How Prepared are Your Students for American Universities?

by ISR Guest Author

Although it shouldn’t be the all-consuming focus of my job, placing our graduating students in American universities has become my sole responsibility as Counselor at an “International” school in Egypt. Our board of directors and the director himself think that’s how it should be and how it is for me in my position here as Counselor.

I worry about theses kids. Grades are mostly based on family clout. Administration even goes so far as to pressure teachers into changing test and assignment due-dates if study time might conflict with attendance at a school sporting event or a major weekend party.

There are some bright, hard-working students here with the qualifications to get into any university. But there’s a problem: From what I’m starting to realize, a good percentage of our previous graduates placed in U.S. universities failed out in the first semester. This high attrition rate sent up major red flags, making admissions Counselors hesitant to continue accepting our students. I do now know why I’m having such difficulty placing even the very best of our students.

Additionally, the director, parents and students all think it’s my duty to rewrite entrance essays and fill out entire applications. As a result of this country-club style education, a number of our graduating students lack even the basic English skills to complete an application.

No doubt I’ll be fired at the end of the school year. At least that’s what I think is coming. I’ll be the scapegoat. After all, these kids have the ‘best grades money can buy.’

How prepared are YOUR students for American Universities? Anyone else in the same situation?

Please scroll down to participate in this ISR Discussion

11 thoughts on “How Prepared are Your Students for American Universities?

  1. I once heard a Head of School at a Tier 1 international school announce that while the school had done a great job of getting kids into universities, they had done a bad job getting kids ready for university. Granted, he had a non-profit, high profile school he was in charge of. But yes, the shady, for profit schools will often sell this promise as part of their package. And then the student does nothing, gets into all kinds of trouble and the parents complain to the owner who makes the simple scapegoat decision. Universities have been catching on to these schools for years already. Don’t take it personally.


  2. School career counsellors must resist all pressure from students, parents, staff and management to enhance artificially the application packages they handle, since the reputation of the school and its counseling department are at stake. Any misrepresentation will backfire and ultimately benefits no one. When confronted by stakeholders who display ethical blindspots, counsellors should seize the teachable moment and educate those who need enlightenment. Some may be genuinely ignorant of how western educational systems work, and assume that practices common in their country will also work in the US. That is not to say that the US tertiary education system is squeaky clean, but reputable universities will normally spot a rogue applicant quickly. Of more concern are the private counsellors who play by no known rules, the body doubles who sit standardized tests for others, and the foreign educational agents who trade very profitably in dud students!


  3. The same thing happens in Kuwait. American schools graduates tend to apply to universities in Malaysia, Egypt, and countries around as they know they wont last elsewhere. In general, education in the ME is a joke. I hope you find a better job and an environment with integrity rather than a show that is is now.


  4. I worked as a college counselor since 1998 and can attest to two things:

    a) Yes there is cheating, grade inflation, faked essays, “revised” transcripts sent by unauthorized student stooges BUT any counselor will ensure that they have excellent and honest contact with the universities worldwide and if there is a problem they see, the counselor will advise the recruiters office at the university asap.

    b) Universities hire professionals and skilled recruiters and usually function by a committee selection process so anyone raising red flags (and they know how to identify them) will be shelved and the school will be contacted to explain what is going on. That usually means the counselor is called into the DG or owner’s office and asked to either explain the red flags OR on rarer occasion s asked to justify and or hide the reality. I never ever did the latter but reminded the authorities at my school about their reputation and that universities regularly talk to each other.

    c) Student who succeed in “fooling” the universities are soon one semester wonders. That is, they wonder why the hell they only lasted one semester.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey, you did your best. Sorry you will get fired. It happens. Glad you seem not that upset about it.

    I’ve worked in Egypt and I know exactly what you mean. It’s not something that a teacher can change.

    Good luck finding the next job.


    1. It is much better in most ways. Calmer, quieter students. Doesn’t drain your energy in the same way.


  6. I have worked at a few international schools in China, and a couple of them did have some degree of grade inflation and students use overhelpful “agents” that write essays. But AP scores can’t faked or inflated (except some cheating in the online 2020 AP exams), and same could be said about IB or A levels. So the US universities could simply weight these scores more for than they do for domestic students, but not sure if many of them do.


    1. Mike, the entire process is much more thorough than most people are aware. Recruiters examine every aspect of an applicant’s academic and social history and also know about schools that overinflate, hyperbolize and exaggerate their students’ applications. Just the letters of recommendation are so carefully analyzed that anyone using a standard form letter will quickly be detected and that school grey listed (put on alert) by the admission’s committees. Universities also talk to each other so careless schools learn quickly not to try and fool universities.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.