Applying to an American university from another country is exciting, but it also presents challenges. Many students go to the United States because of the variety of educational programs offered. The most important step to gaining admission to an American university is to plan carefully and to complete all the steps necessary and on time.
Making a wise college choice begins with thinking about your reasons for going to college in the United States. For many students, the university admissions process starts in the fall of their junior year, when they take either the PSAT or other preliminary standardized tests. The process finally slows down around December of their senior year, when most applications are submitted. Before you enter the admissions frenzy, or before you turn in those applications, get an overview of the whole process.
Just about everyone who’s applying to college asks a few of the following questions:
What is the admissions committee looking for, anyway?
Is it true that if my scores aren’t high enough, my application is automatically placed in a rejection pile?
Are schools looking for people with a two-page resume of extracurricular activities?
What do admissions officers want to “hear” in my essay?
Can preparing for tests really make my scores go up?
Does a thick envelope from the university always mean acceptance?
The first step to answering these questions is to understand the admissions process in the United States: When, where, how to apply, and how to figure out how you (and your family) are going to pay for it. Your goal is to end up with a list of universities where you’d like to apply, which is one of the most difficult things you will do as a high school student. Students, especially those traveling from overseas, face many questions. Here is a list of ways to get all the necessary information.
Your high school guidance office is a great resource. If you need more help than your counselor can offer, though, there is outside assistance available, such as private educational consultants. Also, information materials to assist in the college search and application process are available at any of the USIA-assisted Overseas Educational Advising Centers located in cities around the world. These centers are affiliated with the United States Information Services (USIS) and/or the United States Embassy. They provide materials to help you understand the college search, the admissions process, and financial aid opportunities. Overseas advisers are experienced and well-informed about American university systems and admissions procedures.
Books and Magazines
A lot of college guides are available, and you’ll probably want to look through several of them. Magazines such as U.S. News and World Report’s College Issue provide rankings and statistics. Books, such as Kaplan’s Guide to College Selection, give you details on various schools. The more viewpoints you get, the better.
College-search software gives a look at schools by including videos, multimedia tools, and Web links. Many programs also personalize the search process. Check with your guidance office or library for software, or go to our online store.
Not only can you access free admissions advice, but you also can find links to comprehensive college and university Web pages. An excellent resource is the College Board. The College Board assists high school students, counselors and parents with the admissions process, and they provide a number of avenues for international students to navigate their way to colleges in the United States.
The Universities Themselves
Contact schools to request information and application packets. It’s an easy way to get an introduction to a school’s campus, programs, and student body. You’ll get a lot of helpful information. For school addresses (e-mail as well as regular mail) and phone numbers, check out books, software, and online sites.
Current and Former Students
Talking to enrolled students and alumni (former students) is a great way to learn about a university. They’ll discuss things the admissions office won’t (the good, the bad, and the food). Think about visiting a school or even staying overnight, so you’ll have the opportunity to meet students and see whether you feel comfortable on campus.
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