Applying 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.
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.