Started in 2011, the EducationUSA Syria Virtual Advising Center is part of the U.S. Department of State network of over 430 international student advising centers in more than 175 countries. The Center provides Syrian students throughout the world with virtual guidance and counseling to study at U.S. postsecondary institutions. Access to the service is free and prospective students can contact the Center directly via email or social media platforms. Additionally, the Center provides support to U.S. higher education institutions who are seeking to enroll Syrian students.
The EducationUSA Syria Adviser supports Syrian students’ access to U.S. higher education through several steps. First, the Adviser explains the U.S. higher education system to Syrian students and guides them through the process of making decisions about their future studies. The Adviser then helps Syrian students locate special scholarship opportunities and distinguish themselves in a highly competitive applicant pool. The Adviser supports Syrian students throughout the entire application process, advising them on how to write competitive personal statements and essays. Additionally, the Adviser works with U.S. higher education institutions, advising them on the current situation in Syria as well as the admissions challenges Syrian students face.
The EducationUSA Syria Virtual Advising Center employs one Adviser and operates entirely virtually. There are over 550 EducationUSA Advisers around the world who engage with students and other stakeholders through a variety of platforms. Almost all EducationUSA sessions, student fairs, and other events are conducted virtually at this time due to COVID-19, but unlike the Syria program which has been exclusively virtual, most centers also offer in-person advising and activities when health and safety conditions permit.
The ongoing conflict in Syria has left dire consequences on university-age Syrian students both inside and outside of Syria. Inside the country, students’ studies were disrupted due to instability and deteriorating security. Students who were forced to leave the country faced many challenges and obstacles including limited funding, visa restrictions, limited access to required official documents to support their applications, and limited access to standardized testing. Some encounter a language barrier as well.
Recommendations for Higher Education Institutions and Students
The EducationUSA Syria Adviser recommends that U.S. higher education institutions (HEIs) provide Syrian students with full tuition waivers or scholarships, grant Syrian students application fee waivers, facilitate the admissions and application process for Syrian students, and find alternative ways to evaluate Syrian students’ academic credentials and language requirements. This is especially important if transcripts are incomplete or missing or if English proficiency test scores are not available. Institutions should also coordinate with the EducationUSA Syria Adviser to promote scholarships and financial aid opportunities for Syrian students once they become available. HEIs with satellite campuses in the Arab region can support Syrian students who can’t travel to the U.S. by providing them with scholarships to study on their campuses.
The EducationUSA Syria Adviser shared that students in the U.S. can support this effort by raising awareness about the crisis in Syria and the need to support Syrian students inside and outside of the U.S. They can also volunteer to help Syrian students learn English and prepare for standardized tests through virtual tutoring sessions, and help resettled Syrian refugee students in the U.S. take advantage of federal financial aid.
Rashae Williams, SVR volunteer interviewed Ahmad Almasri from the EducationUSA Syria,
Article written by Christina Smith
Meet SVR Volunteer, Rashae Williams
Rashae Williams (she/her) graduated Spring 2021 with a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a minor in Latin American Studies. She is excited to attend Rutger’s University - Newark this fall to earn an MPA with a concentration in nonprofit management. Prior to working with SVR, Rashae interned with OneRefugee, a nonprofit that helps students with a refugee background obtain higher education and the IRC in Utah.She initially developed a love for refugee and nonprofit work by volunteering at the Women and Children detention center in Dilley, TX.