US college admissions requirements: Q & A

Q:  I wonder if the requirements to enter a US university have ever been discussed here.What requirements need to be fulfilled when graduating from a Japanese Koko? What kind of language test would be required, would it be the same test everywhere, or different depending on the state or even the individual university/college? Do you apply individually for each university/college and how?


A: For a good overview of exam requirements and credentials, concise information and explanations for starter reading can be had at this page but I found that the Boston College has an excellent admissions page at their website that should serve as a very helpful  explanation of  “sample” college admissions requirements and procedures for international students at this page.

Each college has its own set of requirements that may vary slightly from the other college, so you have to settle on a few target colleges and work from there to trim your costs and time/effort involved in the applications procedures.

However, the exam requirements are in the main mostly the same for US colleges, and you can refer to Boston College’s requirements posted below for your benefit as a rough guide. The SATs may be relatively easy for native speakers (being designed for US domestic students) but for bicultural kids I realize it is likely to be considerably harder….the Boston College page says that international students tend not to do very well on the verbal section of the SAT tests, so they have stringent requirements for TOEFL scores …especially if the verbal section of the SAT scores appear weak.

I find that many prep websites for Japanese going to the US to study advise their students to aim for TOEFL scores of 500. I think this goal is way too low. Lately, TOEFL score expectations select colleges are at least 530 and as you can see below BC requires 600 on the paper-based or 250 for the computer-based TOEFL tests. Then again, the scores required by individual colleges vary again very greatly according to the ranking of the college in question.  From At our EIJ blog, you might find helpful High stakes: The school admissions raceThe truth about college admissions and TOEFL test taking tips;  (StudyUSA.com might be of some help for further reading).

The Boston College admissions page advises (and I concur) “Since preparations for entering a college in the United States are complex, international students should begin their application process one year before intended enrollment.”
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REQUIRED EXAMINATIONS (from the Boston College admissions page)
1. Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The TOEFL examination is required of all international applicants whose primary native language is not English, even if the student studies at an English-speaking school. This year, there are three different TOEFL examinations an applicant could submit: the Paper-Based TOEFL (PBT), the Computer-Based TOEFL (CBT), or the Internet-based TOEFL (iBT). Minimum scores of 600 on the PBT, 250 on the CBT, or 100 on the iBT are recommended. Institutional TOEFL examinations are not accepted; the examinations must be taken at an official TOEFL testing center. Boston College’s Institutional TOEFL Testing Code is 3083. The Department Code is 00.
Many international students request to have this examination waived. The results of the TOEFL examination are used by the Committee on Admission to better understand your written and spoken English ability. Because the SAT was originally written with US domestic students in mind, we realize that many international students do not score as well on the SAT Verbal portion as do US students. Therefore, in most cases, a strong TOEFL score will enhance the strength of an international student’s application. This requirement will only be waived if a student has earned an SAT Verbal score of 600 or better.
2. SAT or ACT. Students have two options in order to complete the standardized testing requirement for admission to Boston College.
The first option is for the applicant to complete the SAT I test and two SAT II Subject Tests. Both are administered by the College Entrance Examination Board. For the SAT Subject Tests, students are encouraged to choose two exams in subjects they have enjoyed and highlight their particular academic strengths. For all students taking the SAT I, the two SAT II exams are also required. Boston College’s Institutional SAT Testing Code is 3083.
As a second option, in place of both the SAT I and SAT II tests, applicants may take the American College Test (ACT). Boston College’s Institutional ACT Testing Code is 1788. Students who choose the ACT option must also take the optional ACT Writing Examination, if offered at the testing center. In some countries, the optional ACT Writing Examination is not offered. In this case, providing the ACT without the Writing Exam would meet our requirement.
Many international students ask us if they can substitute the SAT or ACT with examination scores from their local countries. Since we use these aforementioned examination scores as a consistent way to compare students from various educational systems around the world, local examinations within your home country cannot replace our testing requirements.
Applicants are required to take all standardized examinations no later than the December administration date of the applicant’s final year of secondary study. It is the responsibility of each applicant to have test scores sent directly to Boston College from the College Entrance Examination Board or the American College Testing Program by January 1. All standardized tests are used for evaluation in the admission process, and it is the responsibility of each applicant to ensure that our office receives your test scores.
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GETTING STARTED
The application process to Boston College is designed to help students highlight their academic, personal, and interpersonal accomplishments. The Committee on Admission will use this information to select a diverse student body. As you review our list of required credentials below, you will notice that we are concerned with all of your gifts and talents. No one part of the application is more or less important than another. We carefully and thoughtfully consider each portion of your application to help us determine if you would be a good match for our University’s community.
Your secondary school transcript will tell us about your academic accomplishments within a rigorous curriculum. Students who have a past record of success are more likely to perform well at the University. Your standardized test scores will help us to match your abilities with those of other students around the world who have taken the same examinations. Because the University doesn’t offer an English as a Second Language (ESL) Program, we expect our international students to arrive with exceptional English skills. We recommend TOEFL scores of at least a 600 on the paper-based TOEFL (PBT), 250 on the Computer Based TOEFL (CBT), or 100 on the Internet-based TOEFL (iBT). For the Class of 2009, the average TOEFL scores for enrolled freshman were 630 (PBT) and 267 (CBT). There are no minimum scores required on the SAT I, however, our average SAT Verbal and Math scores for enrolled freshman this year were 617 and 673, respectively. The other portions of your application (recommendations, list of extracurricular activities, and the required essay) tell us more about your candidacy. We realize that outside of the United States, formalized extracurricular activities may not be as readily available. Remember, however, that anything you do outside of the classroom could be an extracurricular activity. Working at a nearby company, taking care of siblings after school, volunteering in the community, or participating in religious organizations can all be characterized as extracurricular activities. We ask for this information so that we can better understand how you may get involved in our campus community one day.
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REQUIRED CREDENTIALS
International students are required to submit the same credentials as domestic applicants. All documents must be submitted in English. If the credentials must be translated, the original copy (or a certified copy of the original) must be submitted along with the translation. If original transcripts or academic certificates are not available certified copies must be presented. All transcripts (whether originals or copies) must be officially certified and sent directly by the educational institution or certified by the appropriate embassy. Photocopies will not be accepted.
All application credentials must be submitted in English. The following credentials are required of all international applicants
1. Boston College Supplemental Application
2. Common Application
3. $70 Application Fee
4. Required Essay
5. Official Secondary School Transcript
6. Two Teacher Recommendations
7. Counselor Recommendation
8. SAT I and SAT II’s or ACT
(see below)
9. TOEFL Examination
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There are prep schools in Japan, among which, I think the Kikokushijo Academy has the best reputation in preparing students not only for TOEFL but also for entry into returnee-friendly public and private schools. BTW, if you get into certain returnee-friendly Japanese private schools or SELHi schools, they will also have TOEFL prep under their collar, and you won’t need all these accessory services outside of school.
About KA. The  Kikokushijo Academy is an after-school and weekend English school in Japan specializing in returnee (kikokushijo) and bicultural children. It is associated with KAIS International School. The school teaches students ranging from ages 6 to 18 who speak English at or near native level. Kikokushijo Academy focuses on helping students pass examinations for foreign universities, as well as domestic universities, high schools, and junior high schools with special English programs. Kikokushijo Academy has created its own R.A.T.E. (Returnee Aptitude Test of English). Returnees to Japan use this standardized test to determine their approximate English grade level. Students use the R.A.T.E. test results to choose which returnee schools best fit their abilities. Unfortunately their website is in Japanese only … except for  the blog which may deserve a peek.
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You can also do SAT prep by taking courses in Japan at  Kaplan Japan or at certain institutions for the Japanese native student at places suggested by this ryugaku homepage and this edu.jp homepage. Kaplan SAT® programs, which incorporates the Kaplan method, are projected solely to assure higher scores on exams. There are two programs; SAT® perfect and Super SAT®. The classes are small in size and will be taught by qualified native English speakers, experienced with academic subjects as well as SAT®.
The other option is to spend an additional year or two post-Japanese high school preparing for US college entry using prep schools such as Inter Pacific High School or KAIS International School or homeschooling to get a US high school diploma via umbrella schools like Northstar Academy or (others see this page) or if you can afford it, a boarding prep school in the US…which some J. students choose to do.

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