More international students are studying in the U.S. than ever before. According to the Institute of International Education, over one million international students study at U.S. colleges and universities, representing about 5 percent of the total student population.
If you’re hoping to attend a U.S. college, you’ll need to put together an application — but the American admission process may be very different than what you’re used to. Before sending off your application, consider this advice for international students.
5 tips for international students applying to a U.S. college
1. Apply to several different schools
There are over 5,300 colleges and universities in the U.S. Some are extremely selective and only let in students with top grades and test scores; others have a more forgiving admission process.
To maximize their chances, most American students apply to several different colleges. They apply to a few “safety schools” where they feel confident they’ll get in. They also apply to two to three “on target” schools. They’re qualified to get into these schools, but admission is not guaranteed.
Finally, students apply to two to three “reach” schools. Getting in may be a long shot, but it’s possible. Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Yale are considered “reach” schools for just about every student since they’re so selective.
If you’re applying as an international student, send off five to eight applications to increase your chances of admission. Even if you have your sights set on one school, make sure all the schools on your list are ones you’d be happy to attend.
If application fees are an obstacle, contact the financial aid office of your prospective schools. Financial aid officers may grant you an application fee waiver.
2. Learn about the holistic admission process
Another unique feature of American admissions is that the process at many schools is holistic. Rather than looking solely at grades and test scores, admissions officers seek to learn about you as a person.
They want to know about your interests and passions. What do you do outside of school? How have you contributed to your community? What skills have you developed outside of academics?
You can reveal your personality through your personal essay and letters of recommendation. Plus, you’ll share any extracurricular activities or community engagement on your application.
If time allows, make it a point to join some clubs or take on an internship. Many U.S. colleges are interested in what you’ve done outside of the classroom, not just within it.
3. Spend time on your personal essay
Your personal essay is an important part of your international student college application. This college essay is very different from a typical academic essay you may have written in history class.
Admissions officers want you to share a specific anecdote from your life. Maybe it was a time you experienced failure, overcame a challenge, or learned a life-changing lesson. They’re interested in how you made meaning from this experience. Your personal essay is a chance for you to reveal your identity.
Before sitting down to write it, read some sample college essays and ask for feedback from friends and family. People who know you best can help you communicate your unique voice.
4. Take the SAT and the TOEFL
Among other requirements, an American university application will likely ask that you take the SAT (or its counterpart, the ACT). The SAT is a test that measures your reasoning, verbal, and math skills.
If you grew up in a non-English speaking country, you may also need to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Even if you speak English fluently, the TOEFL is a challenging exam. It’s strictly timed and asks you to deliver verbal “essays” in response to unpredictable questions.
Studying for both the SAT and the TOEFL is key. Before you start, research the average SAT and TOEFL scores of accepted students at your prospective colleges. That way, you’ll know what scores will help you get in.
5. Learn about your options for financial aid and scholarships
Most U.S. citizens apply for federal financial aid with an application called the FAFSA. If you’re an international applicant, you’re probably wondering, “Can international students apply to FAFSA?”
Unfortunately, the answer is no. Federal student aid is only available to U.S. citizens, but that doesn’t mean you have no options for financial help.
Colleges could give you aid in the form of grants or loans. If financial aid is important to you, ask colleges whether they help students with demonstrated need. You could also win scholarship money. Use one of the dozens of scholarship search tools to find free money for college.
If you need further funding, you might be able take out private student loans in the U.S. or your home country. Most U.S. lenders will likely require a cosigner, such as a parent. Be cautious about repayment plans and interest rates — interest rates on private student loans can get very high, making your student debt balloon over time.
Before accepting an offer of admission, figure out how you’ll fund your education and make sure your investment is worth the cost.
Plan early for your international student college application
Admissions officers at U.S. colleges review all four years of your high school experience. They look at your grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, and community involvement. Plus, they want to learn about your personality through your college essay and recommendation letters.
All of these American university application components take time, so start planning early. With enough preparation, you can submit an amazing application and get into your first choice school.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2018!
|1 Important Disclosures for CollegeAve.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or Nationwide Bank, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Information advertised valid as of 11/1/2018. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
2 Important Disclosures for Discover.
3 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for PNC.
PNC Bank is one of the nation’s largest education loan providers. For over 40 years, PNC has been committed to helping students and their families make possible the adventure of college.
6 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2018 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
8 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
9 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|3.94% – 12.78%1||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.04% – 13.04%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.34% – 12.99%2||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.12% – 10.98%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.03% – 11.23%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.12% – 13.13%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.92% – 10.01%7||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.72% – 9.68%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.26% – 12.13%9||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|