Information Session: The Logic and Selection Criteria of College Admissions in the United States

Harrow Shenzhen is a British international school where senior students study IGCSE and A Level. Nonetheless, there is a number of our students intending to apply for tertiary education in America. University applications worth the attention of both students and parent. It is very important to start the preparations early, be well informed, and to apply strategically.

To better cater requests of current students and parents, Harrow Shenzhen invited Mr Xu Jin, Head of China Office of Washington University in St. Louis (ranked 15th in the US in 2023 and 32nd in the world, also a member of the New Ivy League) to deliver an exclusive information session to our Year 11 students and parents, sharing the logic and selection criteria of college admissions in the United States, based on his own experience and observations. 

The following are excerpts of the Q&A session between Mr Xu and our students and parents.

Q: “What exactly do you mean by diversity among applicants?” 

A: The strongest applicants from China tend to show characteristics of having good grades, playing certain musical instruments, being good at sports, and having participated in various competitions. However, candidates who are admitted to top American universities are often applicants who demonstrate their authentic self and show courage in trying things that others do not tend to. Therefore, it is necessary to develop one’s own interests and characteristics, so that the admission officers will be impressed by your uniqueness!
Harrow values holistic education for all young people, and encourage all to develop well-rounded, confident, active and engaged learners, both within the classroom and beyond. These traits are favored by admissions officers.

Q: “Are there any other ways to impress the admissions officer?”

A: If time allows, I would highly recommend students to build up connections with your targeted universities. For instance, you can apply for a campus tour via the university website’s admissions page or register for their summer programme. To do so, not only can applicants get a more comprehensive picture of their targeted university, but also can they demonstrate genuine interest and loyalty. Many American colleges and universities also have very strong alumni networks. Students can also use this channel to get connected and to learn about the university and majors/faculties.

It should be noted that the application deadline for summer programme is relatively early, so please apply as early as possible. Please also be noted that students who have strong interview skills must do your best to get the interview opportunities. Hence, make sure that you know well about the timeline for applications and submit your applications early.

Q: “Would it be helpful to apply with the help of an education agency or consultant?

A: To be honest, letters and application documents prepared by agencies are normally based on templates. Experienced admissions officers at good universities can tell who applied through an agency and whose application was carefully prepared by themselves. Applications made by agencies are likely to standardise applicants and ignoring their characteristics. In fact, the admissions team would really prefer applicants to fully explore their strengths and potentials by applying by themselves, so as to better show themselves more authentically.

At the sharing session, both the participating students and parents listened attentively and joined the discussions. Some parents even took detailed notes.

Parents who participated online also showed high appreciation for Bill’s sharing.

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