What are the particular challenges and opportunities for international students applying to American universities?
Since the United States is home to many of the best colleges and universities in the world, it’s no wonder that so many international students apply to American schools. The culture of higher education has changed, however, over the past few decades, and even colleges that were once considered easy to get into and now more competitive than ever. What does this challenging environment mean for international applicants for American colleges?
As mentioned in a previous blog, if you’re an international student, you’ll definitely want to get a jump start on your college applications, since you’re much more likely than an American applicant is to encounter unexpected delays or difficulties along the way. (Even getting a high school transcript that an American admissions committee can read can potentially be a problem.) Also, if English isn’t your first language, be sure to give yourself extra time to prepare for the SAT or ACT exam, which will contain English vocabulary designed to challenge even native English speakers.
Moreover, while few schools institute quotas to limit the number of international students they accept, it’s also true that, for a variety of reasons, it tends to be easier for American applicants to get into American schools. With the odds stacked against you, applying to an American university may seem like a daunting proposition.
Don’t despair. First of all, there’s a flip side to the United States increasingly competitive college admissions market. Many colleges that once seemed middle-of-the-road have developed far more advanced academic programs and boast far more impressive students than they did thirty or forty years ago. Across the board, higher education in the United States is getting not just more competitive each year, but also better.
Secondly, college admissions officers put a premium on diversity. Universities want to bring in students from a variety of different cultures and perspectives. Diversity brings in more points of view into the classroom and exposes students (both domestic and foreign) to ideas and customs that they’d be unlikely to encounter otherwise. The disadvantages you face when applying to American schools are counterbalanced by one major advantage: as an international student, you’re a rare and valuable commodity.
Are you fluent in other languages? Are you proficient in a discipline of theater, dance or music that’s less common in the U.S.? Have you traveled extensively? If you have or you are, take advantage of the fact. Mention it in your college interviews and, in particular, focus on it in your personal statement and your admissions essays.
Also, take advantage of CATES International, founded specifically for international students like you applying to American universities. We have extensive experience preparing students from all over the globe to put together college applications for American schools.