NAFSA IEM Blog: Fact vs. Fiction: Cutting through Perceptions and Focusing on Facts and Fit by Guest Bloggers Anna Wise (USA) and Kim Tulloch (Canada)

By Sallie Ly posted 07-18-2019 11:45 AM


Authors: Dr. Anna Wise, Kimberly Tulloch Wynn

Fact vs. Fiction: Cutting through Perceptions and Focusing on Facts and Fit

(Part one of a two-part blogpost)

In a post-2016 global education environment, those of us in International Enrollment Management (IEM) face a rapidly shifting, sometimes confusing landscape, as we encourage students to pursue degrees overseas. As an international admissions professional, I have been fortunate to travel the world, to talk about studying in the U.S. While people have always had opinions of "How/Why would an international student come to the U.S.?" it has become clear recently that misinformation, fueled in part by media (even quality publications without context), politically-charged government warnings, social media and good old-fashioned hearsay has made the process of separating fact from fiction more challenging for applicants who can perceive a lack of overseas educational welcome and opportunity.

Focus on Facts

With sometimes frightening headlines, perceptions can become reality as applicants decide to stay home due to misinformation or misperceptions. As international educators, it is our responsibility to ensure that the students we serve receive the best possible information about educational opportunities, which is why I have set out on this two-part blogpost relating to fact vs. fiction regarding pursuing a degree abroad.

My first trip of 2017 was to India, where parents talked about a WhatsApp group with a story of a delegation of UC admissions counselors traveling to India that was canceled, because "They knew H1-B was going away and Indians would not be able to get any visas." My response was to acknowledge the existence of fear and rumors, but to focus on facts:


  • As long as Apple and Google exist, there will be some form of H1-B, because not enough Americans are getting graduate and STEM degrees.
  • Regarding changes to H1-B, this is fear over predicting the future: 1 year to apply, 4 years to study, 1-3 years of OPT and then applying for H1-B: potentially 8 years in the future? How can we predict the future?
  • What we can do is focus on providing the strongest foundation for an individual student to earn an education that will prepare them for a global workforce.

A white“Facts matter” pin on a black backpack on a person's back

Defining "Fit"

Which brings us to the classic admissions concept of "Fit." "Finding your Fit" is a cliché for a reason - it conveys the importance of individuality and finding the right context for an individual to thrive. Traditional factors considered in finding university fit include size (large/small) and location (rural/urban) but maybe "Fit" can be helpful in sorting fact from fiction.

Kim Tulloch, Director of University Advising at Lower Canada College, has re-designed the notion of "Fit" to help her students understand the reality of studying abroad. Her students examine their notion of "Fit" differently over the course of their high school education, by asking "What do I like/want/need?" then creating and updating their college list within context of their current development. Her students set the criteria, and she provides options for study that match what they say they want:

  • 9th: "What kind of learner am I?" "What am I good at?"
  • 10th: "What academic high school plan that matches my goals?"
  • 11th: "What type of university and what country will help me meet my goals?"
  • 12th: Finalizing a list that fits all their criteria previously outlined, with an added layer of categorization from the college counseling department of:
  • RED - very competitive for that students' academic/co-curricular profile - a "reach"
  • YELLOW - student meets criteria, but the university receives a high volume of applications
  • GREEN - student exceeds the median (or higher) criteria for admission


These options are shared with parents and students and become a way to sort fact vs. fiction in a selection process tailored to the reality of an individual.

When confronted with the classic: "The only good U.S. schools are ranked in the top 50." Ms. Tulloch is armed with her students' individual list with context and data that supports the reality of what is "good" for the student. My response is usually to clarify: "With 4,300 universities in the U.S., anyone that is ranked in the top 215 is a top 5% institution, have you thought about that?"

Whatever our method, it is clear that those of us in IEM need to be prepared to help students navigate fact from fiction so that they can be successful in the educational environment and country that best serves them.



Dr. Anna Wise is Associate Director of International Recruitment at Towson University. Anna has an MBA from Wesley College and a EdD in Higher Education Administration from Northeastern University. Kimberly Tulloch Wynn is Director of University Advising & Pre-U Program Coordinator at Lower Canada College. Kim has a BA in Sociology from University of Victoria and an MA in Culture and Values in Education from McGill University.

Photo credits:
Towson Univerity