Experts Share Tips for International Students Unable to Visit College CampusesBy TANYA CALDWELL
This is the time of year in which many colleges in the United States host campus visits, in the hopes that admitted applicants will get a better sense of the college environment and choose to enroll. This is much easier, of course, for students who are already in the United States. For international students, it is much more difficult to determine from afar which college atmosphere is the best fit.
Of course, in this era, technology has made other parts of the world much more accessible. Colleges are taking advantage of this and sharing a lot of information on university Web sites, social media networks and in online videos. There is also an increased effort for university officials to visit international students in their home countries.
For this week's installment of The Choice on India Ink, we've asked a number of universities with high populations of international students the following question:
How might international seniors decide where to enroll if they are unable to visit college campuses?
Here is a sampling of what those college officials had to say.
In addition to virtual tours of campuses via U.S. university Web pages, Indian seniors should research the reputation and campus life of prospective schools. Students should also look beyond their major. For example, what study abroad or research opportunities are available to an undergraduate student? How will the selected program or major prepare a student for their career goals? Students are attracted to Purdue because of our large Indian student population (more than 1,300) and our reputation for producing innovators in engineering, business, sciences and management.
At Purdue, we use social media to communicate with admitted students, and they are connected with international student ambassadors. Parents participate in monthly chats with admissions counselors, and there is a Facebook admissions page for parents to talk about their students' college transition.
Students should also investigate institutional orientation programs. At Purdue, we offer Boiler Gold Rush International, which welcomes international students and is designed to acclimate and incorporate students into campus life even before the actual orientation programs begins.
- Michael Brzezinski, dean of international programs, Purdue University
We encourage all admitted students, including international students, to fully explore Columbia and consider what life might be like as a Columbia student. Columbia's admissions staff travels to dozens of countries each year to visit high schools and hold off-campus information sessions, bringing the Columbia story to students around the globe and connecting with students in their home region. In addition, Columbia alumni are hosting admitted student receptions this month in cities across the United States and around the world. Not visiting campus does not disadvantage students in a world with virtual resources. Admitted international students have access to current international students though online chats and social media and receive letters and e-mails from students, faculty, alumni and administrators, which will hopefully help them better understand the Columbia experience and give them contacts to ask questions of or to simply say hello. A special admitted student Web site offers interactive ways to explore our campus, neighborhood, and New York City and provides information about housing, orientation and visas. Our goal is to make all students - regardless of how far from campus they may live - feel welcomed and informed.
- Jessica Marinaccio, dean of undergraduate admissions, Columbia University
Michigan State University
Students perform best where they feel supported, make connections with faculty and other students and are engaged. Rankings don't tell this story! To determine "the right fit":
1. Get a sense of campus culture. What activities are available? What are the traditions? What is the composition of the student body (post-grad/undergraduate, diversity, etc.)? What support services are available to international students?
2. Get a sense of campus environment. Is it a small town or larger city? What does campus look like? Do most students live on campus? Are there special residential or living/learning programs?
3. Review academic opportunities, especially in your field of study. Is there flexibility? What are the opportunities for internships or research?
To find this information:
- Patty Croom, associate director for international admissions, Michigan State University
- Check campus Web sites for pictures and videos. Many campuses have YouTube channels.
- Check official Web sites like housing, the International Student Office and the city.
- Review Web sites or Facebook pages of campus international student organizations. Ask them questions.
- Ask for names of alumni or current students in your country whom you may contact.
- Seek forums and social networking sites for an insider view of the campus.
- Contact EducationUSA in your country.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, we think it's important for you to fully understand what your experience will be as an Illinois student. The university has students from well over 100 countries and, among American universities, Illinois ranks second (first among public universities) in the number of international students.
Even if you can't come to campus for a visit, you'll be able to see what it's like on campus by visiting our social networking page. You'll be able to watch our videos, many of which are student generated; read about current students experiences in our blogs; and view the many beautiful photos of Illinois on our Flickr account. We also encourage you to join our Facebook page in order to meet your peers and begin building your community. You'll find it's easy to belong at Illinois.
- Tom Hardy, executive director for university relations, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
New York University
In addition to previous recommendations, we would recommend spending as much time as possible on our Web sites, as well as reviewing college guide books and college Internet search engines.
More and more at N.Y.U., we are hosting information sessions via Skype for selected schools. We are also increasingly producing video for prospective students who can't visit us. We will release an "Insider's Guide to Our New York Campus" film early this summer. That film will be a virtual tour of sorts and will also feature interviews with students talking about various aspects of campus life. The film will be hosted on our Web site.
- Shawn L. Abbott, assistant vice president of admissions, New York University
The Ohio State University
Research the colleges in which you're interested - their academics, rankings and their reputations. The College Board is an invaluable resource for this information, grading the nation's best universities, liberal arts colleges, regional colleges, value schools and more.
Take a look at the Web sites for your top colleges. What does the university promote on its homepage: advances in research, student achievements, athletic accomplishments? Does the university value things that interest you?
Pretend you're already a student, and use the university Web site to locate resources you might need, like academic calendars, grades, professors' contact information and how to pay tuition. Does the university make it easy for you to access everything you need to be successful?
Seek out all of the school's online outlets. Does the university respect and respond to the concerns of students? Look at any events being promoted, and ask yourself whether the level of campus activity and engagement appeals to you.
Perhaps most importantly, see if the school has a dedicated international office. Is there a strong support system in place for international students, with advisers to help with visa information or cultural adjustments? Moving to another country has its own set of challenges, even without a degree at stake.
- Dolan Evanovich, vice president for strategic enrollment planning, The Ohio State University