the title. Also, I apologize for the lack of articles. The SAT and consulting season in 2018 was more hectic than I expected – I thought I would have time to write an article every two weeks, but, after August, I only had time for webinars. So, with the optimism of New Year’s resolutions, here I am again to answer questions, correct misconceptions, and encourage students and parents through the college admissions process.

And, for my first article back, I wanted to focus on student-athletes and their families. As I’ve worked with more and more athletes, I find myself sorting into the following:

DieHardProfessional – I am going pro in this sport or else
BackupRealist – I want to play in college but know how difficult that can be, so I’m trying to find a good balance of academics and athletics
FullRideGoals – I love my sport but need a full ride
AcademicAchiever – I will play in college, but sports is a gateway to the best education possible

Of course, people often fall into two or even three of those categories, but knowing your order of priorities is important in choosing schools. In future webinars and articles, I will talk about how these different personalities approach the admissions process.

Since there is so much to include when talking about athletic recruiting, this is the beginning in a series of articles intended as a general introduction to sports recruiting from Form 4 and up. The longer you wait to apply/ be recruited, the less money there is available, the more stress there is, and the less influence coaches may have over your acceptance.

A survey by the National Collegiate Scouting Association (NCSA) of more than 1000 college coaches found that 84% of all coaches identify prospects during or before the end of the athlete’s sophomore year (Form 5).

Understanding College Divisions

The NCAA is one of the main regulatory bodies for college sports and consists of three divisions. Division I and II colleges offer athletic scholarships. Division III colleges cannot offer athletic scholarships but often provide other forms of financial aid. Signing an NCAA Letter of Intent (Division I and II athletes only) means that you agree to attend that college for at least 1 year in exchange for financial aid.

To participate in NCAA Division I and II sports, a student must meet minimum academic requirements and be registered (and certified) with the NCAA Clearinghouse aka Eligibility Center which is a one-time fee of $90 USD for domestic students and $150 USD for international students.

The other two main regulatory bodies to consider are NAIA and NJCAA which will not be discussed in this series.

Minimum Academic Requirements

Athletes must maintain the following academic standards for Division I and II. Each Division III school has its own policies for academic requirements.

In the Caribbean, the above table translates into five CXC passes by Form 5 or two CAPE passes within 2 years. Furthermore, students should have taken core course requirements of English, Math, Natural/ Physical Science, Social Science.

The core course GPA of 2.3+ is required to compete in Division I, while a 2.0+ allows athletes to train in Division I but not to compete (also known as being a redshirt).

Timeline for NCAA

The NCAA gives students 5 years after high school graduation to use 4 years of athletic eligibility. The extra year is typically in the event that a student gets injured or needs to take time off for grades, for example. This means that if a secondary school/ high school student takes a gap year, then he/she only has the next 4 years to be a college athlete.

In the next article, I will lay out specific timelines for athletes and talk about optimal times to begin preparation…

Seven Ways US College Admissions Differs for International Students

Being an international student can make an already difficult process even more daunting. This article was based on unexpected sources of stress that cropped up for my former students during their application processes.  It was supported by further research into top US universities and their specific international procedures.

First of all, who qualifies as an international student?  A good rule of thumb is that if you need a visa to study in the United States (even if you have a pending Green Card application, for example), you are an international student.  If you already have a Green Card, then you typically qualify as domestic, but should check each of the following factors at each university of interest to be sure.

Deadlines: Applications, Financial Deadlines, Standardized Testing

  • 1. Applications: Typically, deadlines for applications are the same for international students as for domestic students except in a few rare cases. However, since internationals need to apply for and await approval of their student visas, I still recommend applying by the end of March, even for schools that have rolling admissions until May or June for admission that September.
  • 2. Financial deadlines: International aid has different considerations, so the deadlines for aid or scholarships may be sometimes take place earlier for foreigners. This will differ by university.
  • 3. Standardized testing: Any candidates testing at a non-US center must register by the registration deadline: the “late registration deadline” only applies to US centers.

Fee Waiver Eligibility

  • Some fee waivers are easily available to international students if approved by your school guidance counselor e.g. Common App.  Other waivers, such as those for the SAT and ACT are only available to U.S. citizens.  Still others, such as individual school applications, can be obtained by internationals but with considerably more difficulty.

Financial Aid: Grants, Scholarships, Loans and Work Study

Understanding the ins and outs of financial aid is a time-consuming process and more stressful for internationals.

  • 1. Some schools are need-blind and/ or need-based for citizens but not for internationals. For example, some might be need-based for internationals but not need-blind (i.e. identical domestic and international applicants would have different chances of getting into those schools.)
  • 2. Some scholarships are only open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
  • 3. Some loans, e.g. federal loans, are only available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
  • 4. The process and forms that need to be filled out are slightly different. FAFSA for example is a federal aid form that internationals should not submit, although some universities may ask candidates to fill it out and submit internally as part of the application process. Internationals on the other hand need to fill out the CSS profile if they are applying for financial aid.

Extra Application Requirements

  • There may be some extra requirements that are requested either in the application.  Universities may also contact you, after you submit an application, to request more information.  Always monitor communications from your universities closely.  Examples of additional requests include: Proof of English language proficiency (usually waived), certification of finances (usually one-year’s tuition), transcript evaluation.

Contextual Chances of Admission

  • Schools typically have approximate quotas of internationals as a whole and by different regions.  This may work for you or against you, depending on the college and depending on your competition in the region within a particular year.  Reading about a college’s diversity initiatives and international acceptance rates is a useful measure of what your chances of acceptance might be.

Post-Acceptance Requirements

  • Joseph Herrera laid these out well in his IvyEdge Global article.  Internationals are required to obtain visas, immunizations, and sometimes more information even after they have accepted a school’s offer of admission.

Sports recruiting

  • If you are being formally recruited to colleges or eventually want to take this route, there is too much that would have to be included in this article.  The college coaches should have all the information that you need; I simply wanted to make future student-athletes aware of their international status as a potential consideration.

Once students arrive at college, there are culture shocks to be overcome, questions about internships and jobs to be answered, and resources to be explored.  This article does not address the aspects of what being international in college means for a student.  I will do so in a future article.

Some disclaimers.  First, while this article sheds light on some of the finer print of being international, remember that each university has its own nuances. It is therefore important to check the international requirements at every school to which you are applying.  Second, this article focuses on the differences between regular and international admissions, which assumes that the reader already has some advance knowledge of the application process e.g. typical application deadline dates (between October and June), or the differences between need-based and need-blind financial aid.  Third, this is meant for first-time undergraduate applicants.  The policies for graduate schools and transfer applicants may be similar but not entirely the same.

I hope that this article will make or has made the application process easier for internationals out there. As always, questions and comments are welcome!

If you just got accepted to a school in the US this article is for you

In this I will be sharing with you all the unexpected stresses of getting accepted to a university away.

 

It was a Friday afternoon. I was supposed to be on a Monday flight out of the country for a family wedding when I suddenly realised that I had given my passport to the US Embassy the day before.  It was 3:15 P.M. and the only way I could travel was to get an emergency travel document from the immigration office which would close at 4:00 P.M. I printed out the form and ran to my car. Thirty minutes and two near crashes later, I was stuck in traffic on Tragarete Road. I parked my car on the side and literally sprinted ,with my jeans falling off my waist, for 2km through the middle of Port-of-Spain only to reach the immigration office with no air left in my lungs and five minutes to spare. But after all that, I was told that they had stopped issuing those documents at that immigration office and their website was not updated.

On Monday morning I woke up at 5:30 A.M. to try the head immigration office on Richmond Street. After waiting in a line for an hour and half, the lady at the front of the building told me I had no grounds for an emergency travel document and that my only hope was the embassy. I sped home and called every number I could but they all repeated the same thing. Finally, on Monday night, I received an email from the P.O.S. US Consulate saying that my passport had been sent to DHL for processing and that I would receive my passport on Wednesday – still too late. On Tuesday morning, I called DHL first thing; they told me that TTPost did their shipping. I called TTPost who told me that I had to just wait till it was dropped off. I continuing calling TTPost over and over again until I finally got the phone number for the driver for Diego Martin (Mr. J). We agreed to meet in a random car park, but when I got there, he had unfortunately forgotten it at the St. Anns office. Driving to the St. Anns office I finally got my passport and began making arrangements to fly out.

Backstory

After I got accepted into Vanderbilt, I thought the whole college admissions stress was finally over. Boy was I wrong. I cannot even begin to tell you the amount of time I wasted, figuring out what taxes my mother paid, who she paid it to and how to prove it. I had to make dozens of accounts: Gmail, University ID, University Email, CollegeBoard, CSS profile, ACT, visa application – the list goes on and on. I made frequent runs to the bank, paid deposit fees, went to the doctor and a whole lot of other stuff. And then, even after I had gotten everything official taken care of, I overlooked not having my passport to travel while my US student visa was being processed.

To help you guys out, I have summed up the most daunting aspects of the post-acceptance processes. Keeping all my accounts and information on a spreadsheet saved a lot of hassle and I would recommend thinking of the best way for you to stay well-organized before you start.

Deciding where to go

I did not have this problem and Paige Gillette recently wrote a fantastic blog on IvyEdge Global discussing this topic in painstaking detail; I recommend you check it out.

Committing to your school

Most schools require an online downpayment (this gets deducted from tuition so don’t be too scared). My own was $400.00 USD and had to be paid online. Make sure you have a credit card you don’t mind putting online to pay this fee.

Student visa

If your passport does not permit you to live in the United States, you must apply for a student visa. You will most likely be applying for an F-1 visa (the most common), but, if you meet certain criteria, your school may recommend a J-1 visa.   To begin you must fill out the DS-160 form at your country’s online visa website.

This is a pretty general outline of how you should go about obtaining your visa

  1. Accept your school offer before May 1st
  2. Apply on your school’s website for an I-20 form
  3. Complete your DS-160 form online
  4. Choose an interview date

NB* to complete this you will require an I-20 form.

I-20 forms are distributed by the school you plan on attending and will require an online application. The school processes your application and then ships the physical I-20 form to you.

NB* get on this as soon as you can and FOLLOW UP! – even prestigious schools can still make mistakes or forget to send something or fail to prioritize your documents.

After you send in your DS-160 you pay the visa fee $160.00 USD  at your local bank (check the possible locations online first), pay the SEVIS transfer fee $200.00 USD at the US Embassy’s website, and proceed to the interview.

NB* most student visas can only be obtained 4 months prior to the beginning of your intended program so keep this in mind. You should also walk with proof of every visa related payment you made when you go to the interview.

Immunization

Different states require different immunizations and the university must withhold your acceptance until you comply. For example, the state of Tennessee required that I get the M.M.R. (Measles, Mumps, Rubella), Varicella, and the Meningococcal – A,C,Y,W  vaccines – the last of which I did not have. My doctor also recommended that I get an HPV vaccine; talk to your own about this.

Obtaining US Cash

If you live in the Caribbean, it is most likely difficult to get US Cash especially for lump sums such as tuition. For this, I had to go with my official acceptance letter and a few utility bills to the bank to prove that I required the money to attend school in the US. This is a painstaking process and you can end up spending a lot more money buying US dollars from outside sources if you wait too long to visit your bank. Get this done or urge your parents to get this done as soon as possible.

Safety Accounts

You never know what can go wrong when you are in a foreign country. Imagine this scenario, the only flight for the week out of your town gets cancelled and your residence hall close; you now have  to stay in a hotel for a week and book a new flight. This is why you need a safety account. That one terrible experience can easily run up to $2-3000.00 USD easily. You should get a family member to set up an account with $5-10,000.00 USD in it ONLY for emergencies.

Uploading Documents

Almost every single step I outlined requires you to scan documents and although a phone can get the job done I recommend a scanner. This would save you a ton of time if you have one on hand.

In conclusion, I hope that, after reading this, you realise that even though admissions is over there is still more that needs to be done and you can save a lot of stress by planning ahead.   

If you can’t afford a US education, this article is for you.

Backstory

My name is Joseph. I am a 19 year old, male, Trinidadian who, like many of you reading this, could not afford a US education. The day before I entered Lower 6 at Fatima, College I knew that I wanted to study away; because of this, I worked relentlessly for my two years in Form 6 trying to obtain a government scholarship. After graduation, I soon realised this was not happening and came to terms with attending U.W.I. (which is by no means a bad school). Then, U.W.I. rejected me. I had messed up my online application and, before I could fix it, my intended department was full. As I walked off campus that day, I told myself I was never going back to that place – a lofty goal that eventually would come true.

In this, I share with you how I will be attending a US school for less money than the University of the West Indies and what it took.

Standardized Tests

This is a biggie. Right after graduation I went searching for *SAT lessons; asking around a few times I found Paige. I began as soon as I could and worked like a dog. My practice tests were really good; 800s in Math, 730s in English. I was on my way to Princeton for sure! But, when I actually did the exam, I ended up underperforming with a 1430 (this is a very good score but it was just not competitive enough for Princeton whose average SAT is around 1520). I was profoundly upset. I felt like I had worked harder than everyone else in the class by far and still didn’t reach my goal. By now, a lot of you must be sarcastically saying “Oh poor you. You couldn’t get into Princeton because you only got a 1430” but hear me out. I needed 2 million dollars to go to school away and I was under the impression that only a handful of the top schools were capable of facilitating that absurd number – something I later learned is incorrect. Nonetheless, my anguish was fully justified.

As time went on I sucked it up and sat the November *SAT subject tests and did well. I also decided to do the December *ACT’s.  I had already gotten a 31 during upper 6 and felt like the exam was a better fit for me. I received my ACT results in January and did very well.

 

Cornell and ESSAYS

As November 1st approached *(Early Decision I deadline date) I realised I was in no shape for Princeton and decided to apply to Cornell. I was writing essays like crazy. For my Common App essay alone, I rewrote it completely 3 times with 2 – 5 drafts for each rewrite. This, accompanied by supplementary essays, was a killer combination and Paige was probably the only reason I didn’t succumb to the panic.

My understanding from research and in talking to Paige, is that essays are the most important aspect, apart from good grades, of your entire admissions process if applying to US schools. This is what allows admissions officers to determine who you are and if you belong in their distinct institutional cultures.

Eventually, I mustered up everything I needed the afternoon of the deadline and sent in my application. I was rejected a month and a half later. This was definitely the hardest part of the entire admissions process. When a school you weren’t even aiming for initially does not even *defer you, you feel like you are way over your head. I went into a mild depression for a couple days. It was like a war had begun in my brain. I was constantly criticizing myself: “You could not get a government scholarship or fill out a U.W.I. application and you expected for the 14th best school in America to give you 2 million dollars’ were among my initial thoughts. It took over a week and a lot of motivation from people around me to get out of that rut.

 

Regular Decision and ESSAYS….again

In hindsight, I really should have organized these much sooner, but as I mentioned before I was in no frame of mind to do so. I still had to write essays for Princeton University, Yale University, Vanderbilt University, The University of Notre Dame, Trinity College, Union College and St. John’s University before the New Year. This single handedly occupied my entire vacation. I was in Tobago writing for hours on end, every day. I was sending draft after draft to be checked over and constantly tweaking what I already had. Thankfully, by the time January 1st rolled around, I had – by the skin of my teeth – everything in order. I applied to all the schools above under Regular Decision and to Vanderbilt under E.D. II.

 

Vanderbilt

February 15th came around and to my complete surprise and utter happiness I was accepted to Vanderbilt University. There is nothing better than the feeling you get when you prove yourself right and the 14th best university in America (tied with Cornell) gives you a ridiculous grant. Looking back, after that day, I realised that even though I failed everything over the last 3 years, I really only needed to succeed once.  

 

*Technical Terms:

  • SAT/ ACT: A standardized test required for entrance to most US colleges
  • SAT Subject Test: A test specifically designed for one specialized subject area
  • E.D. I (Early Decision I): Most schools allow you to apply ED I. ED I has a higher acceptance rate; however, if you are accepted you must commit to that school.  In some cases, you can only apply to one school ED.
  • E.D. II ( Early Decision II): Same as E.D. I but only a few schools offer it and it typically has a later deadline than E.D. I.
  • R.D. (Regular Decision): This is what you apply to the majority of schools under and it gives you the freedom to choose between whoever you want.