The single most important message that foreign-educated students need to hear from front-line community college staff is that they don’t need to start all over again. Their foreign education has value and can be used in the U.S. for both academic and professional purposes.
If immigrant students have a high school diploma, some college or a university degree from their home country, they may need your help to get their foreign education evaluated in the U.S. A “credential evaluation” is a rigorous, third-party review of an individual’s non-U.S. education. Credential evaluations can also help professional licensing boards and employers understand qualifications earned outside the U.S. so it is important to know what students’ goals are before advising them how to proceed. For a complete explanation of foreign credential evaluation, consult WES Global Talent Bridge.
In the context of a community college, a credential evaluation is a tool to help students gain recognition and credit for previous education to support the admissions or credit transfer process. Here are some ways you can advise students to use it to move forward in higher education:
- Students who have completed high school in their home country are eligible for college admission in the U.S. and should not be guided into high school equivalency (HSE) or GED programs.
- Students who have some foreign university or college education have the opportunity to receive transfer credit or gain advanced standing at an American college, getting on track to complete an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
- Students who have earned a bachelor’s degree abroad may be eligible for graduate study in the U.S.
As an advisor, help your foreign-educated immigrants arrange to have their foreign college transcript evaluated by your college or a reputable credential evaluation organization before they register for any college courses. That way, you and your student will know what they have to build on, i.e., how many of their foreign credits are eligible for transfer to an American college or university. The more credits a foreign-educated student can transfer, the more quickly they can reach their educational goals.
For a free “sneak peek” at what the U.S. equivalent of a foreign university degree might be, World Education Services has created an online degree equivalency tool that can be used by students and advisors alike. This tool can serve as a jumping off point for career planning discussions with foreign-educated immigrants while they wait for the formal credential evaluation to be completed.
Ultimately, it is up to each college to decide how it intends to recognize the previous academic achievement of its immigrant students. Make sure your college provides clear answers to students on these questions. Take this quiz to see how your college appeals to prospective students with foreign academic credentials:
How well does your community college handle foreign credential evaluation?
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Question 1 of 3
Does your website include a link that explains how foreign-educated applicants can go about getting their foreign high school diploma or college education formally evaluated?Correct
You are following best practice if you are telling prospective students that your college values their foreign education by putting this information in a prominent place on your website. They know what ‘next steps’ they need to take to gain recognition of their foreign education as the foundation for their application for further study.Incorrect
What changes to your website could make this information more accessible?
If your college has a policy about assessing foreign degrees and diplomas, put it on your website where prospective students can find it. They should know what ‘next steps’ they need to take to gain recognition of their foreign education as the foundation for their application for further study.
Question 2 of 3
Take the time to navigate your college website as if you were an immigrant with education from abroad.
Can immigrant students easily find the information relevant to them on your website? Does the general admissions process mention foreign credential evaluation?Correct
Your college is following good practice when it makes it easy for immigrant students to know how to gain recognition of their foreign education at the time of admission.
But double check where this information is posted: Often important information about foreign credential evaluation is posted only at the International Student Office or on the website under the tab “International Students.” The International Student Office is not a logical place for immigrants to look for information!
Here is Westchester Community College’s (hyperlink to best practice) solution: a website tab under “Admissions” leads international students and immigrant students to a list of six professional organizations whose evaluation services the college accepts.Incorrect
What changes could you make to your website and other materials so that immigrant students can easily find the information they need to gain recognition for foreign education at the time of admission?
Maybe such information is hiding in the wrong place: Often important information about foreign credential evaluation is posted only at the International Student Office or on the website under the tab “International Students.” The International Student Office is not a logical place for immigrants to look for information!
Here is an example of best practice: At Westchester Community College (hyperlink to best practice), a website tab under “Admissions” leads international students and immigrant students to a list of six professional organizations whose evaluation services the college accepts.
Question 3 of 3
Does your college have a clear and transparent process for evaluating foreign credentials as part of the admissions process? Are students given clear directions for how to submit documents, receive transfer credit or other accommodations for college credits earned abroad?Correct
A transparent process and clearly-written information about the credential evaluation process your college uses is critical for immigrants who are applying for post-secondary studies with previous education abroad. They should be encouraged to gain credit for previous education, whether that is a high school diploma, some college credits or a completed certificate or degree.
If your college recommends students use a credential evaluation service(s), make sure the preferred options are clear on your general admissions page (not just your international students page).Incorrect
Read on to better understand this topic and help your students!
Immigrants often have completed some college or entire degrees in their home country and they need to understand how to gain recognition for this achievement.
Colleges set their own requirements and process for evaluating and recognizing foreign credentials for entry or transfer credit purposes.
- Some colleges do their own evaluation of foreign transcripts.
- Others use a “third party” credential evaluation service that has the expertise to suggest how a foreign education compares to a U.S. education in a subject area.
- If the latter, most colleges list preferred provider(s) on their website.
- If there is no recommendation, the applicant is free to choose a provider.
Here are ways to help your students:
- Know how your college handles foreign credentials and transfer credit.
- Be prepared to direct students to the right page of the college website.
- Make sure the process is clear on your general admissions page – not only in the section written for international students.
Immigrants need to know:
- If the college does its own evaluations, what is required of the student?
- If the college does not do its own evaluations, does it recommend a particular credential evaluation service? Are these listed?
- When is the right time to start this process?
- If no guidance is provided by the college, students should review the advice at Global Talent Bridge (hyperlink to Credential Evaluation section) or visit NACES (hyperlink to NACES home page).
- Self-advocacy is important in this process – their education has value!
Want to learn more about how to advise your immigrant clients on credential evaluation? You can watch a WES Global Talent Bridge webinar Understanding Credential Evaluation.
At Westchester Community College (WCC), for instance, its Admission for international and immigrant students webpage provides a list of six professional organizations whose evaluation services WCC accepts.
If no guidance is provided by the college, review the advice on credential evaluation at the Global Talent Bridge or visit the NACES. You can always refer your immigrant students or clients to find the answers in Frequently Asked Questions.