A Recruiter’s Guide to Three-Year Bachelor’s Degrees

 

IEM SPOTLIGHT NEWSLETTER, VOL. 14, Summer ISSUE - August 2017

By: Stephanie Ingvaldson, Sacramento State University

More and more international admissions offices are receiving applications from prospective graduate students who hold three-year undergraduate degrees, and not just Bologna-compliant degrees. Applicants who hold three-year undergraduate degrees from South Africa, Australia, Pakistan, and India, just to name a few, are steadily increasing in number. Some institutions have recruitment teams specifically dedicated to traveling overseas, but they may be less familiar with and somewhat unprepared to handle all of the nuances involved with three-year undergraduate programs or partnering with overseas organizations. This then raises the million-dollar question: What do recruiters and partners need to know about international three-year degrees?

Policies regarding the equivalency of a three-year international undergraduate degree to a U.S. bachelor’s degree can vary by credential service, institution, and even among an institution’s various graduate programs. For example, while one U.S. institution’s MBA program may consider a bachelor of business administration degree from India to be equivalent to a U.S. undergraduate degree and allow that applicant to apply to the MBA program, another graduate program at that very same institution may not recognize the degree as equivalent to a U.S. undergraduate degree.

To best support these professionals who are on the road meeting prospective international students, a set of best practices has been outlined to help prepare them for educational markets abroad that may include three-year bachelor’s degree graduates.

1. Establish A Foundation

Four-year undergraduate degrees are considered the U.S. standard and are generally composed of a set of general education components, institutional requirements, and major coursework. However, you will find far more variation abroad and an increased number of three-year degrees, which may lead to some questions and confusion if you are accustomed to primarily recruiting domestically. For those of you who are relatively “green” to the realm of international recruitment, it is key to begin with a crash course on understanding the basics of credential evaluation, along with learning about how your institution’s policies, mission, and goals drive its approach to degree equivalencies for international qualifications and who determines these equivalency matters within the institution.

2. Know Your Market

Ensure that you are familiar with the educational system(s) of the region or countries you may be visiting and the types of undergraduate degrees that can lead to graduate study. Some countries like Australia require students to complete the fourth year of the undergraduate degree in order to pursue research-focused graduate study; whereas other countries like India and Pakistan allow students to apply to graduate programs with three-year degrees. Familiarizing yourself with the various pathways to graduate study can help you anticipate students’ questions as well as depict the image of a knowledgeable institution that can adequately address students’ needs. You may not have a complete picture of who you will encounter on the road, especially at expos and exhibits, but learning about the various undergraduate credentials offered abroad can help you in anticipating the market.

You may also want to consider the reasons and contexts behind these different pathways and their role in each individual country. Are students completing three-year undergraduate degrees and opting to enter the workforce? In some countries, there is a stronger emphasis on tangible work experience and professional skill sets. Thus, in those countries, prospective students may be under the impression that work experience in the field may be a possible substitute for the lack of a four-year undergraduate degree or a supplement to the three-year degree. It is important to consider what the motivations and expectations are of students in different countries so that you know how to recruit them for your institution.

3. Research Your Own Programs

While some programs may have the funds to recruit specifically for one graduate program, you may need to be prepared to advise prospective students on several or all of the graduate programs at your institution. Whether the initial or full admissions review process takes place in a graduate admissions office or at the department, prospective students typically view the institutional representative sitting in front of them as the authority on all things related to that institution and they are keen to receive answers from a school official.

It is vital that you have a solid understanding of the degree requirements for the various graduate programs at your institution. Generally, STEM and MBA programs are the most desired programs among international students, so informing yourself of the current degree requirements for those programs is key. Furthermore, identifying if any of the graduate programs at your institution accept three-year degrees will allow you to better advise students and guide the conversations. If three-year degrees are accepted, ask the graduate program administrators if these candidates are reviewed less competitively than other candidates, and if so, do students’ scores for tests like the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) improve their profiles? Lastly, some programs like computer science and MBA may view work experience as an integral part of the holistic review process, so know your institution’s stance on the matter and be prepared to address students’ inquiries about whether their work experience will help them gain an admission offer.

4. Be Prepared to Discuss Options

Some institutions are unable to admit students who hold three-year degrees, which may be disheartening to some of the prospective students that you meet. But in other cases, there may be alternative options that you can discuss with applicants. You may encounter students who are committed to attending your institution regardless of the extra admissions hoops they need to jump through, so it is imperative that you direct them down the path that is most appropriate for them given their credentials and educational goals.

For example, some institutions may require the completion of a postgraduate diploma in a related field (sometimes seen in India) or the completion of a one- or two-year master’s degree. Some graduate divisions combine these credentials with the three-year degree to equate to a four-year degree and will allow students to apply for graduate programs at their institution under such circumstances. Verify with the graduate program administrators on your campus whether pathway programs exist for three-year degree recipients or if students may complete an additional year of prerequisites to gain entry to the graduate programs. Some graduate coordinators may view students with shortened undergraduate degrees as lacking in preparation and may simply want to assign their institution’s upper division core requirements to strengthen the applicants’ foundational knowledge before they begin their graduate program.

It is crucial that you remain up to date on all the different options and pathways that lead to your graduate programs so that you can direct students to the opportunities that work for them. Taking the time to work with students and discuss other educational avenues may incentivize them to apply to your institution now, or even in a few years. Keep in mind that policies may change and three-year degree students may not be automatically ineligible or have to navigate through other restrictions in the future.

5. Connect Students to Staff and Faculty

Providing specific answers to admission queries is always going to be one of the best ways to make a great impression on a student, but that is not always possible. So, offering to connect an applicant to an admissions specialist or a faculty member on campus should be the next step. Inform your colleagues in admissions when you’ll be recruiting in a region and ask if there is anyone in particular you can connect students with in the event that questions come up that you cannot answer. With regard to faculty, touching base with relevant faculty members is crucial if you plan on traveling during school breaks when they may not be on campus and checking their e-mail. If your institution partners with an overseas partner and they rely on the institutional admissions office for information, holding semester trainings while you are abroad can help partners remain apprised of program requirement changes.

In order to successfully recruit students abroad, recruiters need to stay informed of their institution’s policies and degree requirements and must maintain lines of open communication with key stakeholders on campus, at partnering institutions, and with prospective students.


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