5 Ways International Students Can Ace Their College Applications

pen-writing-notes-studyingApplying to university—no matter which country you call home—is a complex process. International students may be unsure as to what, exactly, is needed to increase their chances of gaining admission to the American school of their dreams, but never fear! These five areas (and their associated strategies) can help students ace their college applications.

1. Entrance examinations

College entrance examinations—like the ACT and SAT—are required by many schools in the United States, whether or not the applicant is an international student. These tests are typically taken in the third year of high school. The higher your score on these exams, the more choices you generally have in regard to which colleges and universities you can attend. The more selective a school is, the higher its minimum ACT or SAT score will likely be. Prepare in advance for college entrance examinations so that you will have time to retake the test if necessary, and so that your results will arrive at the admissions office by the deadline.

2. AP or SAT Subject Tests

In addition to the aforementioned entrance examinations, many American students complete AP exams and SAT Subject Tests in order to earn college credit, as well as demonstrate to admissions officers that they are prepared for higher education. Certain selective institutions even require applicants to take one or more SAT Subject Tests. In many instances, international students can sit for these exams, as well. For instance, individuals who speak a language other than English can earn credit for mastery of their native language just by succeeding on one of these tests.

3. The IELTS or TOEFL examination

International students whose native language is not English will likely be required to prove English proficiency. Although the TOEFL is more common, some colleges and universities will also accept results from the IELTS. Be sure to review the application requirements for the schools that most interest you. Again, amply prepare for the test, and schedule your exam date well in advance of deadlines to allow for any retakes, and for scores to be reported to the college admissions office in a timely fashion.

4. Transcripts

In addition to earning great grades in high school, international students must also have their transcripts translated (and, in certain cases, evaluated) if they attended class in a language other than English. There are several organizations that will translate and evaluate your transcript. You can receive help with this process from your current school, from a university in your home country, or from organizations that assist international students with American study opportunities. This process does, however, take time, so build it into your schedule.

5. Extracurricular abilities and interests

In the United States, college admissions is not just about test scores and grades. Schools are seeking students who are an ideal fit for their institutions—those individuals who will do well and enhance the school experience for other students. Once an applicant completes the exams and paperwork required to submit his or her application, he or she will still need to make this application stand out from others in order to be accepted. This is an area where international students can shine. By definition, international students have experiences that are outside the norm for American students. For example, international students are typically more likely to be multilingual than American students, even if they are from an English-speaking country. International students who are interested in attending college in the United States should make an effort to show that they are well-rounded and have interests and abilities outside of their area of study. They should also make sure to do their research and communicate why they want to attend a particular college or university.

Whether a student is from the United States or not, the college application process involves doing well on tests, doing well in courses, and demonstrating that the student is a well-rounded individual. International students sometimes have the added burden of extra steps, but in the end, those individuals who satisfy this criteria have a strong shot at acing their college applications.

 

Dana Elmore is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world’s largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.

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Understanding how money works differently in the US and why credit is so important

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Provided by SelfScore, a company founded by former international students to provide today’s international students access to scholarships, student loans (coming soon), and fair credit.

When international students come to the United States to attend university, finances are always a major concern—it’s the single biggest barrier to the privileges of studying abroad. If you’re fortunate enough to have a scholarship and ample money from home to help with finances while you study, you may not feel the need to seek out other sources of income. But whether you need the extra money or not, it’s highly recommended that you find a way to get a proper US credit card.

This is different from a bank or debit card that may have the logo of a credit card company on the front. These cards only offer access to money you already have in your bank account. They do not build your credit. The US economy is built upon credit and lending. Ultimately, the credit system boils down to trust. When a bank gives you a credit card or a loan, they are doing so because they trust you to pay them back. And the most common way people build that trust is by using credit cards and paying their credit card bills on time.

Here are four benefits of using credit cards:

1. Your Credit Score

You create good credit by borrowing money and paying it back promptly. Some US citizens borrow money in the form of loans for large purchases, in addition to using credit cards. By demonstrating that you can pay back money that you borrow, in small or large amounts, you’re establishing good credit which is reflected by your credit score. Your credit score says a lot about you. It’s a grade for your financial performance, just like the ones you get at school. That grade matters to banks who are determining your interest rate, landlords who are deciding whether or not you will be responsible with your rent, and insurance companies who are setting your monthly payments. Here’s how they read your credit score as a grade:

580 OR LOWER: F

580-619: D

620-679: C

680-719: B

720 OR HIGHER: A

Ideally, you want a score of 680 or higher. The good news is that the burden on you is simply paying back your credit balance on time. Only missing or avoiding payments adversely affects your credit score. Once you’ve started using your credit card for 6 months, check with your bank to find out the status of your US credit.

2. Independence

Pay for dinner, books, and toothbrushes right now, without waiting to receive your next cash wire transfer from home. When you receive money via wire or mail, use this to pay off your credit balance as soon as possible. In the meantime, you don’t have to worry about timing or delays in money you may be getting from home or even a job. By building credit you are also building financial independence in the US. With a good credit score built through a history of positive credit card use, you can sign a lease, rent a car, or sign up for a cell phone.

3. Subscriptions

Recurring payments such as subscriptions or other monthly bills are most easily made with a credit card. While you can use a debit card for these payments, it’s best to avoid overdrafts and other complications by using a proper credit card and paying off the balance all at once with your monthly credit card payment. Setting up automatic payments with your credit card for recurring bills and subscriptions is a great way to build your credit score. It demonstrates that you pay your bills on time. And some services such as cellphone companies insist you keep a proper credit card on file.

4. Safety

Paying with a credit card, either in person or online, is actually safer than paying with a debit card. When your debit card is compromised, whether through fraud or unstable payment infrastructure, that card is tied to your cash assets. Your resources are extremely vulnerable when that information enters the wrong hands. And even though banks provide fraud protection for debit cards, you can loose access to your cash during the time it takes for your bank to investigate and process your claim. With a credit card, your cash is never touched and fraud claims can be resolved before your next payment is due.

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College tuition fee scams: how international students can protect themselves

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Times Higher Education – By Peter Butterfield, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer at Flywire

 

This year, universities and schools are reporting what seems to be a spike in tuition payment scams targeting college and university students. International students in particular appear to be a target for bad players trying to take advantage of unsuspecting young adults and their families navigating a variety of new situations in unfamiliar surroundings.

More than 600,000 international students attend schools in Europe and Australia each year, spending more than $9.5 billion on tuition. For these students and their families, the different tuition payment options and associated requirements are not always clear, making them more susceptible to exploitation.

Some scammers represent themselves as government agencies and demand payment of an “international student tariff”. They threaten to revoke a student’s visa if payment is not made via money order, wire transfer or other hard-to-track methods.

Others approach students in visa lines at an embassy, at international student meetings or in tuition payment lines. According to reports from universities and schools, the scammers claim to be agents endorsed by schools specifically to assist international students with their tuition payments.

It was recently reported that at two schools in the United States, individuals posing as payment company representatives offered Chinese students a 5 per cent discount on their tuition. The scammers got the students to provide their school login credentials, made the tuition payments to the school on behalf of the students using a stolen credit card number and then provided the students with payment confirmation from the school. The students then paid the discounted tuition amount directly to the representative by cheque or wire transfer. By the time the fraudulent tuition payments were rejected and reversed, the scammers were long gone. Student losses were estimated at more than $1 million.

And it’s not just international students. Earlier this year, students at several universities in the UK were victims of an email phishing scam offering fake tuition grants. The emails, appearing to be from the university’s finance office, requested the student’s personal banking information and directed the victims to a bank verification page to receive their grants.

These are just some of the examples we’ve seen this year. The scams vary, but they keep emerging. Students and their families have to be vigilant. To that end, here are some common-sense steps you should take to protect yourselves:

  • Be wary of any person offering to make a tuition payment on your behalf or promising a discount on payment. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.
  • Avoid individuals and companies in your home country advertising tuition payment services that are not listed on the school’s website or endorsed by the school. Some scammers even create a seemingly legitimate social media presence. Always check with the university before agreeing to process any payment through a third party that is not directly affiliated with the school, and not visible on the school’s payment website or included in school-provided payment instructions.
  • Schools absolutely do contract with local agents to help recruit international students, and many are legitimately engaged by the schools. But many are not. Warning signs of an unscrupulous agent may include a demand for a large upfront payment or deposit, offers to create false documents on the student’s behalf, refusal to provide legitimate references, or charging fees for services that the school provides for free, such as orientation and accommodation support.
  • Never share personal, banking or financial information with anyone who lacks a verifiable relationship with the university. The requestor may be trying to obtain the information for fraudulent use. Always verify who you are speaking with. In many cases, you can verify a company’s legitimacy on the school’s website.
  • Always be vigilant about how (in person, by phone, via social media) and where (immigration lines, international admitted students meetings and so on) you may be approached by scammers. When in doubt, contact the school. Never be pressured by any proclaimed deadline or threats of retaliation.

Peter Butterfield is the general counsel and chief compliance officer at Flywire, a specialist in international tuition payment.

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5 Questions to Ask Your College’s International Office

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As an international student studying in America, you face a unique set of challenges that can make settling into your new life on campus stressful. Fortunately, many universities have an International Affairs or International Students office that exists to help with any questions or issues that arise during your transition.

The precise function of this office may vary depending on the school, but its primary role is to help students acclimate to their new environment, answer questions about the university or its resources, and provide assistance with the technical aspects of residing in a foreign country. Here are five questions that you should ask your school’s International Office:

1. “How can you help me with my student visa?”

As an international student, your status is different than that of your peers, particularly with regard to your visa and your requirements to remain in the U.S. The process of obtaining and maintaining your visa can be confusing, especially if you are also attending classes and acclimating to your new campus community.

Because this is a critically important aspect of your studies, the best place to find information about your requirements and status is the International Office. The staff here can help you with any visa-related documents, as well as with dates or deadlines that you need to be mindful of throughout the year.

2. “Can I work or participate in an internship?”

In addition to potentially providing you with income, an internship or job can be a great way to make connections or earn course credit toward your degree. In fact, many schools encourage students to pursue either or both of these activities at some point during their studies. Unfortunately, for international students, working or undertaking an internship can be complicated due to their immigration status. Moreover, a failure to comply with regulations and restrictions can potentially result in your visa being revoked.

Rather than suffer these very serious consequences, speak with the International Office to determine what types of work you are eligible for, and what, if any, restrictions are in place. Additionally, if you are eligible for certain types of work, the staff at the office might have suggestions about a placement that is right for you.

3. “What on-campus groups would you recommend?”

As an international student, you might be feeling anxious about your new environment. Depending on your personality, meeting new people or locating opportunities for socialization may be challenging. Rather than search the university’s website, contact a representative from the International Office for recommendations about different on-campus groups.

The staff at the International Office are very familiar with available extracurricular activities, and by providing them with a bit of information about your interests, they can point you in the right direction.

4. “What off-campus groups do you suggest?”

While there are indeed many resources available to you on your campus, there is a good chance that you will not find everything you need in one convenient place. For this reason, the International Office is a great place to go for recommendations about off-campus groups or resources that could make your life and studies more enjoyable.

In addition to knowing what is available in your area, the International Office can help you navigate the public transportation system or other aspects of the environment that might be confusing at first.

5. “How are cultural or religious needs handled?”

For international students, one very pressing concern may be whether or not their cultural and religious beliefs will be tolerated and accommodated on their campus, particularly if they require extended periods of leave or other atypical requests.

While most campuses are more than willing to accommodate reasonable requests related to religious or cultural needs, they may require advance notice. If you think you will need assistance in order to maintain practices while on-campus, the best place to go for answers is the International Office.

 

David White is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world’s largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.

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Combatting International Tuition Fraudsters with the Help of Flywire

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Payment Week – By Michael Dautner, Editor-in-Chief of Payment Quarterly

 

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Peter Butterfield, CCO at Flywire, to dig deeper regarding the extent of fraudulent transactions at the expense of numerous students studying abroad.

Australia, Europe, and the United States, are noted as the leading destinations for international higher education seekers. Beyond that, there are about 975,000 international students in the United States alone that account for more than $14 billion in tuition dollars. As you might imagine, this poses an ever-tantalizing opportunity for fraudsters looking to rip off students, and parents of students.

Students studying abroad deal with a considerable amount of unknowns; be it a new language, a new culture, or meeting entirely new people they have little to nothing in common with. Add on the risk of fraudulent tuition scams, and you have a complete headache from a foreign student’s standpoint.

Flywire, however, wants to eliminate this threat, and ease the minds of these knowledge seekers by working together with hundreds of universities to stop fraudsters in their tracks. Peter Butterfield spoke with me exclusively about the hazards students and parents face when attempting to pay for their child’s tuition payment in a foreign country.

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Is a Short-Term or Long-Term Study Abroad Program Right for Me?

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You have made the momentous decision to study in America. Whether you are primarily interested in improving your English language skills, gaining international experience, or attending an elite educational institution, you can gain a great deal from both short-term and long-term study abroad programs. For the purposes of this article, a short-term study abroad program lasts for several weeks to several months. A long-term scenario lasts the full length of your degree program—generally four years for a bachelor’s degree, and two years for a graduate degree. Year-long options can have characteristics of both short-term and long-term programs, depending on how they are structured.

So—which type of study abroad program is right for you? Here are several questions to ask yourself as you decide which type of program to choose:

How prepared are you to leave home?

If this is your first study abroad experience, a short-term program may be the better option. Whether you opt for a short-term or a long-term program, there will be challenges. Sometimes, these challenges (such as homesickness or culture shock) can be easier to handle if you know that you do not have very long left. In addition, a short-term program can give you a taste of the study abroad experience so that you can see if you would like to do it a second time.

Why are you studying abroad? What will you gain from completing a long-term program instead of a short-term program?

Your reasons for studying abroad will also play a factor in whether you should register for a short-term or long-term program. If one of your reasons for studying abroad is to learn a foreign language, the longer you stay, the more immersed you can become in the language. If one of your reasons is to experience a different culture, long-term immersion may provide you with more opportunities for that experience too. In addition, long-term study-abroad experiences tend to take you further outside of your comfort zone.

When you are in a long-term situation, you must leave your family and friends behind and start over socially. You make a commitment to relocate and to fully immerse yourself in the language and the culture of your new country. These same factors that allow you to learn more of a language and to better experience another culture will also help you to gain confidence as you prove over and over that you can problem-solve and handle yourself. If part of your reason for studying abroad is to gain confidence and grow as a person, a long-term stay may be the right one for you. If your reason for studying abroad is to just get a taste of another culture or to see the sights, however, a short-term experience may be the perfect option.

How much time do you have to spare?

If you have already started a degree program in your home country, you may have too much time already invested to do a long-term study abroad program in the United States. Alternatively, you may have career opportunities or family responsibilities that preclude you from spending more than a short amount of time studying abroad.

What are the costs?

Study abroad can be quite costly. In addition to the costs of travel to and from the host country, tuition, housing, food, insurance, and other fees must also be considered. These costs can be prohibitive if you are looking at studying for more than a short time, though services like Flywire can be a great way to handle the logistics while participating in multi-year programs.

If you are considering studying abroad, you will need to decide whether you wish to participate in a short-term study abroad program, or if you would rather spend a longer amount of time in order to complete a certificate or degree program and to experience full immersion in another language and culture. Whatever you decide, a study abroad experience can be a wonderful way to learn more about yourself, the world, and your academic area.

 

Dana Elmore is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world’s largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.

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6 On-Campus Resources to Take Advantage of This Fall

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Whether you’re a new or returning college student, arriving on campus to begin the fall semester is a chaotic and stressful time. There are items to purchase, people to meet, and study plans to consider—all in a relatively short amount of time before classes start.

As August becomes September, you may be thinking about how, as an international student, you can make the most of your time on an American campus without burning out or over-committing. While there are certainly no universal plans for all students, the following on-campus resources can help you maximize your semester and perhaps even discover new opportunities for the future.

1. The international student center
As an international student, you likely have a bit more on your plate than the typical American-born student, at least as far as logistics are concerned. In addition to your courses and your social life, you must also consider items like your visa status. For that reason, you should familiarize yourself with your school’s international student center or department. The staff at this center can help you with most things related to your international status, and they can likely offer you advice or answer questions.

2. A study group
One of the best things about being an international student is the fact that you will be exposed to a very different perspective on your studies, and, possibly, American culture. Of course, the only way you can gain this varied perspective is by engaging with students on campus—one way to do this is by joining on-campus study groups. These groups range from formal, school-associated gatherings, to informal, self-organized gatherings, and they cover a wide variety of topics like majors and personal interests.

3. The campus health services center
You would likely prefer to avoid getting sick or receiving any medical or emotional assistance this semester, but there is still a chance that you may need this help in the coming months. The campus health services center is a great place to start if you need to see a doctor or would like some support.

4. Faculty office hours
Depending on the type of educational system that you are used to, the idea of accessing one-on-one time with professors and instructors might seem unusual. Faculty office hours, however, are one of the best opportunities to receive feedback on your work, to ask questions about homework or class materials, and to get ideas about current or future projects. Since most faculty members do not have time to focus on each student during classes and lectures, faculty office hours will be an asset to your development as a student.

5. The writing lab
As an international student, you have no doubt had some challenging moments with English, as any second language-learner would. Fortunately, your school probably has a writing lab to help you overcome the more challenging aspects of this task. Writing lab staff can help you with everything from the fundamental mechanics of writing, like grammar, to helping you develop your story ideas and concepts to make them more cohesive and effective.

6. The career center
One of the biggest reasons that international students study in the United States is to work with some of the most well-known and well-respected scholars, and to make connections that can be helpful when the time comes to find a job. If this is true for you, the best place to start planning for your future is in your school’s career center. This is a great place to plan for internships or assistantships, or to find a part-time job that can get you started on the path toward the career of your dreams.

 

David White is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world’s largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.

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How International Students Can Avoid Tuition Payment Scams

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As an international student, there are many unique challenges to overcome as you prepare for your education abroad. Unfortunately, this can include being the target of scammers who attempt to steal your tuition and educational payments for themselves – in indirect and subtle ways. Schools have reported an increase in unauthorized, non-school approved tuition payment companies (or individuals) stealing entire tuition payments from their students in the recent weeks. These scammers may even claim to have an affiliation with your school. They might offer you a tuition discount, currency exchange discounts, or make other promises in an attempt to confuse you before you are fully aware of your school’s official payment process.

To avoid the risk of fraud, follow these best practices when making your tuition payment:

Take online security precautions.

If you’re paying your school online, make sure the website is secure. The address of any site you may use to share personal or financial information should begin with https (for example, https://www.flywire.com), which ensures the data you provide is protected through encryption. Additionally, avoid using public or unsecured Wi-Fi when sharing sensitive information. If you get an email from a suspected scammer, NEVER click on any hyperlinks.

Always verify who you’re speaking to.

Scammers may pose as a government agent and threaten to revoke your visa unless you send a payment to them immediately. They may also request your personal information — which you should never disclose until you have verified that the requestor is an actual government agent authorized to do so. If you receive any communications from a person posing as an IRS or government agent, your first step is to research whether their requests are valid.

Don’t share your information.

Credit card information, personal information (i.e., name, date of birth), and banking details should never be handed out to anyone without a contract or relationship with your university, and payment enablers that aren’t verified as authorized by your university should be ignored. These scammers may claim to have relationships with universities and colleges that don’t exist, show “official” documents with artificial co-branded school logos, etc.

Be careful of anyone that is asking you to provide sensitive information, as university officials should already know most of your details. This person may be fishing for your information to use fraudulently. As a best practice, always confirm with your university whether or not a payment processor is affiliated with them. It may help to check the school payment website (e.g., by reviewing the payment portal and reviewing the “how to pay” section) to verify as an initial step.

Be wary of aggressive, suspicious characters.

Is someone promising you a discount on your payment or volunteering to pay on your behalf? Be careful! If the offer seems too good to be true, then it probably is. If you take them up on their offer and share your personal, banking, or financial information, entrusting them to pay on your behalf, you run the risk of losing your payment in full and set yourself up for further fraud risks later on. Fraudsters are very calculating in selecting their methods of introduction to international students — you could be approached on-campus, in a student visa application queue, or at an event for admitted students and their families in your home country.

Use Flywire.

Flywire is the trusted international payment process for more than 1,000 institutions around the world. Our mission is to reduce the cost and hassle of sending your educational payments abroad by making sure your payment reaches your institution quickly and safely. Both you and your school will be able to track your payment on Flywire’s encrypted website. If your university is not using Flywire yet, put a request in here, and we’ll let your school know how we can help international students like you pay tuition and fees easily and securely.

Report suspicious activity.

If you suspect you are being targeted for fraud, you should note the information the scammer is attempting to get from you, stop communicating with them immediately, and report this to your university as well as the police.

Remember that your university’s trusted website and administrators can help you verify the approved payment process or the identity of someone requesting money or information from you. Don’t start your university experience off on the wrong foot — be smart and be safe!

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Student’s Guide to Choosing a Mobile Phone Provider in the U.S.

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Moving to a different country to attend college or university means starting a new life full of exciting discoveries but also unavoidable challenges. One of the first obstacles international students usually face is obtaining mobile phone service. Many students quickly learn that the U.S. mobile phone system is, unfortunately, very different from what they experienced in their home country. This guide will provide you with an overview of the U.S. system and give you some pointers to help you choose the best mobile phone service for your needs. 

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5 Easy Ways to Research American Universities from Abroad

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Searching for the perfect university can be one of the most exciting times in a person’s life, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t stressful too. In addition to ensuring that your short list of schools possess the faculty and resources that you desire, you will likely also wish to know what the campus environment and surrounding city or town is like.

Researching potential colleges is stressful and time-consuming for American residents, but it can be exponentially harder for international students, who may not be able to afford the costs associated with traveling to a U.S. campus. Although personally visiting universities is the ideal scenario, there are other more cost-effective methods of learning about American schools, even if you’re halfway around the world.

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