How International Students Can Survive the U.S. College Application Process

Applying for college in the U.S. as a citizen of this country is difficult enough, but foreign students can face some additional challenges. Unfortunately, there's probably no way to make the road to acceptance at a U.S. school completely stress-free for international applicants, but there are some ways to make the process a bit easier to handle.

By Sarah Wright

college application tips for international students

Follow in Schoolmates' Footsteps

Has anyone from your current secondary school gone on to attend college or university in the United States? If so, get in touch with those students and ask if they have any advice. It might be a good idea to apply to the same schools that accepted them, since they'll already be familiar with the school you attend and the educational standards you've attained. Plus, since they've already accepted people with similar credentials, there's a chance that they'll accept you, too.

Watch Out for Scams

This might seem like a no-brainer, but there have been some issues with this recently. For example, last year, a college called 'University of Redwood' made headlines not because of its status or prestige, but because it was a made-up school that completely ripped off the website of Reed College, a small private school in the U.S. According to The Wall Street Journal, one of several news outlets to report on the incident, officials at Reed suspected that the owners of the fictitious University of Redwood's website were scammers. The scammers' goal could have been to draw attention from international students who might send in applications to the school - including hefty application fees.

Though at the time this was believed to be the first such incident of its kind, clever scammers could easily continue to target international students. To find out if a school in the U.S. is legitimate and accredited, check with the U.S. Department of Education's College Navigator.

Don't Count on Athletic Scholarships

Recently, New York Times columnist Joe Nocera wrote about Temi Fagbenle, a Nigerian-born student from the U.K. who is set to begin her freshman year at Harvard after years of hard work to attain that particular goal. That may sound like a story with a happy ending, but unfortunately, Fagbenle was supposed to attend Harvard on a basketball scholarship. The NCAA, the organization that oversees college athletics in the U.S., ruled her ineligible to play college basketball due to a misunderstanding of educational procedure in Great Britain. She'll still get to attend Harvard, but the incident should serve as a cautionary tale for international students hoping to be involved with official college sports in the U.S., whether you're counting on the scholarship money or not.

Search Like a U.S. Citizen

The fact that you're from a foreign country shouldn't stop you from looking for schools in the same way a U.S. high school student would. Take advantage of resources like the above-linked College Navigator and sites like the College Board - including the College Board's new site for international students - and the Princeton Review. You can also search Amazon and other online booksellers for guidebooks to U.S. colleges. If you have friends or classmates who want to attend college in the U.S., see if they want to split the cost of one of these helpful books.

Consider applying to one of the schools on this list of the best colleges and universities for international students.


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