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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Yale University - Need Based, Need Blind

After SPM in 2002, I decided to do A Levels in a local private college. I started in January 2003. I did the A Levels partly because it was in English, and also partly because the January intake finished in June. If I had done other preuniversity programs (STPM, SAM or AUSMAT), I would have finished in November- leaving a eight-month break between Pre-U and university (as most US and UK universities start in September). For this same reason, I turned down the ASEAN scholarship.

When SPM results came out, like the other 12 000 applicants, I applied for a number of scholarships - Petronas and JPA. But, thanks to my B4 in Malay Language, I knew that my chances of getting a scholarship were slim, so I started looking at other options.

I had always been very interested in studying in US universities because the choice of classes isn't as limited. For example, I'm a second-year and majoring in Geology, but take a look at my classes: The Birth of Europe, Mineral Deposits, Introduction to Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour, Daily Themes, Introduction to Macroeconomics. When I found out that US universities offered financial aid upon admission, I was instantly interested, and did more research on the application process for US universities.

The application process is incredibly confusing -- even for US applicants! It was initially confusing to find out that I was applying for the Class of 2008, not 2004. 2008 stands for the date of graduation, not the entering date. Also, the terms 'college' and 'university' are used interchangably.

In May 2003, I sat for the SATs. My other friends studied for the SATs by memorizing wordlists, but I was lazy (and had other things to do than to memorize 3000 words!), so my only preparation was doing the 10 Real SATs (very important! must do!) which can be found in most bookstores.

I went to each college's website and requested a prospectus from them (usually by filling up a form online). I got a better sense of what the colleges were like, and what I wanted out of my undergraduate education: A school that has relatively small classes and not too technical -- though I would majoring in Geology, I love taking a lot of classes in English.

I started asking teachers for teacher recommendations (you need two teacher recommendations). For teacher recommendations, I gave the teachers a list of any related accomplishments -- emphasizing aspects that would show character, dedication and interest. For example, instead of bringing up my results in the National Physics Olympiad (that is offered by most national schools), I brought up my interest in English, mentioning that I was the only candidate in my school for SPM Literature in English, as well as the trip I had organized to the Star newspaper headquarters and my role in the class newspaper for NIE etc etc etc (you yourself know what you are best in).

I also gotten ready my School Report and any transcripts, as well as preparing translations myself (and got it certified by the director of A Levels).

For the application essays, I did a lot of soul searching. What was I good in? What was my niche, my 'hook'? What could I offer the school? What can the school offer me? All these questions played in my mind as I wrote my application essays. For my main application essay (I sent this to all the schools), I wrote about something that I really cared about (and spent 10 hours a week on) -- running (To read my application essay, get this book: Livin' It found in all MPH bookstores for RM 19.90).

Though not required, I also sent in a resume and cover letter to each school, to make my application more complete, and to emphasize my involvement in running (which I felt that the standard application form didn't give me enough space to write about). To admission officers, it's the achievements in running that are important, but rather, the time and the effort that I had put into it. People have asked me whether I sent in extra stuff, like certificates and all that. Most schools do NOT encourage you to send in certificates, so don't. Unless it's incredibly exceptional.

In October 2003, I sat for SAT IIs. (I also did the TOEFL, but only one of my schools really required it - so I regretted paying RM 400 to do the TOEFL since it wasn't really that necessary)

I also had to complete my financial aid application, which was due at the same time as college applications.

I only applied to need-based schools. ALL need-based schools will definitely offer you financial aid if you are admitted: these include liberal art colleges (LACs) and several universities. The amount of financial aid that you recieve depends on your parents' income and assets; you can get anywhere from FULL financial aid (tuition, room, board, everything) to nothing. Recently, Yale revamped their financial aid policy: barring special circumstances, if your parents earn less than $45 000 per year (or RM 14,250 per month), you are eligible for a full financial aid package. Harvard has a similar (but slightly less generous) policy.

Financial aid is made up of a combination of loans, campus-work and scholarship (which doesn't have to be paid back, and is not bond-based). Yale requires their students to have $4200 of loans and work, and the rest is scholarship. Schools differ in financial aid policies - so check with individual schools.

In most need-based schools however, your chances of admission might be jeopardized if you apply for financial aid. But there are some need-based schools that state that a financial aid applicant is considered on the same grounds as a non-financial-aid applicant. These schools are called need-blind schools. There are only six need-blind schools for international students: among them Yale, Harvard, Princeton and MIT (Some schools are need-blind, but, if you read the fine print, they are need blind only for US citizens and permanent residents, not for international students).

In all, I applied to nine schools. I sent in my applications online and by mail (admission officers are used to getting all the parts of your applications at different times, in different envelopes) by January 1st of that year.

Somewhere in February, I was contacted for interviews by the alumni (everyone who applies gets an interview; you aren't shortlisted for it). I think that I was probably the worst interviewee in history (my Harvard interview only lasted 20 minutes because I was tongue-tied, scared and frightened), so I won't attempt to give any tips. But you should read this Yale newsletter for alumni interviewers for an inside look on how your interview is evaluated.

I was informed of their admission decisions on April 1st. I was accepted to several colleges, and I'm now attending Yale!

After reading this, if you have any other questions, email me at lyzzie at gmail dot com! Also, read inkyhands.

by Elizabeth Wong

Elizabeth is a sophomore at Yale University. She is originally from KL and studied in SMK Damansara Utama. She is majoring in Geology and Geophysics, is very interested in English and writing and runs. She is going to Puerto Rico with Joyce for spring break.

Relevant Links


Blogger Larry said...

May I know what is your email address? I failed get your email in this blog.

6:20 PM

Blogger nick said...

Hi Larry.

Our email address is tinkosong@gmail.com

4:34 AM

Anonymous masdie said...

Haha....do you really have to include the going to Puerto Rico with Joyce thing??

3:10 AM

Blogger joyce said...

of course-lah!

4:05 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

erm..where can i get the application forms for the universities which you mentioned up there?

3:51 PM

Blogger enghan said...

anonymous: have you tried checking the websites of the universities?

4:01 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

you can either apply online or write to the respective universities for an application pack.

2:33 PM

Blogger Roy Koo said...

is this scholarship only available for graduates of STPM?

10:44 PM

Blogger enghan said...

Roy Koo: click on the the relevant link listed and you will get your answer.

12:23 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey thanks ye,

i always had a feeling that the US is an option only for the elites but now even i'll be trying for a quite a few of them, but since these would cost a lot and even waste a year how can i b sure of getting into one....plz help

6:59 PM

Blogger enghan said...

hey anonymous,

Getting into US colleges with financial aid is very tough. You would need to have high academic standing and be very active in extra curricular activities. You can't guarantee admission.

Yes the fees are quite steep for SATs and TOEFL but you can obtain fee waivers for applications from schools.

I'm not too sure what you mean by wasting a year though..

4:03 AM

Anonymous jane said...

Hello there=) Im currently preparing for my SPM examination this year.Unfortuantely for me,it was my fate that I became overly occupied with my extra-co last year, hence causing my academic results to drop tremendously in form 4. However, I did a lot of hard work and caught up- though my current performance may not be viewed as outstanding and merely that of an average student; I was wondering, if I continue to be constant and if do fairly well in my trials and SPM, what are my chances of getting a scholarship? Based on my extra-co, community service involvement &even considering involvement in church activities, I think I stand a chance(& if outstanding lower sec academic grades count) The problem? My academic record in form 4. Please do enlighten me. Thanks. -Jane-

10:22 PM

Blogger joyce said...

hi jane - I had pretty much the same problem as you did. My grades dropped tremendously in Form 4, but US universities tend to look at the overall picture and not just at grades. However, please continue to do well in your academics - there is only so much leniency a university will give in that area.

But do not be discouraged from trying to apply: I got in despite bad grades in the middle secondary level. I would also advise to keep your options open and apply to many different universities (if you do decide to apply to the US). I am so glad that you're thinking about your future this early in the school year!! Kudos and email any more questions you may have to tinkosong@gmail.com

1:34 PM

Blogger shalynni3_07 said...

hie there.
First of all I would like to say that I find this blog extremely inspiring.I really admire you people for your achivements and I hope to follow your footsteps.
I'm currently doing my alevels.I finish in may and the results will be out around 2 months after that.
I have a few questions and would be really glad if you guys could advice me.When should I apply to the US unis?
This year or next year after getting my results?When should I sit for my SATs?I thought of taking the SATS after my alevels as I would be more prepared then.But if I were to apply next year,I would be wasting almost a year.Thanking you in advance.


8:22 PM

Blogger joyce said...

Hi Lynn
If you have questions, please don't leave a comment but email us at tinkosong@gmail.com.. we'll be able to answer your questions more completely that way.

Look forward to hearing from you!

12:36 AM


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