Previously, I discussed course selection for current community college students and reviewed how GE requirements can be best fulfilled before the application season arrives. During the past few months, for the third time since 2010, I have been working with community college international students on their UCs and private school applications. Throughout the process, my deepest feeling is what if they had known this earlier. I believe this regret is also shared by most students. That is why today I would like to review several application completion tips with all prospective students so that each of you won’t make the same mistake as your predecessors.
1. How to approach the UC transfer application essay prompt:
Most of my students have difficulty responding to the UC transfer topic of “What is your intended major?” It is not because they do not know their major target but rather they don’t have enough academic and/or non-academic background to support the thesis while UC requires applicants to discuss how their interests in the subject are developed and what applicants’ related experience are in that field. Not until that moment does the student start to realize that courses like Music 8 or Dance 10 won’t provide solid evidence to support their statement of “my intended major is computer science.” Another common problem is most students are lacking of related interest building experience. Though it is true that visa issues stops the majority of international students from accessing local student job opportunities; in the mean while, that should not be the case if volunteering and school club activities are open to everyone.
Therefore, all transfer students should prepare for the “intended major” essay topic (although the topic may be changed next year the essence will remain the same) from both in and outside of the classroom. Like I emphasized before, course selection must closely stay loyal to major requirements and low entry level classes (such as Music 8 or Dance 10) should yield to more academically advanced courses. Secondly, local volunteer opportunities and school clubs are the best reliable resource for students to develop and practice career interests outside of the classroom and, furthermore, to prepare for a strong statement of major intention.
On the other hand, students who have solid academic preparation and hands on experiences also experienced difficulty in organizing their thoughts into a 500 word essay. The common “blind zones” are, for instance: how not to give a cliché statement when presenting a before-after image of having undergone a family emergency, how to present themselves the best on paper as a Chinese person intending to major in Chinese at US colleges; how to demonstrate the development of their major interest without using a laundry list of accomplishments; and how to emphasize the value of overseas activities when names and the nature of the event are unfamiliar to college admission officers in the United States. There is no easy or universal solution to all the issues mentioned above and unfortunately, the situation is even worse for international students who are still working on mastering English writing. A simple suggestion could be answering the question directly and describing, briefly, the interest development in chronological order and being specific on one related activity. For instance, a student who is working at a café described in her paper about how she had applied supply and demand theory to help her team hit their monthly sales quotas. Alternatively, a student who is aiming to major in communication shared an inspiring story about his cold calling experience in addition to his solid academic preparation toward his goal.
Click here to read part 1.
By Valerie Zhang , ThinkTank Learning Senior Academic Counselor and Admissions Consultant