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College 101

Checklist for International Students
Article Type: Checklist

Shmoop understands that applying to college is a complex and daunting process, no matter who you are. But take an already difficult task, and throw in the fact that you are from a whole different country, and you’ve taken on a mission that can seem four times as difficult (and have one fourth the chance of success.)

Save your pit-of-despair sadness for your senior project on Edgar Allan Poe. Shmoop has gathered together all the bits and pieces of information you need to keep in mind in one handy checklist. Get ready for what you need to know as an international applicant:

__The competition is tough. Though they won’t say it to your face (dirty rats), colleges and universities have a de facto quota for how many international students they will admit. The number is vague, but hovers around 10% of a freshman class. This fraction means that, for some of the more popular schools for international applicants, that acceptance rate of 40% may drop down to something closer to 10%, so bring your A game.

__Having said that, schools want diversity. Especially in today’s “global citizen” educational world, schools are looking to admit freshman classes who can offer diverse perspectives, experiences, and talents, so make sure to play up your uniqueness. Remember, though, it is not enough to simply be from Chile, China, or Cameroon. You need to be able to show schools why you as an individual from a different nation will bring cultural diversity to them.

__Start early (like two years before graduation) and do your research. Be sure your college choices are certified to accept international students. Check out a list here.

__Your transcript is difficult to decipher. You might think that something like a high-school curriculum would be pretty standard, but you’d be wrong. Requirements, rigor, and content range wildly around the world, so college admissions folks have a difficult time evaluating the strength of your transcript when they consider you. What does this mean? It means that the other bits of your application are going to have to shine through: SAT and ACT scores, extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, and your essays.

__You need to rock the TOEFL or IELTS exam. School is taught in English. Colleges and universities need to be assured that language barriers will not hinder your success.

__Don’t be modest if you can afford full tuition. With so much competition, schools are much less willing to offer financial aid to international students. If you and your family can swing full tuition, shout it from the treetops (well, don’t do that, but do tell them.)

__Any school which accepts international students is going to have an International Student Advisor. This person should be your best friend during the application process and after you enroll. As you are applying, contact the advisor and ask any question you might have. Once you enroll, visit his or her office and take advantage of opportunities and resources they have for adjusting to a new school in a new country.

__Consider applying to great schools with fewer international applicants. Especially if you aren’t a super-star student, look at schools where the competition (but not the education) may be less intense.

__Triple check admissions requirements. As we said before, this is a complex process, so be sure you are fully aware of all admissions requirements and procedures. When in doubt, contact the international student advisor of a particular school to get clarification (it’s why they work there).

__Follow all of the guidelines to legally enroll in a school and study in the United States (including getting a Visa.)  Once you have been accepted into a SEVIS school, you need to pay the I-901 fee (by using the I-20 form – we told you this was complicated), and then apply for your Visa. Do not wait until the last minute to do this! Find more details on the process here.

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