US College Admission


  • The GPA matters the most
    Its significance may be relative depending on which college a student apply for, but the higher GPA gives the student a better position. Rather than the student's rank among a single class or entire school, the admission committees care more about the student's percentile in the class per subject (in the order of A-B-C-D-F).

  • The SAT I score matters the second most.
    Since 2005, the Writing from SATII was incorporated into the SAT I and the total possible score for all 3 sections has become 2400. 800 for Verbal. 800 for Math and 800 for Writing. Most of the Top 50 universities require the SAT I score. Although the scores won't dictate the college admission in the United States, students must secure a certain level of the SAT I score to apply to rigorous colleges.
    Ever since the NEW SAT, many students in both U.S and non-English-speaking countries like Korea struggle with the Writing section. But the students of Steven Academy mentioned that the Writing section was the easiest of all sections, on the October, November and even December tests of 2005. Even the students of Science High School, who are completely native Korean, score 9 on the actual test after 3 months of study. The Writing section does not seem to be a problem at our academy.

  • SATⅡ
    All rigorous colleges, including the Ivy League, require the SAT II scores. Students have selected about 3 subjects including the Writing in the old SAT system. But now most of them select 2 subjects as the Writing is incorporated into the SAT I. But several top colleges including Harvard prefers 3 or more SAT Ⅱ Scores. It's best when the SAT II scores balance with the SAT I scores. If a student's SATⅠ score is over 2000 but MathⅡC of the SATⅡ is less than 700, I'd recommend the student to take the SATⅡ once again to get a score 700 or higher. During the consultation, the most frequently asked question from the parents is whether their humanities-major-bound children should select similar humanities subjects for the SAT Ⅱ or not, or whether their science-major-bound children should select similar science subjects for the SAT Ⅱ. To answer that question once again, the selected major and SATⅡ subjects are not a significant plus-factor.
    The best option for student is to select the subject they can score the highest. If a student is confident in all subjects, a student from the science high school scoring high on the SATⅡ World History, or a student from the foreign language high school scoring high on the SATⅡ physics or chemistry may be a good strategy to stand out. But it is not easy scoring 700 or higher in SAT II subjects other than MathⅡC. Students must not underestimate the test and study consistently.

    For the students who lived in the U.S for 5 years or more, or who have the U.S. nationality do not have to take the TOEFL. Students with Korean nationality must take the TOEFL. A low TOEFL score may prevent acceptance to a good school, but a high TOEFL score will not make up for the SAT I score and get students into a good college.
    The TOEFL CBT score of 250-260 is sufficient for any school. It is just a measurement indicating whether the student has enough English proficiency to take the classes at that college. However, the college that a student can apply with TOEFL and without SATⅠ or SATⅡ are different stories. You need to have the higher TOEFL score indeed to get into the higher rank college. Currently, most countries including U.S administer iBTTOEFL test. From next May, students will have to take the iBT TOEFL in Korea.
    The TOEFL score is valid 2 years from the application date, which is the 2nd semester of the 3rd year in Korean high school. For those students who will begin their 2nd year of high school next year (2006, as of December in 2005), it may be wise to take the TOEFL CBT before May.

  • Activity (Extracurricular activities), Community Service, Leadership, Club activities, AP tests, interns, ART, Sports...
    In the U.S. prestigious colleges, the admission officers do not select students by their GPA. Students, of course, will need to demonstrate a certain degree of academic achievement, but the GPA is not a single biggest factor deciding the acceptance, like in Korea. Rather than a 4.0 studious applicant, US colleges seek for a well-rounded student who is lively, enthusiastic and multi-talented with great potentials. They look for students who will grace their alma mater and contribute to their countries out of their pure love for their homelands. In that light, the activities and community service is more significant than the GPA.

    Let me begin with the community service. Most students aspiring for the prestigious universities in the US nowadays engage in community services. An orphanage, senior center, Guryong Village, civil organization, Heavy Metal, Habitat Korea, teaching children at the red-light district... They have found their own community service place, God knows how, and regularly engage in the volunteer work. Mothers would come to me and say, my kid did 200 hours, my kid is doing 100 hours; there are also parents who ask me for information as to where their children can do community services. To say this once and for all, it does not really matter how many hours the student engage in the community service.
    They don't even require any certificate proving the hours. Although there is a place in a application where you can write about the community service, but it does not require any supplement document. What actually matter is how much the applicant has been willing to help others since young, how often the applicant was able to help, how sincere the applicant was when helping them, or what the applicant has felt or learned through the community service. Such things can be the foundation of the student's application essay, and result in an extraordinary writing.
    The above example of the community service applies to both rigorous college admission and private high school admission. Of all private high schools in the United States, the Phillips Exeter Academy is the private school that most cares about the applicant's academics. But many accepted students are not SSAT 98-99C% students, but in the range of 80-90%. They are rather well-rounded students, who have been regularly doing the community service since young, and an exceptional writer who is also good at music or other extracurricular activities.

    I would like to discuss about the internship next. In Korea, there are not many places allowing the internship for the high school students. But through various ways, most students regularly engage in internships because the rigorous colleges like the students who have gained a great deal of social experiences. Then where can the students have internships? That is also one of the most frequently asked questions from the parents. For example, here is a story of a student who was accepted to Harvard. He called every single embassy in Korea to request an internship for himself, and he was eventually contacted by the Sudanese ambassador. During every break, he worked as an intern who organized documents and served as an interpreter for the Sudanese ambassador. He wrote about it on the application essay when he was applying to Harvard University, and he got in. If the parents who are reading this article put themselves in the shoes of admission officer, they might think 'how can we not accept such a great student." Let's learn about the AP next.

    You will find details about the AP when you click the 'AP' tab on our website. What I would to discuss here, is whether or not taking the AP test really matters in college admission. The AP I'm referring to in this article, is studying for a college-level course in advance and earning a score in the AP test. Taking the AP does put students at advantage as it makes the students stand out during the admission. Previously from one foreign language school, students have secured acceptance to the rigorous colleges through their extracurricular activities even without taking the AP tests. But nowadays, almost all special-purpose high school students who prepare for the US college admission are studying the AP subjects and willing to take the AP tests. Taking 3~4 subjects is just a standard. To get to the point, you need to prepare for the AP in advance, if you don't want to fall behind those students who all study for the AP from your high school.
    Taking 3~4 subjects is a standard, but if the students want to stand out through the AP, then I recommend at least 5 subjects or more. More details about the AP will be available through the Steven Academy College Admission Presentation and consultation.

  • Application Essay
    The application essay is one of the most important factors that decide the acceptance. For those students aspiring for the prestigious college, their dreams won't come true without finishing this homework.
    The admission officers read hundreds of essays each day. They can know whether an essay is written with a genuine heart or not at a glimpse. The essay also reflects the student's personality. The admission officers can tell if the student is pessimistic, enthusiastic, or plagiarizing other work through the student's essay even without meeting the student in person. It is an extremely hard work indeed. To be accepted to the college you want, you need put your heart and soul into the essay.

  • Interview
    Visiting the campus and having an interview directly with the admission officer will help, but an interview with alumni won't make much difference.

  • Recommendation Letters
    The recommendation letters are extremely important. Even if you have flawlessly prepared all of the processes above, you may not be accepted to the college you want if you don't have a good recommendation letter. It is best to maintain a favorable relationship with your teachers by giving them good impression of a active and exemplary student. Generally you will need 3 recommendations letters, one from your counselor and two from your subject teachers.
    In case of the domestic high school where there is no counselor, you may replace the recommendation letter from the counselor with the recommendation letter from your designated teacher. You will need two recommendation letters from two teachers. A teacher who teaches a core subject is a better option, and a teacher who teaches a subject you are good at, or a teacher who has a good impression of you can also help. From the director's experience, an outside recommendation letter does not seem to make much difference. So far it has been a brief summary of what you need for the US college admission, and you may find better and more detailed information from the director, who is a college admission expert.


    Transferring to Colleges in the U.S.


    Almost all universities in the U.S. offer transfer admissions. There are some wrong internet rumor saying that you only need the TOEFL score to transfer, but that is very wrong.

    Transfer admissions are just same as the undergraduate admission. There are three different categories of colleges, ones requiring SATⅠ + SATⅡ + TOEFL, ones requiring SATⅠ + TOEFL, and the rest requiring only TOEFL score. (Same as the college undergraduate admission)

    You will need the academic GPA from your current/previous college.
    Recommendation letters have to be from the college professors. What you write on your application is also important. (Community service and internship are particularly important)
    Your application essay is also pivotal for the rigorous college admission, and it's hard to transfer to the college you want if you have a bad GPA. During the college admission consultation, I find it most regrettable when people don't have the right information.
    There are even some experienced overseas education centers and academy that provide wrong information. A student who is currently attending to a college would come and say he will start as a freshman by studying SATⅠ and SATⅡ, but only transfer admissions are available for such students who have already enrolled in a college in US or Korea, not freshman admissions. If a student hides the previous college enrollment and get into the US college admission, the student will be kicked out right away once the college finds about that fact.
    The student may be lucky enough to keep his background hidden until the graduation, but it's better not to live your life in fear. There have been many cases like that in our academy. The director had to directly communicate with chancellors of the US colleges and show the communication to the students to change their minds toward the transfer.

    About the transfer case of our academy: Through our academy, one student transferred to 4-year college in the United States, despite of the low CBT TOEFL score of 140, and previous academic experience at a community college in Korea. There was another student who was accepted to UPenn and Emory transfer admission, who has been attending Ajou University engineering major after his military service. It's best to apply to 7-10 universities, and our academy will help you through the entire transfer process.



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