Credential Evaluators in the US

The United States of America is a land of opportunity for international students interested in growing and learning professionally as well as personally. US universities are well known for their superior resources and faculty. Admissions are open to the world offering a variety of courses tailored to suit each individual professional and personal goals.

University admissions require a minimum of 12 years of primary and secondary education which is viewed as the equivalent of a high school diploma in the US. Criteria for undergraduate admissions in the USA may require the potential candidate’s GPA scores (which, in the case of international students, a credential evaluation agency will provide), and the scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test I (SAT I) or the American College Test (ACT) scores. International students need to present a Credential Evaluation report from a recognized agency which, according to format, is a well detailed document listing the student’s past educational credentials and hold them in light of US equivalent qualifications.

Students who have completed high school or a foreign equivalent can pursue post-secondary education at a college or university leading to a bachelor’s degree in a field of their choice while concentrating on a “major”. Post secondary degrees typically last for about two to four years. Two-year degrees are called associate degrees while four-year degrees are called bachelor’s degree in most post secondary courses of study. International students can transfer to a US college or university by submitting a “course-by-course evaluation” report, in most cases, which is prepared by a recognized International Credential Evaluation Agency that shows, to name a few, the equivalence of the courses completed in ones country in terms of U.S. equivalent qualifications, hours of credit and grades. Many universities have their own sub-division of credential evaluation or certain other specifications and one would be advised to research this matter amongst others, as many Universities or colleges may differ from others in requirements.

After completion of an undergraduate degree or in other cases, an equivalent international degree, a student can proceed in pursuing higher education, for which the options are many. There are universities that offer Master’s degree, as well as various other postgraduate Certificate or Diploma courses. Again in this case, for an international student seeking to apply, the student might be required to present a Credential Evaluation in some form. Either the university will have a branch dedicated to this purpose or it might require that the student seek out a recognized Credential Evaluation Agency. Specifications for credential evaluation may differ from one university to the other. Master’s programs, in most cases, are typically designed for two years of full-time study, which typically includes a research thesis. Many courses might not require professional work experience after a bachelor’s degree to apply for programs; however, students applying to business schools are usually required to have gained a few years of professional work experience before seeking admission. Again, the candidate needs to consult the individual university in this matter.

Candidates wanting to pursue higher education after the completion of a Master’s degree can opt for a doctorate degree, also abbreviated as a PhD. A PhD degree may take anywhere between three to six years for completion, and might vary depending on the student’s subject of choice, educational background and the university’s requirements. The Ph.D. degree course might entail writing an original dissertation which holds significant research and optimally presenting and defending the work before a panel of faculty members who specialize in the discipline. The Ph.D. degree is presented after these conditions are fulfilled.

Applying for School in the US

The United States has the largest and most versatile system for higher education. Any student interested in applying for school in the US for higher studies will find a suitable place at one of more than 3000 American colleges and universities.

With so many options, how do you choose your school?

1. General Research

The internet is the best source of information since most institutions have websites with detailed information including admission, programs, scholarships, credential evaluator services, etc. Many of these institutions also give you direct contact by phone or mail to answer any questions you may not have found online.

Before deciding on your school, you will want to consider geographical locations, costs,  and, of course, programs offered in the subject of interest.

2. University/College Research

The next step is to research potential universities and obtain information from the school directly. Most universities have an online application process or detail the steps involved in the application procedures on their website. These universities will also require your educational qualifications, credential evaluation reports, test results and letters of recommendation. Many of the universities and colleges may have a center on campus that administer ESL classes. One great way to find out if this college/university is a good fit for you is by spending a few months learning English and being immersed in the environment. Some even say this could give you an additional advantage on admissions!

3. Exam Preparation

Nearly all universities in the United States require applicants to take what are known as ‘standardized tests’ designed to measure students’ aptitude for further study. Students whose native language is not English might have to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), which are administered in most countries. In these cases, many students take general English or test preparation classes at an ESL school.

Undergraduate programs usually require the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) or the ACT (American College Testing) in order to gain admissions. Business graduate schools and MBA programs usually require students to do well on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) while other post-graduate programs in other disciplines generally require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Other specialized tests are offered for professional programs such as Law, Medicine, Dentistry, etc. To determine what exams are specific to your situation, contact your program to see what their minimum requirements are.

How are foreign qualifications reviewed?

Some universities employ specialists in foreign educational credential evaluation systems to review documents submitted by international students. Others will instruct applicants to have their credentials evaluated by an independent foreign credential evaluation agency, and will provide them with a list of organizations whose evaluations they accept. The right evaluation services can be found by asking the university for further instructions since each school is unique.

What else can a educational credential evaluation report do for you?

If you obtain an independent credential evaluation report it will give you some idea of what your educational background is worth in the US. Additionally, this will help determine what programs you are qualified for. That information can be very helpful when you make preparations for study in the United States, especially in finding the college or university that is just right for you.

If you are interested in studying English in the US, check our ESL Directory featuring programs and schools throughout the country.

Private Credential Evaluation Agency: Personal Account

When I was applying to schools in the USA, I was totally confused about how I could get my degrees and classes evaluated from my home country of India. I had a Bachelors degree from India and many universities in the United States (including NYU – which has it’s own international credential evaluation department) told me I had a minimum of 2 years worth of credits to complete before my Bachelors degree could even be considered as an equivalent of the American degree.

Like many countries east of the USA, my Bachelors degree was a 3 years program (as opposed to a US Bachelor’s degree which is typically a 4 year program) and I could make my peace with one additional year of credits, but 2 years seemed a little unfair (I kept going back into painful flashbacks of heavy, back breaking journals and long drawn out brain wracking lectures and to the victorious day of receiving my degree – which all seemed a tad bit worthless at this point). Luckily for me, a few other Universities directed me to Private Credential Evaluation Agencies who told me that one year is all I would need, if at all (now, this was my personal experience and may not apply to everyone.)

This sparked my interest and I tried to research into it further. Many Indian degrees are evaluated and eventually recognized as an American equivalent, especially Engineering degrees and I.T. degrees. While this will depend on your course load, it was good to know that some 3-year degree programs are also considered as an equivalent to the 4 year programs in the United States. Of course, a lot depends on the accreditation given to the particular foreign university you might have studied in –  the majority of these universities have an ‘A+’ or ‘A’ accreditation by the education board. I had the luck of my college being recognized in the list of ‘Autonomous Colleges’ that most Credential Evaluation Companies accept (this list may vary from company to company but most websites do display their list publically).

Choosing a Credential Evaluation Company

Zeroing in on a credential evaluation company can be a stressful and demanding experience since each company has its own criteria and methodologies. With so many companies out there, many international students are both confused and overwhelmed with one main question in mind, “how can I make sure that I am choosing a credential evaluation company that meets my needs?” Questions arise such as, will the evaluation by one credential evaluator be recognized by all the various universities the student will apply to? Which association makes the credential evaluator more credible? Will all the documents one has be accepted by the evaluator?

Many universities and students I spoke to recommend starting with the members of NACES (National Association of Credential Evaluation Services) or AICE (Association of International Credentials Evaluators), two private associations that have stringent membership requirements, codes of ethics, and very high standards. These associations are widely recognized and accepted by most institutions and universities making the process a lot easier by relatively narrowing options down to a select few. The feedback students get from these organizations can be trusted.

Institutions and students using these affiliated credentials evaluation companies can be sure that the agency they select is a trust worthy, reliable and recognized company with good training and experience in the field.

So you may be reading this, asking yourself, how did this happen – how did the field become dominated by many credential evaluation companies with varying standards?

On December 28, 1973, the US Government declared it was shutting down its foreign educational credential evaluation services and the private sector was asked to step in. The government however, did not authorize, designate or nominate any specific group as a replacement, as a result several private U.S. international education individuals and organizations generously applied themselves in establishing guidelines for applied research and the credential evaluation of international educational credentials, while at the same time outlining the professional ethics and principles for the profession.

It is important to realize though, that some private companies choose not to become a member of one of the above agencies for their own reasons, not because of any lack of quality or expertise on the part of the agency. It is important to contact your schools to see what credential evaluation companies they recommend since they will be the ultimate decision makers!