How do I become a FLEX finalist?

In 2018, I successfully qualified for the FLEX exchange program, which sends high school students from the former Soviet Union and Eurasia to study for one academic year in an American high school for free, as well as the opportunity to receive a scholarship and live with a carefully selected host family. Since the program's inception, more than 28,000 students have received a scholarship and gone away for a year on exchange.

Facts about the program:

  • FLEX is organized by the American Councils for International Education, which selects students, organizes flights, etc.etc.

  • The scholarship covers everything related to flight, living in America, living with a host family, attending an American school, health insurance, and participating in local community events.

  • The scholarship does not cover expenses for passports, excess baggage, internet and phone calls to your home country, or anything above the monthly stipend.

  • There are three stages of selection, which include an English test, essay writing, interview with a native speaker, and completing an application.

  • The selection results are announced in late spring through a phone call, departing in late July to early September and returning the following May/June.

The selection criteria:

  • Match a grade and meet certain age criteria (varies from country to country). For example, for citizens of Kazakhstan, applicant must be in 8th grade, 9th grade, 10th grade, or in the first year of college/lyceum at the end of 9th grade, and have a date of birth from January 1, 2003 to July 15, 2005.

  • Demonstrate proficiency in English at the time of application and meet the criteria for a U.S. visa.

  • Have citizenship of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, or Ukraine.

  • Have not been in the United States for more than 90 days in total during the past 5 years, and do not intend to immigrate to/initialize to the United States.

First round

On the first round of FLEX, each participant takes a 15-minute English language test. Excellent English proficiency is not a major selection criterion, but each participant must have at least a basic knowledge of English. You do not need an application to participate in the first round. It is enough to come on the test writing day and get the necessary participant registration form. You only need to bring your ID/passport/birth certificate, "Consent to Personal Data Processing" (available on the official program website), a 3-by-4 photo, and a pen. If you want to bring textbooks, dictionaries, and the like, you can only use them before you write the test. Taking out these materials, phones or cheat sheets during the test is strictly prohibited and punishable by removing the participant from the classroom - automatic expulsion from the program.

The test consists of 16 questions, the first section is 10 questions on vocabulary and grammar, the second is 6 questions on the text offered to you. The writing time is 15 minutes. There are always several options. The recommended English level for the first round is Pre-Intermediate or higher.

Tips for the first round:

  • Start with text.

  • Do not leave any blank answers.

  • In the beginning, answer the easier questions.

  • Check your answers if there is time left.

  • Repeat basic grammar, idioms and phrases a day or a few hours before the test.

Best Round II

The second round consists of writing 3 essays in English in 35 minutes. A list of official essay topics can be found at site. In order to prepare for the 2nd round, you need to find someone who knows you well, and together with him/her briefly answer each question. That way, if any of the topics you come across on the tour itself, you will already know what to answer. It is also advisable to choose about 3 topics from the list and write an essay on them in English for a while, so that you understand how you should distribute it on the day of the competition. While writing the essay, you should not touch the topic of politics, religion, breaking the law and the like, or write that you only want to go to the United States for food or travel. At the same time, you should show that you have qualities such as independence, responsibility, open-mindedness, and ability to communicate.

Third round

The third round is a two-day selection process. The first day is an essay and language test, the second day is a group game and an interview. You are also given a questionnaire to fill out 2-3 weeks in advance and send to the American Councils office in your country.

On Round 3, you write 2 essays in 45 minutes. The topics, writing rules, and tips remain the same as in the 2nd round. The only difference is that more of the essay topics will focus on why exactly you should be an exchange student. That's why you need to look at the main goals of the program, such as cultural exchange and improving relations between the United States and the participating countries, and write in your essay how you can make them a reality.

Also at this stage, all participants write another English proficiency test called the SLEP or Secondary Level English Proficiency Test. This test is a lighter version of the TOEFL and is given to high school students who wish to study on an international exchange program or to be accepted into an American private or public school, and for whom English is not a native language. The test has no effect on whether you become a finalist, an alternate candidate, or fail the program altogether. If you pass FLEX and do poorly on this test, you will be sent to a language camp in Bulgaria or America.

SLEP consists of 2 sections (listening and reading), each section consists of 75 questions that take 45 minutes to complete. Some tips to prepare: watch TV shows in English, listen to audio books or podcasts, read books or magazines, and repeat basic grammar.

The next stage of the selection is a team game of 5-6 people, where you have to show your leadership skills. The topic of the game can be anything from a skit or debate to survival on a desert island. The game is overseen by two representatives from the American Councils, who take notes at the same time and interview each participant individually. During the game, it pays to be yourself, be polite, and not interrupt other participants.

The interview or interview is done to get to know the participant better. Some of the questions are in English, while the rest are in Russian or your native language. Just like essays, the questions are structured to understand you from a psychological point of view and how you will behave in certain situations. Very often they can be confusing to a semifinalist in the program, but it's important to stay calm and analyze your answers in the same way you would in an essay.

After going through all the stages of selection, the participant is given a few weeks to complete a questionnaire, which includes information about the semifinalist's grades and health, a host family letter and additional information about the participant. Participants will find out their status in late April or early May by phone call.

2022-01-14 07:23:40
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