Amer

LIFE DECISION
I think the most important advice I can give to all of you who are thinking about studying in the US is that it is of key importance to make a firm decision, at the very beginning of the process, whether you really want to do this. Once you make such decision, it will serve as a wind to your back while your doing all the things necessary to achieve your goal. To those who doubt this choice, that will save a lot of time, money and worrying. Education at the highest level was my goal from the very beginning and I discovered that this dream I had always helped me overcome everything on my path of fulfilling the dream. All of you who are trying to make the same decision as I did will wonder at a certain moment whether all these efforts and work you need to invest will be worthwhile. In such moments the determined, not necessarily the excellent students succeed to move forward. Even today sometimes, when I ask myself why I am here, it is enough to remember my decision I made at the beginning of the process. I had a dream I realized because I didn’t want to give it up.

OBLIGATORY TESTS

Once you are sure that you want to start the admission process, my advice is to start preparing for standardized tests SAT and TOEFL which serve as a kind of admission tests for the schools in the US. The scores you achieve in these tests will greatly determine your chances for success. Therefore it is important to take a lot of time and serious work for the preparation of the same. It would be ideal to start with this phase in the spring of your semi-last year of your high school education. My advice is to first take TOEFL test, which is exclusively designed for international students and therefore is easier than SAT test, which is an obligatory test for all American students as well. In some cities in BiH it is possible to take courses to prepare for this test, but from my personal experience I can say it is possible to prepare for the test on your own. The summer before your senior year of high school should be used to take this test and to start with SAT preparations. Once you are back to school, it would be much harder to prepare these relatively difficult tests with all other daily school work. As far as SAT test is concerned, I believe there is a certain tolerance for international students in regard critical reading part, but the higher results will enable you to be admitted to the best schools, and you should certainly give your best. My advice is to take SAT 2 times, once to focus on getting best results possible in mathematics, and once in critical reading part. A lot of schools will actually consider your best individual scores from each of the sections.

SCHOOL FOR YOU
Once you have taken all necessary tests and you know the results you achieved, there is a fun part of the process. Out of several thousands of higher education institutions in the US, you will have an opportunity to select a few schools where you would like to see yourself.  It is important to keep in mind whether the school you like gives financial aid to international students and whether you fulfill their criteria. It would surely be great to study and some of Ivy League schools, but also you need to pay attention to a larger number of less known, but equally good schools. The college I attend has only 2500 students, but due to that fact the quality of education and the attention each individual receives is at the extraordinary level. I would recommend you to consider such profile of smaller private colleges because of the great education conditions, but also financial opportunities of these schools which allow them to give aid to a high number of quality students through different forms of financial aid. Anyhow, I am sure that with sufficient level of interest, you will find a lot of schools that make your best fit.

ESSAYS AND APPLICATION

The final step is to prepare the application itself. That process is actually very simple, but it is unknown to us and therefore sometimes causes certain ambiguity. You need to enter your personal data, your grades and information about extracurricular activities to online form that you send to all colleges you want to apply to.  That means that you send one and the same application to all colleges from your list. As Americans would say, this is not the place to be modest. You need to focus on your achievements, especially the extracurricular ones. People who would read your application want to see that you are an active and capable young leader who will contribute to the college community. In this case quality is more important than quantity. Therefore, instead of stating a dozen of extracurricular activities that you do “a bit”, it is better to emphasize 3 or 4 activities where you made a significant success. Try to distinguish yourself from a pile of applications with something special and interesting about yourself (apart being from Bosnia). Each college will also request an essay (or two) about certain topics. I recommend to take this part seriously. This part is important most of all because you need some writing practice in order to be successful once you get here. Writing essays is one of the major focuses of educational system here, and most of our Bosnian high school students do not have some great experience in this regard.

YOU CAN DO IT
At the end, I would like to encourage all of you who, after reading my short description of the application process, want to start with the same. As I said at the very beginning, the most important thing is a wish and readiness to achieve your ambitions. As for the rest of the good things in life, it is necessary to invest a lot of work and to make certain sacrifices, but I can personally vouch that they will pay off. As I went through all of the things that you will be going through as well, I completely understand if a lot of things seem very unclear to you at the moment. Therefore, I would like to ask you to contact EducationUSA adviser if you have any questions that I could help with so she can provide you with my email address.  Last year I personally found out that a useful advice from somebody with first hand experience can help a lot and save hours of Internet search. So, don’t hesitate to ask me, or anybody else to give you one.

Amer Suljendic
Franklin and Marshall College 15’