Monday, December 1, 2008

Overseas colleges: a more promising option for left-brainers?

What options exist for the hyper-focused student who lacks the well-rounded portfolio of extra-curriculars and leadership roles considered so important by America's elite colleges? Overseas universities, with their greater interest in academic credentials and narrower academic training, may represent a better fit. Consider an article in today's New York Times about St. Andrews University in Scotland:

For American students, a university like St. Andrews offers international experience and prestige, at a cost well below the tuition at a top private university in the United States.

Scottish universities have a different approach from American institutions to education. Students apply to the department they wish to study in and specialize from the beginning, with no requirement that they take courses in many different fields, as is generally the case in the United States.

The Scottish admissions process is straightforward, mostly a matter of meeting numeric benchmarks. While requirements vary among departments, St. Andrews generally wants SATs of 1950 (out of a possible 2400) and a 3.3 grade point average.

Applicants write no essays on their most-admired public figure, or what they learned from their summer travels, or, as Dresser put it, "those hilarious American college-admissions essays on 'If you were going to sing a song in a talent show, what would you sing and why?'"

Students need not present themselves as the well-rounded package of perfection, as many feel they must to impress American admissions officers.

"The fluff is irrelevant," said Rebecca Gaukroger, a recruiter for the University of Edinburgh. "It's built into the UK system that students will have strengths and weaknesses, and if a student wants to study chemistry, we don't need to know if they're good at history."
The fluff is irrelevant. How refreshing!

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