My son is studying in grade 12. We are trying to enrol him in a US university. His SAT score is 1,210 and academically he is average. However, he has done quite a few volunteering programmes. Which colleges/universities should he consider?

Albeit important, SAT score is not the only criteria in determining admission to American universities. Academic performance at school, extracurricular activities, community service, referrals and the essay are all considered in tandem whilst reviewing a student’s admission application.

A score of 1,210 is not to be scoffed as it places him in the top 72 percentile of all test takers. Other things remaining constant, he is well-placed to secure admission to the likes of University of Cincinnati, Ohio, Pace, Temple and even Drexel, Syracuse and Penn State.

While selecting a university, it is important to focus on the subject rather than brand name as universities that may not necessarily have a strong brand may be the perfect fit for the subject of choice. This becomes all the more important with SAT scores that are not in the 95 percentile bracket.

It may also be worth exploring the option of studying at a community college for the first two years and then moving on to a higherranked university. Most of the community colleges have articulated agreements with prominent universities in the region and function as feeder colleges to these universities. The greatest advantage students have is access to these universities, which may otherwise be competitive for entry soon after high school.

Not only is the cost of attending a community college a fraction of what universities charge, the classroom sizes are smaller and the teaching more personal. Also, the instructors are focused on teaching and student development as opposed to those in big research universities who have to divide their time between teaching and research. The biggest advantage, however, is that community colleges function as pathways to prestigious colleges. For example, Diablo Valley College in California is one of the top feeder colleges to UC Berkeley. The transfer from college to university is usually seamless and students often receive plenty of support from their academic counsellors with this.

In addition to these you could also consider applying to foundation or pathway programs wherein the entry requirements are lower than the university and are precursors to a degree program. These courses are normally for one year and are designed to facilitate international students’ introduction to university life and help them perform better at academic studies.

Depending upon your timelines it may be possible for you to sit for the ACT, the other test used by universities to asses a student’s skill and knowledge.

The various options and the way forward should be discussed with your counsellor to take a well-informed decision.

Sanjeev Verma is an international education counsellor