MANILA - Twenty-four-year-old Uriel Galace is leaving his job at the Department of Foreign Affairs after he received several graduate program scholarships from universities in the United States.
Of the 5 schools that offered him educational grants - including Harvard University - Galace chose to pursue his Masters in Global Affairs degree at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
"Of all the schools I applied to, University of Notre Dame gave me by far the strongest financial aid package: Full tuition, stipend for living expenses, health insurance, summer placements," he told reporters.
The Ateneo alumnus credited his successful applications to the technical assistance he received from EducationUSA, the US State Department's network of over 425 international student-advising centers in 178 countries.
Galace said an adviser from the US Embassy in Manila supervised his application process - from finding the right school, to securing financial assistance, completing requirements, processing visas and up until scheduling his departure.
"EducationUSA was an amazing resource. It was very, very helpful in my application," he said.
Christine Catindig, one of EducationUSA's senior advisers, reviewed and proofread 18 essays Galace penned as part of his application requirements.
"Because of EducationUSA, I was able to make really compelling essays which made me very successful in my applications," he said.
"She gave me a lot of insider information that would not normally be released in the official statements of universities," he said.
Galace is one of the 3,200 Filipino students who were successfully accepted in US-based universities through EducationUSA, Catindig told reporters.
"Basically, advisers at the embassy can confirm if the information that you see online are correct, and tell you if there are additional tips that can give you an edge sa application mo," she said.
"We fly in US universities so they themselves can advise students first hand on how they could increase their chances of getting scholarships, of getting accepted to the US universities they want so they can find the right fit for them," she said.
EducationUSA recently opened an advising center in Cebu to accommodate Visayans who would want to pursue undergraduate or graduate courses in the US, Catindig said.
"We are hoping to increase the number of Filipinos studying in the United States for the simple reason that we believe that there are a lot of opportunities existing in the United States that can further advance the Philippines once these scholars and students go back to our country," she said.
TIPS FOR ASPIRING APPLICANTS
Galace advised aspiring applicants to take their time in researching about US universities and courses they offer.
"Look for schools that offer merit-based and need-based scholarships," he said.
Merit-based grants are given to students with stellar academic records, while need-based scholarships are reserved for students who are in need of financial assistance.
Applicants should also save enough money for application and examination fees as it could amount to some P50,000, Galace said.
If you do not have the funds, there are some foundations or programs that also cover the application and examination fees, he said.
Catindig said it would be better if applicants would choose courses that are in demand in the United States as these would offer more opportunities for internships or for shadowing professionals.
"These experiences are important because this is where you get the return of investment," she said.
The program, however, does not cover employment assistance in the US after graduation.
"Our main goal is to have them come back to the Philippines. Under the student visa, they have to return to the Philippines," Catindig said.
"If they want to work in the States, that's a separate process that we no longer oversee," she said.