When creating your college shortlist, don’t just look at averages……

Many students look at the historical averages of GPA, SAT scores to create their college list. Historical data and statistics, including your interests, college budget, aspirations, can be a good guide to see what college may be the “best fit” college for you, but be careful while considering the average scores.

There are a few reasons on why you should do one level below the average statistics to see where you may fit into the data given the averages on admit rates, scores, profiles etc. vary by country, state and even by schools. Most of the colleges want to create a diverse body of students and want to also follow the general guidelines. For example, the public universities have an approach of admitting majority of students from their own state since the education funding received by them comes from state taxes and budgets. Just look at  the example of University of California at Berkeley. In this data you can see the admit rates for California resident is far higher than the admit rate for out-of-state students and even far higher compared to International student admit rates. So if you are an International student applying to U.C. Berkeley, you may think Berekely is not as competitive as some of the Ivy Leagues when you at the average admit rate for the college. However,  when you look at the International admit rates, you will find the university to be as competitive as some of the highly competitive colleges.

Here are a few pointers international students should consider when applying to colleges abroad.

1) Over the last few years, international applicant pool is increasing and hence the admit rates are dropping. In top 50 or so universities, the admit rate for international applicants is far lower than the in-state or average admit rate for the college.

2) If you are from a country where there is a lot of emphasis on Math and Science, students applying from your country tend to have higher test scores in quant. section, hence you need to do very well in these areas to stand out.

3) If you are from a country where the teching language is English, again you may have to score well in the english sections. Sometime you may see the average scores as lower and they are often negatively impacted by scores of non-english speaking applicants or certain segment of students that do not have the same background as other segments.

4) Every college has a different guideline around the student body composition, so do your research around the current composition of student body in terms of international students, STEM students etc. See what is the direction a school is taking in terms of changing the student body composition and make your choice accordingly.

Given the focus on building a diverse class, most of the admission teams will continue comparing one applicant against another applicant with similar background, school and country. So, keep thinking on how you differentiate or present your application to stand out when applying. Don’t follow the general direction but be yourself and be different.

About Author Ajay Singh

I graduated from I.I.T India and came to U.S. for higher studies in Engineering 20 years back. After working for a few years in Austin, Texas as a design engineer, I went back for a M.B.A at Harvard Business School. I have worked for number of global companies in senior leadership and management positions. Over the years I have advised number of students on college admission.

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