Following January and February application deadlines, the UCSB Education Abroad Program has received criticism from some students for failing to provide information regarding the competitive nature of certain programs.
EAP’s more competitive programs for Fall 2007, such as Rome, Italy; Cape Town, South Africa and Paris, France have been the subject of recent discussion among students who have been denied from different country options. As studying abroad requires considerable planning ahead both for class scheduling purposes and arranging a place to live upon return, these students complain that being rejected from a program botches their scheduling and housing plans.
Campus EAP Faculty Director Michael O’Connell said the impacted nature of the programs is a result of the host university not providing enough spaces. He said that whenever possible, EAP accepts eligible students into their desired programs.
“In most cases students who qualify get to go on EAP; anybody who qualifies for the most part can go,” O’Connell said. “But there are a few programs where there are not enough spaces given to us by the host university and we have to make some hard decisions in these cases.”
Eddie Edelson, a second-year religious studies major, said that during the application process for Cape Town, South Africa he was not notified at any point that only one out 12 of the students who applied would be admitted.
“I looked online and went through the entire application process without being warned,” Edelson said. “I have a strong GPA and a lot of other things going for me and I was surprised that it was so challenging and there were so few spots.”
EAP Senior Regional Advisor Tracee Cunningham, who manages the South African programs, said while students may not receive their first choice, they still have the opportunity to experience studying abroad.
“Most of the time we are able to incorporate a majority of students, especially if they are flexible,” Cunningham said. “They may not be placed in their first choice, but even their second or third choice will allow them to take advantage of the amazing abroad experience.”
Brian King, a second-year English major, said he had originally applied to go to Cape Town as well, but changed his program option to Durban, South Africa after he was notified at the interview for the program that only one person would be accepted.
“They e-mailed us and told us it was impacted and that we’d have to come in for an interview,” King said. “Then at the beginning of the interview, they told us there was only one spot for Cape Town and that it would most likely go to a science major because of the nature of the program. Then they had people talk to us about Durban and … Pietermaritzburg.”
In order to prevent future misunderstandings in impacted circumstances, O’Connell said advisors at EAP must provide transparent information for all applicants.
“This is a matter of advisors being aware and as forthcoming as possible,” O’Connell said. “We need to make sure we do that, even though only a small number have an impacted situation.”
While he agrees students should be fully informed, he said they are also personally responsible for bringing further questions to their country advisors.
“I agree with this position – students should have all the information and we try to give this at the individual country meetings,” O’Connell said. “But sometimes we need their questions.”
For example, second-year art history major Janet Groth, who was accepted to the UC Rome program for Fall 2007, said she knew before she applied that her program was competitive.
“Definitely before I applied I knew it was impacted,” Groth said. “As people turned in applications [EAP] made it very clear that they were only accepting 18 students out of 49 applicants.”
Groth also said EAP informed students about program admittance by e-mail two days following interviews so students would have ample time to make arrangements with other program options.
“They were very good about letting us know very soon,” Groth said. “They definitely gave us options and let us know what was going on.”