March 24, 2016

Use Of Agents To Gain Entry To U.S. Universities Is Discouraged

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Old Capitol, the iconic centerpiece of the University of Iowa's Pentacrest.

Lyle Muller/IowaWatch

Old Capitol, the iconic centerpiece of the University of Iowa's Pentacrest.

Yiman Lyu said she barely knew what she should do at the beginning of her application process to attend college in the United States.

Lyu, a 21-year-old University of Iowa junior from Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, majoring in mechanical engineering, tried solving the puzzle by gathering information from the Internet. Her parents also asked their friends whose children studied abroad. However, the information they gathered was limited.

“I did not even hear of TOEFL and SAT at first,” Lyu said. “Therefore, I sought help from a study-abroad agent.”

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) are two common tests that Chinese students take in order to enroll in U.S. universities and colleges as undergraduate students.

Preparing to study in the United States can be difficult for Chinese students because of cultural and language differences.

Although a hired agency did most of the work on Lyu’s application, it messed up the application. During the application process the agency romanized her surname to “Lu,” which is a different Chinese family name than Lyu’s. As a result, several universities could not process Lyu’s application.

Lyu found the problem after seeing her family name on her passport is “Lyu” and noticing she was not hearing from any university to which she applied. She discovered this problem early enough to apply at other universities with late deadlines. Eventually, the University of Iowa admitted her.

Lee Seedorff, the senior associate director of University of Iowa International Student and Scholar Service (ISSS), said people at the university have noticed that many Chinese students used study abroad agents to apply for admission. She said this is not necessary and that agents sometimes have the tendency to complicate the process.

“I think it’s unfortunate,” Seedorff said. “I think it is unnecessary because when you look at international students from other countries, nobody has to use an agent.”

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IowaWatch graphic by Lyle Muller

IowaWatch graphic by Lyle Muller

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