Saturday, March 19, 2011

Knowing Where You’re Going

by Toni Hargis

I was educated in England and have found the American education system to be one of the most difficult “assimilation” areas so far. One thing I have never really done is make comparisons; the two systems are so different it’s not really apples and apples. However I have recently discovered my one exception to this rule – the college applications process.

My daughter is currently applying to American colleges for attendance in September. It’s quite a different system from its English counterpart, and I have to say, kinder. In England, you apply to most colleges through UCAS, (Universities and Colleges Admissions Services) with a single application that UCAS manages. You can apply for up to five courses (at the same or different universities or colleges), it’s all confidential, and you’re not required to give a preference order. In my day you had to put them in order of preference, meaning that the colleges further down the list often rejected you just for daring to list them so low. Students then receive offers either conditional on end of year grades, or unconditional which means that you’re in. The tricky part comes in knowing which ones to decline, as you can only hold one firm acceptance and one insurance place. Do you accept the offer from the fab university and hope you get the grades, or plump for the college asking for slightly lower grades? Nowadays, there is” adjustment” whereby if you meet or exceed your expected grades, you have five days to reapply for a better place than the one you’re holding...

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