'We have good history with Korean'
The State University of New York at Albany boasts an iconic fountain on its campus. The fountain is a key element of the university campus which was designed by architect Edward Durell Stone. / Courtesy of SUNY at Albany
SUNY at Albany highly values academic performance of applicants
Dr. Timothy Lee, director of undergraduate admissions at the State University of New York at Albany, speaks during an interview with The Korea Times
in the English daily's newsroom in Seoul, Oct. 28.
/ Korea Times photo by Chung Hyun-chaeBy Chung Hyun-chae
Dr. Tim Lee, director of undergraduate admissions at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany, said that his school has strived to invite more Korean students over the past few years.
Lee visited Korea in late October to conduct an interview with prospective students who want to study at the American university.
"I'm here to meet and interview prospective students face to face. I also met some students who have already been accepted and will be coming to Albany in the next few months," Lee said in an interview with The Korea Times.
Before he took the director's position, whose job is to recruit international students, other staff members had visited Korea for interviews.
"We have good history with Korean students and know that they have solid education background. To see their attributes and application is one thing but to visit them to see them in their own environment is another main reason of my visit," Lee said.
Asked what the school considers the most when selecting students, Lee said more importance is placed on the academic performance of the applicants.
"The most important thing is that students have performed well in the classroom. The students who are academically prepared have good study habits and have good time management skills. Add to his, they also have to be open to exploring the world to become a part of SUNY Albany," Lee said.
He evaluates applicants' academic performance based on their transcripts but not on their SAT or TOEFL scores because these two are not required for international students.
It challenges a perception of Korean students that good quality schools always accept TOEFL, SAT and other means of English proficiency.
"It's sometimes more important for me to interview students face-to-face and see their commitment by hearing why they want to come to Albany, what they ultimately want to do and that they're going to study hard. It gives us a perspective that you don't necessarily see in transcripts or test scores," Lee said.
The director avoided direct references to the number of students they would accept during the interview, though.
"We don't have a quota. We want as many as applications that we feel are well qualified," he said.
SUNY Albany currently has nearly 300 Korean students, which account for about 1.7 percent of the total.
He said Korea is the second-largest "exporter" of students to Albany, following China.
There are several reasons why the school is popular among Korean students. First, the school has strong business, accounting and economic majors which are typical for Korean students. And it also has a lot of famous alumni in Korea including a former head of the Bank of Korea (BOK).
"I think our academic programs and a number of cultural clubs that Korean students can join also make them feel comfortable coming to our campus," Lee said.
"The Korean students have a network and support system, and they can also celebrate their own culture events while exposing other students to them as well."