Are you an international student thinking of studying in the United States? Although the application process may seem very challenging, it is possible! Anyone willing to work hard and motivated to begin the application process can study in the United States.
Two years ago, I decided that I wanted to study in the United States; however, I did not know how to apply to universities. My first point of information was the Internet. I spent months reading about the application process, and even though I found articles, they did not cover the questions I had about applying as an international student. If you find yourself in the same situation right now, you are lucky because here are the things that every international student should know before starting their college application process:
Get started as soon as you can.
The earlier you start working on your application, the better your chances are of getting into your dream college. Some international students apply to college in their senior year of high school, and others take a gap year after graduation to fully focus on the process. I decided that the best option for me would be to take a gap year because when I was in high school, I did not know about the process and was confused with all the information that I found on the Internet.
I know many international students who started working on their application during their junior year. This decision depends entirely on you. You should start when you feel that you have all the information you need and are ready to begin the process. If you are ready, you can start your research by following some of the steps below.
Read about the general process.
As I mentioned before, there are many articles about the application process, but not all of them provide the correct information or cover all the topics that concern you as an international student. My advice is that you only read the information provided on trusted websites (E.g. Niche, university websites, US embassies). Some of the most important topics you should read about are:
Deadlines. Read about the difference between early decision, early action, and regular decision. Most colleges have their Early Decision and Early Action deadlines in November, and regular decision deadlines in December or January.
Difference between major and minor.
Common App and Coalition App. These are the platforms where you can add all the information required by universities to which you apply. Make sure you understand the difference between them and read about their sections (E.g. personal information, education, tests, activities, and essays).
Tests required. You will have to take some tests to demonstrate your knowledge in certain subjects. Read about the SAT and ACT. Some colleges do not require your test scores, so be sure to also learn the difference between test-optional colleges and test-blind colleges. As an international student, you will also need to take an English proficiency test to measure your level of English. Read about the tests that are accepted by most universities: TOEFL, IELTS, and Duolingo Test. After you have more information, decide which ones you will take. You do not need to take all of them.
Think about how you will finance your education.
One of the most important things to think about is how you will cover the expenses of studying in the United States. If you decide that you will need financial aid from colleges, read about the types of financial aid they offer. International students cannot apply for US federal aid; however, we still have many options when it comes to financial aid. Do your research on the requirements for each type of financial aid that universities offer to international students. Scholarships, work-study, and grants are the most common. Be sure to read about the documents you may need to apply for financial aid, like CSS profile and ISFAA.
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Make your college list.
You may already have some colleges in mind, but do your research on different types of colleges. Read about public and private universities, liberal arts colleges, and community colleges. Learn about the differences, similarities, and pros and cons of each. Do not forget to read about their testing policy. If you need financial aid, be sure to read about the universities that offer financial support to international students.
If you already know what you would like to study, try focusing your research on institutions that offer opportunities for that area of study. Check out Niche’s Best College Rankings where you can find the best institutions that match your interests (E.g. best by state, best campus life, best admissions). There are more than 4000 educational institutions in the United States, so you must be wise when making your final college list.
Check the websites of the colleges you have on your list and connect with their admissions offices. Feel free to email them about information you cannot find on their website. DO NOT ASK QUESTIONS ANSWERED ON THEIR WEBSITE. Make sure you introduce yourself and proofread your emails before sending them. Also, try creating a specific email address to keep track of your communication with colleges. Avoid using nicknames in your email address. Keep it simple and professional: first name + last name. Admissions officers do not want to receive questions from email addresses that look like this: “email@example.com”
Connect with international students in the U.S.
There is nothing better than talking to someone who is already studying in the United States. Contact international students who are studying at some of the universities you have on your list. Ask them about their experience in the application process and what makes their colleges a good fit for them. If they are willing to help, you can even ask them to give you feedback on your essays and the information you filled out on the Common App or Coalition App.
Some colleges give you the option of having interviews as part of your application. Take advantage of this opportunity and schedule an interview. This will add a lot to your application as you will be able to show your personality and other characteristics that you cannot share in other sections of your application. It is also a great opportunity to ask questions to the admissions committee. Check if there are any specific requirements for international students when it comes to interviews.
Prepare your documents.
As part of your application, you need to submit some documents, such as letters of recommendation written by teachers or mentors and your official high school transcript. These documents must be sent to the platform by the teachers and counselors themselves. Read about these documents and find out how your teachers and advisors can create their own Common App – Coalition App account to submit these documents. Find examples of letters of recommendation written for college applications and ask your teachers to write theirs based on these examples. Once you have all of this information, schedule a meeting with them, and help them complete this part of the application.
Note that some teachers are unfamiliar with the application process, so try to be patient with them and explain the requirements to the best of your ability. If your native language is not English and all your letters of recommendation and transcripts are not written in English, you must translate them. Contact professional translation services to help you with this.
This is the last but most important step of the entire application process. After months of researching, reaching out to students and admissions officers, writing essays, and studying for tests, you are finally ready to hit the submit button. Before submitting your application, be sure to review each document and section of your application. Once you submit your application, keep checking your email to confirm that your colleges receive it. They may also ask you for more information, so check your email daily.
Good luck with your application!