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10 Takeaways from the 2015 NAFSA Region XII Conference in Honolulu, HI.

October 30th, 2015


The annual NAFSA: Association of International Educators Region XII Conference this year was held in Honolulu, HI and like years past, ACEI demonstrated its presence by having a booth at the Exhibit Hall and presented a conference session. Here are a few interesting facts about Oahu, NAFSA’s Region XII, the 2015 conference and our overall takeaway.

1. Oahu is an island in the mid-Pacific, part of the Hawaiian island chain and home to the state capital, Honolulu. Highlights of the city include historic Chinatown; the Punchbowl, a crater-turned-cemetery; and Waikiki, the iconic beach, dining and nightlife area. West of Honolulu is Pearl Harbor, site of the 1941 bombing attack and home to the USS Arizona Memorial

2. NAFSA is a professional association with a national and international membership for those working as international student advisors at U.S. public and private schools and institutions of higher education, as well as credential evaluation companies, international student recruiters, study abroad program providers, ESL schools, insurance companies, immigration lawyers and organizations offering services to international students.

3. Region XII of NAFSA convers the following States in the U.S.: California, Hawaii, and Nevada.

4. Over 500 members had registered and were in attendance at this year’s Region XII Conference. This is a healthy number, since a few years ago, barely 120 people had attended the conference held in San Diego.

5. Tuesday, October 27th, our Director of Communications, Yolinisse Moreno and I joined colleagues, Perry Akins Chairman of ITEP , Sharif Ossayran of President of Ascension Zepur Solakian of CGACC and Judy Judd Price, Deputy Executive Director of NAFSA, for dinner. Our conversation quickly veered into current events, politics, history and related books. We may not have solved world’s problems, but we each left with a list of must-read books!

6. My session “Diploma Mills & Fake Degrees: A Global Problem and Threat,” was scheduled on the program for Thursday, October 29th. I learned that a topic exactly like mine on Diploma Mills was being presented by another person a day earlier. Needless to say, having the same topic presented by two different presenters is something I’ve never experienced or witnessed before. Having served on NAFSA’s Southern District Region XII Committee and on its national conference planning team, I can say with confidence that programming two identical sessions was an absolute no-no. In fact, in such cases, conference programmers either choose between duplicate sessions on a first come, first served basis or invite both presenters to consider collaborating and presenting jointly.

7. Despite the duplicate programming issue, my presentation on Thursday was a success and those who attended, though not the large number that would have been expected had there not been a similar session presented the day before, found the talk highly informative and entertaining.

Session on Diploma Mills & Fake Degrees presented by Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, President & CEO, ACEI

8. ACEI’s booth was also quite a hit with all of our fun island-themed swag intermingled with our serious literature on our evaluation, translation, and training services as well as our calendar of upcoming webinars. (To stay updated on our services and upcoming webinars, please click here.)

Yolinisse Moreno, Director of Communications, ACEI

View of the exhibit hall

9. Everyone’s favorite ACEI giveaway was our stress ball shaped like a pineapple. We had brought a couple hundred of them and they disappeared in less than 2 days!

A parade of pineapples to relieve you of your stress!

10. Having Honolulu, HI as a conference destination was a great draw, though at times, dressed in our “casual” business attire, I felt like I was crashing someone’s family vacation! It was difficult to not stray from the conference hall. The warm breeze and our senses being bombarded by aromas of coconut infused sunscreens wafting by as we made our between hotel buildings to our meeting rooms were seductive temptations! However, despite the temptations of paradise, meetings and conference sessions were very well attended as was the exhibit hall where we reconnected with colleagues and regular clients of ACEI and made new connections. We look forward to next year’s Region XII conference in Palm Spring, CA.

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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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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5 Reasons Why International Credential Evaluation is Necessary

September 17th, 2015


Whether you represent a school, college, university, professional licensing board, employer, or any other entity engaged in the recruitment, placement, certification or the hiring of internationally-trained candidates, you know that educational systems and academic documents vary greatly by country. No two academic systems are alike and nothing can be taken on face value, even if an academic document “appears” to mirror a US college transcript. Academic institutions and professional groups that don’t have the expertise or knowledge-base to conduct foreign credential evaluations must not avoid this crucial step, no matter how qualified or appealing an international candidate’s portfolio may appear.
Here are 5 reasons why a foreign credential evaluation prepared by an independent credential evaluation service that is approved and endorsed by the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE) will benefit you and your institution and the international candidate:

1. Authentication of Documents:

A credential evaluation will verify the authenticity of the academic documents with the issuing institution and compare it against archival documents. Such authentication will provide you with peace of mind that the academic documents are bona-fide and valid for processing.

2. Verification of English Translations:

Many times the academic documents are issued in a language other than English and are accompanied by English translations. A credential evaluation will verify the English translations to ensure for accuracy that dates, course titles, grades, names, and key words match those on the official academic document.

3. Biographical and Academic History Check:

The candidate’s academic history and biographical information will be compared with the academic documents presented. In addition to the applicant’s name, other biographical information like age will be checked to ensure that it corresponds reasonably to the education represented in the documents.

4. Foreign Academic Institution Status:

The credential evaluation determines the official status of the institution where the studies were completed by identifying how the institution is accredited and who recognizes its accreditation. If an institution is determined to not have the appropriate accreditation, the studies will not be evaluated in terms of those completed at regionally accredited U.S. institutions. If the institution is determined to be a Diploma Mill, then this information will be conveyed to the U.S. institutions for which the evaluation is intended.

5. Program Description:

a) Entrance Criteria – The credential evaluation determines the level of the academic or professional program represented by the documents submitted as either lower secondary, senior high school, post-secondary undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate. It will establish the minimum academic criteria for admission to the institution where the studies were completed before the U.S. educational equivalence is recommended. This is an important step in the evaluation process which will assist the U.S. institutions in their decision-making. For example, if it is determined that the international candidate’s academic achievements are comparable to US senior high school graduation, yet he/she has submitted an application for graduate (master’s degree) studies at the U.S. university, the admissions department will be able to properly advise the candidate of his/her eligibility for admission to another degree program at the undergraduate level instead.

b) Length of Study & Conversion of Instruction Hours to Credits – The credential evaluation will determine the required length of full-time study for the academic program evaluated in order to calculate the U.S. semester or quarter credits for post-secondary studies completed and if necessary, determine the level of post-secondary courses in terms of lower, upper division and graduate division.

c) Conversion of Grades into U.S. equivalent Grade – A document evaluation will calculate the grades or final examination results/marks reported on the academic documents into U.S. equivalent grades, and calculate the overall grade point average.

Due diligence in international admissions, professional certification, hiring and job placement of individuals educated and trained outside the U.S. is essential. Understanding international candidates’ capability and qualifications allows you to properly assess and integrate them into your scholastic, professional and work environment. By obtaining the expert assistance of an independent credential evaluation agency, U.S. academic institutions, professional licensing boards and public or private companies can protect themselves against fraud and misrepresentation in the international education arena.

(Note: Please refer to our previous blog “5 Things International Students Should Know About Credentials Evaluation”.)

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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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5 Tips for Students Transferring between Colleges

September 11th, 2015


If you are considering to transfer from one U.S. college to another for reasons that may be due to a change in your academic major or financial situation, or that you prefer an institution that is a better fit for you, here a few tips to help you with your decision

1. Find out which schools have a transfer friendly policy:


Sometimes, transferring in mid-year can make you feel like an outsider. You need not feel so once you’ve done your research to find which schools have the most transfer students. U.S. News Education has a helpful list at this link: Most Transfer Students. You’ll see that transferring from one college to another is not so unique and many students do it along the course of their studies.

2. Have a plan and plan ahead


If you’re planning to transfer between colleges, especially if you’re transferring from a community college to a university, prepare yourself from the start. Meet with your academic advisers and professors and make sure that you are enrolling in courses that are transferrable to target four-year universities. You want to enroll in courses that are transferrable so you are not going to waste time and money.

3. Understanding Articulation Agreements


If for example you’re currently enrolled or planning to enroll in a community college, knowing what courses to take so they can be transferred to a four-year university is predicated on understanding articulation agreements between these institutions. In the U.S. some community college systems have articulation or prearranged admissions agreements with local four-year universities and identify which courses fall under this arrangement. It is important that you are aware of these articulation agreements and make sure that you have the approval of your community college advisors when selecting and enrolling in a course. You want your transition into the new college and the transfer of your hard-earned course credits to be as seamless as possible.

4. Living on Campus

Image: Brittany Hall, New York University

Once you’ve made the successful transfer and transitioned into the new college, it is a good idea to live on campus so you can become a part of the student community. It is best, if you can, to avoid being a commuter student and at least spend a semester or two living in a dorm on campus. This is one great way to avoid feeling like the outsider.

5. Become part of the new college campus community


If your new college to which you’ve transferred offers an orientation day or week, don’t miss it. This is a great opportunity for you to meet other new students and get to know the lay of the land. And, once you’ve settled into your new college campus life, get engaged and involved by selecting a few extra-curricular activities or joining student clubs. The benefits of this level of involvement not only enhance your experiences at the new college and look good on your resume when you graduate and looking to start a career.

By being prepared, you’ll prevent time consuming and costly surprises, and instead help make your transition as a transfer student less chaotic and more seamless.

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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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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


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


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:


• 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


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:

Alan Saidi
Senior Vice President & COO

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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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Chinese student challenge: How to support them in succeeding in the U.S. educational system

May 29th, 2014


On May 20, 2014, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, President & CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI) and Sid Krommenhoek, Founder of Zinch, presented a webinar hosted by CGACC on China and the challenges Chinese students pose for U.S. colleges and universities.

According to the 2013 Educational Exchange Data from the Institute for International Education (IIE) Open Doors, in the 2012/13 academic year, 235,597 students from China were studying in the United States; a 21% increases from the previous year. China remains the leading place of origin for students coming to the U.S.

The reasons for this boost in numbers can be linked to China’s growing middle-class affluence, especially when concentrated on a single child and the country’s higher education system not being able to meet the demands of its people. We can also attribute this upsurge to budget cuts at U.S. universities giving rise to the need for institutions to increase reviewed by recruiting abroad and the easing of the stringent student-vise policies that were implement immediately after 9/11.

It is difficult to predict if the huge percentage increases we’ve witnessed in Chinese undergraduate enrollment will continue but at least in the short-term China continues to represent the largest market of undergraduate international students heading to the U.S. One of the single biggest problems concerning Chinese students is the prevalence of document fraud in the application and evaluation process and the uncertainty of the quality of their prior education.

In the webinar, Sid Krommenhoek spoke extensively about China’s state-run education system being overrun by bribery and cronyism. It’s not unusual for parents to bribe school officials to get their children into elite schools, retain agents who will falsify recommendation letters, financial statements, academic transcripts and other documents needed to satisfy admission requirements to a U.S. college or university. Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert offered helpful tips for admissions counselors and credential evaluators to consider when dealing with transcripts and degrees from China.

The audio and presentation slides of this webinar which Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert of ACEI and Sid Krommenhoek attended are available for free at this link:


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There’s No Gaming the System: A Parent’s Journey Into The World of College Admissions

February 6th, 2014

College Fund

This summer I took my high school junior son on a New England college mini-tour, and had such an interesting experience that I decided to share it with other parents and students who might be in the same interest group. Disclaimer: I won’t name the colleges we visited, because in the end this article will look at some of the common and more general takeaways from our visit, rather than specific information to each school.

Before we talk about admission criteria and financial aid, I’d like to propose an exercise that has given me a helpful perspective: List the first five adults that come to mind. Do this now. They may be family members, celebrities, coworkers, etc. It doesn’t matter. For each of them, look back at the information you have on where they went to high school, college, graduate school, etc., and where they work now.

Whenever I do this exercise with other parents, invariably there will be someone on that list who went to the greatest schools and is now seriously under-employed, a very successful entrepreneur who barely finished high school, and all sorts of in-betweens. It’s useful to keep this in mind when you let yourself be dragged into the mania of college admissions and as you try to “game the system” so that you or your child can get into the most prestigious school/s. In the end, I strongly believe that it’s what one does with the education and opportunities they receive that makes a difference, not so much the opportunities themselves. I know that Malcolm Gladwell will disagree with me, and here’s what I have to say to him: yes, Bill Gates and Paul Allen got their start with computers because they had great access in high school. But whatever happened to all the other kids in that school who also had access?

Choosing a School

First of all, both my son and I are very glad we did this a bit early. You might think I’m writing this article encouraging you to relax about the process, while I myself am getting an early start. To my defense: we live on the West Coast, and my son was finishing up summer camp in Vermont. I figured, since he would already be on the East Coast, it would be cheaper for me to fly and meet him there than for both of us to have to fly back next spring or summer to visit schools. So we did it the summer of his junior year. And, like I said, I’m glad we did, and here’s why.

As a junior in high school, he’s not yet sure what he’d like to do in life. He knows he likes math and sciences, and he feels at ease in those classes. But he’s also interested in music, theater and sports, though he doesn’t particularly excel in any of those disciplines. He’s a good student who hasn’t yet found a passion that occupies his every spare minute. So for him the world is wide open – which can be a good feeling, but also a bit daunting when faced with thousands of options. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010 there were 2,774 four-year colleges in the US, a number that is likely to be higher today. How do you even begin to make a wish list?

Visiting seven of these college campuses started to give him a better sense of the kind of environment he’d like to be in after high school as well as the types of people he’d like to be with. It was surprisingly easy to see, from the very first moment we stepped onto a campus, if that particular school would be a good fit or not. And whatever you think about academic focus and opportunities, the truth is, the impetus to join a particular school will end up being as temperamental as choosing a car: you do all the research, compare prices, decide how you’re going to haggle with the car dealer, and the minute you step on the lot you see that red car and it’s all over. One story that we heard from a friend we visited during the tour was of their son, who only applied to Yale because his dad made him, though he refused to go anywhere near New Haven on his college tour. Once he got in, he went to check it out and fell in love with the school immediately. He is now a fresh graduate, working for a successful start-up in NYC.

There are many factors that will influence a student’s decision to join a college. While the final choice has to do with the feel of the school, some preferences may be predictable, such as distance from home (mommies, get used to the idea!), year-round weather in the area, location, reputation, access to sports, music or other special interests, whether it’s in an urban or more remote area, etc. As such, it was useful for us to see different settings and figure out what my son gravitates toward.

Let’s talk about admissions. All universities we visited had an admissions information session that lasted a little over an hour. Led by an admissions officer, they covered topics related to courses and teachers, admission criteria, financial aid and living on campus. A campus tour led by students usually followed these sessions.

Here are some things we took from listening to the admissions officers:

Undecided Major

Some schools recognize that students may not know what they want to study when they first apply. Some even assume that 75% of their students will change area of interest in the first two years. So they base their basic bachelor’s requirements on this and encourage students to take a variety of courses in all areas of study. In some schools this is harder to do, as choosing a specific track, such as engineering, will prescribe a set of courses that will make it hard to switch majors halfway through. I think that, left to their own devices, some kids (my son included) might try to avoid taking any classes that challenge their weak spots, depriving themselves of the opportunity to learn some skills that might come in handy later in life. Not to mention, they’ll miss out on getting a well-rounded education. So I was partial to schools that encourage or even require their students to participate in all departments.

AP Classes

As far as what they look for (keep in mind we went to mostly private schools, so this may be different for state universities), the one thing they all had in common was the “holistic” approach to admissions. First, they look at the student’s grades in high school. And the holistic aspect has to do with their keeping the information in context: what classes did the student take from the menu offered at their particular school? How many Honors, AP or equivalent courses did they take of what was offered? If the school offered ten AP classes, and the student only took two, they wonder why the student didn’t challenge herself more and, ultimately, will this student take advantage of the multitude of courses offered by this university, or will she coast for four years? So they maintain that they look at each student individually and only measure them against their own abilities and opportunities.

A mother sitting next to us asked at one school: “Would it be better for my child to take an AP class and get a B, or for him to get an A in a regular class?” The answer was pretty much: “It would be best if they took the AP class and got at least a B+.” I appreciated the honesty of the answer. And again, this was at one of the top schools in the country, the answer may be different from school to school. Some went into detail about weighted/non-weighted GPA, class ranking, etc., but I did not pay too much attention to that because I felt I’d already gotten the idea: do well in school, take challenging classes, do well in school, be involved in the community, do well in school. The universities we visited admit five to eight percent of their applicants, so you can imagine that, at that rate, they can have their pick of the high-achieving kids.

The Essay

Which brings us to the second-most important admissions criteria: the essay. I was surprised to see that, for many schools, this ranked above the SAT/ACT scores. They all talked at length about wanting the essay to give them a deep sense of who the student is, as a human being. One admissions officer explained: “In an ideal world, someone from our office would spend a week with each applicant, following them around every minute of the day, going to school with them, doing homework with them (“not for them, hahaha!”), shadowing them at their sports practice and extra-curricular activities and at parties, just to really understand who this person is. But we don’t have that luxury, so we have to base our understanding on the essay.” From what I gathered, the topic of the essay is not as important as the tone and truthfulness that comes through. They all couldn’t stress enough that something like “from my [fill-in-the-blank-activity] I learned about hardship, perseverance and success” would not cut it. “It’s really easy to write a bland essay about climbing Mount Everest,” one of the speakers quipped. “Please write about what matters to you in your own voice, don’t try to guess what we’re looking for.” Another added: “If you should lose your essay, unsigned, people who know you should immediately recognize it as yours.” They also warned about too many people helping with editing: “It’s immediately visible when an essay has been worked over too much.”


As you can imagine, the standardized test scores matter a great deal, and all of them were looking for either the SAT or the ACT with writing and two subject SAT tests. Some super-score, some don’t. According to collegeboard.org, “Most students take the SAT for the first time during the spring of their junior year and a second time during the fall of their senior year.” As for the subject tests, they advise: “In determining if Subject Tests are right for you, you should consider that SAT Subject Tests are the only national admission tests where you choose the tests that best showcase your achievements and interests. By taking one or more SAT Subject Tests, you have an opportunity to highlight your unique strengths or areas of interest (mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, history, literature and foreign languages).”

Extracurricular Activities

As for other special interests and abilities, the speakers we heard mentioned that they do look at the student’s extracurricular activities, but it was not a topic that got wide coverage, for whatever reason. My son remembers them saying it was important, “something that helps define you.” I remember they again stressed that they hoped students did something that excited them, rather than something that would look good on the application.

Financial Aid

I discovered through my three nieces that most students are unaware of the opportunities available to good students who don’t come from high-income families. One girl feels she doesn’t want to cause financial hardship for her parents and didn’t even think of applying to any top schools in the country, or even outside her homestate of Florida, because she didn’t think that – even with only A’s, and countless AP courses under her belt – she would qualify for any substantial financial aid. I think this is a tragic flaw in the college-counseling departments of some high schools.

The universities we visited boast that their admission criteria is need-blind and that they try to meet all of their admitted students’ financial limitations. “Need-blind” means that the admissions office does not get to look at the applicants’ financial records, and simply accepts students based on merit. They then send the list of admitted students to the Financial Aid office, which has to find a way to bring all those students to the school in the fall. So it would seem there’s lots of room for getting help, much of it free, especially from schools with large endowments. The message is: Do not be deterred by your financial limitations.

I don’t know how this works with state schools. But I do know that many states have great incentives for keeping good students in the state education system. California has the Middle Class Scholarship that’s just getting going this year and will increase each year until 2017/18 when it will cover up to 40% of qualified students’ tuitions if they attend a UC or CSU school. I believe Florida has a similar program, and you can probably easily search for what your state has to offer in this area.

College Tours

Many counselors suggest that the spring of junior year is a good time to visit colleges so that you begin to get an idea of what attracts your student most. When you visit the schools you’ll also begin to delve into the finer merits of “early decision” vs. “early action,” which we’re not yet schooled in, but might follow up with later in the year. As the time of testing drew near, my son grew more and more antsy and either scolded us for not making him study harder for the SAT or ignored our demands that he work. He’s sixteen! He’s actually a very good student, and I can see how the pressure is mounting around him – at home as well as at school. There was great buzz when some of his older peers received their “early decision/action” notes, and I could see that it made the whole application process even more real for the juniors.

We all admit that “things were easier in our time” and that this college admission process “has really gotten out of hand”. We are all willing participants, in one way or another, and I hope that my notes helped more than hindered. I look forward to your comments, and would like to hear what your experience has been or is still, and if you’ve found ways to get through the process stress-free.

Good luck to us all!

Thea Mercouffer


Thea Mercouffer is a documentary filmmaker. Her latest project, Rock the Boat – Saving America’s Wildest River, is an award-winning film about Los Angeles, the little river that could and one man who changed their relationship forever. Thea lives in Venice Beach, CA, with her husband, two children (16 and 9) and their dog, Moxy. She may be reached at contact@rocktheboatfilm.com

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5 helpful tips for international students

September 5th, 2013

Students at Climate Change Downscaling Program

So, you’re an international student and freshly arrived on the campus of a U.S. college. Welcome! Now that you’re here, it’s understandable that you’re going to find college life daunting. You’re thousands of miles away from home and family and out of your comfort zone. Here are five tips to consider as you start your first semester, which hopefully will help your college experience as an international student in your host country rewarding and memorable.

Orientation – Many colleges will have arranged an international student orientation program before the official start of the semester. The program maybe offered as a lecture over a course of a day, or a few days in length. The orientation day or week is a great opportunity to acclimate to campus life and find your bearings. You’ll be offered information on important matters such as visas statuses, local laws, campus security, campus maps, checklist of things to do before the start of the semester. Orientation week also offer opportunities like mixers and sporting activities to bring the new students together. Make sure you participate in both the practical and fun activities.

Join a club or society – Most colleges will have a club fair at the start of the semester. Walk around and visit each booth, ask questions, and see which activity interests you. It’s not only about the Greek system of fraternities and sororities. If the fraternity or sorority life is not your style, you’ll find many other campus clubs that focus on a specific topic or interest, such as language groups, like the French club, or Spanish club, or musical groups, like the guitar group, or ukulele group, or a cappella singing group. There are also sporting societies and many other extra-curricular organizations. It’s important that you mix your academic calendar with at least one extra-curricular activity to benefit from a full campus experience.
Source: HYPERLINK “http://www.sbcc.edu” http://www.sbcc.edu

Make Friends outside your comfort zone – It’s easy when you’re an international student to gravitate to students who are from your country of origin. You speak the same language and share the same culture. There’s nothing wrong with this but you need to step out of your comfort zone and initiate conversations with other classmates. Not only will this help improve your command of the English language (if English is not your native tongue) but will also open you up to new cultural experiences. In fact, you will also help open and broaden your new friend’s perspectives on your culture.

Explore a (fun) course – Your major be mechanical engineering, or political science, or computer science, but make sure that you take at least one course that is not related to your major but is interesting and different. It could be a Square dancing or Salsa dancing class, or a course in Sufi meditation, or on the Evolution of Hip Hop, whatever the offerings, add a little variety to your program. Usually, these courses are 1 unit of credit, so you’re not taking a bite out of your regular course schedule.

Off campus – Though a college campus can be a small town of its own and offer a great variety of activities, it’s important that you step out of campus and venture into the local town or city where your college is located. It could be as simple as going to see an exhibition at a museum or gallery, to having dinner, seeing a movie, hiking, camping, or visiting the local farmer’s market. Exploring the local community is vital to your own personal growth and offers you a better perspective of life outside the college campus environment.

It’s easy to get into the routine of going from the dorm, to a class, to the library, back to the dorm, to the cafeteria, and become a couch potato without leaving the campus. Get out of your comfort zone. You’ve come this far to America, go out and explore and discover new things about the country and yourself!


Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.


Filed under Credentials, Education

Dispatches from the 2013 CCID Conference in Atlanta, GA

February 28, 2013


Though I’d been to Atlanta before on business, this was my first time attending the CCID (Community Colleges for International Development) https://programs.ccid.cc/cci/ Conference. The Intercontinental Hotel in Buckhead (known as the Beverly Hills of the South) served as the venue for the conference. After the hubbub of the French Quarter in New Orleans, where the AIEA conference was held, arriving to the serenity of Buckhead was a much needed relief. And, as much as I intended to make it to the Martin Luther King Jr. Museum, except to a visit to the Office Depot (2 miles from the hotel) for the printing of handouts, a slice of pizza at a pizzeria nearby and a celebratory dinner at Kyma, a Greek Restaurant in Buckhead, majority of my time was committed to meetings.

At the invitation of Zepur Solakian, Executive Director of CGACC http://www.cgacc.org , I served on a pre-conference workshop panel (chaired by Ms. Solakian) on how community colleges can optimize their recruitment strategy by elevating the global branding of their college through 2+2 university pathways and partnerships. The other presenters serving on the panel included: Ross Jennings, Vice President of International Programs and Extended Learning at Green River Community College (WA) http://www.greenriver.edu/ , Dr. Jing Luan, Vice Chancellor, Educational Services and Planning at San Mateo Community College District (CA) http://www.smccd.edu/accounts/smccd/ , and Vilma Tafawa, Executive Director of the International Center at Bunker Hill Community College (MA) http://www.bhcc.mass.edu/ .

The 2+2 model, though not a new concept, can be a popular choice for international students whereby they can take their general requirements at a community college and then transfer to a four-year university to complete their bachelor’s degree. As the global middle class continues to grow so is the global demand for International Higher Education. It is projected that student mobility will grow 70% by the year 2025. However, as more countries enter into the global arena to recruit students, the U.S. is losing its global market shares due to the perception of high education costs, and the budget cuts effecting all institutions of higher education as well as issues concerning the issuance student of visas.

The workshop set out to determine how U.S. community colleges were doing and what they can do to remain globally competitive? While each presenter discussed the steps their respective community colleges have taken to optimize their recruiting strategy they unanimously agreed that success lies in enhancing, articulating and marketing of 2+2 jointly by four-year institutions and community colleges. The 2+2 process provides huge savings to students and all institutions of higher education. As the global middle class grows the 2+2 can bring affordability of a U.S. degree to these families who would have otherwise looked at other countries. Panelists discussed existing articulation agreements, joint marketing strategies and success models giving credibility to 2+2 globally and eliminate myths about 2+2.

But no amount of recruiting to attract international students is effective if their academic documents have not been properly vetted and evaluated. I spoke of the reasons why accurate credentials evaluations are important for international admissions. Accurate academic credential evaluations allow the admissions decision makers to properly assess and integrate the international students into their scholastic environment while ensuring due diligence in international admissions has been satisfied.

The benefits of the credential evaluation to institutions are twofold: 1) they are protected against credential fraud and misrepresentation and 2) enhance their global competitiveness while nurturing development of international partnerships. Students also benefit by receiving a clear understanding of their academic achievements and enjoying an obstacle-free pathway to further education, professional development and employment opportunities in the future.

Finally, Zepur shared with the audience the initiatives which CGACC has undertaken in its efforts to make the U.S. community colleges and the 2+2 model an attractive and cost effective feature to international students. The CGACC ‘s global initiatives include:

2+2 Guide (New)
2+2 Workshop around the world
2+2 Educational Tours
2+2 Pavilions at Fairs
2+2 Partnerships
2+2 Videos
2+2 Examples with Testimonials

CGACC will continue with its efforts to meet with universities at NAFSA and regional conferences to establish strategic MOUs and continue blogging on the 2+2 model. Through its global partnerships with ACEI and other select organizations, CGACC aims to provide its member institutions the tools needed to optimize their recruitment strategies by enhancing their position in the global education market.

Stay tuned for dispatches from my upcoming trip to Hong Kong next month where I’ll be attending the APIEA http://www.apaie.org/ Conference and presenting on a panel addressing the 2+2 program alongside partnerships and collaborations with EducationUSA https://www.educationusa.info/ , higher education communities in the U.S. and the East Asia Pacific.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI

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