Expert Advice| 权威建议

Dear College Applicant…

November 12, 2013 2:08 am | By Cliff Wong

Dear Applicant,

For international students, the experience of traveling half-way around the world can be challenging. People and environment are different. The food and culture will also take time to adjust to. Throw in the “college experience” and it’s enough to make one purchase a return ticket home.

As a college access advisor at the ASA College Planning Center, I can offer some advice for planning your education. If you’re researching the Boston area schools, our center provides resources for people of all backgrounds and ages. If you’re in the neighborhood, feel free to visit. The service is free. Although we provide resources for college access, our focus is on financial aid. As a former high school guidance counselor and a parent, I see things from other perspectives as well.

The most convenient way to research an institution is to go online and read about it. You may want to consult your school advisor as well.  You can also ask a friend who attended a particular institution what he or she liked or disliked about it. Don’t limit yourself to the curriculum or the teachers, but ask about mundane things like the people and the campus environment. Don’t forget to ask about the surrounding community. After all, that dorm room may be “home” for the next four years. If you happen to be among the chosen few who can affordably visit a campus in advance. Find out about the local public transportation and how to get around. In Massachusetts, a couple of rides on the infamous “Greenline” train might change your mind about Boston. However, don’t let that discourage you; the positives in the area far outweigh the negatives. Boston is one of the true college cities of America.

As for college research, to make things simpler for you, the ASA College Planning Center provides a handy booklet entitled “The Deadline Datebook.” The booklet offers lots of insightful information like a local school listing, type of school, tuition rates, school codes, etc.. The booklet also provides helpful telephone numbers, emails, and deadlines. That’s why it’s called the “Deadline Datebook.” If you have a friend or relative in the area, just have that friend pick up a few at the center. Like the service, Deadline Datebooks are free of charge! I would like to say that there’s a College Planning Center in every big city in America, but unfortunately, there’s only one of its kind and it’s located in Boston, Massachusetts.

Speaking of financial aid, such aid for international students is limited. Unless you file for an Alien Registration Card (Green card), you are not eligible for federal aid. That would mean fee waivers, Pell Grants, and Federal Direct Loans are not available. However, there are available private scholarships for international students that can be found in our website: []. In my opinion, if a scholarship foundation charges a fee to apply, you may want to avoid that application. Scholarships offering financial assistance should be free of charge.

Regardless of a family’s financial status, whether wealthy, well-to-do, middle-income, or need-based, it makes sense to research the cost of attending (COA) an institution. I’m not suggesting that you sacrifice reputation and quality and base your choice solely on cost, but there’s always room for compromise. For example, if one chooses a high-priced, tier-one school that costs $50,000 per year, why not consider a reputable public institution instead? It would offer the same major at a much lower cost. One must also consider the world-wide, down economy. While more people are graduating college each year, graduates are having trouble finding employment. Choose a major that is saleable. The last thing one needs is to be faced with huge loans and be unemployed at the same time.

So to readers, I offer this. Regardless of what school you choose, calculate – to the best of your abilities – the cost of attending (COA) and the financial aid. The smaller the gap between them the better it is. Survival in this new world may depend on your ability to persevere, adapt, and be patient.  Best Wishes in your future endeavors.

Cliff Wong

Clifford Wong works as a college access advisor at the ASA College Planning Center in downtown Boston, MA. He worked for many years as a high school guidance teacher at Boston Latin Academy and also writes articles for the Asian Boston Magazine and Sampan Newspaper. He runs special college access workshops for Asian high school students from the Quincy, Mass Community through ASA. In November, he will be touring China and Hong Kong with his wife and friends.