Transferring to the Top UCs and Private Schools as an International Student: Application Completion – Part 3
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Let us continue where we left off on the UC transfer essay prompt from the previous discussion. Another common mistake when approaching the topic of “what is your intended major” is some students tend to change their major choice on paper at the last minute due to the alleged higher acceptance rates for particular majors. This usually happens when students finally choose to confront the reality that their poor GPA and insignificant non-academic activities are not strong enough to earn acceptance into their dream schools so they decide to apply for an easy major wishfully thinking that that would magically increase their chances of getting accepted into a certain institute. The most typical phenomenon is switching from a major of Economics to Asian Studies. As a result, the “intended major” essays are completely or partially composed of fabrications or borrowed stories from others.
While I do admit that the major choice does make some difference on a school’s acceptance rate, however, the opportunistic change mentioned above would only result in a negative impact on the application as a whole. For instance, a student who originally wanted to major in Economics most likely had taken more business-related courses than courses that are rooted in Asian cultures, history, languages, and/or literatures. Inevitably, admission officers would be very confused when reading an essay in which the student is elaborating his/her academic preparations on paper when their course completion and planning are leading to an entirely different direction.

In summary, in order to best present themselves on the “intended major” essay, I suggest all current prospective students determine their major focus on day one in community college, take relevant and appropriate courses towards that major, and to constantly engage in academic challenges. Outside of the classroom, students should get involved in career oriented activities through local volunteer programs and/or school clubs. Remember, the “intended major’ essay is the platform to summarize and highlight all the preparation done during their college years but not a spot to narrate falsehoods or excuses for the sake of Admissions.

Dos and Don’ts in the “Additional Comments” section on UC application

On the UC application, students are given the opportunity to provide additional information that do not fit into any other sections but would like to be shared with the admission officers. Many students use this section as a 3rd essay response or a space reserved for sob stories behind poor test scores and/or bad grades. Fairly speaking, neither approach is appropriate. Rather, students should utilize this section to provide more valuable information on certain complicated or unusual issues such as name changes, current immigration status, or to explain interruptions or gaps in their education. International students may also use this section to clarify, briefly and clearly, the high school grading system used in their native countries if they are different from that used in the United States. Students who are currently transitioning between immigration statuses should provide the most updated information and timeline on this issue as applicable.

Another thing that I have that learned from my experience is that UC campuses may also require international community college students to provide more information about their high school’s learning environment and language of instruction. For instance, one of my current students was requested to specify which Chinese language, Mandarin or Cantonese, was used as the main language of instruction during his high school years in China. I suspect the reason behind this inquiry may be related to the student’s intention and desire to waive the UC foreign language requirement. Since this request was received during the UC application update period (I will discuss this topic in greater detail shortly), I suggest all international students include these pieces of information under the “additional comments” section in advance. To recap, regardless of the nature of the essay topic, all information should be provided in a simple and honest manner.

To be continued……

Click here to read Part 2

By Valerie Zhang , ThinkTank Learning Senior Academic Counselor and Admissions Consultant