It’s been three years since we first started making trips to Sydney, working with students in Australia as college educational consultants and counseling them on the U.S. college selection and admissions process. We thought we’d share three of our top lessons learned/questions we’ve been asked the most:
We frequently get asked whether or not HSC and/or ATAR scores are used in the US college admissions process? As a result, we’ve come to appreciate how much added pressure this can place on Aussie students, and the preparation time required.
Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast answer to this question. First, there is the question of timing. Many Aussie students apply Early Action or Early Decision to US colleges, so their application is complete by November 1 and the admission decision is made five to six weeks later, which is before the HSC is completed and graded. In that case, the HSC score does not play any role in the admissions decision. However, at some colleges, they require that students fulfil all the obligations of their high school or home country. So even though they didn’t use the HSC score in evaluating you, they may ask for evidence that you completed the HSC at the same time they ask for you to send your final transcript or graduation certificate. A student who skipped their final HSC exams could therefore be in danger of revoking his US college admissions offer.
For students applying for the January 1st admissions deadline, their applications will be read between January and April, and their HSC or ATAR scores will be available at that time. In this situation, the US colleges may consider the score. However, most US college admissions officers we spoke to are unfamiliar with the HSC, the ATAR and its scoring system. So while they say they may look at the test results, we are not sure they are used in a meaningful way in the admissions decision process. There are, of course, exceptions, particularly at super-selective colleges.
Overall, the colleges that we have talked to on the matter (and other, similar topics), will generally say international students need to complete the requirements of their sovereign educational system, and will be evaluated for admission based on that context. So if you’re planning on coming to the U.S. for your college years, particularly if you intend on applying to selective and super-selective colleges, in most cases, you generally should take your final HSC exams. Having said that, students who skipped the final HSC exam have been able to enroll in US colleges, particularly those that are less selective.
Of course each student’s individual situation is unique, and careful consideration needs to be applied!
We’ve found many Australian students we initially talk to do not have an effective SAT/ACT test prep strategy or plan. They also have little understanding of the testing requirements. It’s important to consider that some US colleges don’t require any testing at all. So if you wanted to skip the SAT/ACT entirely, it is still possible to study in the US. However, if you want to have more choices, you will have to have a solid SAT/ACT score. On the other hand, some US colleges require SAT subject tests in addition to very high SAT/ACT scores. American students often study for 6 months or more and consider the SAT/ACT to be a crucial part of their application package.
It’s exceedingly difficult to “walk into” the test center with little preparation and expect to do well, or as well as you think you should. Therefore, it is extremely important to have an effective plan in place early in the process (particularly so if you are an athlete, as the process is an accelerated one), and do enough preparation to score well. How much preparation and how to go about it is based on an individual’s needs, but you can start the process FREE using the online education center at Khan Academy (for SAT prep only). They have partnered with the College Board (the organization that administers the SAT) to offer a complimentary test prep plan, including practice tests, which you can access by visiting https://www.khanacademy.org.
There are over 3,000 colleges in the US, and they really vary in terms of culture and student life. For all of our American clients, they want the full “going away to college experience” which means moving into the dorms, joining activities and student groups, possibly a sports team or a fraternity or sorority. They enjoy being in a college environment where the other students have come from across the country and the world to experience this unique rite of passage in their new lives as a freshman at college.
However, the US also has what we call “commuter schools”. These are colleges where a significant number of students do not live on campus and participate fully in traditional college life. Some live at home with their parents and work part time, and others are in their mid 20’s and have a child of their own, and a job. These colleges do offer dorm living and everything else that a more traditional college does, but a smaller percentage of the student body participates in this lifestyle, leading to a campus culture that is very different.
Commuter colleges tend to draw students from the local area and have fewer students from other parts of the US and the world. Weekends tend to be quiet and campuses can feel deserted. Americans looking for a vibrant college experience purposely avoid commuter schools. But we have noticed that Australians are sometimes drawn to these colleges, particularly through sports recruitment agencies, or by outreach from the colleges themselves. We feel that the Aussie students often don’t realize that their college of interest is a commuter college, or they don’t understand the differences between the two types of colleges in the US.
These three trends all illustrate why we feel that it is important to work with a US college consultant. We can help you navigate the questions surrounding the HSC and the SAT/ACT and help you find the requirements or recommendations for the colleges that interest you. Likewise, we help Aussie families learn about the US colleges, how they are different, and what the right fit is—both academically and socially, that will help your stay in the US to be a successful one.
What’s New at Darien Academic Advisors:
We finished up a successful application year working with students on college and boarding school admissions. We worked with students from 10 U.S. states and 11 countries overseas (Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, England, Spain, Russia, Mexico, Nigeria, and Cayman Islands). Our graduating seniors were admitted to many excellent colleges.
We are also excited to have a new Sydney-based employee join our team at the end of last year. Denise Slocombe is based in the greater Sydney area and provides local support “on the ground” for our Australian clients and prospects.
About Darien Academic Advisors
DAA is an independent educational counseling company based in the USA with a local Australian representative. We advise students and families on the U.S. college selection, application, athletic recruitment, and admissions process. Founded in 2005, we offer a personalized approach and work with students across America and around the world. For more information, visit Darien Academic Advisors