Improve Your Reading and Listening

Learning a language is complex and ongoing. You are never completely done! To achieve the high scores on the TOEFl and IELTS that are necessary for admission to college or university takes time and preparation. Test practice is very important to practice your speed and timing, but in between here are some tips to raise your general level of English.

  • Increase your background knowledge through reading, listening and studying both in English and your own language.  High school students taking the TOEFL or IELTS are at a disadvantage because they have less general knowledge than adults.  All the sections are based around academic concepts and situations.  The more general knowledge you have, the more connections and comprehension you have. How you acquire the knowledge is less important than learning it, so watching You-Tube videos and reading articles in English and your own language are valuable.  
  • Learn more about subjects that interest you, but also choose subjects that you know nothing about. 
  • Great resources for increasing your background knowledge:

College Vocal Music Programs


What you can do to prepare if you want to major in voice:

You top priority should be building vocal and musical skills:

  1. Join choirs in school, places of worship, and the community.
  2. Get a private voice teacher who can guide you throughout your vocal development and help you prepare repertoire for pre screening recordings and auditions.
  3. Gain solo experience by participating in school or extracurricular musical theatre productions.
  4. Attend a summer voice program designed for high school students for further experience and training
  5. Take piano lessons to develop your basic knowledge of music theory
  6. Take dance or acting lessons – or join a community group which will be essential if you want to pursue a career in musical theatre.

Majoring in Music – what kind of degree should I pursue?

Do you want a specialized conservatory style program that focuses on the training needed for a professional performance career? Then look at BM programs.  Do you want to have more career options after you graduate?  Then look at BA degrees where you will be required to take more general liberal arts classes and may be allowed to double major or even double degree with another subject. Although, it may be challenging to complete double  programs in four years without taking classes in the summer. 

Here is a brief description of music degree options:

  • BM (Bachelor of Music). This is a conservatory style performance degree and can focus on training in classical, jazz, and contemporary music.  BM  graduates  become free-lance performers and recording artists and members of orchestras and chamber groups.  Many graduates may choose to go to graduate programs to continue to build skills and develop their artistry. 
  • BA (Bachelor of Arts) in Music. A BA gives students the flexibility to study music as well as other areas of interest. About one third of classes are in music. allowing space for a concentration or minor in a related or separate field which can lead to more career opportunities after graduation.

Music business or arts management are very popular related options.

  • BME (Bachelor of Music Education). This is a music degree for elementary or secondary vocal music teachers and choir and directors and graduates are trained to go right into classroom music teaching and ensemble conducting.
  • BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) This degree is offered at some universities  for  Music Theater.   BFA/BA Music Theater graduates audition for and may be hired by regional theater companies, touring companies, cruise ships, theme parks,  and maybe even Broadway.
  • BMT (Bachelor of Music Therapy) This degree combines talent and interest in music with medicine and working with patients.  BMT majors often apply for internships at medical clinics and residential facilities.

Research schools and programs thoroughly before applying. 

FINANCIAL AID FORMS

Financial Aid Requirements:


Requirements for financial aid applications are different for every institution.

Every Institution has its own

  • Types of Documents required
    • ISFAA
    • CSS Profile
    • Demonstration and Certification of Finances
    • Institutional Financial aid forms
  • Deadlines for submission of financial aid documents
    • Submit with all the other admission materials
    • Submit at a different date from the other materials
  • Timeline for submission
    • Some colleges expect families to proves they can pay after acceptance
    • others expect families to proves they can pay during the application process

Pay very close attention to all financial aid deadlines, as funding is often limited and students who miss these deadlines may possibly not be considered for financial aid.


Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)*

U.S. citizens, permanent residents and eligible non-citizens, fill out the FASFA to apply for financial aid from US federal and state governments.

The form is used by schools to determine need-based awards for US Citizens

*This form is NOT for international students, but you will see it mentioned in the application and on financial aid websites.


International Student Financial Aid Application (ISFAA)

  • CollegeBoard form that is accessed through the individual college websites.
  • Free of Charge
  • Paper Only. This form is not filled out electronically. You will need to print the documents, fill it out with a pen, and scan it.
  • Requires Information about
    • Income
    • Savings
    • Expenses
    • Budget
    • Expected support
  • Enter $$ amounts in USD
  • Return form to the individual colleges

Search for “International Student Financial Aid Application” to find the PDF of this document on college websites. Some colleges may have their own form requiring similar information.


College Scholarship Service Profile (CSS Profile)

The College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile, is an online application created and maintained by the CollegeBoard. Used by some institutions to gather information about family income, assets, and expenses, this form allows US residents and international students to apply for nonfederal financial aid.

Review this slide presentation created by the CollegeBoard to learn how to complete the application as an international student.

CSS Profile

  • CollegeBoard form that can be accessed through your CollegeBoard account online.
  • Fee for the initial CSS Profile application, which includes one college or program report. There is a separate fee for each additional report. Check the Collegeboard for the current cost.
  • Requires information about
    • Income
    • Savings
    • Investments
    • Expenses
    • Budget
    • Expected Support
  • Enter $$ amounts in your home currency (automatically converted to USD).
  • Submit the application online through the CollegeBoard website.


Certification of Finances (COF)

*The name of this form varies depending on schools, may also be damed Declaration of Finances (DOF) or Declaration and Certification of Finances (DCF)

One of these forms may be required as part of the international student application or after acceptance. Check the guidelines for each school very carefully to meet all the requirements and deadlines.

The DOF, COF, and DCF are used to obtain complete and accurate information about the funds available to international applicants who want to study in the United States.

This financial verification must be made before the institution can issue a Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20 or DS-2019) needed for the student visa. US consuls examine this statement of financial resources, given by nonimmigrant visa applicants, in order to process the visa quickly

These forms are generally available in the international student section of the institution’s website.


Supporting Documents for the Declaration and Certification of Finances

Documents required may include

  • Current bank/savings statement (and/or band official signature)
  • Parent salary confirmation letters of pay slips
  • Tax forms
  • Sponsor/outside scholarship letter or confirmation

Save everything for presentation to US consular officer at your visa interview.

APPROACHES TO ADMISSIONS AND FINANCIAL AID

NEED AWARE ADMISSIONS POLICIES

WHAT IS A NEED AWARE ADMISSIONS POLICY?

A need aware, or need sensitive, admissions policy means that that university may make the admissions decision depending on the student’s need for money to cover tuition for admissions. This means there may be an admissions advantage if the student can meet the program’s full COA without needing loans, grants or scholarships. On the other hand, this policy will be an admissions disadvantage if the student cannot meet the COA without aid. If a school requires financial information to be submitted before the admission application information is considered complete, the school likely has a “need aware” policy.

NEED BLIND ADMISSIONS POLICIES

WHAT IS A NEED BLIND ADMISSIONS POLICY?

A need blind admissions policy means that colleges do not consider the financial situation when making admissions decisions In most cases, the majority of college aid will go to students who prove that they have financial need, a need blind school may not give out much in the way of merit-based scholarships.

NEED AWARE VS. NEED BLIND

Figuring Out Need For International Students

Institutions figure out how much financial aid a student needs based on the

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
Each institution decides how much it believes you can afford to pay each year towards the COA. For the EFC, institutions consider Family Income vs. Assets.

A family’s financial information comes from the forms that international students need to fill out like the ISFAA (see pg. 22) or the CSS profile (see pg. 23) For US citizens and residents, the EFC is determined through the FAFSA application.

If an institution does not consider need-based aid for international students, it may not ask for this information.

Financial Aid Awards For International students

A financial aid award or package may be put together from

COLLEGE COST OF ATTENDANCE

What do I need to know about the Cost of Attendance?

Direct and Indirect costs are not listed in the same way by all institutions: Some schools may represent their costs “per semester” and some “per year.” When comparing the costs of schools, make sure to read the COA information very carefully.

Direct Costs: Be aware that you are looking at tuition & fee costs for the current year rather than the year you will begin school. These costs may increase 1-4% each year, depending on the institution. Your actual housing and meal costs will depend on the type of plan you select or if you live on or off campus.

Indirect Costs: The indirect costs are merely estimates made by the institution. Your actual indirect expenses may be different. Books and supply costs will depend on your major. Transportation costs depend on how far you are from home. Personal expenses are very personal!

Where do I find the Cost of Attendance?

Search for the term “cost of attendance” or “tuition” on an institution’s website. Each school may choose to display the COA differently, but all institutions must disclose it.

The price of Colleges and Universities varies widely in the US. With that in mind, you can control the price of your education by choosing where to apply

Look for the Net Price not just the COA:

Your net price is a college’s “sticker price” for tuition, fees, room, and board (COA) of a college minus the grants and scholarships received. The net price you pay for a particular college is specific to you because it’s based on your personal circumstances and the financial aid. Awarded by the college.

Because of merit or need-based institutional grants and scholarships that may be awarded with an offer of admissions, the costs of a private school may well be equal or less than the cost of a public school.

Focus on comparing the net price between schools

What is the Net Price Calculator?

A Net Price Calculator (NPS) is provided on the website of every US college or university, as required by US law. The NPC takes family income, assets, and expenses into account and gives a rough estimate of the grant and scholarship funding that a student might receive. Using these rough numbers, the NPC calculates the student’s net price.

The NPC is NOT accurate for international students.

This tool is designed for US citizens and residents and will generally not be accurate for international students because is usually includes federal aid estimates.

Extra fees and hidden costs for International Study:

It’s very important that international students plan for all expenses for four years. Keep in mind that tuition and fees generally increase between 1% and 4% each year and be prepared for the financial commitment for four years.

Visit bestfitedu.com for more information and help with funding your college experience!

COLLEGE DANCE PROGRAMS

What should I consider when choosing a College Dance Program?

  1. Type of Degree (BFA or BA?): Do you want a specialized conservatory style program that focuses on the training needed for a professional career? Then look at BFE programs.  Do you want to have more career options after you graduate?  Then look at BA degrees where you will be required to take more general libral arts classes and may be allowed to double major or even double degree with another subject.
  2. Types of courses offered: Consider whether or not the program invites you to explore your own artistry and creativity. Some programs require choreography courses as part of the major, others have no requirements. Make sure to  find out about the choreographic experiences that you will get at the school. 
  3. Disciplines focused on: What disciplines are offered? Generally, Ballet and contemporary dance are the main focus of programs, but if you are interested in jazz or tap, make sure that there are a variety of levels and classes offered in those areas.
  4. Performance opportunities:  Will you have the opportunity to perform each semester or is it only the upper classes.  Find out how competitive the auditions for school performances are.  Are there opportunities for student choreographed and directed performances?  Can you work with artists in other areas of the schools, such as musicians or visual artists?
  5. Faculty: Who is teaching?  Will you be learning with assistants or the professors.  Read the bios and learn about the background of your future instructors because they will be the ones who help you with your future connections.
  6. Visiting Artists: Look at the kinds of artists and professors that the school brings onto campus. Is there a choreographer that’s connected to a dance company that you love? Are there names that you recognize? The type of artist a university dance program invites as a guest shows what the school prioritizes what experiences  it wants its students to be exposed to. It’s also a great way to increase your network. 
  7. Program Alumni: Research what alumni have graduated from the program and what they’re doing now. This will help you understand the reputation of a school and where the networking connections are for future internships, dance intensives and eventually professional career. How does the school support their alumni?
  8. Access to wellness: It is extremely important to have access to physical therapy and other services related to health and fitness. Find out where you would go if you had an injury. 
  9. The college experience:  Consider the kind of college experience that you want outside of dance.  Are you looking for a small campus or to be part of a large university? Urban or suburban setting? 

You will be receiving a lot of advice from all the teachers and mentors in your life, but follow your gut feeling to find a program that reflects you and the type of dancer you want to be. 

COVID-19 and Extracurricular Activities

Volunteering - Leander Independent School District

In normal times extracurricular activities are an important part of the application to US colleges. Schools want to see your passion and interest reflected in your activities over a period of time.  Now that we are all in some degree of a lockdown and practicing social distancing, all of these activities have been canceled – the concerts, competitions, internships, job shadowing opportunities, and volunteering.  

The change in extracurricular activities will especially affect the high schoolers who are applying to college in the fall.  

If you are completing your junior year, you were probably looking at the upcoming summer break as a prime time to demonstrate your passions to the admissions committees through your activities

Although you may be feeling anxiety around this, rest assured that colleges are going to be looking at applications very differently for the fall 2020 application cycle.  Many are waiving SAT and ACT score – going test-optional for this year, and they will be  looking at the activities differently as well.

Ask Yourself These Questions:

  • What are the colleges and universities, I am interested in, looking at in terms of what I was able to do in quarantine?
  • Did I find a way to help those in my home or working in the frontline?
  • Did I stay curious and committed to my passions even if it was in a different way?

So What Can You Do?

Here are some suggestions to stay engaged and grow, even when you cannot leave the house

  • Making Masks
  • Help deliver food or outdoor chores for elderly neighbors
  • Assisting younger siblings with homework
  • Learning new skills like cooking and making meals for your family

Check out these online volunteer possibilities – all are international, but may not be available in all countries


Amnesty Decoders use computers to help researchers with data  to research human rights violations

Bookshare is an app that connects blind & low vision people with sighted volunteers

Catchafire This search tool is exclusively for online volunteer projects. Each one has a timeline that can range anywhere from an hour to a few weeks. You may be asked to help a not-for-profit by writing thank you letters or editing photos.

Crisis Text Line Volunteer to help the Crisis Text Line continue to offer free, 24/7 support for those in crisis. If you’re at least 18 and can commit to volunteering four hours aweek, you can apply to be trained for free.

DoSomething.org empowers young people to enact social change. Volunteer online through one of their campaigns to help solve real-world problems. 

Project Gutenberg. The goal of the project is to create the largest digital library, and so far they’ve gathered 59,000 free eBooks. Volunteer by donating eligible materials, transcribing books into a digital form, or proofreading work.

Smithsonian Digital Volunteers Help make Smithsonian Institution collections more accessible by volunteering online to transcribe historical documents or edit Wikipedia articles related to their artifacts and research.

Translators Without Borders If you are fluent in more than one language, check out this nonprofit that combines language skills with humanitarian aid. Volunteers provide translations to international organizations that focus on crisis relief, health, and education.
United Nations Volunteers UNV needs people with skills like research, writing, art, and design it can also connect you with organizations working for peace and development. 

International University Admissions Blog: Spotlight on The University of Hawaii at Manoa

Snapshot of The University of Hawaii at Manoa

Located in the residential Manoa Valley in Honolulu, Oahu, the expansive University of Hawaii at Manoa boasts a stunning backdrop of a forested mountain ridge. The campus is an accredited arboretum, which extends more than 300 acres and has extensive gardens with lovely flowering trees and colorful tropical flowers. The student population is extremely diverse and many commute from home. Adventure-seeking students love the location for its accessibility to mountains for hiking and ocean for water sports. This flagship university is one of only four US schools that is a land-, sea-, space-, and sun-grant institution. These designations provide the university with funding, for example, for agriculture and engineering programs as well as for research in ocean conservation, space, and sustainable and environmentally friendly energy alternatives.

Campus Vibe:

  • True to the reputation of the state, students report a laid back social atmosphere
  • Given that the temperature hovers around a tropical 78 degrees make sure you don’t forget your flip-flops, shorts, and T-shirts!
  • Expect to see many students coasting around campus on longboards or skateboards
  • UH is also considered, in many school rankings, as a great environment for outdoors sports and adventure! Students appreciate the nearby mountainous state forest reserve with its trail network and fabulous view of Honolulu (as well as various other hidden gems within the tree’s…)

Food and Life on Campus:

  • The University has a diverse student population with a large number (over 50%) of Asian descent and Native Hawaiian students
  • With a mere 24% of students living on campus, UH is known to be a commuter school
  • About 50% of classes have fewer than 20 students
  • More than 60% if the student population is female
  • First years are guaranteed housing if you apply in May
  • The campus is reputed to be sleepy after dark and on weekends
  • The Greek community is a scant 1% of the population
  • There are over 200 recreational activities available, including sailing, surfing, kayaking, hiking, as well as snorkeling and are popular student activities
  • Along with dining halls, local vendors offer delicious Hawaiian specialities. Enjoy 16 flavors of shaved ice at the Just Ice Food Truck, and super fresh poke bowls at Ono Seafood
  • Sistah Truck, serving popular Korean-inspired local cuisine, rotates between different buildings during the week
  • Students also talk excitedly about Kanikapila, which is a popular festival of Hawaiian music, dance, and culture!

Noteworthy Programs & Tips on Academics:

  • Classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a top tier research institution (Research 1), UH at Manoa has excellent programs in such fields as oceanography, astronomy, Pacific Islands and Asian Area Studies, linguistics, cancer research, and genetics
  • The Hawai’inuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge – the sole US college of indigenous knowledge in a Research 1 institution – offers undergraduate and graduate degrees
  • Faculty and students at the School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technologies conduct research on topics such as renewable energy, oceanography, coral reef ecology, volcanology, remote sensing, tropical meteorology, and climate modeling. Undergraduates can major in atmospheric studies, earth science, and environmental sciences. Students receive training on SOEST’s specialized facilities, an impressive fleet of research vessels, deep-ocean observatories, and field and research stations.
  • The Shidler College of Business emphasizes international business with a specific Asia-Pacific focus.
  • In the tropical agriculture program at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, among other studies, students conduct research on the interaction between agriculture and the environment with a focus on the tropics. 
  • Students gravitate to UH for Asian studies as well as Pacific Island studies. The School of Pacific and Asian Studies helps coordinate more than 300 faculty who teach roughly 600 courses related to Asia and the Pacific across the campus.
  • Faculty and students at the School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technologies conduct research on topics such as renewable energy, oceanography, coral reef ecology, volcanology, remote sensing, tropical meteorology, and climate modeling. Undergraduates can major in atmospheric studies, earth science, and environmental sciences. Students receive training on SOEST’s specialized facilities, an impressive fleet of research vessels, deep-ocean observatories, and field and research stations.
  • The Shidler College of Business emphasizes international business with a specific Asia-Pacific focus.
  • In the tropical agriculture program at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, among other studies, students conduct research on the interaction between agriculture and the environment with a focus on the tropics. 
  • Students gravitate to UH for Asian studies as well as Pacific Island studies. The School of Pacific and Asian Studies helps coordinate more than 300 faculty who teach roughly 600 courses related to Asia and the Pacific across the campus.

University Lore:

  • An Echochamber on campus? Go to the top level of the main parking structure adjacent to the law school, find the circle of bricks, stand in the middle, and speak, shout, or sing! You’ll be treated to your own voice echoed back.
  • A castle in Korea inspired the design, by Korean architects, of the Center for Korean Studies. The building was constructed in Korea, shipped in pieces to Oahu, and reassembled on campus.

Getting around Campus and Beyond:

  • Commuters arrive at school by bus, car, rideshare and bike.
  • For a nice off-campus treat, Morning Glass Coffee & Cafe is a step up from Starbucks
  • Housed in a tiny hole in the wall walking distance from campus, Ahi Assassins Fish serves the freshest and best poke bowl around. Get there early, there is usually a line out the door!

Applying from another country? Here’s what you need to know!

  • Students at UH at Manoa represent 115 countries and regions.
  • The International Student Services office gives orientations and guides those coming from abroad through visa clearance and other requirements.
  • The International Student Association provides a support system for students coming from abroad, offering academic assistance, leadership development, social opportunities, and a chance to explore issues and places in Hawaii.
  • The Hawaiʻi English Language Program (HELP) provides extra English language instruction for students whose first language is not English. Some  students attend this program if they are admitted to UH at Manoa conditionally if they have not demonstrated sufficient English proficiency.

Quick Facts:

  • Total enrollment: 17,490; undergraduate enrollment: 12,.631
  • The acceptance rate is 83%.
  • Division 1 sports college in the Mountain West Conference.
  • Member of the Western Undergraduate Exchange, allowing students in Western states to request reduced tuition costs
  • The university has two official languages: Hawaiian and English. Students graduate with a bilinguar diploma.
  • The University of Hawaii has its own marine research island called Coconut Island, which is less than a mile off the coast of Oahu.
  • The College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources was founded in 1907 as the first college of UH at Manoa.

COVID-19 and Standardized Testing for International Students

The SAT, ACT and other standardized admissions tests such as the TOEFL and IELTS required for university applications, have all been impacted by the Coronavirus, just like every other part of our daily lives around the world.

Here is a quick update for the testing information. Of course, check the website for each test organization for the most up-to-date information at bestfitedu.com

SAT and Subject Tests:

  • Exams in April and May are canceled
  • June 6th: The SAT test is still scheduled for this date, but a decision will be made in consultation with test centers about the feasibility following the public health situation. You will be able to reschedule and get a refund if you are already signed up for this test date and it is canceled.
  • New U.S. and international test administrations will be added to makeup for the canceled administrations. The college board is looking at creative solutions to respond to the increased demand.
  • Updates will be provided on their school website as soon as the public health situation allows. We’re looking at a range of creative solutions to address increased demand and are in direct conversations with states and districts about School Day administrations. Throughout, we’ll continue to place a special focus on students with fee waivers and those with accommodations
  • If, unfortunately, schools cannot reopen in the Fall, we are pursuing innovative ways to ensure all students can still take the SAT this Fall. We’ll provide updates about those plans if they become necessary

http://pages.collegeboard.org/sat-covid-19-updates

ACT:

TOEFL:

  • TOEFL has temporarily moved to an at-home format. the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition test, which is available everywhere that TOEFL iBT testing is usually available, except in Mainland China and Iran
  • ETS is working with NEEA in Mainland Chine to assist test takers affected by test cancellations. Additional test dates will be added once regular testing resumes.
  • This new at-home test format has the identical content, format, screen experience, and scoring to the TOEFL iBT test that is taken at a test center. Live-remote proctors along with artificial intelligence technology will monitor at-home tests

Follow this link to learn more

IELTS:

  • IELTS testing has been suspended in many locations, following official requirements of each country’s health care authorities
  • In the locations where tests have been canceled, detailed plans are being put in place to ensure that test-takers are able to take their tests as soon as possible once the official restrictions are lifted
  • At this point, testing is continuing where it is permitted and still safe, however, the situation is changing very quickly and it is possible that testing in other locations will be canceled with very short notice.
  • If you have signed up for a test, contact IELTS organization to register for a future date or receive a refund

Follow this link to learn more

CoronaVirus and College Closures Spring 2020

How do you choose which school to attend?

This year it will be very difficult to determine which of the schools on your list of acceptances are the best fit for you. Usually, we encourage in-person visits to any school you haven’t toured so far, but this year that approach is just not possible and you will need to be creative and resourceful.

Here are some ways to approach this decision:

  • Stay Informed. The National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) has provided an up-to-date online tool as a resource for students and families to find information about changes in college admission events, and deposit dates; these have all been impacted as a result of the CoronaVirus pandemic. Click here for more information
  • Connect with the college representative and counselors. Visit the school website for current information from admissions
  • Follow the school’s various social media platforms to learn what other future and current students are saying about the school
  • Take Virtual Tours and attend virtual accepted students events to remind yourself of the college’s special programs and opportunities. Remind yourself of the reasons you applied to the school in the first place
  • Wait-Listed? Don’t count on getting off the waitlist of your reach school. Although many colleges have created longer waitlists and there may be more movement off the waitlist than in normal years, our advice is to embrace your current choices and commit to one of the school on your list of acceptances by the deadline. Remember all of the schools you selected are best-fit colleges for your short list
  • Contact Financial Aid offices in mid-April with any appeals to your financial package. This is your opportunity to negotiate for more aid, especially if your financial situation has changed due to COVID-19