Standardised past education forms

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Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2010 5:42 pm

Standardised past education forms

Postby Philippppp » Sat Nov 06, 2010 8:01 am

Clearly among grad school applications, standardised forms for one's past education seem to have become very common. The problem of course is that they are very much tailored towards the US education system. I on the other hand did my undergraduate and MSc in Britain, where there are no "GPA"s but "Firsts", "II.1"s, "II.2"s etc, and 75% on an exam is actually a very good score inside the "First" bracket, (while it isn't in the US, as I understand it). And there are no majors and minors either. In my case, I even did a so-called "joint schools" undergraduate course (Physics and Philosophy), which I studied to an approximately equal extent. This makes the completion of those forms an outright mess. Oh yes, and of course, another issue is the concept of a four-year "undergraduate master" (MPhys, or MPhysPhil in my case), one of the oddities of the British system, especially when the choice of undergraduate degrees is a drop-down menu limited to BA, BS/BSc, and maybe some others. Or to answer "How many classes I took in my major" is an awkward question too, since the choice of subjects to be studied is differently organised, in particular with compulsory courses in the first few years of undergraduate study.

Now clearly I am only one of thousands of other applicants educated outside the US, which just don't fit into the categories of the US systems. So I can only assume that the professors looking at the applications are used to seeing crude approximations on the forms and vast amounts of extra information with the research proposal/personal statement at the end, perhaps even explaining what the scores mean, how the applicant calculated the supposed number of classes, an essay on the structure of the local education system...

I do have enough faith in the US grad school application system to believe that the professors know that this chaos and approximation is inevitable, given the often inflexible design of forms, but still I am concerned every time about having made sufficiently clear what my actual qualifications are, and the of course there is the concern that they understand what those qualifications/scores mean.

How have you guys been dealing with those issues? Or do you have any advice on how best to do it?

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