Here we are back with the special post I mentioned in the last post before the spring break. Dr. GK, Co-Director of International Educational Development Program, is the author of the guest post of this week, and she’s here to provide advice and tips for those considering to apply to the program. I’m pretty sure a lot of our readers might have dreamed/waited for this moment — words straight from the faculty member who will look at your applications (who has looked at your applications). For sure, these are the insights you would not want to miss!

Every August, we welcome a new cohort of students to join the International Educational Development Program here at PennGSE. Of course, the process starts a lot earlier with admissions season – which is currently well underway. Since there are always questions about the admission process, Hannah — one of the fabulous IEDP GAs and curator of 2018-19 IEDP blog — asked me to write something about the admissions process from a faculty perspective.

First, a little about me. I have been teaching at PennGSE since 2009 (the program started in 2008). This upcoming year will mark the 10th cohort that I will have had the privilege of helping select. While the students don’t arrive until the summer, my interactions with them start long before – and the first interaction for most is on paper — i.e. your application.

The application package that faculty and staff see includes your basic educational background, work experience, resume, grades, letters of recommendation, transcript, test scores, and of course, your statement of purpose. It’s always exciting reading through all the many applications we receive, especially since we attract candidates from pretty much all across the globe. Each story is unique and the range of experiences that prospective students bring as a collective is really impressive. Naturally, this makes picking a small cohort a challenging enterprise. Here are some of the FAWs we get (frequently asked worries!).

Worry 1: Test scores

When I talk to prospective students (via email, during campus visits, or through our virtual open houses), the biggest worry seems to be around test scores or grades. First, know that your application is read by faculty in the program, and we really are reading the whole dossier! Second, while test scores and grades do of course matter, a poor test score does not mean you are out of the running. This is just one facet of your whole educational and personal profile and we’re really looking at everything.

Worry 2: Background

Another issue that often comes up is that students are concerned that they don’t have an educational background – trust us, while teaching experience is a common denominator among many of our students, we’ve also had engineers, accountants, and dancers find their way to the field of education and our field is the better for it. Being able to look at issues from different perspectives is largely what IEDP is about. In fact, if someone were to ask me what the “P” in IEDP stands for it is definitely “perspective” (and also people!).

Worry 3: Applying as an int’l student

For our international students, there can be a lot of additional hurdles that can make applying daunting. If this is the case for you, please just reach out to us and let us know what the issue is. Our goal is to support you through this process as best we can, but we won’t know what you need if you don’t reach out.

Worry 4: Am I good enough?

For me, the biggest issue is all the many people who don’t apply because they feel that the IEDP (and Penn) is out of their reach. My only advice to that — and this is a general life lesson — is if you don’t try, you’ll never know. Over the years, I’ve had many students tell me that they spent the first months of the semester thinking their admission to the program must have been in error. But the best part of teaching for me is watching my students grow and thrive in our program – especially the ones who underestimated themselves in terms of how successful they could be in the IEDP and beyond. Eventually, they too see what we saw in that application package when we clicked “admit”.

I look forward to reading your application!

The photos below are from one of my earliest cohorts (2011-12) – as you can see, there’s quite a transformation from Day 1 to Day 250! This cohort is responsible for the fact that I am affectionally referred to as “Dr GK”. I’m still in touch with many of these students; they have gone on to do wonderful things and it all came together in the IEDP.