Category Archives: Study Abroad

Why Compete for National Scholarships?

With each new academic year comes another chance for students to compete for national scholarships like the Rhodes, Marshall and Fulbright. These scholarships offer extraordinary opportunities for travel, for learning, for prestige.

Yet winning seems like a crazy dream. There are only 32 Rhodes and 40 Marshall scholars each year. The Fulbright is much larger–with over 700 grants in the US Student program alone–but the competition for them is fierce, too. What good could come from competing, even if you’re likely to lose? Here are a few thoughts:

1) You might win. If basketball players began the season certain they would lose every game or sure they would never advance in a tournament, they would never step on a court. And yet they know that there can be only one champion. What makes them compete? The knowledge that they could win. And you could, too.

2) You need to be well prepared. Let’s stick with the basketball analogy. Players don’t just wish they can win. They work hard to prepare for winning by practicing, training, pushing their bodies. Someone dreaming of a Rhodes can put in the same level of work and dedication to building a stunning record of achievement worthy of the award.

3) You need a good coach. Players lack the vision and experience to know how to compete, how to be strategic, and how to best use their energy. Scholarship applicants need the same help from faculty, staff, and mentors to know how to build skills, focus research proposals, and prepare winning essays.

4) Start small, end big. No team goes to the NCAA tournament without winning in regional or conference tournaments. You can’t expect an invitation to a Marshall competition without gaining confidence and resources from smaller successes, such as winning a travel grant for research.

5) Consider the wider payoff. Many professors just don’t get the student-athlete. They don’t see the value in the game, the thrill of competition and the confidence that comes of leaving it all on the court. Failed Fulbright and Rhodes applicants know the value of those games. They gather skill from crafting an application, focus by thinking clearly about their future, and desire to remain in the hunt for life’s rewards.

We know the fall will end with a handful of scholarship winners, and a lot of disappointed students, parents, faculty and institutions. But if you approach these competitions with skill, determination and support, you can win. And if you don’t, you will still be a winner.


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Filed under Academic Exploration, Athletics, International Exchange, Scholarships, Student-Faculty Relations, Study Abroad

A Second Look at International Students in the US

“Internationalization” has become the buzzword on campuses across America.  Universities and colleges in the US have become major destinations for a world thirsting for quality higher education.  American professors want to upgrade their curricula to reflect a commitment to global understanding.  US colleges seem to launch a new campus or program somewhere in the world every day.

I traveled to India and to Qatar in January, with my colleagues from Marks Education, offering workshops at high schools on the US college admission process.  We met hundreds of students eager to study in America.  It is an exciting time for international education, and a great time to be an adventurous student.

But this excitement should not conceal many complexities.  For example, the most recent “Open Doors” study by the Institute of International Education shows that in 2010/11, the number of international students in the US had grown 32% since 2000/01 to nearly 800,000.  32% is enough to grab headlines, but domestic enrollments have grown, too.  Internationals were 3.6% of enrollments in 2000/01, and 3.5% in 2010/11.  Where is the growth?

Another surprise can be found in figures for undergraduate education.  American colleges may offer the best undergraduate experience in the world, featuring a unique commitment to the liberal arts.  The US has hundreds of independent, small colleges—a tradition found nowhere else.  Yet the percentage of internationals that are undergraduates actually has declined from 46% to 40% from 2000/01 to 2010/11.

Finally, it is well known that China has become the number one “supplier” of students to the US, with a 23.5% increase just in the last year.  But the most stunning figure in the Open Doors report is the growth of students from Saudi Arabia during the same year.  The number of Saudi students jumped 43.6%!  Saudi Arabia is now the number six “supplier,” ahead of Japan.  So interest in the Arab world may be the most important trend ahead.

We live in an exciting era of international exchange, reflecting the realization that we share deep and lasting traditions of higher education that cross boundaries.  But we should hesitate before we over-generalize.  Our excitement should not dim our ability to see the landscape clearly.

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Filed under Academic Exploration, College Admissions, International Exchange, Study Abroad

Dean’s List Podcast #4: 5 Myths about the Pre-Med Experience

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Filed under Academic Exploration, Academic Success, Choosing a Major, Majors and Careers, Pre-Medical Students, Study Abroad

American Universities outside America?

Today, I am going to the Italian capital to visit the American University of Rome, a small college in the charming neighborhood of Trastevere.  AUR is one of a handful of American-styled institutions overseas that include the American Universities of Paris, Cairo and Beirut, along with others like Richmond University outside of London.  They offer coursework and degrees just like the kinds you would get in the US, accredited by the same agencies to ensure quality.

Why would you go to these colleges?  It might seem strange to go overseas to get what is offered here.  You might be skeptical about a liberal education, so why double that problem with going international?  Who does that?

The last question offers one of the best reasons to consider this option.  The students who choose to get a college degree overseas are a fascinating, adventurous group you would love to know.  They are truly international, coming from dozens of countries, with American often representing less than half the student body.  Compare that to any of the most internationally minded colleges in the US, where well below 10%, often less than 5%, of the student are from overseas.  You can really learn from your classmates if you go to college overseas.

There are other good reasons.  Most of these institutions are small, with faculty who have led interesting and unconventional careers.  They offer a very different perspective on life and education than you might see in the US, and they are keenly focused on the student.  That might contrast with large research universities in the States.  You are likely to find mentors that will shape your life forever, rather admire your professors from afar.

Naturally, this choice turns study abroad on its head, putting you overseas for most or all of your four years.  If you are hungering for something different, you will be able to really learn a foreign language, letting it infuse you to a point of unconscious comfort.  I bet you’re uncomfortable right now with you fluency in French, worried someone will discover you are not prepared for conversation.  Now think what happens after years in Paris!

 Life in college should change your world view.  It’s something I argue in Dean’s List, and the students at the American University of Rome and Richmond University live that idea every day.  Take a look, take a risk, and change your life.

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Filed under Academic Programs, College Admissions, Study Abroad