如何稳妥的用英语说明学生生涯中的非正常状况

每年在工作中,AADPS的老师们基本都要指导我们学员中的一小部分处理他们学术生涯中的异常状况,包括但不限于转学、转专业、留级、间隔年、身体上或精神上的疾病乃至更严重的情形。从这个角度上来看,所谓的“非正常状况”其实也是再正常不过的事情,放到谁头上都有可能发生。虽然这些状况,按照我们中国人好面子的做事风格,一般不会和外人过多提起,但是在申请的过程中却不可将不必要的顾虑带进来。如果我们能诚实成熟的把问题认真说明清楚,不但能打消招生官可能会有的种种疑虑,甚至还能化劣势为优势,成为申请的一大助力呢。

案例

下面这个是陈欣老师在前些年处理过的一个经典案例。学生在某个藤校就读之后,因为家庭变故和学习压力,学业方面遇到了一些障碍。学校就让她先回家休学一年再说。想不到回头重新申请签证的时候,签证官却对提交的材料和面试问答不甚满意,拒绝发新的学生签证。无奈之下,学生找到陈欣老师,让他来亲自操刀处理这个棘手的状况。

陈老师先是指导学生,给签证官起草了这么一封信:

Dear Consular Officer,

I would like to hereby state my reason to apply re-entry of US in the written form in hoping that all points could be delivered in a lucid manner. This is by no means of an act of self-forgiving, but a simple reiteration of the course of events for your convenience.

Owing to my previous overconfidence and misunderstanding of the US education system, I underestimated the effort required to excel in a prestigious institution such as XX. To make the matter worse, as a young Asian female I failed to adapt to the western culture in the time span of one year. Owing to lacking effective communication with the faculty and staff, this grave situation was not promptly corrected. For the benefit of my health and well-being, the university and I agreed that the best practice would be for me to temporarily leave to recuperate.

During my time at home, I have repetitively reviewed my undoing and strived to amend. I constantly contacted deans of Student Life and deans of College of Science and Art, seeking their help and advice. I taught myself various courses using the courseware posted on university websites, which would in turn prepare me for the study in the coming summer and semester. I intensively participated in volunteering and rebuilt my life attitude. And I am most grateful to my parents, who gave me continuous support and love in the duration.

Now I believe that I have learnt my mistakes and become sufficiently mature to handle the challenges one must overcome as a college student in the United States. I understand that the importance for an alien to familiarize with a vastly different cultural background and build a proper supporting network. I greatly valued the opportunity of receiving high quality education from an American University and considered that both successes and failures would constitute important lessons of my life.

Finally I would like to thank you for your effort regarding this matter.

紧接着又指导她重写了学习计划:

Why I come back to XX

Since I have now fully recovered from my health-related issues, I intended to continue my study at XX. In the past year, I have been intensively participating in charity works, which built up my characters and improved my communication skills. Also I have studied subjects such as Political Philosophy, which served the dual intent of satisfying my curiosity and readying me for courses such as International Relationship. I planned to take it during the immediate summer session, if my visa could be promptly issued.

The shift of my original plan

From the lessons I learnt during my first year at XX, I became aware that it might suit my interests better if I can fully utilize my passion for sciences, which have heavy critical thinking component. Thus I would like to choose Economics as my major, instead of going to the Business School as I originally scheduled. This is not a whimsical decision since I have enjoyed the subject a lot as early as my high school. Moreover, my fond of the major was renewed owing to my recent experience as a social worker. I believe that only through Economics can we properly resolve some of the big issues emerged in modern society, such as depression and unbalanced social development.

My career goal

Eventually I would like to be a financial analyst or a corporate economist, either in US or China. So upon graduation I may work for a couple of years in an entry-level position to accumulate sufficient experience and skills. After that I would like to continue my graduate study in either Economics or Finance.

技巧

虽然不是传统的留学文书,以上这个案例却也很有代表性和挑战性。从中我们可以归纳出几条极为重要的技巧。

1. 开门见山

按照咱们中国人比较委婉的个性,在必须对自己所处的不利地位做解释时,往往喜欢绕圈子说一些无关紧要的话使得自己看上去不那么难堪。但事实上,从跨文化的角度来说这个是一个大忌。一般来说,对于解释说明性质的留学文书,招生官(或者对于上面的案例,签证官)是不会有时间、精力或心情认真一个字一个字从头看到尾的。这个对于他们来说,本来就是额外的工作量,而在这种情况下,云山雾罩的写法会让他们更摸不着头脑。

因此,我们AADPS比较推荐的做法,是在文书的开头采用传统的总起式,提纲挈领的把问题说明清楚,然后再一层一层的铺陈展开。一般来说的话,在展开的部分也需要惜字如金,确保所用的每一个词都是在读者眼中有效力的,而不是不知所云的废话。

2. 自我反思,但留有余地

可以看到,第一篇第二句

This is by no means of an act of self-forgiving, but a simple reiteration of the course of events for your convenience.

直接了当的说明了全篇的目的。当然其实一般的情况关于self-forgiving的否定是不用写出来的,只是因为这位学员之前成绩确实不容乐观,前一次签证面试的表现也差强人意,因此必须采用比较弱势的姿态。

接下来的一个段落,我们可以注意学员的一些用词,比如overconfidence,misunderstanding,underestimate和failed。反思达到这个程度是恰到好处的。单拿overconfidence来说,如果换成confidence就稍微弱了一些,但是换成arrogance的话就显然过了。之前的previous用在这边也是起限定的作用,有“痛改前非”的意思在里面。

当然,在反思的过程中,也不能就把自己一棍子打死了。比如

As a young Asian female I failed to adapt the western culture in the time span of one year.

会点出自己作为young Asian female的三重弱势的身份,和one year这个短暂的时间叠加起来,就能尽量的争取对方的理解乃至同情。

更重要的一点,学员被拒签,很大程度上是不能证明自己有足够的学习能力。因此,我们一方面绝不能说自己学习能力确实差,这个就把读者的怀疑给坐实了。于此同时,直接说自己的学习能力其实很强又确实太唯心了,也很难让人信服。因此稳妥的做法其实是尽量避免在主观上提及,但是用一些文书内外的客观事实来印证。因为学员的理科基础课相对较好一些,因此她可以专门强调:

I became aware that it might suit my interests better if I can fully utilize my passion for sciences, which have heavy critical thinking component.

3. 占据主导地位

一般来说,学术生涯中的非正常状况会把自己置于很被动的局面。因此在文书写作中要特别注意为自己争取主动权。以下这一句

For the benefit of my health and well-being, the university and I agreed that the best practice would be for me to temporarily leave to recuperate.

就把矛盾转移到不容易在道义上被责难的健康方面上(也参见下面的第六条),同时也强调是大学和自己共同达成的休学(以及在之后复学)决定。这样写出来既不违背事实,也能很有效的说服读者并扭转局势。

4. 少评判

之前见过很多转学的文书,在回答为什么转学的时候跳不出两条,不是学校(教授)不给力,就是同学不给力。如果是从国内转到国外的,或许还得再加上教育制度不给力这一条。事实上,说这些事情不但于事无补,反而会损害自己的可信度。因为作为一个申请者,在文书里写的内容并没有任何预设的权威性,而是任读者来评判筛选的。在读到这些内容后,招生官反而往往会按照西方批判性思维(critical thinking)来找申请者自身的问题。因此,即便客观事实真是这样,直接写在文书里也是不甚明智的。

我们应该尽量避免提及相关的内容。如果一定要在文书里出现的话,可以像我们这位学员这样处理:

Owing to lacking effective communication with the faculty and staff, this grave situation was not promptly corrected.

这基本上还是承接上文,从自身的角度找原因,说明自己在跨文化沟通上出了障碍,因此也未能及时调整到正确的轨道上来。这样一方面是转移了读者的注意力,使得自己的学习能力不至于招致太大的质疑;另一方面,沟通既然是双向的,学生已经示弱了,读者也会去考虑是不是学校方面的faculty和staff也有失职的地方。

5. 努力!努力!努力!

第一篇的第三段是很有气势的一段,可以算得上是正式开始回击了。

I constantly contacted deans of Student Life and deans of College of Science and Art, seeking their help and advice. I taught myself various courses using the courseware posted on university websites, which would in turn prepare me for the study in the coming summer and semester. I intensively participated in volunteering and rebuilt my life attitude.

先写与校方的联系,有承上启下的作用,也因为涉及到美方可以印证,从而间接的提高了文章的可信度。紧接着写自己自学网上课程的努力,彰显自己在学术上所做的充分准备,打消读者的怀疑。接下来写了自己在间隔年的志愿活动,与后面的学习计划以及其他的签证材料(例如陈老师和学员一起精挑细选了好几张支教照片)相呼应。

6. 人性化

通常在写作中有三种途径可以改变读者的态度:以理服人(appeal to reason)、以势压人(appeal to authority)和以情动人(appeal to emotion)。但在做解释的时候,显然最后一种是最合适的。虽然可以预料到由于文化背景、教育程度和社会阅历的差异,中国学生和招生官的共通之处不是太多。但是在一些基本的方面,比如人人都能体会到的一些正面情感上或者每个人都无法避免的生老病死上,很容易稍加渲染以拉近与读者的距离并让他们感同身受,正如下面这句话体现的一样。

And I am most grateful to my parents, who gave me continuous support and love in the duration.

7. 给过去画句号

这应该是最关键的一条了。如果是疾病或者意外的话还好说,但是如果异常情况是由于自身主观原因造成的,务必要给出充分的说明,让读者相信这种情况不会再次重演。上面第二篇学习计划的核心主旨就是围绕这个做的文章。第一部分why I come back从沟通和学术两方面解释了自己是如何克服之前的问题的(也参见上面的第五条),还稍微在最后从道德制高点上给了签证官一些压力。第二部分the shift of my original plan通过转专业的计划,让之前成绩单上商科的劣势显得不那么刺眼,同时也呼应了自己的志愿活动,体现出自己对于新专业的热忱和对整个过程的思索。

8. 展望未来

过去发生的事情都已经成为定局,无论再后悔、再竭尽全力的解释,本质上来说都是无济于事的。但是未来还没有发生,一切皆有可能,因此可以有相对较大的发挥空间。从AADPS的老师们个人经验来看,不少学员可能没有意识到可以而且应该好好写一写这方面。毫无疑问,一个坚定但不夸张的未来愿景,能从整体上极大增强全篇的力道,带来满满的正能量和信心。在学习计划的第三部分my career goal,学员在陈老师提醒以后确实是这么写的。

这一条对于转学文书还尤其重要,学生们更应该好好写一写未来学校可能给自己带来的独到优势,以及这些将如何让自己朝梦想更进一步。


在陈老师的悉心帮助下,我们的这位学员早已顺利继续学业,并最终成功拿到名校文凭并留美做管理咨询了。总而言之,世界上的任何问题都是能解决的,不要想不开。不过更重要的,陈老师在这里提醒大家还是要尽自己最大的能力好好学习并克服困难,正如这句俗话所说的:

Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you.

版权申明

本文为AADPS原创,保留著作及出版权利。欢迎非盈利性质的转载,但须保留作者和原始发布地址。

本文的原始发布地址是http://aadps.net/2016/4931.html。我们每年夏季会更新最新美国大学本科申请文书题目和权威院校指南,欢迎把网站加入浏览器收藏夹。

发布者

陈 欣

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