Before we get into the series, we want to address one of the biggest misconceptions international students have. We think applying to universities abroad is a difficult process and sort of a competition. Getting accepted into the top universities is the only way to go because attending one of these universities ensures a bright future.
Honestly speaking, this idea is mistaken and misguided. Why do we believe the process has to be stressful? Why do we think we have limited options of colleges and universities? The answer to these questions is because that is what we are told all the time. When you look at popular media outlets like articles, movies, the internet, everything tells us that admission abroad is stressful and only a few top league names get thrown around like Yale, Harvard, Oxford etc.
Popular media is known to give selective attention and make a few names popular, whether it is celebrities or universities. The focus tends to be on the most selective schools that accept only a small fraction of their applicants. Media creates the focus, but it is the society that reinforces that narrow focus. It could be our parents or friends. Getting their kids admission to only the top universities in their home countries has been known to be a sort of obsession and this pursuit of collecting brand names continues even while considering universities abroad.
The Ivy League colleges and other universities which rank high on “top colleges” listings form only 1% of the universities abroad. This means we have been programmed to ignore the rest of 99% of colleges. These universities are considered highly selective and the acceptance rate is less than 20%.
Next are universities featuring in the top 200 rankings. They accept between 25% and 50% of the applicants. They all form hardly 5% of the universities abroad. What do these figures mean? That more than 90% of colleges and universities accept half or more than half of the students that apply there.
You need to put things in perspective by reminding yourself that the highly selective schools are really the smallest percentage of given options available to you.
The Institute of International Education (IIE) releases an annual report called Open Doors. This report provides information about international students studying in specifically the US. According to the 2015 Open Doors report, 69% of international students in the US are studying at only 5% of the American universities. So just over 200 US universities host three-fourth of international students.
If you focus on that small group of universities that most international students go to, then you will be making your admission experience very stressful. However, if you choose to look beyond the 5%, you will be pleasantly surprised by what you can achieve.
If you choose to apply to the universities where competition for admission is the toughest, that is okay as well. In fact, we encourage aiming high and applying to highly selective universities. That is applicable if those universities are a good fit for you. Otherwise what we are asking you to do is remember that there are a lot more options available to consider.
In the end, you have a choice. You can choose to start your admission process believing the myths about US admission and treat the process like a competition. Or you can choose to understand the process and explore the possibilities. The choice is yours.