Archive for April, 2010

Japanese Students Pass on American Universities

Waseda University

Japanese students value the safety of Japanese universities

For the international students competing to get into top American Universities, you will have one less country to worry about.  Japanese students are taking a decidedly cautious attitude towards American  Universities.

The Japanese have always been frugal, but also the most willing to invest in any skills or technology necessary to increase their competitiveness.   What has changed?  Young Japanese people now think that an American college degree is a “questionable” investment.  Perhaps two decades of recession has spoiled this generation’s appetite for risk.

I am impressed that there are young people who think critically about life after college when making their decision about where to attend college.  Planning for life after college is a practice we constantly emphasize on this blog.

That being said, let us reexamine American education as an investment for Japanese students:

1) Cost

Japanese universities are less crowded now and easier to get in to.  Conversely, American Universities are even more crowded and more expensive than they were 20 years ago.  Thus, a Japanese student would be giving up a cheaper, safer option for a more expensive option with higher upside but of very uncertain utility back in Japan.

2) Benefit

The number one concern for most students is whether they will be able to find a good job, in their field of study, after college.   In Japan, people are not as impressed with an American college degree as in other countries, though they are impressed with the ability to speak English, which an American degree does not guarantee.

Also, under the traditional Japanese corporate model, Japanese companies hire students fresh out of college, train them to their particular company’s standards, and employ them for life.  Thus, the company is usually relied on for education and training.  Because firms like to hire from the alma maters of the hiring managers, Japanese universities serve more as an instrument for accreditation than centers of human development and learning.  Students worked hard to get admitted into universities and, after gaining admission, are not expected to do much while waiting for employment.

The difference now is that lifetime employment is no longer guaranteed to corporate employees in Japan.  Employment is no longer guaranteed to students coming out of university nor to current employees at Japanese companies.   There is much more job-hopping and reapplying, which makes the job market more dynamic and challenging for everyone.

Thus, while Japanese universities are easier to get into, the payoff is not as certain as it used to be.   Are Japanese universities also a “questionable” investment?   We will look peer a little deeper into this question later this week.

U.K. Universities and Recruiters Criticized for Treating Foreign Students as "Cash Cows"

In a scathing criticism of university administrators in the U.K., British Council Chief Executive, Martin Davidson, accuses certain U.K. universities of treating foreign students as “cash cows”.  Davidson implies that the students are being admitted for their tuition dollars instead of their minds.  He frames their new appreciation of international students as a gimmick meant to patch up their budgets at a time of financial hardship.  Davidson’s criticism gets to the crux of an increasingly prevalent phenomenon among Anglophone universities worldwide.

Can one really blame universities for adjusting their admissions policies to bring in more tuition revenue?  The British Council seems to think so.  Perhaps the element missing in the approach of these universities is a true commitment to diversity and international engagement.  That commitment would make a university’s efforts to attract international students more constructive and enduring.

For now, the number one priority for U.K. universities should be to mitigate the damage of this attack from the British Council.  The reverberations of this criticism could extend into the admissions cycle for next year.

U.K. Universities and Recruiters Scolded for Treating Foreign Students as Cash Cows.

In a scathing rebuke of university administrators in the U.K., British Council Chief Executive, Martin Davidson, accuses certain U.K. universities of treating foreign students as “cash cows”, admitted for their tuition dollars instead of their minds.  He characterizes their newfound appreciation of international students as an gimmick meant to patch up their budgets at a time of financial hardship.  Davidson’s criticism gets to the crux of an increasingly prevalent phenomenon among english-speaking universities the world over.

British Council CEO Martin Davidson is not at all pleased with the way U.K. universities are pursuing foreign students.

Can one really blame universities for adjusting their admissions policies to bring in more tuition revenue?  The British Council seems to think so.  Perhaps the element missing in the approach of these universities is a true commitment to diversity and international engagement.  That commitment would make a university’s efforts to attract international students more sincere and constructive.

For now, the number one priority for U.K. universities should be to mitigate the damage of this attack from the British Council.  The reverberations of this criticism might even extend into the admissions cycle.

Foreign Graduate Student Applications Up 7%

The United States contintues to be a top destination for Asian science talent.

At every level of education it seems, the torrent of international students continues for American institutions.  This time, it is the prospective graduate students, who have increased their applications to American graduate schools by 7%.  Though the article does not specify which degree programs these students are applying to, the countries of origin mentioned, China, Korea, and India, would indicate that many are pursuing STEM degrees.

Great news for the United States, which has gone out of its way recently to lure and keep math and science talent in the US.

American High Schools Joining the Competition for International Students


Exeter

Phillips Exeter Academy: Halfway to Harvard

The competition for international students is starting even earlier now, with American prep school deans going overseas to recruit students to their schools.  These private high schools have been hit hard by the recession, as parents can no longer   afford to enroll their students in expensive college preparatory programs.  To make up for the shortfall, school headmasters are going overseas to find ambitious high school students who want a head start on that coveted American college degree.

College preparatory schools in the U.S. tend to be very well run, almost the polar opposite of public high schools in the U.S.  The academic rigor and quality of students is comparable to that of the top high schools in Asia, though less competitive.  AP and IB classes are the norm, and the extracurriculars are excellent.  Best of all, American prep schools provide foreign students with the opportunity to polish their english while getting acquainted with their future college classmates: many prep schools serve as “feeder” schools to elite private and public universities such as Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Duke, University of Chicago, University of Virginia, and University of Michigan.

Elite Universities Report an Increase in Applications, Admission Rates Drop

Life has just become a bit more stressful for students hoping to study at elite private universities in the U.S.  Applications are up significantly at elite American universities. Harvard saw a 5% increase to 30,489 applications.  Stanford also saw a 5% increase to 32,022 applications.  Penn, a pioneer in international student admissions, saw an 18% increase to 29,000 applications.

For many applicants, this could be as close as they get to the Ivy League.

In short, the odds have gotten even worse.  How should applicants respond to this shift?  By taking a chance.  Every year, these elite schools are guaranteed a massive pool of applicants with 4.0 GPAs, 2400 SATs, class presidencies,  athletics, band, etc.  What these schools are not guaranteed are truly unique applicants, people who will stretch the thinking of their classmates in college and who will distinguish themselves in whatever arena they find themselves in after college.

Most of you applying to these schools are, in fact, the type of people who will stand out in life.  You do have unique abilities, opinions, and personalities.  Unfortunately, admissions officers cannot read your mind.  They can only read your personal statement.  The personal statement is your one chance to demonstrate those qualities that distinguish you from the 30,000 other model students.  So take a chance and show them them that you are more than just good grades and test scores.

When sitting down to write the statement, don’t feel the need to identify those qualities immediately.  After all, the most memorable qualities reveal themselves through patterns, and you cannot have patterns without a body of work.  So write freely and unabashedly for now, and  leave the editing for later.

“There is no such thing as good writing. There is only good rewriting.” – Justice Louis Brandeis