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Guide to Choosing a College/University Major in the U.S.

May 7th, 2015

“A major is a specific subject area that students specialize in. Typically, between one-third and one-half of the courses you’ll take in college will be in your major or related to it.” (The College Board)

Applying to a U.S. college to pursue your undergraduate studies is daunting, not to mention waiting for the acceptance and the dreaded rejection letters. Once you have received your acceptance and headed to your desired institution, you face another challenge, that of choosing a college major, unless you’re one of the rare few who has known all along what he/she wants to major in.

The Challenge

Challenge

Choosing a college major for majority of undergraduate students can be overwhelming. Schools don’t make it any easier for students either. There are hundreds of majors to choose from and you want to make the right decision that will serve you well into you adult life, one that will help you on your career path and or graduate study. Naturally, it is a big commitment, but it’s not a life sentence and many college graduates end up in careers that had no direct relation to their majors or end up changing careers over the years. Point is that you want to select a major you will enjoy as you will be spending a great deal of time studying whatever subject you select.

The Homework

Homework

You can get started by doing a little homework of your own. At some U.S. colleges, you can major in two fields, have both a major and a minor (a specialization that requires fewer courses than a major) and even have the freedom to create your own major.

Ask yourself these questions as you ponder over selecting the right major for you:

Career-related

• What type of career or careers can you see yourself in?
• What type of work do you enjoy doing?
• What type of work environment do you see yourself in for a long time?
• If you had a part-time job when you were in high school or worked before starting college, what did you learn about your past work experience? What did you like and dislike?
• If you completed a career assessment in high school, what did your results indicate?

Hobbies & Interests

• What are your interests?
• Which subjects did you enjoy studying the most in high school?
• What type of skills do you have?
• Do you have any hobbies that you would like to pursue as a career?

Loyola University of Chicago has a quiz you can take to help you narrow down your choices or at least help you see what your options are in picking a college major. If you want to give their quiz a try, here’s the link to their site: http://www.luc.edu/undergrad/academiclife/whatsmymajorquiz/

The Exploration and Discovery

thinkingcap

While being undecided is fine, it’s good to have some idea of what you want to do or at least have a few ideas on majors you can explore and choose from once you start college. Typically, most US colleges allow you to go around undecided through your freshman (first) year but by the end of your sophomore (second) year, they do expect you to choose a major before you can continue onto your junior (third) year of studies. Though this will not be the case for some majors such as engineering, which require you to commit to taking the prerequisite courses earlier.

Again, remember you can be undecided in your first year which gives you the opportunity to explore a variety of courses. So, take a class or two in disciplines that interest you. This will help you get a better understanding of the field and if it is what you want to continue studying for the career of your dreams.

College is a huge investment, especially in the U.S., and choosing a major that will prepare you for a specific career is important. Check out PayScale.com for up-to-date information on their College ROI reports. Majors that lead to the highest salaries include any engineering specialty, computer science, economics, actuarial mathematics, physics, and economics.

Don’t write off liberal arts courses just because you may think all the jobs are for engineers and computer scientists and nothing for philosophy or English majors. Employers are looking for and value individuals who have critical thinking skills and writing abilities and these are exactly the qualities liberal arts majors provide. Though selecting a major that guarantees employment and a salary commensurate with your talents and education is important, you do need to keep in mind your quality of life; ultimately you want to be doing what makes you happy and not be trapped in a high paying job that makes you miserable.

Finally, once in college, don’t hesitate to talk to professors, department heads, peer advisors, and other students and ask for their help. If you can, find an internship off campus. Continue exploring your interests in your first and second years, complete the required general education courses and you may just find the major that best fits your interests and even your ideal career.

Helpful links:
http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-economic-guide-to-picking-a-college-major/
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/education/edlife/choosing-one-college-major-out-of-hundreds.html?_r=0
http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2011/09/19/5-ways-to-pick-the-right-college-major

Alan
Alan Saidi
Senior Vice President & COO

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL
The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit http://www.acei-global.org.

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6 Common Misconceptions About Mathematics Degrees

March 12th, 2015

[Note: This blog, written by Samantha Woodcock, was originally posted on http://www.topuniversities.com, and reposted here on Academic Exchange by permission from the author.]

math

Considering studying mathematics at university but not sure you fit the right mold? Think it’ll be too difficult, too nerdy, or won’t provide enough career options? Get ready to re-think your idea of the “typical” math student, and what’s involved in a mathematics degree

1.  Maths students are giant geeks.

mathstudent

Now there are the students out there that would remind you of the Sheldon Coopers of the world, but for the most part maths students are just normal people who have a passion for numbers. Not all of them wear glasses; they all don’t carry a calculator everywhere and they also don’t insist on wearing white shirts and plaid. Mathematics is also easy to combine with another subject, including art, all sciences, a language or a subject like history. So not everyone is the super geek you think they will be.

2.  If you do a mathematics degree you can only teach after you’ve graduated.

This is a complete lie! Maths students are great problem-solvers, which means they can fit into any job in quite a lot of fields. Yes, you can teach or train to be an accountant, but you could also work for betting companies, running the program to calculate the live odds of the next footballer scoring in the big derby at the weekend. The possibilities are literally endless, so don’t be under the impression that you have to train to teach at the end of the three year degree.

3.  All mathematics degrees are exactly the same, because numbers are just numbers.

numbers

Every mathematics degree is different. Some will have more real world applications (such as modelling waves in the sea) and others will be stuffed to the brim with algebra; there’s literally a course out there for everyone, whether you really like Excel and statistics or you’re more interested in the applied engineering and game theory side of things. Oh, and numbers are just the tip of the iceberg: hexadecimal values, the Greek alphabet and most of the English alphabet are used too, it’s not just x and y anymore!

4.  Only guys do mathematics degrees.

nowomen

According to The Guardian, 42% of all maths undergraduates in the UK in 2011-2012 were female. So while there still may be a fair few male mathematicians on your chosen course, there will also be a lot of female students equally as interested in all the number crunching and differential equations!

5.  Maths students are amazing at mental maths.

Some people just have that knack for working things out in their heads really quickly, but I don’t think you’ll be able to find many people, even maths students, who can tell you what 6432 ÷ 17 is off the top of their heads in under 10 seconds (it’s 378.353 for reference). Maths students are normal humans, who too rely on calculators for sums. They aren’t all wizards who can do the 27 times table from memory!

6.  A mathematics degree is far too hard for me.

confused

If you have an interest in numbers, statistics, algebra or really enjoyed A-Level standard mathematics, then you shouldn’t be put off. No degree is a walk in the park, but everything you learn either teaches you new skills or builds on existing knowledge. Don’t be scared of a little bit of maths; it doesn’t bite after all!

samantha

Samantha Woodcock is a mathematics graduate of the University of Chester (North West England), Sam is currently working for a finance team in a tourist attraction. She has a giant passion for Excel and when not number-crunching she loves blogging or cooking up a recent recipe find from Pinterest! You can follow her on Twitter (@samcantfindit) and read her blog here https://diaryofamathsstudent.wordpress.com/

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BA and BS Degrees: Similarities and Differences

March 5th, 2015

Graduation_Cap

One of the questions we frequently hear from our international student applicants, who’re having their transcripts evaluated by us, is on the difference between the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and the Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees. Students entering a four-year college here in the US expect to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, but they might not know which type of bachelor’s degree to select. Colleges typically offer both BA and BS degrees for many of their majors, and you should expect different experiences based on which program you choose to pursue. With the right research and an understanding of each degree, you can combine your interest in a major with the selection of courses that best fit your needs.

Similarities

Before embarking on defining the differences between the BA and BS degrees, let’s look at the similarities they share. Both a B.A. and B.S. degree require the completion of a four- or five-year undergraduate curriculum, depending on the college and major. Both are considered equivalent bachelor’s degrees for academic purposes, and both require a number of courses in your chosen field to qualify you for the degree. Whether you choose a B.A. or B.S., your primary focus will be courses in your major. Though the B.A. is often thought of as a liberal arts degree, some universities offer B.S. programs in liberal arts, B.A. programs in technical or scientific fields, and other such variations, so your chosen path may not necessarily determine which degree you should pursue.

How are the degrees different?

The curriculum for the B.S. degree is generally focused on preparing the student for the technical and practical career aspects of their chosen field. The B.A. degree, on the other hand, offers some flexibility by allowing for electives and courses outside of the major. The B.A. also often requires core courses, such as foreign language or English classes, to ensure an expansive education regardless of the student’s focus. In essence, if you are looking for a more wide-ranging college experience, consider the B.A.; if you want more concentrated training in a technical career path, the B.S. is better suited to meet your needs.

What careers opportunities are best suited for the BA and BS?

Both B.A. and B.S. degrees will assist students along whatever career path they choose, but the skills obtained from each can differ slightly. A student with a B.A. acquires communications and language skills, which can be a good fit for careers such as administration, education, editing, or marketing. A student with a B.S. degree will have received specialized training that can lead directly to work in fields such as engineering or other math and science-based professions. However, with either degree, you can choose to pursue higher education at the graduate level in a master’s or doctoral program.

In summary, what are the biggest differences between the two degrees?

The BS is more focused and concentrated in scientific and technical aspects of the field of specialty. It also provides little room for the student to explore other disciplines via the use of free electives. The BA is for students who want to have a broader curriculum and be less specialized. They take fewer courses in their area of specialty but have a stronger liberal arts education and can take more free electives which enables them have double majors, minors, and/or certificate programs in other disciplines.

Anything else?

Yes! There are more than 3000 colleges and universities in the U.S. and the specific requirements and opportunities for the BA and BS degree programs vary among them. It is strongly advised that you check the college websites to find any unique differences between specific degrees before choosing which degree to pursue.

ACEI

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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The Brief Shelf Life of India’s Four-Year Bachelor’s Degree

October 16th, 2014

india

In India, the bachelor’s degree in arts and sciences has been typically a three-year program patterned after the British system. Here in the U.S. a few international credential evaluation professionals have been recognizing the three-year bachelor’s degree from India as equivalent to the U.S. four-year degree. At ACEI, our position has been less generous. Though some U.S. credential evaluators may have been liberal with their professional judgment on this matter, it seems that many within India’s higher education institutions were not so content with their three-year bachelor degree offerings. In fact, some Indian institutions of higher education had started to champion the idea of expanding the three-year program by another year to include a research component and additional courses at the advanced level, particularly in the sciences. They viewed this move as essential if India intended to be competitive globally in the area of scientific research and development.

However, this push toward the four-year degree has been met with strong resistance from the University Grants Commission (UGC), India’s higher education regulatory and funding body. The battle brewing between some key public universities and the UGC, concerning the four-year bachelor’s degree finally came to a head last month. University of Delhi, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and several Institutes of Technology (IIT) that had either embarked on offering the four-year bachelor’s degree or were already offering them were ordered by the UGC to scrap the program and revert to the standard three-year programs.

In June of this year, University of Delhi was forced by the UGC to close its four-year undergraduate degree program because it was deemed by the human resource minister Smriti Irani to not have complied with the recommended education pathway. Even the state-run Indian Institute of Science (IISc), considered one of the prestigious institutions of higher learning, had come under the scrutiny of the UGC. IISc has been allowed to retain its four-year bachelor degree programs in physics, biology, chemistry, environmental science, materials and mathematics on the condition it adheres to changes recommended by the UGC. For example, IISc Bangalore, was able to strike a compromise with UGC by agreeing to restructure its four-year BSc to a research degree while also offer the standard three-year BSc degree. However, the same compromise was not afforded to the University of Delhi that was ordered to completely dismantle its four-year program.

It is not just the public, state-run institutions affected by UGC’s rampage, even private institutions such as Shiv Nadar Univesrity, Azim Premij University and OP Jindal Global University which had recently set up American-style four-year undergraduate liberal arts degrees were told to conform with UGC rules. As can be imagined, this move by the UGC has drastically affected the public and private institutions as well as their students who are now required to switch to the three-year program.

The proponents of India’s four-year bachelor degree see the additional year as a more holistic approach to teaching and learning, allowing for broad-based training in the humanities and sciences. The abrupt dismissal of the four-year program by the UGC is seen by many of the educators and the institutions as shortsighted and lacking any serious academic discussion that is supported by convincing facts and arguments. Many foresee that the UGC resistance toward the four-year degree will only push students away from studying sciences, pursuing careers in sciences and stymieing India’s chances in scientific innovation. It will also mean that in evaluating the three-year bachelor’s degree, ACEI will continue with its current position of recognizing the program as equivalent to three years of undergraduate study but not the four-year U.S. bachelor’s degree.

For more on the institutions affected by the UGC directive, please click here: http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20140828091614324

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
President & CEO, ACEI

ACEI

http://www.acei-global.org

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International Credential Evaluation: A Matter of Trust

June 27, 2013

world map 3D

When I first entered the international education profession in 1982 as a junior level credential evaluator, there were less than 10 companies engaged in providing credential evaluation services. Today, there are more than 300 such companies spread across the U.S. Question that I get asked is how does one go about picking the company they can trust?

First and foremost, selecting a credential evaluation company cannot be solely contingent on price and turnaround. If so, the door is open to hucksters and scam artists, looking to make a quick buck at the expense of the student and the academic institution. How carefully a credentialing agency is assessed and vetted is crucial in establishing trust and confidence in the educational equivalency reports an institution receives.

Everyday, I come across websites of yet another newly created company. And some, brazenly and blatantly make uncorroborated claims of professional membership, affiliations and accreditation, and in the case of a bogus company we discovered recently, plagiarize our company’s information directly, word for word from our website! What I find odd about many of these entities is their lack of transparency. In an industry where one’s professional expertise and knowledge base on world education and evaluation of credentials is tantamount to the legitimacy of services provided and equivalencies recommended, the nonexistence of who is running the show is highly questionable. They do not disclose the identities of their leadership team or professional staff (and if they do its either false or a pure case of identity fraud), yet they tout their wares by offering special discounts, and speedy service, as though the process of evaluating academic credentials is no different than a visit to the local dry cleaners. Not so.

I founded ACEI (Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.) in 1994, following in the footsteps of those giants in the profession who were my teachers and mentors. I received my training from the best of the best. It was under the tutelage of titans like Inez Sepmeyer, Gene Dean, and Ted Sharp that I acquired my basic knowledge of evaluating international credentials. I also benefited from participating in various in-country research projects, boot camps for credential evaluators, where recognized and respected international education experts like Jim Haas, Jim Frey, Rebecca Dixon, Caroline Aldridge, Gloria Nathanson shared their knowledge and expertise. My contribution to the field continues to this day whether through my regular blogs on international education-related topics, presentations at conferences or through webinars and publications on world education systems.

Today, I chair the Credentials Committee of the AACRAO – Special Task Force on International Credentials Evaluation, Recruitment and Research. We’ve been assigned the task to help define standards for the profession and help bring about the recognition and acknowledgement it deserves. In addition, the formation of The Association for International Credential Evaluation Professionals (TAICEP), of which I’m a Charter Member, is to serve as a forum for individuals in the profession to exchange and share their expertise working toward maintaining standards of best practices.

The point being made here is: credential evaluation is not a game. People’s academic and professional careers depend on accurate and trusted evaluations prepared by companies managed by trained and respected professionals. Before you accept a company’s promises for faster and cheaper evaluations for your students, find out who is running the company. What is his/her expertise? For that matter, inquire the expertise of its professional team engaged in credential evaluations. What contributions have they made to the field of international education? Is the company a member of one of the two nationally-recognized professional associations: AICE and/or NACES? How many years have they been in operation? Ask around; ie. inquire about them through colleagues at other institutions of higher education. Find out their methods of verifying academic documents. Do they work directly from copies or official transcripts?

Several years ago I served as Chair of the ADSEC (Admissions Section) Committee at NAFSA: Association of International Educators. We were tasked with the assignment of preparing Guidelines to help NAFSAns with the selection of a credential evaluation service. The suggestions recommended in these guidelines are available for your viewing on the NAFSA website for its members. To view these Guidelines, please click on this link: http://www.nafsa.org/resourcelibrary/default.aspx?id=8817.

In the past 30 years, the proliferation of companies vying for a piece of the international education market, has given rise to the chatter about the absence of standards in the profession. Entrepreneurs backed by investors are looking into dipping their toes into the profession claiming that they can do this better and faster. Standards do exist. Just look at the existence of the AICE and NACES and professional associations such as NAFSA and AACRAO and the myriad of publications and research projects sponsored on world education systems, credential evaluation methodology, placement recommendations, and best practices. The burden of selecting a reputable, trustworthy, experienced and respected credential evaluation agency also rests with those at U.S. institutions who wish to refer their students to a private service for the evaluation of their credentials. A little homework on the part of the U.S. institutions by checking references, just as one would hiring a new staff member or any other company offering its services, goes a long way.

Due diligence is a two way street. Just as much as we at ACEI are committed in doing our part by ensuring the validity of academic documents through verification, recommending accurate educational equivalency reports through evaluation, and maintaining and enhancing our knowledge of world education systems, trends and policy changes through professional development programs, the same level of commitment and collaboration is needed on the part of our colleagues at U.S. institutions. By adhering to the general principles of best practices, together we can help maintain and uphold standards in our profession.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

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Embracing International Students: Lowering Standards for the Almighty $$$

May 3, 2012

Dollar Sign in Space - Illustration

As we seek ways to attract international students to our college campuses, lowering our standards and accepting candidates solely to boost revenue and clout doesn’t seem to be a smart way of going about it. But, it is exactly what’s happening. As states cut back on subsidies, slashing budgets and tightening belts, our colleges and universities are feeling the strain and altering their screening of foreign applicants.

In a way, being admitted on the basis of having famous parents may not necessarily get one into a university, but having influential relatives as likely donors will give the student a leg up. At least, that’s what Douglas Christiansen, the dean of admissions at Vanderbilt University is quoted as saying in an April 17, 2012 piece “Colleges angle for influential foreign students like Bo Guagua” on Reuters. Where a family’s clout overseas was once not a factor in the screening of applications of international students, more and more U.S. institutions are feeling the pinch and slowly abandoning their purist admissions practices and considering to “think about screening foreign applicants for their capacity to help boost revenue and prestige,” is how Phillip Ballinger, Admissions Director at the University of Washington in Seattle puts it in the same article.

You may have heard of Bo Guagua, and his “party-boy” persona, and even following the recent headlines surrounding his parents who are accused of political corruption and even murder of an English businessman in China. (Children of China’s political elite are commonly referred to as “princelings,” a strange moniker for a country that did away with emperors and all things princely.) Despite what news articles have uncovered about this young man’s spotty and subpar academic record beginning with his secondary education at Harrow (a prestigious boarding school for boys in England which appears to have admitted him on the basis of a strong recommendation from the very English businessman, now deceased), to his stint at Oxford University, where he was suspended for a year for “poor academic performance,” the 24-year old Bo Guagua was admitted to Harvard University’s Kennedy School to pursue a Master’s. And, he was on a scholarship!

What happened to academic performance? Parents are breaking their backs to put their students in college-preparatory programs and paying for private tutors so their children will score high on SAT’s and get into top notch universities. They apply for student loans and take second mortgages on their home to be able to pay for their child’s college tuition. And while soon-to-be high school graduates double up and pack their schedules with extra-curricular activities to strengthen their college applications, there are those, like the young Bo Guagua, who simply jump to the front of the line because of family ties and financial resources.

There’s something wrong with this picture and as one who has been involved in international education for nearly 30 years, I know the answer lies in the proper vetting of the international student with a thorough and detailed verification and evaluation of his/her academic documents. This may sound like a self-serving statement, but it is true. As public universities here in the US are feeling the pinch and pressured to loosen their reins on screening foreign applications, more and more are looking at ways to exercise more flexibility and at times turn a blind eye on the importance of credential evaluation. Sadly, one of the first departments that appear on an institution’s chopping block at times of financial hardship tends to be the international student office. Yet, the institutions set out to aggressively recruit international students knowing that they are a guaranteed revenue generating source.

Fortunately, there are still some holdouts in the education market. Just yesterday I spoke with the director of the international admissions office of a local community college who was adamant about having the applications of potential foreign students screened before encouraging them to apply to his institution. He wanted to be sure that a) the institution the foreign applicant had attended in his/her home country was accredited; b) the academic documents were bona fide, and c) that the studies were equivalent to U.S. high school graduation and beyond with satisfactory and above average grades. At least he has the good sense to verify these students’ academic documents in advance. Let’s hope that more institutions see things his way.

In our quest to attract international students, enriching our campuses with diversity and multiculturalism, boosting revenues that help our local and regional economies, we can maintain the integrity of our academic institutions without compromising our standards. If a community college is capable of doing this and still remain an attractive destination for international students, other institutions can do it too.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI, Inc.
www.acei1.com

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A stimulus plan of sorts…colleges paying employers to hire their graduates

Hope your Labor Day weekend was a good one. Thanks to my employer, who threw in a bonus day making it a total of 4 days of R&R, I’m back at my desk rested and ready to push through the remaining months of 2011.

Here’s something interesting I came across while perusing the internet and listening to Public Radio.

As the nation’s unemployment numbers continue to show little or no sign of improvement and with the economy on a downward spiral, the prospects of finding a job for graduating college students looks bleak. But there’s one college that’s adopting an innovative approach to help stimulate the job market by offering employers up to $2000 to hire its graduates. The college is the University of Antelope Valley, a private, for-profit institution in Lancaster, California. They’re even offering to pre-screen the candidates, do background checks and narrow down the pool of prospective job applicants to make the selection and hiring process easier for the employer.

I guess one way to look at this is that a lot of companies right now, given the precarious state of the economy, are reluctant to hire any new employees so the offer by this college to pay up to $2000 to have its graduates employed is a helpful nudge in the right direction. If you’ve been following the chatter surrounding the private, for-profit institutions lately, you know that they’ve come under fire because of the promises they’ve made to their students guaranteeing that upon graduation they will secure employment. But when many of their graduating students found that their degrees failed to open any doors and they received little or no support from their alma mater with their employment search, left with mounting student loans, they took their case to the Federal government placing the accreditation status of these institutions under intense scrutiny.

According to a report I heard on American Public Media’s radio program “Market Place,” the founders of this college are working with small companies that need the help of new workers and could use the money. The point is that colleges must train students the skills and knowledge needed for good-paying jobs. Offering $2000 may be enough to get the attention of a prospective employer. Ultimately, the graduate still needs to prove that what he/she has learned is in sync with the needs of their prospective employers.

What do you think about this new approach? What could be the pros and the cons?

The Frustrated Evaluator
http://www.acei1.com

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