Steve Bennett (at NOVA) talks about U.S. higher education

Steve Bennett (at NOVA) talks about U.S. higher education

September 28, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski


STEVE BENNETT: I would say that there are several reasons. One of them, of course, has to
do with the wide variety of educational institutions
that we offer. Everything from small community
colleges, large community colleges, small
private colleges, up to the huge public institutions that
offer a wide expanse of research opportunities for
graduate students. So there’s a real diversity
there of educational institutions. And then, we also, I think,
frequently talk about the quality of educational. But we don’t really define
what that means. And to me, when we talk about
quality of education, we’re talking about the wide variety
of majors that are offered. We’re talking about the fact
that students can come in, and the education system is more
flexible than it might be in their home country. So rather than coming in and
pursuing a degree where you simply have to follow a strict
order of courses, you have some flexibility in taking the
type of courses that you’re really interested in. Not so much at the undergraduate
level, but at the graduate level, I think the
US is well recognized for the quality of research
that’s done. And particularly for graduate
students, there are real opportunities to come here and
participate in research activities with very well
known faculty and staff. And finally, the fact that,
for many majors and many fields, having a proficiency in
English is a really strong resource to have. So all of
those things together, I think, make the US a prime
destination for students. The first stop? In most countries, I would
recommend that they find their Education USA adviser. And having been an Education USA
adviser myself many years ago, I can say that the advisors
will provide the students with help in trying to
identify which institution might be the most appropriate
for them. There’s a real tendency on the
part of students to select institutions that they know by
name, possibly because their brother went there, or their
cousin went there, it’s well known in the neighborhood. But that institution may not
necessarily be the best for that particular student. So by going through a center
like that, you can find a school that may be the
right size for you. Some students will do really
well in a school that has 50,000 students. Other students need to go to a
place that has 1,500 students. You could also look
at the number of students in the college. The location of the school
is also very important. Some students do very well
in a big urban setting. Other students do much,
much better in a more rural setting. And sometimes students will
think, well, because it’s in a small town like a College Park,
Maryland that it’s going to be a small place. But in fact, it’s a huge place
because of the size of the university. So location is also a
big part of that. And it’s always wise to have a
serious discussion with your parents about how much money
you can afford to spend. Because schools vary
dramatically in the cost. So all of those factors need
to be addressed. You don’t want to look so much
at how the school as a whole ranks as how it ranks in terms
of your particular major. So that would be one piece of
advice is, depending on what you want to study, look at how
that school is in that particular field. First of all, I think it’s
really important for students to recognize the fact that every
college or university will have deadlines. And it’s very important that
you find out what those deadlines are, and make sure
that whatever documentation you need to provide is
in by the deadline. because that’s critical,
particularly given the amount of time that it takes to send
documents to the US, obtain I-20’s, mail them back,
get the visas. As far as what we require for
admissions, though, this is a place that community colleges
are dramatically different from four-year schools. Community colleges offer what’s
called open admissions, which very simply means if you
are a high school graduate, or if you are 18 and over and you
could demonstrate the ability to benefit– but particularly a high
school graduate– and you apply to the college,
you will be admitted. We don’t look at extracurricular
activities. We don’t look at your
high school grades. You are admitted based on the
fact that you have applied to the college. Now, when you’re admitted– and this is a place that
American institutions are different from schools
in many countries. In many countries, it is
extremely difficult to be admitted to a college. But after you’re admitted,
assuming you go to class and you do the basic requirements,
you’re going to graduate. On the other side of the coin,
with a community college, the admission process is fairly
straightforward but there’s no guarantee you’re going
to graduate. So we admit students. But then, when the students come
to the college, they have to demonstrate that they have
the ability to succeed. Colleges and universities
have varying sizes of pots of money available. And typically, public
institutions will have less funds available that they can
provide, particularly to international students. If a student really has
financial need, and they are high-quality student, sometimes
they’ll find that there are more resources
available to them at public institutions. And where that’s a little
confusing is, when you look at the tuition, you’ll think,
oh, this is so expensive. There’s no way I could
afford to go there. But that school might
be able to offer you some financial support. Whereas the public school might
look less expensive. But if you don’t get the
financial support, it’s not going to work out for you. So you have to look at
both of those things. Well, it’s difficult. Because in most cases, we’re
sitting in the United States, and the student’s sitting
somewhere outside the United States. So we don’t have the opportunity
to talk to them face-to-face about what they
should anticipate. And I would say that’s another
place that you might want to take advantage of your education
advising centers. Because they do offer workshops
and help on preparing for the
visa interviews. But we do try to provide
information to students to make them aware of the type of
information that the consular officer may be looking for. We certainly try to provide them
the appropriate documents so that they don’t need to worry
about their documents. But it is something that’s a bit
difficult for us to work with, because we are removed
from the student at that time. First of all, I’ve tried to tell
students what consular officers typically
are looking for. And what I’ve been told is
they’re essentially looking for three things. The first one they’re looking
for is are you, in fact, a serious student? And can you make a clear
explanation for why it is you want to study in the
United States? The second part they’re looking
for is do you, in fact, have the resources
that you need? A lot of students are under the
impression that they have to come in with stacks of
financial documents. What I’ve been told by most
consular officers is they really don’t look at those
that detailed. They just have to feel
comfortable that you have the financial resources. And the last one, which is the
reason, I think, most people are denied visas is that
the officer has to feel comfortable that you have the
intention of returning to your country after you’ve completed
your studies. And what I tell students is,
before you go for your visa interview, sit down and make a
few notes about what you would like to tell that officer. Don’t write out a script. Definitely don’t write the
script and memorize it. Because if you memorize it,
that’s an immediate turn off when you go in for
the interview. But know what you want to say. And be ready to say it in
approximately one to two minutes maximum. Most of the time, if you’re
prepared, if you can give that officer a clear, honest account
of why you want to study, and it makes sense, the
story fits, you have a very good chance to get your visa.