I recently heard about a disappointed mother who lamented the fact that her son, who had just graduated from Xavier School, was waitlisted at Boston College. She wished that she had transferred her son to International School or British School so he would "qualify" for the Ivies. It occurred to me that there are many myths surrounding the US college application process and I would like to address some of them now.
1. You need to be enrolled at a reputable international school to have a chance at admission to American universities.
Absolutely and utterly false. A few years ago, when I was still teaching at Xavier School, a student came up and asked for a reference. He was moving to ISM. I asked him, "why would you want to do a damn fool thing like that?" (keep in mind I had a son in ISM middle school at the time) He said he wanted to go to college abroad. When pressed why he thought going to ISM would enhance his chances, he could not reply.
Kids who go to local schools have as good a chance as kids who go to international schools in applying for and being admitted to the most competitive colleges in America. Unlike schools in Canada, Australia, or the UK, the US doesn't really count that we only have eleven years (ten if you didn't go to grade 7) of pre-university education. If you graduated high school and you have the right board scores (SAT, SAT Subject Tests, TOEFL, etc.) then why not? I, for one, graduated from Xavier School in 1983 and was admitted to Santa Clara University. My brother, also a Xavier alumnus, went to Penn. Today, there are kids who just graduated from Ateneo, Xavier, Poveda, ICA, etc. who will be attending US colleges in the fall. Also, attending an international school doesn't give you a pass to getting into competitive schools like Harvard or Stanford. The Class of 2013 from ISM sent only one kid to Harvard College.
2. I need really stellar grades to even think about college in the States.
Absolutely and utterly false. I think this myth stems from the idea that the only colleges in the States worth attending are the Ivies (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc.) and their clones (Stanford, Hopkins, Caltech, MIT, etc.) If that's what you or your parents think, then you are missing out on a lot of institutions which offer an education, as good as, and in a lot of cases, BETTER than the Ivies. For the Ivies and their clones, given the level of competition in admissions, you do need stellar grades but even those stellar grades will not necessarily get you close to an admission offer. ALL their applicants have stellar grades, beaucoup extra curriculars, and perfect board scores. And Harvard only accepts about 6% of their applicants.
There are many many universities that cater to the B student. Some excellent colleges (my favorite--Reed--comes to mind) that will even take chances on a C student given extenuating circumstances. A lot of the large state universities are also more lenient (exception: schools like Univ of California, Michigan, Washington, etc. are pretty competitive). So ask yourself why you're going to the US to begin with-- If you're going to get a fancy name school diploma or if you want to get an education. If the latter, your options grow exponentially...even with less than stellar grades.
3. I need to be enrolled in International Baccalaureate (IB) to get in.
Not always true. If you're looking at Canadian, British,and (I think) Australian schools, then yes. They look askance at our local high school credential but the IB is acceptable to them. So they require the IB Diploma. They will also accept the American high school credential which is available here in the Philippines at the reputable international schools.
As far as US schools are concerned, they do not require
the IB Diploma. They, however, recognize it as excellent preparation for university-level work and will count it in your favor if you have or will get the Diploma. The most competitive institutions will insist that the student complete the most rigorous high school program available. So if your high school has the IB, while the US college will not require it, will ask why you didn't take it if you had the chance. If you don't have the IB in your high school, don't sweat it. Since it wasn't available to you, you can't take it and the school will understand and not hold that against you.
Schools that require the IB also require that you make certain marks if you want to get into particular programs. Using my son as an example, he applied to the Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Waterloo in Canada. To be admitted, he had to have taken IB Math Higher Level which he did. He also needs to get a final mark of 5 (out of 7) in that subject, 5's in both his two other HL subjects (Physics and Geography for him) and an overall score of 29 points and the Diploma. Fortunately, he was admitted to Waterloo based on his previous work but the admission is conditional and can be revoked if he doesn't make his final marks. US schools, which don't require the Diploma, will not have strict mark requirements but do expect that you will get the Diploma and your marks will remain reasonably consistent with the work done previously.
Interesting aside: Philippine universities, in their ignorance, do not recognize the IB at all. They will not grant advanced credit or standing to those who have the Diploma or course credit for HL courses where the student has done well (scored at least a 5)
(Minor update from the IBO web page: Most of the top universities in the Philippines accept the IB Diploma as a valid entry credential for admission. Applicants are usually required to sit the entrance examinations given by individual universities and most require an SAT score of 1200. http://www.ibo.org/country/university_info.cfm?INSTITUTE_CODE=000662¤t_country=PH
You might want to checkout the entry for UP....they do offer automatic admission for IB Diploma holders who score at least 1200 on the SAT. I'm assuming on the Critical Reading and Math sections only. But they won't give advanced credit for people getting at least a 5 on HL courses like most other universities abroad will. )
4. It's tremedously expensive. Only very rich people can afford it.
This one is unfortunately about 99% true. The cost of attendance at US universities is enormously high. For the incoming class of 2017, the cost of attendance (tuition, room and board, books, and personal expenses) is just under US$60,000 a year. This doesn't include cost of travel. At the current rates of exchange, you're looking at close to Php 2,500,000 annually or pretty much ten million pesos for the four year ride. Wow!
Unless you're a US citizen or green card holder, the figure isn't going to come down by much, if at all. Now it *is* possible the college will award you some kind of merit scholarship or grant which is essentially a discount on the tuition. But at most it will cover about 20 or 30% of the total cost. You're still responsible for a substantial portion. And even this discount is by no means assured, as a rule, international students are expected to pay the full sticker price, a welcome prospect for American universities in the present economy.
A noted exception to this is universities like Harvard, an institution so awash in cash (it's sitting on US$30 billion
in the bank) it can afford to pay for the evaluated need of its student body. If you apply and if you get in (big IF) and you can't afford to go, they will pay your way. Note that this doesn't mean they'll pay for everything, they will pay for your EVALUATED NEED. This means, given your Philippine income, the institution might decide you should be forking over $3000 or $5000 or $10,000 a year. It's important to note that it's the institution...not you...who will decide how much you need to pay.
The important thing to know with any kind of financial aid for international students is this: don't count on it.
It's also worth noting that Canadian, UK, and Australian universities cost substantially less, about 40% to 50% less, than American universities. But 50% off a lot of money is still a lot of money.