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Choosing US schools, advice needed

MoscowGirlMoscowGirl 13 replies1 threads 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!
edited December 2013
30 replies
Post edited by MoscowGirl on
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Replies to: Choosing US schools, advice needed

  • highland_poppyhighland_poppy 490 replies7 threads 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

    ?
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 42365 replies455 threads 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.
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  • MoscowGirlMoscowGirl 13 replies1 threads 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.
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 42365 replies455 threads 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.
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  • MoscowGirlMoscowGirl 13 replies1 threads 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.
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  • DreamSchlDropoutDreamSchlDropout 701 replies30 threads 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!
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  • MoscowGirlMoscowGirl 13 replies1 threads 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!
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 42365 replies455 threads 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.
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  • moneypmoneyp 775 replies19 threads Member
    try to retake the SAT again.
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  • MoscowGirlMoscowGirl 13 replies1 threads 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.
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 42365 replies455 threads 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.
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  • MoscowGirlMoscowGirl 13 replies1 threads 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?
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 42365 replies455 threads 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.
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  • b@r!um[email protected]!um 10254 replies175 threads 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.
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 42365 replies455 threads 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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  • b@r!um[email protected]!um 10254 replies175 threads Senior Member
    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?
    No, I don't agree. In fact, while I was briefly interested in consulting and finance jobs at Bryn Mawr, several recruiters (who I spoke to at career fairs at other colleges in the Philadelphia area) told me that Bryn Mawr is not on the radar of their companies and they wouldn't even read my application.

    That aside, you called Bryn Mawr a "feeder" school for Wall Street, which implies that Bryn Mawr students do actually get hired at Wall Street. That's what I disagreed with in my earlier post.
    I know you're a former math major with interest in pure math and clearly that's not what I'm advocating for Moscowgirl.
    First, I don't see how this is relevant to anything I said earlier. Second, pure math is the only kind of math that's taught at many liberal arts colleges, so if OP did study math at a liberal arts college, that's likely what she would get. Third, a math minor doesn't go deep enough into the subject to distinguish between pure and applied math (everybody's gotta take multivariable calculus, linear algebra, etc), so if she did end up taking a couple of math courses, the distinction between pure and applied math would be irrelvant for her anyway.
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 42365 replies455 threads Senior Member
    [email protected]!, the fact you're a high-level mathematician does affect how you see math vs. how a college student minoring in math would see it. That's all I meant.
    I actually didn't call BMC a feeder, I said the Seven Sisters and later amended it to "broadly construed" . At this point, I wasn't talking of a specific college.
    (I did mention Bryn Mawr at another point, but it was to say they had the Russian flagship so their Russian dept is strong and well-connected. Considering who hires out of the flagship I don't think either adjective can be disputed. Hence, that it can be beneficial for OP to capitalize on her knowledge of Russian language&culture, not through the flagship for which she's not eligible, but through a couple classes there in addition to an Economics major. Trying to show OP how plentiful opportunities and paths are.)
    I was just trying to show Moscowgirl that many types of studies can lead to jobs in the private sector and that internships play a role in that and can be obtained out of a variety of schools and majors, (NOT jobs or being hired, since OP specifically said she did not intend to work in the US at all), and to me Ibanking was only one case, to say "even for notoriously picky groups such as Wall Street's" - but at no point did OP say that's what she was interested in.
    Essentially, I was giving examples of possibilities outside of business school.
    Thanks for pointing out that even if some BMC students were interested in consulting/finance, they would not be on the radar for Wall Street recruiters, if OP wants to go into Ibanking then she knows not to apply there.
    However I *do* know for a fact that at least some firms recruit at some 7sisters colleges and Wellesley absolutely is on their radar.
    Would you consider the Economics dept at Bryn Mawr good, say, on par with the business school at Austin?
    I'm genuinely curious to know whether in your opinion it's easier to get hired at Wall Street out of Indiana or NCSU. (This is iddle curiosity, not OP's question).
    For the rest, we agree, I think.
    I spoke of a minor, as in, "for Economics, it's good to have a math background a little further than calculus I".
    And to bring it back to Moscowgirl's post: my main point is that to work in business a business degree is not necessary :)
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  • MoscowGirlMoscowGirl 13 replies1 threads New Member
    @MYOS1634 @[email protected]!um thanks for elaborating so much on my question!

    Though I think I better state it a little more clearly.

    I know that if I return to Russia with a Bachelor's degree from American university, it will grant me with ample job opportunities. However, I can't predict where they will come from.

    So, what I need is a solid, "broad" education. Actually, I'm very much into social sciences and not a math person at all, though I somehow manage to do well at school. But I also want to make myself marketable, so I am thinking Business or Economics. I never even thought of working for some Wall Street company, but the school's name does matter in my country. For instance, everything that has the word "college" in it would automatically be considered low quality (no matter how absurd it may sound) and would require some explanation.

    So, the question is: considering my scores, grades, sufficient funds, and the need of solid, broad and somewhat "prestigious" education, what schools should I apply to, or what schools should I exclude from the list?
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 42365 replies455 threads Senior Member
    I'd say definitely add American University, perhaps George Washington University, perhaps even Georgetown since you're full pay; those would carry some prestige in Russia.
    U Rochester (open curriculum = you can study whatever strikes your fancy) is highly ranked but within reach for you. Same thing for Brandeis, Lehigh, Wake Forest, Tulane, but these schools probably aren't very well-known in Russia.
    Would Emory, Rice, or WashU be known? There too, being a full pay international would help but they'd be definite reaches nevertheless.
    Georgia Tech has a rigorous stem program but they're very good for eco/business/economic policy. Not very "broad" though.
    Penn State - apply for Smeal if you want to, but most of all Shreyer's Honors College.
    Also: UCSD, UCI, UWA

    Even if you're not a math person, if you just take the bare requirement of 1 calculus class and 1 statistics class, it won't really be enough to be marketable (especially since you've probably taken calculus I in high school already). I'd say you'd need an absolute minimum of calc 1 and 2 + intermediate statistics and possibly some form of econometrics, quantitative economics, etc.

    It's too bad about "college" - I know the problem, it comes from British English where it means "high school", not to mention Canada where it means "community college", and not "highly selective school where elites have been sending their children for hundreds of years" so people outside the US don't know a thing about it, especially since they only know about big names for PHD (which may not be the best undergraduate education around overall). Adding to the confusion the fact that in the US "college" can mean "small school", "faculty" (as in "Faculty of Letters"), or "prestigious/selective/elite school for people in the know" ;)
    (The 7sisters would be easy to explain, though: that's where the sisters of the Princeton and Yale boys used to go, where Hilary Clinton went, etc.)

    College of William and Mary has "college" in it, and it's one of the most intellectual schools in the country along with UChicago and Reed, so depending on what you want to study, probably not a good idea.

    Based on your list:
    UT Austin = keep but try to get into one of the Honors Programs
    UC Berkeley = keep. I believe the 1st two years are liberal arts/ basic requirements in calc, stats, economics, before you can apply to Haas.
    IU Bloomington = keep. beautiful campus, good school, match/safety for you as a full pay
    UNC Chapel Hill = keep
    UVa = keep
    Wake Forest University = could go either way, if you like it, why not
    NCS Raleigh = wouldn't recommend keeping. I already suggested UNCA or UNCW, which would carry the prestige of "UNC" and wouldn't be as "technical" as NCSU is, all while fulfilling its role as safety just as well.
    College of William and Mary = depends on what you want.
    UMich Ann Arbor = keep
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  • MoscowGirlMoscowGirl 13 replies1 threads New Member
    @MYOS1634 Yes, Emory, Rice and WashU would definitely be known among employers. I will only apply to Emory, though, because I don't think it makes much sense to apply to three of them, provided these schools are all extremely selective and high reaches.

    BTW, I think I managed to correct my list (finally!). Among other things, I eliminated W&M and NCS Raleigh, and added a few schools you suggested. Thank you so much for your advice! It's been truly invaluable.
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