Mailbox: Nationality also impacts the admission process into Ivy League schools

By BizNews reader

I read your article on gaining admission to Ivy League universities and I thought it was interesting. As a follow up, I think it would be fascinating to research how one’s nationality also impacts the admission process decision, as well as whether one is applying for a graduate vs undergraduate programme.

I am currently studying management at two recognised institutions, one in France and the other in the USA. My academic achievements in South Africa were good but I wouldn’t say exceptionally brilliant. Additionally, I also had to take a test known as the GRE, which is an aptitude test grad schools look at in the admissions process. Again, I did okay, but I was below the average for the two universities I applied to.

I really think nationality plays a huge role in the admissions process. I know that universities are increasingly placing more emphasis on having a diverse student body and Africa as a continent is severely under represented in universities abroad, not due to lack of talent but rather due to the cost and lack of information regarding these universities and how to apply to them.


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All in all, I think being an applicant from South Africa greatly improved my chance of gaining admissions into the universities I applied to. To date I’ve had a wonderful experience, met new friends and learnt a lot in the process. I believe that the idea of applying to the Ivy League universities is daunting for many students and it somewhat puts them off the idea, given that they perceive how difficult it is, when in actuality it is not as daunting as one would perceive. I’ve met plenty of people within South Africa who are smarter than me and I think that gaining admissions into an Ivy League institution or its equivalent overseas (Oxford, Cambridge, LBS, HEC, Insead) is a lot easier than many people perceive it to be.

My criteria for an applicant from an under-represented country would probably be the following.

  • Achieve somewhat of a decent grade (2.1)
  • Score in the sixtieth percentile in the GMAT or GRE: the reason the scores are typically higher than this is because a large applicant pool comes from India or China. You typically get hundreds or thousands of applicants from these regions and they have limited seats available, as such they typically need to score high on these tests if they want a serious chance at admissions
  • Have 1 or 2 extracurriculars, volunteering is typically a good one.
  • Have a decent first job(grad programme)

With the above, I am pretty sure one will gain admissions to one of these institutions, at least if you are applying to grad school.

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