Five Facts About U.S. University Admissions For International Students
by Carolyn Z. Lawrence, AdmissionsAdvice.com
Studying in the United States is a dream for many international students. Yet, many international students and parents are confused and overwhelmed by the U.S. university system and admissions process.
If you or your child is considering studying in the U.S., here are five important facts you need to know before making the decision to apply to a U.S. university:
The U.S. higher educational system offers many excellent university options - including some you may not have heard of yet! Most international students and their parents are familiar with U.S. universities like Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford. Yet, there are over 2,000 four-year colleges and universities in the United States, all offering a very high standard of educational experience. While it is understandable that international students and their families tend to focus on the universities they have heard of, failing to look beyond these familiar names often means missing out on other university options that may be a better educational match for the individual student. Additionally, since many international students apply to these same universities, your competition for admission will be much stiffer. International students can improve their chances of studying in the U.S. by building a college list that also includes at least a few of the many excellent U.S. universities that often are not on the radar of other international students. Learn more about U.S. university options
"Free Rides" for international students are rare. Many international students contact me asking for a list of colleges that offer "free rides" for international students. In truth, the majority of U.S. universities do not offer any financial aid or scholarships for international students. Of the colleges that do offer financial assistance, most will expect nearly all international students to contribute at least some funds towards their educational expenses. The amount you and your family will be expected to contribute will not be based solely on what you and your family feel comfortable paying, but rather on the college's detailed examination of your family's income, assets, and other financial factors. Additionally, many of the universities offering financial aid to international students will take the student's ability to pay into account when making admissions decisions. This often means that an international student who can afford to pay more will be admitted over a student with similar qualifications whose family has a higher need for financial assistance. For this reason, if you will need financial assistance to study in the U.S., it is important to realistically assess your admissions profile, learn as much as you can about individual university financial aid policies, and apply to a wide net of U.S. colleges that offer financial assistance.
U.S. Universities often consider much more than grades and test scores when making admissions decisions. Although your grades and test scores will be the primary deciding factor in whether you are admitted to a U.S. university, many colleges will also look beyond the "hard numbers" on a student's application. They may ask for recommendation letters from your teachers and school to get a sense of your intellectual curiosity and potential for academic success. U.S. universities are also interested in building a diverse campus community, so in reviewing your application, admissions officers will look for insights into who you are and what you'll bring to that community. Admissions officers will read your application hoping to find answers to questions such as: How do you spend your time outside of school? Have you made a difference in your local community? Do you have a particular interest or passion that you've pursued on an on-going basis? What will your future roommate learn from hanging out with you after you arrive on campus? Your job as an applicant is to help admissions officers learn what makes you unique and how you will enhance their campus community after you enroll. Learn more about the U.S. university admissions process
U.S. Universities offer support services to help international students adjust to life in the U.S. Attending college far from home can be scary, but all U.S. universities and colleges offer support services to help international students adjust to life in the U.S. However, what is offered does vary from campus to campus, so as part of their research into various colleges, I recommend that international students and their parents contact the International Students Office at each school where they plan to apply. In particular, ask about special orientation programs for new international students. When offered, these special programs bring all new international students to campus a few days before classes start to help students get familiar with the campus and surrounding community and what will be expected academically. Some universities also offer special summer programs to help students improve their English language skills before they enroll. Additionally, the International Students Office can help parents learn about special housing for international students, employment options while studying in the U.S., and post-graduate opportunities.
Don't be shy about contacting the Admissions Office! For some reason, many international students tell me that they are afraid to contact the Admissions Offices of the U.S. universities they are interested in. More than one student has told me that they were worried that asking too many questions might negatively affect their admissions decision. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, many colleges give preference to applicants who they know have made an effort to be in touch with admissions and learn about the college. No one should ever be afraid to contact a college admissions office - admissions officers welcome such contact, both before you apply and after you've been admitted.
Finally, an excellent resource for international students who are considering attending college in the U.S. is EducationUSA. Developed by the U.S. government specifically to assist international students with college planning, this website offers an incredible wealth of information about choosing and applying to U.S. universities, student Visas, and financial aid for international students.
Read more about planning for U.S. university admissions.
Based in San Diego County, Carolyn Z. Lawrence is a private college admissions consultant who has helped hundreds of students from across the U.S. and around the world find the right college matches. Learn more about her college planning services for families.
© Copyright 2010, All rights reserved. May not be copied or distributed without written permission from Carolyn Z. Lawrence. International school counselors: If you would like to share a printable copy of this article with your students, please contact me