In a growing and hyper-connected world, more students than ever before are starting to go to another country to study at a university. Nearly every American university has at least some international students studying full time at their institution.
Of course, this does not come without some challenges. Leaving your home and your country for four (or more) years can be a scary and financially challenging thing to do. The good news is that now is the time to be an international student!
Here are some college application tips for international students.
Colleges actually need you
Every institution wants to be diverse, and it’s a lot better if they can actually be very diverse and not have to fake it with posed pictures and bloated stats. Many schools will look for a certain quota of international students (though they may not admit to it) so they can reach the level of diversity they desire. You can use this to advantage by showing how diverse you are.
Emphasize your diverse background
You are from a foreign country. You have a cultural background that most other students at an American university do not have. Share this in your application and your essay. You don’t want to overuse the word “diverse” but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to give examples of how you are diverse.
What countries are represented on your campus?
Explain why you desire to study in America
The school you’re applying to already knows you want to, and they can already assume you’re diverse enough, but you need to share why you want to study at their institution and what you hope to gain there. Share why you chose a particular school, location, etc.
Compare an American degree to one from your own country
This can tie into explaining why you desire to study in America, but it is a lot more specific. You want a degree, right? You could probably get that degree at a university in your own country, but you chose America. Explain why. Tell the admissions officer reading your application and essay specifically what you hope to gain from studying and experiencing life in the United States.
Test scores really do matter
For an American student, the score on the SAT or ACT may not hold much weight when compared with everything else on an application. But for you, a foreign student, it is one of the only things available to an admissions team when evaluating your academic work. By being from another country, your transcript and past courses may be Greek (either literally or figuratively) to them. Even if translated into English, the courses may not cross over well into the American system. It is very important that you have a high SAT score (and ACT wouldn’t hurt) to boost your chances of acceptance.
TOEFL scores show how you will manage in the classroom
Since you are foreign to America, and probably not from an English speaking country, you need to have a high score in the TOEFL. The TOEFL test is the most widely accepted English language test in the world, accepted by more than 8,500 colleges. Admissions officers need to know that you can interact and hold your own in their classrooms before admitting you. This test shows you can speak and understand English. A low score in it may be the thing that lands your application in the trash pile.
Visit the campus, personally or virtually
First of all, you need to do some form of a visit before applying so you know if you will like it and if you will fit in there for the next few years of your life. But a visit goes further than that. Visiting, even just virtually through their website, allows you to use things you saw and learned about the school in your application and essay to show you have done your research and are prepared for arriving on campus.
Of course, there is no secret key to getting accepted to an American university as an international student, just like there is no secret key for American-born students either. But if you use these tips above, do your research on the university of your choice and have the grades and test scores to show off, your chances are high of being accepted.