5 Essential College Application Tips for International Students

Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the financial institution.

international students
Logo

We’ve got your back! Student Loan Hero is a completely free website 100% focused on helping student loan borrowers get the answers they need. Read more

How do we make money? It’s actually pretty simple. If you choose to check out and become a customer of any of the loan providers featured on our site, we get compensated for sending you their way. This helps pay for our amazing staff of writers (many of which are paying back student loans of their own!).

Bottom line: We’re here for you. So please learn all you can, email us with any questions, and feel free to visit or not visit any of the loan providers on our site. Read less

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 2019!
LenderVariable APREligibility 
* 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.

1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

(1)All rates shown include the auto-pay discount.  The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

(2)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

(3)As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.

Information advertised valid as of 11/4/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.


2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.

3 Important Disclosures for Discover.

Discover Disclosures

  1. Students who get at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) qualify for a one-time cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan. Reward redemption period is limited. Please visit DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Reward for any applicable reward terms and conditions.
  2. View Auto Reward Debit Reward Terms and Conditions at DiscoverStudentLoans.com/AutoDebitReward.
  3. Aggregate loan limits apply.
  4. Lowest rates shown are for the undergraduate loan and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments. The interest rate ranges represent the lowest interest rate offered on the Discover Undergraduate Loan and highest interest rates offered on Discover student loans, including Undergraduate, Graduate, Health Professions, Law and MBA Loans. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable Margin percentage. The margin is based on your credit evaluation at the time of application and does not change. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 2.50% as of July 1, 2019. Discover Student Loans will adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Please visit discover.com/student-loans/interest-rates for more information about interest rates.
Discover's lowest rates shown are for the undergraduate loan and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.

4 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restrictions. Loans are offered through CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS #1175900).

  1.  Rates are as of July 1, 2019 and include auto-pay discount. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

5 Important Disclosures for Citizens.

Citizens Disclosures

Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of November 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 1.80%. Variable interest rates range from 2.90% – 11.16% (2.90% – 11.01% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 4.72% – 12.19% (4.72% – 12.04% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan.

Citizens Bank Student Loan Eligibility: Borrowers must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting program at an eligible institution. Borrowers must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or an international borrower/eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For borrowers who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank- participating school. 

Please Note: International Students are not eligible for the multi-year approval feature.

2.84%
10.97%
1
Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents

Visit College Ave

3.12% – 10.54%*,2Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit SallieMae

3.37%
11.87%
3
Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit Discover

3.52% – 9.50%4Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit CommonBond

2.90% – 11.16%5Undergraduate and Graduate

VISIT CITIZENS

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

Published in Student Loans

You're on your way...

You are being redirected to LendingTree.com where you’ll be able to fill out an online form. Based on your creditworthiness, you may be matched with up to five different personal loan lenders in our partner network.