U.S. Higher Education Admissions: Something for Everyone (?)

LOGO-CHUANI was recently invited to speak to a group of admissions colleagues from Vietnam National University (VNU)-Hanoi in a workshop entitled “Dossier Evaluation and Interviews in Competence-Based University Admissions,” organized by that institution’s Institute for Education Quality Assurance in Kim Boi, Hoa Binh.

During two morning sessions, I discussed some distinguishing features of U.S. higher education, including size and diversity, enrollments, cost, transferability of credits & portability of credentials, the admissions process as both art and science, the Common Application, national colleges admissions exams (e.g., SAT and ACT), different definitions of selectivity, and rankings methodology.  The bulk of the presentation, however, focused on seven schools that fall on a continuum of selectivity, their requirements and the ways in which they screen applications.  They ranged from open admission (e.g., a community college) and “minimally difficult” (e.g., South Carolina State University) to “moderately difficult” (e.g., University of Delaware), “very difficult” (e.g., SUNY/Geneseo) and “most difficult,” (e.g., Harvard), plus two nationally-ranked graduate programs in computer science and business.  A stimulating and lively discussion followed.

Group Pic
Seated to my left: Dr. Nguyen Kim Son, Vice President, VNU-Hanoi, and Dr. Nguyen Quy Thanh, Director, Institute for Quality Assurance

It’s gratifying to see that Vietnam is taking the necessary steps to reform its university admissions process by abolishing the traditional university entrance exam and introducing other elements to the selection process.  In an era of growing demand and rapid expansion of the nation’s higher education system, the entrance exam is costly, inefficient and a major source of stress among students and parents.  This annual rite of passage will soon be replaced by a standardized exam, a localized version of the SAT and ACT.

As with any nation and its higher education system, the U.S. is a positive and negative role model.  There are policies and practices from which countries like Vietnam can learn and that it can adapt and localize, and those that it should avoid at all costs.


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