International Students in the USA
There were over 800,000 international students studying in the US in 2013. That number is set to rise and American colleges are stepping up their game in response. Foreign students looking to study here now receive a lot of information and guidance from the colleges to which they apply.
Before applying anywhere however, potential applicants are often overwhelmed with the amount of information out there. Which colleges to look at, how to find out about degree courses, what qualifications are needed and how to afford the fees, are among many of their questions.
Here are my top five tips for a successful college application:
- Give yourself at least 18 months for research and applications (both to colleges and for a student visa). Many colleges require standardized tests such as the ACT or SAT, and English language tests, which you must also schedule and prepare for.
- Do your research. Cast a wider net than the “big name colleges”, especially if you have a particular subject in mind. Read about the general application process and requirements before you do anything. (Most colleges follow the same format so a general overview is fine.) Getting the big picture will lessen the stress, allow you to plan and manage the application process, and avoid errors.
- Take your time with the application form, often referred to as a “packet” because of the amount of information requested. American colleges want to know about your academics obviously, but they are often just as interested in your extra-curricular activities, your personality and what your teachers think about you. You need to convince colleges that you are a good “fit” for them. And always have someone else look over it before you submit anything.
- Consider how you or your family will pay for college. American college fees can range from around $20,000 to $60,000+ per year depending on where you go. Fortunately, many colleges give merit scholarships (based on academic ability) to American and international students. Although foreign students aren’t eligible for government, need-based financial aid, there are still some options available, either from the individual college or third party organizations.
- Understand deadlines and the acceptance process. Colleges do not all have the same submission deadlines, so it is crucial to keep control of this information if applying to more than one college. There are also many rules governing accepting and declining offers, and failure to follow them can result in a college rescinding the offer. For example, if you apply “Early Decision” to a college, the agreement is that you only apply ED to one college, and if you are accepted, you must withdraw regular applications elsewhere. This is an agreement between all colleges and they do not look kindly on applicants who ignore these rules.
It is also important to understand how to deal with offers, deferrals or wait-listings when they come in. (You may not hear back from colleges at the same time.) Declining one college offer before you have heard from other colleges (no matter how strongly they have assured you you’ll get in) is not advisable and could leave you with nothing.
For students not familiar with the American education system, the college application process is a fairly steep learning curve but it isn’t insurmountable. There are many consultants to help you through the process but don’t be discouraged if their fees are out of reach for you. Information about all aspects of the “college app” process is available if you know where to look.