Vietnamese students aim for top US schools

VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnamese students are ambitious. They don't just want to study abroad, they want to attend top universities. But brains and a healthy bank balance are not enough in today's competitive world. Now, students have to know something about the establishment they apply to and the culture of the country.

Students learn about conditions in American universities. (Photo: VNS)

Yola Institue hopes to meet that need.

It was founded by Khoa Pham, a graduate of Bates College, in Maine. And he says he is inundated by enquires from Vietnamese students eager to study in the US and who are befuddled by the requirements of SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) – basic requirements when it comes to studying in the US.

According to the US-based Institute of International Education (IIE) Open Doors report released yesterday, Viet Nam is eighth in the world when it comes to sending students to the US to study. This year alone, nearly 14,900 Vietnamese students studied in the country, a 13.5-per cent increase compared to the previous year.

And they're aiming for the top.

"Ten years ago parents were only concerned about sending their kids to a university abroad," Khoa said. "However, as parents have become more informed about education in the US there has been a monumental growth in the number of students going to the country. And what's more, both students and parents have become more selective about what kind of school their kids should attend."

In August 2009, Khoa and his two friends, one of whom graduated from Stanford University and the other from Dickinson College, founded the Yola Institute, which prepares high – and middle-schoolers for SAT, TOEFL IBT, in addition to giving them admission tips to colleges in the US.

Khoa said his business's success rate is about 90 per cent. He said those who have enrolled at the institute have managed to gain admission to leading US universities such as Stanford, Princeton, Brown, Harvard and Georgetown. The institute has about 500 students on its books yearly, who pay up to $900 to be coached by alumni from top-ranked US universities.

Mark Ashwill, former director of IIE-Viet Nam (Institute of International Education) and now managing director of Capstone Viet Nam, a Ha Noi-based human resource development company, said successful students need to be more than simply academic. "Part of it is gaining a "competitive edge"; another is meeting a real need that is not being met in the educational system," he said.

Students must fight for a place at a top US university, said Nguyen An Quyen, director of the IvyPrep Division in Ha Noi, another prep centre.

Quyen said she thought about establishing the IvyPrep programme in 2007 after learning about similar models in South Korea, such as the Daewon prep school and Minjok Leadership Academy.

Nguyen Nhat Huyen, an 11th grader, has been attending IvyPrep for more than a year. She's hoping to gain admittance to a top liberal arts college in the US, majoring in music or economics.

"I feel that the education system in the US does not rely solely on textbooks," Huyen said.

"We try to build up the critical thinking skills and the sense of creativity for even those at an early age, such as in the sixth, seventh or eighth grade," Quyen said.

However, she remains pragmatic.

"It's more important for them to identify what they want to become after four years," she said.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News