There have been many questions about how to apply to a US college as an International Student. The reason we decided to detail the process step by step is to guide prospective local and international students that aim to study in the US.
Before the COVID-19 epidemic, there were 1,169,464 international students enrolled in schools and universities across the United States.
Despite the fact that this figure was significantly lower than in previous years, at least in part, to the political situation in the United States, American institutions of higher education continued to attract massive interest from high-achieving teenagers all over the world.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus hit American schools hard, with new overseas student enrollment dropping 43 percent in a single year between 2023-20 and 2024-21.
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On the plus side, now that the vaccine has been distributed across the country, there is actual hope that the postsecondary world (along with the rest of the world) will be able to return to some sort of “normal” for the 2023-22 academic year.
China sends the most students to the United States, with more than 363,000 Chinese students enrolled in American universities. With little under 200,000 students enrolled in American colleges, India is in second place. South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Japan are the next countries on the list (in order).
International students, regardless of where they are from, will face similar hurdles when they come, especially for American college admissions process. In order to shed light on a somewhat opaque and convoluted procedure, we shall investigate:
- Why do students choose to study in the US
- The English language requirements for foreign students
- Standardized testing requirements
- Getting your transcript evaluated/translated
- The F-1 visa application process
- An overview of the American admissions timeline
- Common mistakes made by international applicants
To begin, consider why high school students from all over the world are so ready to travel thousands of miles and jump through innumerable hoops to attend college in the United States.
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Why study in the US?
The question is not only how to apply to a US college as an international student? but bother more on why study in the US? There is no other country that boasts as many top-tier research institutes and outstanding liberal arts universities as the United States.
The credentials you receive from an American university will be recognized and acknowledged all across the world. Furthermore, you will form vital relationships with academics and peers that will help you expand your professional network and advance your career in the long run.
Economic mobility is undoubtedly a major consideration when considering whether or not to attend an American school. As a result, it’s no surprise that the most popular fields of study for overseas students are also the most lucrative: 1) business. Engineering is number two, followed by math and computer science.
However, a large number of international students are currently pursuing degrees in health professions, creative and applied arts, social science, and physical and biological sciences.
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What are the language requirements?
Before we delve fully into how to apply to a US college as an international student? Let’s look at the language requirements for international students in the US. Foreign candidates to most American universities are required to take an English as a second language exam. The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the International English Language Testing System are two regularly used assessments for this purpose (IELTS).
Most American colleges require a TOEFL score of 78, which places you in the 40th percentile of all test takers. More competitive universities, on the other hand, will need greater marks.
As an example. UCLA requires a TOEFL score of 83 (48th percentile) just to be considered, but the average entering international freshman had a 113, which is right around the 97th percentile. A minimum TOEFL score of 100 or an IELTS score of 7 is required for Cornell University’s engineering program, placing a student in the 75th-80th percentile.
Taking one of these examinations early in high school is a smart idea if you are a competent English speaker, just so you have one less thing to worry about once the senior year admissions crunch begins. If you’re still studying the language, wait until right before the start of senior year to take the exam.
Which standardized tests should I take?
The answer totally depends on the schools you’re aiming for. To satisfy these school-specific criteria, you must do your assignments ahead of time. This is one of the answers to the many answers on how to apply to a US college as an international student? We detail all you need to know in the following paragraphs.
For international students who are not natural English speakers, MIT, for example, offers two standardized testing choices. The first step is to take the SAT or ACT, as well as two SAT Subject Tests in math and science.
The second alternative is to take the TOEFL instead of the SAT/ACT while still meeting all of the Subject Test requirements. Some colleges, such as MIT, allow the IELTS in addition to the TOEFL.
Even colleges that enable domestic students to apply without taking standardized examinations rarely allow overseas applicants to do so. One such institution is Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, which only turned test-optional last year.
Marquette University in Wisconsin, on the other hand, does not need a test for both domestic and international applicants. The bottom line is that you must thoroughly research all of the colleges to which you are applying.
When it comes to standardized testing procedures for persons living in a foreign nation, there is no “standardized” set of rules.
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Do I need to get my transcript evaluated?
One of the many answers to the question; How to apply to a US college as an international student? is that you need your tanscript. When citizens of the United States apply to institutions in their native country, admissions personnel immediately recognize the differences between AP Chemistry, honors chemistry, and normal chemistry.
While there may be some differences in curriculum from state to state and school to school, college administrators may quickly develop a strong idea of what an A, B, or C in a certain course means—especially when they can cross-reference this information with other known data points (both from the individual and their high school).
International students, on the other hand, come from a variety of nations with dramatically varied educational systems. Some universities, such as Drexel University, have various transcript procedures for almost 70 different nations.
In many cases, American colleges will require a third-party firm to verify and translate your credentials. The following are the safest groups to seek out:
- Third-party agencies which are members of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES)
- Third-party agencies which are members of the Association of International Credential Evaluators, Inc. (AICE)
Students often spend $75-250 to have their transcript examined, and the process might take weeks (so plan ahead).
- Some universities will not require a full transcript evaluation, but if the documents are in a foreign language, they must be translated by someone other than the applicant. Harvard University, for example, is “pleased to receive letters translated by an English teacher.”
Getting a student visa
If you thought the admissions process is difficult, just wait until it comes time to apply for and acquire your student visa. When you are accepted by a university in the United States, you will be entered into a system known as the Students and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
Depending on whatever visa you are eligible for, you will next be sent one of two forms. The F and M visa classifications are the two types of visas. Because the M-1 form is solely for vocational courses, anyone applying to a four-year school will use the F-1 form.
The next step is to submit your F-1 student visa application to the nearest US embassy or consulate in your native country. To determine your visa eligibility, you will need to meet with an embassy official for an interview.
Applying early is always a good bet because the bureaucratic wait time for documents to be completed can be significant and not always predictable. An F-1 visa can be issued up to 90 days before a student enters the country to begin their studies, so there is no reason not to begin your application as soon as possible.
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Know the timeline
The American college application timeline is unique and can catch many international (as well as many domestic) students off guard.
International students should become acquainted with the numerous dates for their preferred schools, such as early action, early decision, early decision II, and financial assistance deadlines. They must also have a general concept of when it is appropriate to:
- Ask for recommendations.
- Take the TOEFL/IELTS, SAT/ACT, and any subject tests that are required.
- Fill out the FAFSA or CSS Profile to be considered for financial help.
Begin by completing the Common App, Coalition App, or school-specific application.
With so much to juggle, it’s not uncommon for students to become disoriented at one or more points along the way.
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Common mistakes made by international college applicants
In our experience, the following are some of the most typical mistakes that international high school students make while applying to American universities:
Focusing solely on one or two prestigious colleges rather than knowing about the dozens (or more) of comparable institutions that may better suit their academic/financial needs.
Not paying enough attention to soft factors favored by US colleges, such as extracurricular activities and essays.
Throughout the application, they failed to “convey their story.” Ideally, one’s essay, extracurricular involvement, and academic brilliance will all be relevant to their desired field of study.
In the same line as our last bullet point, international students may overlook the importance of enthusiasm and sincerity in American college applications.
Superb grades are required but not sufficient for international students seeking for a coveted position in an Ivy League or Ivy-equivalent university or an elite liberal arts school. Begin learning about the American admissions process as soon as you finish high school.
Your hopes of studying at the American school of your dreams can and will come true with a little more research, careful adherence to timetables and boxes that need to be checked, and, of course, ongoing attention to grades and test scores.
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