[Sponsored Report] Rigors of getting into U.S. grad school

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[Sponsored Report] Rigors of getting into U.S. grad school

Advanced degrees awarded by graduate and professional schools in the United States are esteemed everywhere, and students from all over the world - along with the many good American students - are applying in record numbers, making competition to gain entrance formidable.

“We get more than 10 worthy applications for every student we accept,” said the admissions officer of the graduate school at a highly regarded American university. I was calling long-distance from Korea because a student at my university - HUFS (“Hoofs,” as the students pronounce it) - wants to study there, and I figured the best way to find out what they’re looking for in a prospective student was to ask somebody in their admissions office.

“It’s a luxury for us to get so many quality applicants,” she went on. “Still, we must choose wisely because the students we want in our program will not just succeed but thrive.

“Grades and test scores are important,” she continued. “But what interests us more is how a candidate works to get them.” With e-mail and Skype, university admissions officers all over the world have expanded their application procedures so that they can get to know their applicants thoroughly. “We want to talk with them and want them to write for us,” she explained. “A lot.”

Despite the difficulty getting into good American graduate schools, many students from Korea still make the cut of the best. Son Hye-won, who graduated from HUFS three years ago, is beginning her first semester at Vanderbilt Law School in Nashville, Tennessee, which is ranked 15th among U.S. law schools by U.S. News and World Report. After she earned her B.A., she worked part-time as a tutor in Seoul to support herself - helping small children, teenagers and adults improve their English - while she studied six to eight hours every day, trying to gain the edge she needed to get into a top American law school.

“At times, I thought that for sure I wouldn’t get accepted,” she said, “but if I was going to fail, I didn’t want to look at myself in the mirror and have to say that I failed because I didn’t work as hard as I could.”

She’s thrilled living her dream as a law student at Vanderbilt. “I miss Korea and really miss being with my family and friends,” she told me on a long-distance phone conversation a few weeks ago. “But this is what I’ve wanted for myself for a long time, and I’m staying here until I earn my JD (Juris Doctor) and pass the American bar exam.

“It’s never been easy for me to study,” she admitted. “But becoming a Vandy law student makes every minute of all the struggling I endured worth it.

“I’ve never been satisfied with any of the work I’ve done,” she said. “I still feel that way, especially now that I’m sitting next to some of the best students in the world.”

Few are as driven as Son Hye-won is, but it’s students like her admissions officers are looking for. Getting into an American graduate or professional school takes nothing less.

By Lyman McLallen, professor in the English College of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies [lymanmclallen@gmail.com]

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