Jump to content


Welcome to The GradCafe

Hello!  Welcome to The GradCafe Forums.You're welcome to look around the forums and view posts.  However, like most online communities you must register before you can create your own posts.  This is a simple, free process that requires minimal information. Benefits of membership:

  • Participate in discussions
  • Subscribe to topics and forums to get automatic updates
  • Search forums
  • Removes some advertisements (including this one!)
Guest Message © 2014 DevFuse

Icon Notices

  • [March 2012] February (and January) Stats: Did you make it to the top ten posters? Check here


How will US universities evaluate your foreign degree?


  • Please log in to reply
13 replies to this topic

#1 pietjekanarie

pietjekanarie

    Espresso Shot

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 69 posts
  • LocationAmsterdam

Posted 03 March 2010 - 09:48 PM

I'm often doubting whether the Adcoms in the US have a clue about my previous university. Often, people in the States do not know where my country is situated, or think the city I'm from is an actual country itself. I even once had the question if my university was Canadian.. So I don't expect them to know. Anyway, I do have 3 degrees from this "foreign" university with a grade system that is hard to compare with the US system, especially since we don't have the grade inflation like in the US (the highest grade in our system is only given when absolute perfection is reached: never). I also don't have a GPA on a 4-scale and my university doesn't count major or overall GPAs..

My university generated a transcript with an explanation of the grades and a suggestion how to compare them to US grades. I kind of had to force them to make it and I even made one myself which they printed and signed... At least I got something with an explanation, but still.. How do they evaluate my degree in the States? One student from my country that applied to UCLA had a problem, because her undergrad degree was only 3 years (although this person also has a 2-year Master degree on top of that). Our undergrad degrees are always 3 years, that would be common for many European countries. It's mainly due to our different high school system and because we are not allowed to make things like cooking class count towards our degree I guess (example from Caltech). Apparently UCLA didn't understand that this student really holds a BA after three years (Bologna process, so it is recognized). I know universities like diversity, but I'm wondering: if they have to choose between me and a US student with a US degree with about the same qualifications, wouldn't they rather pick the US student, just because they know what they did in undergrad. While picking me would be a higher risk: I studied at the University of Whatever, I come from a different system, I might not now what grad school in the US stand for, I might not fit in, etc. And this is even besides funding issues (although I applied for external funding from my home country, and if that's forthcoming, I'm not at all dependent of US funding). I can understand their choice to pick the US student over me, a student from a very small country somewhere on the other side of the Atlantic, for sure. And I'm sure it's the same in my country (it is probably a pain for a US student to come here for grad school).

What do you think about this? Where are you from and how do you think your degree will be evaluated? Will they understand your grades? Or does your university US grades anyway (in my country this is going to be the standard in a few years)? Are you worried about this? I am some times. Not that I think it is unfair, I just wish I had a US degree and that this would not be in my disadvantage.

I'm also curious about experiences of current grad students that got in with their foreign degrees. Did you hear anything after admission about how they evaluate those degrees?
  • 0
Interview: Cambridge
Accepted: Oxford, Cambridge, NYU
Rejected: Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Columbia
Wait-listed: U of T

#2 scyrus

scyrus

    Caffeinated

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 43 posts
  • Program:Computer Science

Posted 04 March 2010 - 01:11 AM

I'm sure the Adcoms in Harvard, Stanford, Columbia etc. know both about the existence of the Netherlands and it's relative location on a map. I wonder why you even chose to apply to universities in the U.S. if you have such a low opinion of the people you are applying to work under and with for the next 5-6 years.

As far as choosing between you and a student from the states with similar credentials, I can't be positive, but I'd say universities generally know about how many international students they can afford to bring in for a year, and that you will primarily be competing with other international students. Which is not (necessarily) to say that they will definitely only except a certain number of international students vs. domestic. However, the cost differences between funding an American student and an international student is significantly different, so it's unlikely that you will be vying for the same spot.

Hypothetically, if you were vying for the same spot, because of the aforementioned cost difference I would say the American student does have the edge.
  • 0
Carnegie Mellon University, Ph.D.
NDSEG Fellow

#3 JerryLandis

JerryLandis

    Mocha

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 361 posts
  • Application Season:Not Applicable

Posted 04 March 2010 - 01:23 AM

Am I correct in assuming you're from England?

I find it quite annoying that they don't seem to acknowledge the difference between honours and sub-honours. Since sub-honours classes (2 years instead of 1 in Scotland, due to the 4-year degree) are not really seen to "count" as part of a graduate's qualification, I found that the marking at that level was much less sympathetic - concerns about grades and grading were simply not taken seriously because everyone assumed no one would ever be seeing that part of a student's transcript. Everything was about preparing for honours level, NOT doing well at sub-honours level. I still did okay, but factoring those first 2 years into my roughly-calculated GPA did bring my GPA down.

I think that 3-year degrees are generally accepted as valid Bachelors equivalents. Someone with a 4-year degree may have taken more classes in total than you, but coming from a more specialized system you will probably have taken more classes in your specific field/major than they will have. My understanding seems to be that the UK final year modules are more advanced than American ones, but it's balanced out because we take fewer classes and simply focus more intensely on them instead of getting the broader experience.

For me the hardest part about applying was seeking advice about where to apply and how to sell myself to the admissions committees. Aside from the skeletal descriptions of graduate expectations listed on the websites, I had no idea what would be expected of me as an applicant. That's where this website comes in - if you plan on applying next year, I highly recommend that you continue browsing this site for advice, because no matter how intelligent, qualified, or committed your professors may be, its highly unlikely that they'll be able to help you very much at all, aside from writing recommendations letters of course.
  • 0

#4 JerryLandis

JerryLandis

    Mocha

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 361 posts
  • Application Season:Not Applicable

Posted 04 March 2010 - 01:24 AM

Oh, Dutch then? Should've looked at your username for the clue!
  • 0

#5 pietjekanarie

pietjekanarie

    Espresso Shot

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 69 posts
  • LocationAmsterdam

Posted 04 March 2010 - 08:16 AM

I wonder why you even chose to apply to universities in the U.S. if you have such a low opinion of the people you are applying to work under and with for the next 5-6 years.


I'm Dutch, but with a Belgian degree.
I'm not actually. I'm simply applying for a master's program that isn't available here (max 2 years). I never said I have a low opinion, this is just my previous experience in North-America when I studied there abroad at a very well known university. People don't know, like I don't know every capital of every state in the US. I said I don't even mind, I'm just wondering how they'll interpret my degree then.

I'm not expecting any funding, since funding for Masters isn't widely available and I'm counting on only going with my own funding (external). So I'm not that worried about the funding issue.
  • 0
Interview: Cambridge
Accepted: Oxford, Cambridge, NYU
Rejected: Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Columbia
Wait-listed: U of T

#6 pietjekanarie

pietjekanarie

    Espresso Shot

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 69 posts
  • LocationAmsterdam

Posted 04 March 2010 - 08:21 AM

Am I correct in assuming you're from England?

I find it quite annoying that they don't seem to acknowledge the difference between honours and sub-honours. Since sub-honours classes (2 years instead of 1 in Scotland, due to the 4-year degree) are not really seen to "count" as part of a graduate's qualification, I found that the marking at that level was much less sympathetic - concerns about grades and grading were simply not taken seriously because everyone assumed no one would ever be seeing that part of a student's transcript. Everything was about preparing for honours level, NOT doing well at sub-honours level. I still did okay, but factoring those first 2 years into my roughly-calculated GPA did bring my GPA down.

I think that 3-year degrees are generally accepted as valid Bachelors equivalents. Someone with a 4-year degree may have taken more classes in total than you, but coming from a more specialized system you will probably have taken more classes in your specific field/major than they will have. My understanding seems to be that the UK final year modules are more advanced than American ones, but it's balanced out because we take fewer classes and simply focus more intensely on them instead of getting the broader experience.

For me the hardest part about applying was seeking advice about where to apply and how to sell myself to the admissions committees. Aside from the skeletal descriptions of graduate expectations listed on the websites, I had no idea what would be expected of me as an applicant. That's where this website comes in - if you plan on applying next year, I highly recommend that you continue browsing this site for advice, because no matter how intelligent, qualified, or committed your professors may be, its highly unlikely that they'll be able to help you very much at all, aside from writing recommendations letters of course.


Where I studied, it seems to be pretty similar to the UK system. Three years is common in Europe, but apparently, the universities in the US don't always recognize it.
I experienced the same as you did. I never had to apply like this and have no people in my environment that did, so it is hard to find out how to present yourself to the adcoms. I did learn a lot about all of this when I studied in North America though (just for 6 months) from people there. Unfortunately, I only discovered this website after applying and even after my first acceptance (although the last thing is good, otherwise I would have freaked out over the result search for sure ;))
  • 0
Interview: Cambridge
Accepted: Oxford, Cambridge, NYU
Rejected: Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Columbia
Wait-listed: U of T

#7 aditi123

aditi123

    Caffeinated

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 36 posts

Posted 04 March 2010 - 03:43 PM

Most American universities rely on the World Education Services (WES) for an understanding of a foreign degree.The WES is essentially a company that converts your scores and grades to a US grading system.The process is called a credential evaluation.The WES provides you with a credential evaluation report consisting of your scores and its US conversion including the GPA and the US equivalent grades.You should go have a look at their website

http://www.wes.org/

To my knowledge this is an essential part of your application.

Hope this helps.
  • 0

#8 pietjekanarie

pietjekanarie

    Espresso Shot

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 69 posts
  • LocationAmsterdam

Posted 04 March 2010 - 06:01 PM

Most American universities rely on the World Education Services (WES) for an understanding of a foreign degree.The WES is essentially a company that converts your scores and grades to a US grading system.The process is called a credential evaluation.The WES provides you with a credential evaluation report consisting of your scores and its US conversion including the GPA and the US equivalent grades.You should go have a look at their website

http://www.wes.org/

To my knowledge this is an essential part of your application.

Hope this helps.


The universities I applied for do this themselves, for example Columbia states this on their website "Judgments concerning equivalency of international baccalaureate degrees are made by the Graduate School." I asked a few schools if they want me to get a report like this and they didn't (good thing, saves me about 200 USD). It still feels bad though, if I have to fill out a GPA of n/a or 0 when filling out the online application..

I also send them my diploma supplement, which is full of information, but I doubt if they have time to read stuff like that.
  • 0
Interview: Cambridge
Accepted: Oxford, Cambridge, NYU
Rejected: Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Columbia
Wait-listed: U of T

#9 blin811

blin811

    Decaf

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 4 posts
  • Program:Philosophy/Cultural Studi

Posted 04 March 2010 - 06:07 PM

Most American universities rely on the World Education Services (WES) for an understanding of a foreign degree.The WES is essentially a company that converts your scores and grades to a US grading system.The process is called a credential evaluation.The WES provides you with a credential evaluation report consisting of your scores and its US conversion including the GPA and the US equivalent grades.You should go have a look at their website

http://www.wes.org/

To my knowledge this is an essential part of your application.

Hope this helps.


While you probably would be required by American Universities to provide for a evaluation services, I cannot stress how bad my experience with World Education Services has been. Take this with a grain of salt, since I'm sure other have great experiences. My evaluation was horribly done: WES graded my higher foreign grades, as a lower American equivalent then a lower foreign grade. In other cases, they had two different American grades for the same foreign grade. WhenI tried to get my grades reevaluated, they simply e-mailed me back saying no changes were needed according to their grading scale. Then when I tried pointing how they were not applying their own scale correctly and consistently, I got the same generic e-mail.

It took a credit card dispute and numerous complaints until they finally changed my grades two to three months later (much after application deadlines were due). Since they changed my grades so late, I had to pay for another company to do the job and pay extra for expedited service. I strongly suggest that anyone needing evaluations done go with a different company.
  • 0

#10 Grad Hopeful

Grad Hopeful

    Decaf

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 25 posts
  • Application Season:Already Attending
  • Program:Biochemistry

Posted 04 March 2010 - 10:58 PM

I am not an international student, however I worked in a university's international admissions office for several years. The following information is based on my experience at one school and is not meant to reflect what happens in other universities.

The GPA was calculated by the international admissions department before the file was delivered to the graduate department. We did not accept WES or other evaluation services, the university calculated GPA was often different from the GPA WES provides. In fact WES would sometimes produce a deflated GPA in comparison to what was university calculated.

The staff that calculated the international GPA were very knowledgeable on the grading systems of other countries, they had many books and algorithms for the different systems and often attended workshops and meetings on the matter. It was a good decision to include a grade explanation since that will help them in deciding course weights and what is fulfilled by your degree. Any supplemental information (like your diploma supplement) you sent will be helpful and read, especially if they are not familiar with that particular school. If you have a question about how your GPA was calculated you should contact the school and they should help you.

If a student had earned a 3 year Bachelors degree they were often required to complete 30 undergraduate credit hours (equivalent to one year of undergraduate classes) before they could start graduate level courses. If a student had a 3 year Bachelors and a 2 year Masters degree the student was considered to have the equivalent of a 4 year bachelor and would not be required to take any undergraduate courses.

I am sorry for the long and rambling post. I hope it was somewhat helpful.
  • 3

#11 aditi123

aditi123

    Caffeinated

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 36 posts

Posted 05 March 2010 - 03:55 AM

While you probably would be required by American Universities to provide for a evaluation services, I cannot stress how bad my experience with World Education Services has been. Take this with a grain of salt, since I'm sure other have great experiences. My evaluation was horribly done: WES graded my higher foreign grades, as a lower American equivalent then a lower foreign grade. In other cases, they had two different American grades for the same foreign grade. WhenI tried to get my grades reevaluated, they simply e-mailed me back saying no changes were needed according to their grading scale. Then when I tried pointing how they were not applying their own scale correctly and consistently, I got the same generic e-mail.

It took a credit card dispute and numerous complaints until they finally changed my grades two to three months later (much after application deadlines were due). Since they changed my grades so late, I had to pay for another company to do the job and pay extra for expedited service. I strongly suggest that anyone needing evaluations done go with a different company.



I had the same bad experience with WES.At the end of the day I just wanted to be done with it since it was just a formality.


  • 0

#12 pietjekanarie

pietjekanarie

    Espresso Shot

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 69 posts
  • LocationAmsterdam

Posted 05 March 2010 - 07:49 AM

Thanks Grad Hopeful! That is some very useful info! I got a rejection letter from Stanford and the letter said that if I had any questions I shouldn't hesitate to contact them. I asked the prof a few questions about this degree issue without expecting details on my rejection and he gave me a real nice reply. He told me that a a three-year Bologna compliant bachelor’s degree is accepted and no extra coursework is needed with such a degree. It is equivalent to the 4-year US variant. Since I have a degree from a country that takes part in the Bologna process, everything was fine with my degree and a service like WES is indeed not required (so people, save that 200 USD, unless they specifically ask you to use WES). He also told me the reason I was rejected: my previous coursework didn't really match their program and that he advised me to apply for a 2 year program instead of such an intensive 1 year program they have. He even advised me to apply to program X, because he thought I would do well there. He's right, Stanford was a long shot and all other programs I applied to are two years. I didn't expect them to tell me the exact reasons of rejection though. I always assumed it was kind of a no go to ask, but because this letter stated that I should contact them with questions, I did and I only asked specifically about problems with my degree. I suppose my degree won't be a problem for evaluation of my application in other universities either.

I hold two Bachelor's degrees so I think they will all agree I did do enough coursework. Also, I'm only applying for a masters, not a PhD.
  • 0
Interview: Cambridge
Accepted: Oxford, Cambridge, NYU
Rejected: Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Columbia
Wait-listed: U of T

#13 Bumblebee

Bumblebee

    Mocha

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 270 posts
  • Application Season:Already Attending
  • Program:PhD in Hispanic Linguistics

Posted 12 March 2010 - 12:45 PM

I had the same problem. I hold a BA degree from a program already extinct in my own country (they changed it completely due to the Bologna thingy). So it was even harder for me to calculate my GPA (I found no information whatsoever as to how to do it). I also had the problem of the overall GPA and the major GPA. In Europe all your GPA is you major GPA!!! There is no way you can take courses in several disciplines for two years before you actually concentrate in something, and nobody would concentrate in Quantic Physics and Theater at the same time. Posted Image You have to decide your "major" before going to college and attend the appropriate school (at least in my country, universities have different "schools" for the different "majors": nursing school, philology school, med school, engineering school, economics school, geography school, and so on).
My grades were also an issue. I'm currently working at a US college and I've had the opportunity to take some undergrad courses. Now I can proudly say I'm a straight-A student! Never in my live had I received an A in college. It was almost unthinkable in my university. Passing was already an achievement and it was normal failing some courses and taking them again in September. Or having them for a second year/third year (depending on the professor and the course).
Having said all this, I'm pretty sure US universities are aware of this fact. They receive a lot of international students every year so they should know of these differences. Plus, education across Europe tends to be similar, specially now with the new changes, so it doesn't really matter whether your school is internationally known for grade purposes, since the system is.
I didn't have any problem with my grades in the end. The translator translated the grades into As, Bs, Cs, and so on and the schools I applied to accepted them (in fact I've already received an offer). The fact that I'm applying for a program in a Spanish department and I'm from Spain might have helped, but the school has the last word and nobody complained.
I hope you don't have trouble either. Good luck with your applications!!
  • 0

#14 BrandNewName

BrandNewName

    Latte

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 158 posts
  • Application Season:Already Attending
  • Program:American Studies

Posted 12 March 2010 - 04:33 PM

I can totally relate to the stress that this situation creates. I am an American with an undergraduate degree from the States, but just finished my MA in Europe.

The biggest fear I have, which was mentioned above, is that getting a 1,0 (the highest grade in the German system) is huge. I had one professor tell me (after she gave me a 1,0...if I can brag) that she only gives a grade like that to students she believes are on the same playing field as her and are working on a professorial level. There's definitely something lost in the translation of that grade to an A, a grade that wasn't hard to come by when I was an undergrad in the States. What is more, the next highest grade (1,3) is equally difficult to come by at my university, so the habit of translating one-to-one (meaning 1,3 = A-) is a big problem. Even at my undergraduate institute upon returning from my time abroad, I was forced to get outside opinions and letters from German professors challenging the accuracy of the grade conversions carried out by my college's international office.

That being said, I have yet to encounter a program that explicitly states that they want grades converted by WES. Most of the programs seem to do everything in-house and, really, WES seems like a bit of a scam to me as the universities in Europe I have attended have programs and policies in place to convert grades on their end.

My plan is to send my original transcript as is and, because I know the head of my department, to translate the transcript myself (I am a certified translator). After I have done that, at my university at least, there is the option of having the international office review and approve that translation and the conversions, which is then signed off on by the head of my department. Maybe most schools will just look at the original in German, convert everything themselves, and throw out my university's translation, but check and see if the option of translating in-house on your side through the international office or department is available; it can't hurt.

I wonder why you even chose to apply to universities in the U.S. if you have such a low opinion of the people you are applying to work under and with for the next 5-6 years.


As to scyrus' comment, I don't think that's fair to characterize the poster's statements so broadly. On the whole, I hold the people/programs I am interested in in very high regard, but I still maintain a low -- or, perhaps better put, skeptical -- opinion of their knowledge of foreign systems (and, yes, let's be honest, sometimes geography). I'm sure most have a great deal of experience in the matter, but in a complex process such a graduate school admissions, feeling as if strong grades at a foreign university may be undervalued because of someone else's lack of knowledge is a worrisome situation on top of the stress that every other applicant feels. Frankly, I would rather approach the people evaluating my foreign grades with hesitation and be on the safe side in the actions I take to ensure fair conversion, rather than giving them the benefit of the doubt, regardless of how much I respect them as academics or administrators.
  • 0




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users