Auckland Careers Advisor Learns about Admissions at American Universities (Part 2)

Photo Credit: Michael Clancy The IACAC Scholars cohort stops at Columbia University in New York.

Guest post by Kubi Witten-Hannah. PART 2 (read PART 1 here).

My campus tour was an intense experience.  It started on the 15th July at Rutgers, New Brunswick and finished 9 days later at Rutgers, Newark.  It covered a total of 18 Universities and 22 campuses.  It was a really well put together tour with a mix of rural and urban campuses.  The United States has many colleges much smaller than the Universities here.  I could see that studying in a small liberal arts college like Sarah Lawrence, in a rural setting but just a short train ride from New York, could be an amazing experience for a New Zealand student.  

Six valuable lessons from my time with IACAC:

  • New York is a University town with 136 Universities and colleges and over 600,000 students
  • There are hidden costs associated with University study in the US that may not be covered by scholarships (like taxes).
  • Cooperation between Universities in the same area can really expand the opportunities for students.  This was particularly apparent with Barnard and Columbia which were across the road from each other. This is something I would love to see New Zealand Universities learn from.
  • Sporting opportunities extend well beyond the Ivy League Universities, especially for good all-round students for whom a division three University may be a great choice even though they don’t offer sports scholarships.
  • The admissions procedure in the United States is very different from New Zealand and it was good to learn a lot more about what is required.
  • IACAC is a wonderful resource for all kinds of information.  I doubt that anyone could have a comprehensive knowledge of all the detail and nuances of applying to universities around the world so the collegial support of IACAC is invaluable.

Many New Zealand students seeking to study in the United States are keen to pursue sporting interests.  In New Zealand, College (University) sport is largely social so the chance to play top level sport and study at the same time is very attractive.  

Photo credit: Kubi Witten-Hannah While on the campus tour, Kubi bumps in to a kiwi student still on campus for the summer in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
Photo credit: Kubi Witten-HannahWhile on the campus tour, Kubi bumps in to a kiwi student still on campus for the summer in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
Photo credit: Zumi Aizat The IACAC Scholars cohort visited 22 American university campuses.
Photo credit: Zumi AizatThe IACAC Scholars cohort visited 22 American university campuses.

New Zealand is very different from many other countries that offer limited opportunities to study at quality universities.  We are very proud that New Zealand is the only country in the world with all our Universities in the top 3% worldwide.  This means that the New Zealand students seeking to study overseas are looking for a different experience and, in some cases, the opportunity to study subjects not available in New Zealand.  

A significant number of our students are either refugees and migrants or the children of refugees and migrants.  For them an American University can be another stop on a journey that has already taken them halfway around the world.  

The most important message for New Zealand students planning to study in the United States is to begin the process early.  The earlier the better.  If your interest is in sport research the universities that will offer the best opportunities.  This may not necessarily be the University that is the top in your sport.  You need to weigh up the value of spending most of your time warming the bench for a top team compared to being part of the starting line-up for a less prestigious college.  When making your choice give the university the “broken leg test”.  In other words, is this a university you would want to be at even if you couldn’t compete?

If you are not looking for a sports scholarship think carefully about your reasons for wanting to study in the United States.  Are you looking for a urban or rural experience?  Do you want to go to a small liberal arts college or a major urban university?  Narrow down your choices by choosing a state or area you would like to go to.  Research is critical.

In addition to thinking about what you can get out of the experience think about what you can offer.  A university offering a scholarship will expect you to participate in university life and to make a contribution to the education of the American students around you.  High academic results are important but so is your ability to participate in the wider life of the University.  This can include participation in cultural activities and sport.  It may also include your leadership experience and community service.  Many young Americans will have little experience of travel abroad and contact with young people from other countries can be an important part of their University experience.

Photo credit: Aime Black At the annual NZ Careers Advisors Conference in November, EducationUSA and Kubi shared opportunities and pathways for students to study in America.
Photo credit: Aime BlackAt the annual NZ Careers Advisors Conference in November, EducationUSA and Kubi shared opportunities and pathways for students to study in America.

International study brings young people from around the world together at a critical point in their lives; a time when they can share experiences and developing ideas.  This is an important concept in New Zealand where we place high value on what we call “kanohi ki te kanohi”, or face-to-face, meetings.  International education helps to create greater understanding.

NOTE: Kubi Witten-Hannah was recognized for Outstanding Educational Outreach by Ambassador Gilbert on December 5, 2016.