Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The 2020 Election: A guide for International Students

On Monday, I had the opportunity to attend a webinar hosted by Cornell Law professor Stephen Yale-Loehr, called “Ballots and Borders: Election 2020”. The webinar provided an in-depth explanation of the U.S. immigration system, and laid out what is at stake for international students and scholars who are studying in the U.S. during or after the 2020 election.

As I exited the Zoom call at the end of the webinar, I found myself more informed in certain areas of U.S. politics, yet I was filled with more questions than ever when it comes to the U.S. election system “in action”. For context, I am a dual U.S./Norwegian citizen, and have spent the majority of my life in Norway, until I moved to the U.S. three years ago to attend PLU. I have inquired about the U.S. election system countless times, knowing that my status as a citizen permits me to vote in elections – so it might be handy to know how things work around here. That said, I still don’t fully understand how it works, and I probably never will, because if there existed an award for “World’s Most Unnecessarily Complex and Confusing Election System”, it would most certainly be handed to the U.S. of A. To help clear things up for my fellow international students, this blogpost will serve as a guide to the U.S. presidential election, and how its outcomes might affect you.

Primary Election vs. General Election

The presidential election process can be divided into the primary election, also known as the “primaries”, and the general election. The primary election serves as a stepping stone to the general election, and is used to determine who the primary candidate of each party should be. The primaries are run by each respective state and their local governments, where voters cast ballots for their preferred candidate. Some states, like Iowa, Nevada, and Wyoming, choose to elect a presidential nominee through a caucus instead of a primary election. In this case, eligible voters gather at local “caucus meetings”, where they discuss and vote on the presidential candidates.

After the primaries conclude, the presidential nominees are chosen for each party based on the results. The nominees can then announce their selection for vice president, and together they can start campaigning to win the popular opinion in the general election. In other words, the general election is characterized by only having one presidential candidate per political party. This year, the general election will be held on November 3rd, and it is always held on the first Tuesday of November, every fourth year.


The Electoral College

To me, the electoral college is the most perplexing element of the election system. Unlike many other democracies in the world, the U.S. president is not selected based on a national popular vote. Instead, citizens in each state cast their general election ballot, which votes a number of party representatives into what is called the Electoral College, where their main objective is to elect a President after Election Day. Without going into too much detail, a presidential candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the election, out of a total 538 possible votes. The closest attempt to make this process representative is designating a fixed number of electoral votes to each state based on its population size. For instance, California has a population of nearly 40 million, and so they receive a significant number of electoral votes, 55 to be exact, compared to smaller states such as New Mexico, who receives 5 electoral votes. Are we overwhelmed yet?


It’s worth noting that this system has been critiqued by Americans and non-nationals alike, arguing that it is not representative of the actual public opinion. Instead, the public’s opinion is used to elect other politicians, who then get to make the “final call” as to who becomes President. A good example of how this process may be unrepresentative is the 2016 presidential election, where candidate Hilary Clinton actually won the popular vote by nearly 3 million people. This means that there were three million more ballots cast for Clinton than Trump, however… we all know how that turned out. One reason for this outcome, and one of the main critiques of using an electoral college to determine the outcome of an election, has to do with the number of electoral votes allotted to smaller states. The argument is that there exists an imbalance in voting power between different states, and although larger states receive more electoral votes – it is still not proportional across the board. Essentially, voters who live in larger states may feel as though their vote has less of an impact than those who live in smaller states. This is because smaller states still receive a substantial number of electoral votes – and may have a larger say in the outcome than what is proportional to their population size.


The 2020 Presidential Candidates

The webinar I mentioned at the beginning of this blogpost was mainly spent reviewing each of the presidential candidates in regard to where they stand on immigration matters, and how this might affect international students. Immigration has been a signature issue for Trump throughout the 2016 election, as well as his past four years in office. In short, he will very likely continue his efforts to reduce both legal and illegal immigration, which will consequently affect the international student population in the U.S. as well. Most notably, the Trump administration has recently proposed the elimination of “Duration of Status” for F-1 students. “Duration of Status” allows F-1 students (and other student visa holders) to stay in the U.S. without a hard expiration date, and it allows students to renew their paperwork pretty easily if said student would like to pursue further education in the U.S. after their initial program end date. The elimination of “Duration of Status”, then, would result in heightened restrictions for how long international students may be permitted to stay/renew their stay in the U.S. after they finish their program.

Biden, on the other hand, is interested in reverting many of the immigration laws and policies that have been passed under the Trump administration, and supports a comprehensive immigration reform. Just some food for thought!

With that said, I want to encourage all eligible voters to GO VOTE PLEASE, and fellow international students – tell your friends what’s at stake and to GO VOTE PLEASE!!! :-) 

 -- Megan


“Borders and Ballots: Election 2020” Webinar, hosted by Stephen Yale-Loehr


Thursday, October 8, 2020

5 Tips for PLU School of Nursing Application

Hey guys,
This is Bryan. And I am back with another blog post!
This time I want to share some nursing program application tips. These are the tips that I used or I found it important when applying to School of Nursing 3 years ago. And now, I am a senior nursing student who is graduating soon. 
The information I offer below are based on my personal experience. I can't guarantee it to be 100% accurate nor it hasn't been change since I've applied. However, I think it can give you a general sense of what to focus on and offer you a starting point if you are struggling on the application. 

General Information

PLU Clinical Learning and Simulation Center
Nursing is one of the most popular majors at PLU. The School of Nursing offers Bachelor nursing program that features high NCLEX passing rate and large amount of clinical practice opportunities with a high post-graduate employment rate.
Starting Fall 2021, The School of Nursing is also changing its three-years nursing program into a two-years program, which saves time for students and have a more reasonable course arrangements. Link Here. 
The Nursing Center that was recently opened was also offers great opportunity for nursing students to  practice. 

1. Application

Student can apply on this website (Undergraduate). 
Note that International students are required to submit a language testing score, and the requirement for that is higher than PLU application. (link)
In general, both Spring-starting and Fall-starting applications are submitted in the same period (Sept. 1st ~ Aug). For incoming students, students who complete their application before the priority deadline (Feb 1st) are given priority considerations. For current PLU students, 4 decision dates are set, and student who complete the application before one decision dates will be notified about the result at the next date. 
I recommend to complete the application before the priority date, or as early as possible, to increase the chance of acceptance. 
Be aware that you have to submit all the documents by the priority date to be considered completing your application. Having only the application form completed and not submitting the documents will not be considered completing the application and will not give you the advantage of priority deadline. 

2. Complete Prerequisite Classes with Good Grades

(Study hard "always" works)
To apply to the School of Nursing, students are required to complete each of the prerequisite classes with a grade higher than 2.5 and a overall GPA of the prerequisites of at least 3.0. 
I think this is the most important factor that the School of Nursing look at when making a decision. Of course you'll need to meet the requirements for application first. However, to increase your chance of getting in, you should have good grades in the the two Human A&P classes at least. This is because many of the nursing classes are based on the knowledge of human anatomy and physiology. 
When I transferred from Pierce College to PLU, I have completed all the nursing prerequisites. I didn't have the best grade for all of the classes. Most of them I only got 3.0 ~ 3.5, which is not very competitive. However, I got 4.0s for both and the Human A&P classes, and I think that really helped me a lot.
If you have already completed the classes, and the grades are not ideal, you still have the chance to retake the class. The school (of Nursing) is allowing one retake for each prerequisites. so if you have a grade between 2.5~3.0 for the Human A&P classes, I recommend you to retake it for a better grade. 

3. Get healthcare working/volunteer experience

Having a working experience is not required, but it will boost your opportunity for getting in by showing that you are determined to the field of nursing. 
By working experience, I don't mean that you need to have a CNA working experience in a big hospital. You can be a transport personnel in a hospital or you can simply volunteer in assisted-living facility or a children-caring center. 
For me, I volunteered in a hospital... gift shop... for 100 hours. I am not sure if it really helped with my resumes, but the most important thing is that you are showing your willingness to advocate for somebody else and you are really interested in getting into the field of nursing. 

4. Have a good letter of recommendation

2 letters of recommendation is needed to complete the application. This is the other piece of information that you can use to accelerate your acceptance rate. 
Personally, I recommend to have one letter of recommendation from your work place or volunteer place. For example, ask for one from your supervisor in volunteer job. Your supervisor can demonstrate your good work attitude, show that you are truly interested in the field of nursing, and prove that you have advocated for someone else. 
The second recommendation should come from a different source to show your different side. I recommend having one from the professor in one of your prerequisite classes (Human A&P class professor is ideal). This letter will demonstrate your ability to learn new information and your study attitude. 
If you can't find a letter of recommendation from your professors, ask your advisor for one. Advisors also know you well and are more willing to help you. 

5. Write Good Personal Essay

(Stress management is huge
in nursing school)

If your classes have already finished and you still want to improve your application, you should definitely spend more time in writing a good personal essay. 
Usually the School will give topics for the applicants to write about. The topics change every year, but there is one tip that you can use to start writing. That is to write your essay based on how you fit the essential qualifications
If you haven't read it, Essential Qualifications are basically talking about the good qualities that a nursing student should have. It include motor skills, sensory/observation, communication, cognitive, and behavioral/emotion. You can read on this website for more detailed information. 
I think it's best to focus on communication skills and cognitive (critical thinking) skills. Talk about how you have or practiced those skills based on a volunteer/working experience. 
Or, if you have limited working experience, talk about how you managed stress in busy class time. Also, you can talk about how you advocate for someone else and express your interest in getting into the field of nursing. 
The key is to show that you are interested in the field and express your personalities to show them that you can bring something different to the field. 
For the very least, have your essays prove-read by couple other people to avoid grammar errors. 

So here are the 5 tips that you can use when applying for the School of Nursing. I hope you can find it helpful and use it to submit a perfect application to the School of Nursing! 
Stay Healthy and Stay Safe~