Applying for college can be a stressful, especially for international students. Testing, different school requirement conditions, applying for a visa, and other requirements make it a challenging time. But by understanding the five points below, you can increase your chances of getting accepted to the U.S. college of your choice while also making the admissions process less stressful.
1. Test scores matter
Most U.S. colleges require international students to submit their scores on either the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). As the IELTS applies to other English-speaking countries around the world, you will most likely take the TOEFL. The TOEFL can be costly and requires significant preparation. Most programs will also require SAT test results. International Baccalaureate Organization scores are also valuable, if you have them.
2. Every school’s requirements are different
U.S. colleges are not required by law to follow uniform admissions procedures. As a result, each university’s specific admissions requirements are unique. Some universities will require that you submit different sets of documentation to the office of admissions and your major department. There are programs which ask for letters of recommendation and those that do not, and even some that require interviews. Take time to communicate with the admissions office, stick to deadlines and plan ahead to avoid stress.
3. You must obtain and maintain a visa
To be allowed to work or take college courses within the U.S., you must first obtain an entry visa. You must coordinate with your consulate to arrange the required documents and schedule the necessary interviews involved in the visa issuing process. Account for visa processing time in your application schedule, and visa fees in your budget. If your visa expires while you are in the United States, you will not be able to leave and re-enter the country without renewing it. There can be other serious legal repercussions to staying in the United States without a legal visa. Always be aware of the expiration date on your visa, and keep this document safe.
4. Financial aid
While it is true that most grants and scholarships available in the US apply only to US citizens, there are options for international students when seeking financial aid. Some universities offer full scholarships for international students. Because you will need to demonstrate to the college you plan to attend your ability to pay, you should begin researching your options as soon as possible. Discuss any financial aid concerns you have and go over all of your questions with the admissions office. Many of the funding options available to you are provided by your own government, organizations, and institutions. As with most aspects of the international application process, research and organization is required. International organizations like Fulbright, and Rotary are two popular, albeit selective scholarship options for qualified international applicants.
5. Plan ahead, ease the transition
Being far away from your everyday environment, culture, and loved ones is a formidable challenge. Think about ways to make your transition smoother, like budgeting with the admissions office, arranging for housing, banking and healthcare ahead of time, and planning for a healthy academic and social life when you arrive. While there are bound to be moments of raw culture shock, there are extracurricular activities to suit any taste, and often courses or seminars are available through the college or community to help ease the transition for international students. The campus will also be likely to have a number of orientation programs available through the international house or office. There, you will also find information on student organizations and clubs, language classes, employment and internships.
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As daunting as the task may seem, there are great opportunities available to international students in the United States. Find the best fully accredited program for you, and study hard to meet its testing standards. Research the program’s unique requirements and stay organized to avoid confusion. Arrange your visa and holiday travel plans ahead of time. Your best financial aid options might be closer to home than you think, but be sure to ask your college for financial aid counseling to increase your chances of saving money. Being an international student definitely comes with challenges beyond logistics, so take advantage of the networks in place to help students adjust and meet each other. Put these tips to good use and plan for your best success as you complete the admissions process.
Sasa Afredi is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world’s largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.