And now a word from our sponsor… 🙂 I’m pleased to announce Capstone’s spring 2020 StudyUSA & Canada Higher Education Fairs, which will take place from 21 February to 1 March in Hanoi, Haiphong, Danang, Nha Trang, and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). Please click on the ad on the left or the poster below for detailed information and online registration.
As seen on a Facebook group devoted to the work of independent education counselors (IECs):
Intimidated by college deadlines? #EducationUSA advisers and U.S. university alumni are here to help! Type your questions down below or shoot us an e-mail at manila[AT]educationusa.org or cebu[AT]educationusa.org for any questions and concerns regarding your college applications. Our services are completely free! (Source: EducationUSA, The Philippines)
This spot-on observation came from an IEC based in the Philippines: They said EducationUSA advisers and US university alumni will answer their questions. I said: ‘Be very careful about where you get your advice from regarding your college applications. It isn’t enough to be an alumnus of a US university or an EducationUSA adviser. Ask if they are professional college counselors…most US alumni are not.’ Good advice!
This is akin to native speakers being hired to teach English as a foreign language. Because they speak the language doesn’t mean they can teach it properly. Same for US higher education alumni; they definitely have a lot to offer in terms of sharing information and experiences from a former student’s perspective but most are not trained educational advisers.
It was written by Tran Le Huu Nghia is a research fellow at Informetrics Research Group and Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Ton Duc Thang University, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. His research interests include graduate employability, teaching and learning in higher education, international education, teacher education and TESOL.
Below is the abstract:
This article reports a study that investigated prospective and current Vietnamese international students’ motivations to study abroad and their immigration intentions. Analyses of 55 intercept interviews and 313 responses to a survey revealed 12 push and pull factors that motivated students to pursue overseas studies and 18 sociocultural, economic, and political factors that influenced their immigration intentions. Independent samples t tests indicated that there were statistically significant differences in the influence of motivations on decisions to study overseas between groups of male and female students and prospective and current students. The analyses, furthermore, suggested that students’ immigration intentions depended on their personal attachment to the home country and (perceived) adaptability to the host country.
I highly recommend this short (16 pp.) article, if you’re interested in learning more about why young Vietnamese study overseas, including key push and pull factors.
To further whet your appetite to read the entire article, here is part of the conclusion:
In short, despite its limitations, this exploratory study found that international students were motivated by several factors to pursue international education overseas. The study also indicated that not all of the students were immigration hunters; many were willing to return their home for socioeconomic, cultural, and political reasons. Therefore, the fear that international students arrive in a host country to seek immigration opportunities is biased, especially when the host country has the power to adjust its policies regarding international students (e.g., Spinks, 2016).
I’ve had considerable first-hand experience over the past 14 years in Viet Nam with the fact that many Vietnamese students who study overseas at not “immigration hunters” and are returning home for “socioeconomic, cultural, and political reasons.” The reasons are simple: 1) there’s much more to come back to in a growing number of fields; and 2) conditions in some of main host countries are not as favorable as in the past, to say the least.
Below is an edited English version of a Vietnamese article of mine that was published last month by Zing.vn. A Vietnamese translation of an article by Professor Peter Gray, from which I quote, was subsequently published by Zing, which ranks 7th in Viet Nam, 353 in the world, and 62 in the “news and media” category.
Success without integrity is failure. -Unattributed
While this US college cheating scandal may come as a shock to many Vietnamese, who believe that the US system is merit-based, it is just one of a number of examples of corruption in the education system and elsewhere in society. And while most of these activities are not illegal, many are unethical and unfair in a country that pays lip service to equity and fairness.
What’s probably most shocking from a US perspective is that these people got caught, along with their co-conspirators at various elite public and private institutions. Wealthy parents, some famous, most not, paid Rick Singer, CEO of a company called Edge College & Career Network LLC and a nonprofit called the Key Worldwide Foundation, from $200,000 to $6.5 million to bribe coaches, fabricate admissions documents, such as athletic achievements (this included taking staged photos of playing various sports), and help their children cheat on their SAT and ACT exams.
In one case, a San Francisco winemaker allegedly paid $50,000 for a proctor to be flown to a test center in West Hollywood to correct his daughter’s SAT answers after she took the test, which she had been allowed to take over a number of days because of a psychologist’s note. The father complained that his daughter’s score of 1360 out of 1600 was not high enough and subsequently agreed to pay $200,000 to get her into USC as a water polo recruit even though she no experience in the sport.
Some of the universities touched and tainted by this scandal, including a few that are familiar to Vietnamese, are Georgetown University, Harvard University. Stanford University, the University of San Diego, the University of Texas at Austin, UC Berkeley, UCLA, USC, Wake Forest University, and Yale University.
When Your University Admission Letter is Accompanied by a Receipt
One widely publicized example of how money buys access to education in the US is how Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, gained admission to Harvard University. In 2005, Daniel Golden, a Boston-based senior editor at ProPublica, wrote a book entitled The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges–and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates in which he exposed the corrupt admissions practices that favor the wealthy, the powerful, and the famous.
As he wrote in a 2016 article published shortly after the election of Donald Trump, “My book exposed a grubby secret of American higher education: that the rich buy their under-achieving children’s way into elite universities with massive, tax-deductible donations.”
Golden reached out to administrators at Kushner’s private high school, The Frisch School, in New Jersey. As one former official put it, “There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard. His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not.”
Jared Kushner’s father, Charles, a New Jersey real estate developer and New York University (NYU) alumnus, had pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University not long before his son, a mediocre private school student, was admitted. As US comedian, Bill Maher, quipped in a sketch about Jared Kushner, “One clue your enrollment may not entirely based be merit-based: When your acceptance letter comes with a receipt.”
Another way that wealthy US Americans ensure their children’s admission to Ivy League and comparable US institutions is legacy admissions, also known as “affirmative action for the rich,” a preference that most top 100 colleges and universities give to students who have a familial relationship to alumni of that institution, i.e., a mother or father who has a degree from the school in question. Legacy students comprise about 14% of Harvard’s undergraduate student body and are accepted at five times the rate of their nonlegacy peers. This translates into a nearly 34% acceptance rate vs. under 6% for those without the same connections.
It Doesn’t Matter What College Your Kids Attend (in the USA)
In a recent article entitled Back Off: It Doesn’t Matter What College Your Kids Attend, Peter Gray, a research professor at Boston College (MA, USA), referred to high school students as “the most stressed-out people in America, 83% of them attribute their stress to school.” This also applies to children from upper class families in which pressure to achieve is especially high. So why are some parents willing to do anything, including breaking the law, to “help” to guarantee that their sons and daughters will get admitted to prestigious institutions? Because they believe that is the only key to success, however they define it? For the bragging rights that accrue? So that their children will follow in their academic footsteps? Does it really make a difference in terms of future income and happiness?
In two large-scale studies conducted by Stacy Dale, a mathematician, and Alan Krueger, an economist, of students who entered college in 1976 and another group in 1989, their research question was this: If people have the same socioeconomic background, academic ability and motivation, will those who attend an elite institution of higher education make more money later in life than those who go to a non-elite school? “Other things being equal, attending an elite school resulted in no income advantage over attending a less elite school, neither in the short term nor in the long term.”
Gray also referenced a 2014 survey by Gallup and Purdue University that assessed the extent to which 30,000 higher education graduates were, according to them, enthusiastic and committed to their work and thriving in their personal lives. The key finding was that there were no significant relationships between their feedback and the type of college or university they attended, large or small, public or private, highly selective or less selective.
The good news for parents and students, at least in the US, is that it isn’t the type of school young people attend but what they do while they’re there that makes a difference in their lives. What’s important is the nature and quality of their experiences in and outside of the classroom. Professor Gray’s advice to parents was simple: “Ease up. Reassure your kids rather than stress them. For happiness and meaning, they may need to spend less time grubbing for grades and more time pursuing their own interests.”
In other words, one of the primary goals of young people, with understanding and support from their parents, teachers, and others, should be to find their ikigai, an existential sweet spot that is the intersection of that which you love, that which are good at, that which the world needs, and that for which you can be paid. That is how success should be defined in any country.
Mark A. Ashwill is an international educator who has lived in Vietnam since 2005. He is the co-founder and managing director of Capstone Vietnam, a full-service educational consulting company with offices in Hanoi and HCMC. Ashwill served as country director of the Institute of International Education (IIE)-Vietnam from 2005-09.
Congratulations to Ms. Trang “Tracy” Đào Đỗ for her admission to Barnard College, Columbia University. Trang is one of many students that my company, Capstone Vietnam, has helped study in the US and other her countries in the past decade. Below is an announcement that appeared in a recent issue of the Léman Manhattan Preparatory School newsletter.
As President of the Boarding Student Government and the Asian Culture Club, a member of the National Honor Society, a Student Ambassador, and a full IB Diploma Candidate, Tracy has embraced a variety of leadership rolls and activities in her time at Léman. “The most important thing I’ve learned from these rolls is confidence,” she says, “Before I came to Léman, I had difficulty speaking up and expressing myself, but Léman has made me more comfortable in my own skin and I think I’ve grown as a person.”
She is most proud of her achievements as a founding member of the Asian Culture Club. “We wrote a letter asking Mr. Spezzano if we could have chopsticks in the café, and it makes me feel good seeing people use them. It’s a small thing that makes Asian students feel at home. I love teaching and learning from other people about different cultures, which is why I’m grateful to be a part of such an international community,” she says.
She feels that she will continue to grow and learn in the fall when she enrolls at Barnard College, ranked #25 in National Liberal Arts Colleges by US News and World Report, where she plans to major in Biology. “I grew up in Vietnam, where women aren’t taught to be outspoken and opinionated. I think going to an all-women’s school will help me continue to become more successful,” she says.
One of the main reasons her family chose Léman when they were looking for a school in the US was the International Baccalaureate Programme. “I’m happy with the IB because we focus on collaborative projects and creative writing and it emphasizes critical thinking,” which she feels will be helpful in college.
Although she’s looking forward to graduation, she will miss the Léman community. “Léman is very special because it is such a diverse community,” she says, “Everyone is different but also very open-minded. I feel like I’ve learned something from every person I’ve met here.”
Congratulations, Tracy! We know you’ll be successful at Barnard and beyond!
Students occasionally ask one co-author, who has lived and worked in Viet Nam since 2005, whether or not they can apply directly. The answer is an enthusiastic ‘Yes’, if they feel sufficiently confident.
Actually, Eddie West and I are referring not only to agents but to everyone involved in international student recruitment. While direct application is not for everyone, as we point out, it is a positive trend we see in Viet Nam and elsewhere among certain types of students.
This article is the third in a trilogy about what we identify as the “fatal flaw” in commissions-based recruitment. The other two – in descending chronological order – are as follows:
We’ll be discussing these issues at NAFSA at two events, the first an unofficial seminar and the second a general session. Follow this link for more information, including online registration for the two seminars.