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Choosing US schools, advice needed

MoscowGirlMoscowGirl Registered User Posts: 14 New Member
edited December 2013 in International Students
Hi everyone!

I am a Russian female high school student, currently in my senior year, and I only decided to apply to American university last August. My dream school was Duke and I hadn't done any research on other unis.

In September I learned I had to take the SAT, so I prepared for a month and took the test in October. My score is 1920:

CR - 670
M - 610
W - 640 (My essay score was 6)

I did much better on practice tests (2000+), so that score was an unpleasant surprise. I will re-take the SAT in December.

Also, I took two subject tests (B/M and Literature). The results haven't come yet, but I'm quite pessimistic about these. I expect something like 600-650 on both.

My TOEFL iBT score is 115.

I do not need any financial aid. My essays aren't stellar, but quite solid. ECs are nothing special: Duke summer college, student exchanges in the US, volunteering. I don't do sports due to health issues.

Russian schools don't repot students' GPA, but I've been getting straight A's on each subject for the last 3 years and I expect to graduate with honors.

I applied to Duke ED anyway, though I do realize my chances are slim. At least I won't be asking myself any "What if..?" questions.

My current list for RD:

UT Austin
UC Berkeley
IU Bloomington
UNC Chapel Hill
UVa
Wake Forest University
NCS Raleigh
College of William and Mary
UMich Ann Arbor

I haven't decided on my major yet, but most likely I will major in Business/Economics and minor in French and Biology.

My question is: do I need to make any changes to the list? My goal is to receive at least 2-3 acceptance letters. I'm not restricted geographically and I'm willing to attend a decent school at pretty much any part of the country, though I really love NC.

Thank you in advance for sparing your time!
Post edited by MoscowGirl on
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Replies to: Choosing US schools, advice needed

  • highland_poppyhighland_poppy Registered User Posts: 497 Member
    Good luck with your Duke application. You might find the practicality of fitting in all the course requirements for your major and minors, since they're in such completely different subjects rather difficult. It could be that you'd need to spend an extra semester or so to fit them all in. Otherwise, you might find you don't have much/any flexibility when it comes to electives.

    As for some NC suggestions, how about;

    Salem College (women only)- match
    Davidson College- low reach
    Appalachian State- match

    ?
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 40,770 Senior Member
    I'd take out NCSU and replace it by UNC Asheville and/or UNC Wilmington and/or Appalachian State (and do apply to their Honors College). Those would be safeties for you since you're full pay, they're each in beautiful areas of the State, and they're less tech-oriented and less commuter than NCSU (although NCSU certainly isn't a "suitcase school".)

    An obvious recommendation for a top student who likes Duke and NC is Davidson.

    W&M is one of the super-intellectual schools, so similar to it you have UChicago, Swarthmore, and Reed , etc.
  • MoscowGirlMoscowGirl Registered User Posts: 14 New Member
    Thank you very much for your answers! I will certainly consider the schools you listed.

    However, even if I add safeties and matches, I'm not sure if I should keep so many reaches on the list. Are there any schools here that you think have to be eliminated?

    Again, I'm open to any suggestions, including those out of NC.
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 40,770 Senior Member
    What do you like about Duke? Would you be interested in Vanderbilt and Emory?
    If we knew what you liked about Duke, we could suggest which reaches to keep or remove.

    If you are very good at math, you can do Economics at GeorgiaTech. it would be easier to get into than some on your list. Same thing for Georgetown.

    Wall Street feeders include Williams and Colgate (if you're interested in that sort of work).

    Middlebury is the standard-bearer for languages and their IPE dept is excellent.
  • MoscowGirlMoscowGirl Registered User Posts: 14 New Member
    I like everything about Duke: curriculum, career opportunities, its size, its study abroad programs, the abundance of activities, its atmosphere. Duke was the first American uni I visited, and then I took part in its summer program and applied ED, so I guess I showed some devotion. That's the only reason I dared to apply, considering that SAT score of mine.

    Of course I am interested in Vanderbilt and Emory, but I excluded them from the list when I learned my SAT score. I don't think I have any chances there since I have nothing to impress them with.

    Unfortunately, I'm not very good at math, I'm more social sciences and languages oriented.

    I want to attend a decent, reputable school with strong academics. Still, I don't want to end up with 10-15 rejection letters because of my low scores. I even considered taking a gap year and working on my SAT as I believe I could do better on it.
  • DreamSchlDropoutDreamSchlDropout Registered User Posts: 731 Member
    Your SAT is actually pretty good for a first attempt by someone whose first language is not English. Bear in mind that most American high-school students have already taken the PSAT earlier, so by the time they take the SAT it is in a sense their second time around (the SAT is longer, but they are quite similar).

    With a retake, you may well improve your score significantly. You may also wish to take the ACT, on which international students often perform better than on the SAT.

    Even so, your current SAT is certainly competitive for some of the schools you are targeting. The fact that you don't need financial aid will be in your favor, since most schools are need-aware for international admissions.

    I'm living in Austin presently, and it may help you to know there is a decent-sized Russian community here, both in the city at large and at the university. The city also supports a Russian grocery and a few good Russian restaurants. UT's McCombs School of Business is quite good, and Austin is a gorgeous place to live. While the climates and ecosystems are far from identical, if you liked North Carolina in the summer it's a good bet you would like Austin as well.

    A friend of mine attended UT as a recent Russian-American immigrant. So if you do end up here, let me know and I will be delighted to introduce you to her.

    Good luck with Duke!
  • MoscowGirlMoscowGirl Registered User Posts: 14 New Member
    @DreamSchlDropout thank you for your response!

    ACT might be an option, but only if I decide to take a gap year - there's practically no time to prepare for it now.

    Yes, McCombs was actually the reason why I applied. I would be more than happy if I was accepted at UT.

    Thanks for the support!
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 40,770 Senior Member
    1920 really isn't a bad score for an international, especially if it was your first take. Can you "late register" or call the testing center to see if you can test as a standby? If you retook the SAT in Dec you'd have a better shot at more schools for RD (dec 7test, late registration period ends this week). Do apply to Vanderbilt or Emory, then.
    Davidson and Colgate would be within reach as a full pay, Middlebury remains a super reach.
    For business, a school of interest may be Elon (safety).
    However, reconsider Business as a major: in the US, at the undergraduate level, it's often less rigorous than other majors (such as Economics with a math minor); research has shown the business major requires less reading and less writing than the average liberal arts major, less quantitative skills than Economics or Stem, etc.
  • moneypmoneyp Registered User Posts: 788 Member
    try to retake the SAT again.
  • MoscowGirlMoscowGirl Registered User Posts: 14 New Member
    I already registered for December 7 test.

    Thank you for the advice. I'll definitely apply to at least a couple of schools you mentioned here. And I may choose Economics rather than Business, too.
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 40,770 Senior Member
    Outside of Stern or Wharton (etc), the "typical" business school student isn't up to par with the profile you listed here. You're the kind of person who enjoyed spending a summer studying at Duke :p so don't short change yourself. Also, don't discount applying to Emory etc. just because of that one test, if the rest of your profile is very good. Finally, choosing Economics with a math minor might help for admissions (since not too many girls apply for that - especially if you add a Russian studies minor) and would open more doors (since instead of preparing you for taking a job immediately, it may prepare you for finance/wall street, professional or graduate school, etc.)
    The Wall Street feeder programs, outside of the aforementioned schools of Wharton and Stern, plus Baruch etc, would include Amherst, Williams, the 7 sisters, Colgate, and the Ivy league, where business majors aren't offered. That should tell you something.
  • MoscowGirlMoscowGirl Registered User Posts: 14 New Member
    @MYOS1634 Thanks, I got Emory back on to the list. Added Colgate as well.

    The thing is, I'm going to return to Russia after I graduate, and find a job here. Do you really think Russian studies will be of any use, then? Also, I'm quite good at Russian history and literature.

    I have one more question to ask, since I see you're familiar with all this stuff and know so much about the admission process. In case I only get into safeties, I'm not sure if it's worth it to pay so much money for school that could have been better. Does it make a difference, I mean, the university you attend? And if I do end up taking a gap year, how would you recommend to spend it, apart from studying?
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 40,770 Senior Member
    I was thinking it would help you get internships here in the US. Indeed it'd have no usefulness in Russia. However if you landed nice internships because you can show (with just one course on your resume perhaps) that you're truly fluent in Russian at a professional level (vs. daily high school student speech), it'd be valuable. I'm not saying to *actually* major/minor in it, but I'm sure the Russian studies profs would be happy to have someone who's fluent, so it may benefit you for admission purposes. BTW check out Bryn Mawr for econ+math (they have a Russian flagship, for which you don't qualify, but it means their Russian dept is very strong and well-connected. And good connections + opportunities to take classes at UPenn, Swarthmore, plus the Haverford/BMC combined schedule could make a lot of difference.)

    It depends whether your parents would have enough money to help you with a master's. If you have stellar grades, publications/conference presentations/research experience, etc, in the US, the name of your school matters little. It does help a little but if you come from a small school where you were a stellar student, that'll trump coming from a prestigious school where you were an average student. In Russia however it won't work the same way since you'll rely on your school's name recognition. So a solution is to try and apply to graduate school at universities that are famous in Russia, and return with a Master's degree from these.
    Another thing you can do if you get into a safety: What you CAN do though is make sure to pick schools that would provide you with excellent internships. I don't think GoldmanSachs would have a problem with your having attended Z College if you've already had an internship with them and have glowing recommendations from their NY representatives who supervised you.
    If you end up taking a gap year, you need to work or do volunteer work that is meaningful to you, and make sure your test scores improve drastically.
  • b@r!um[email protected]!um Registered User Posts: 10,380 Senior Member
    I gotta disagree with MYOS1634 on a few points:

    Don't apply for a major that you don't actually want to study (like math). You'll probably just hurt yourself. The admissions committee will see from your application that you might not be the strongest math student. Applying with a pretend-major might also make it really difficult for you to later pursue the major you really care about. What good is an admission offer to the College of Arts and Sciences when your preferred major is in the Business School?
    The Wall Street feeder programs, outside of the aforementioned schools of Wharton and Stern, plus Baruch etc, would include Amherst, Williams, the 7 sisters, Colgate, and the Ivy league, where business majors aren't offered. That should tell you something.
    I graduated from Bryn Mawr and I know exactly zero students who went to Wall Street after college. (In fact, I only met a handful of students who were interested in business or finance or consulting jobs at all. All of them transferred out.) So yeah, Bryn Mawr is most definitely not a Wall Street feeder. I don't know the other Seven Sisters too well but Wellesley is the only one that strikes me as being professionally oriented.

    But the conclusion I have drawn from the fact that the tippy top universities are feeder schools for the prestigious finance and consulting jobs is that these jobs are extremely prestige-oriented. If you don't have a college degree from an elite university, you are unlikely to be hired at Goldman Sachs, regardless of whether you majored in economics or business.
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 40,770 Senior Member
    [email protected]!: I know you're a former math major with interest in pure math and clearly that's not what I'm advocating for Moscowgirl. However, what i'm trying to stress is that if she wants to work in the business world, she does not need a business degree, and Economics with a math minor will be more useful and intellectually rewarding. I don't see any indication that OP doesn't like math and she said she liked Russian Literature as well as subjects that relate to business. To me it suggests a pretty flexible mind with intellectual curiosity. A business degree from a random AASCB accredited school may serve her in Russia, but does not seem to match the type of profile she presented, which would be better served by a "general" "traditional" "non applied" major -at UT, for example, there are lots of majors and programs to look into that are more intellectually stimulating than business.
    The fact no one was interested in Ibanking at BrynMawr is related to the type of students there, not to the quality and prospects of the graduates - BMC graduates aren't presumably primarily interested in making lots of money, especially if it's the way traders make it. However if one wanted to intern at prestigious companies, the top women's colleges, broadly construed, would help someone more than NCSU or Indiana, wouldn't you agree on that?
    Applying for a minor has zero impact on being able to switch majors or not, by the way. And even switching majors is quite painless in many cases (UT Austin and UC Berkeley being harder, UT Austin because some majors are restricted and UC Berkeley because of the red tape). I imagine many of your classmates applied for a major and had changed their minds in September, then changed their minds again... That's the beauty of the American college, actually: it's very flexible and allows inquisitive people to learn about many subjects, to discover subjects they didn't know they'd like, etc.
    I agree that Ibanking jobs are totally prestige-oriented, it's one of the few fields where it does make a huge difference. However I gave that as an example, I don't know whether that's what OP hopes to do.
    She doesn't intend on staying in the US so I was only mentioning internship possibilities - those are great either at large schools with good alumni networks (Penn State comes to mind) and "old" schools.
    Also, I'm not advocating majoring in something one is uninterested in. I would gladly advocate for majoring in Photography with Philosophy, and Neuroscience minors if those were someone's passions. :)
    OP:
    GoldmanSachs also recruits from Georgetown so if that's the kind of company you're interested in, since you're full pay your odds of getting in are quite strong.
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