Posts Tagged ‘international students’

Dealing With Homesickness

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Extracurricular-ActivitiesAs an international student myself, I feel particularly qualified to speak about homesickness. Before starting my freshman year at college I had never been away from home for more than a week, so starting a 4 month semester thousands of miles from London’s suburbia was a big change. Homesickness can be triggered in many ways; from reflection on presently absent loved ones to frustration at various idiosyncrasies exhibited by the new local community (and the inevitable thinking ‘that’s not how we do it back home.’).

Reaching out to people who are from the same area as you is a great way to stay in touch with home. Especially if you go into intense culture shock with the sheer vastness of cultural diversity, it’s good to experience a bit of home-away-from-home from time to time. Don’t get me wrong: I love answering questions about the Queen and being invited to comment on the Scottish referendum, but sometimes I just want to sit on a couch with a nice cup of tea and some English chums watching Downton Abbey. You may realize that being away from home forces you to exhibit a few stereotypes. (more…)

Challenges for International Students

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

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.

College Admissions for International Students

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

If I’m from outside of the United States, what do I need to know about applying to colleges within the U.S.?

The United States has some of the best colleges and universities in the world, and it’s not surprising that many international students want to apply to them.  If you’re one of those students, however, you may be feeling a little intimidated.  What’s the process of applying to colleges and universities in America, and how is it different for international students?

First, make sure not to put off your applications until the last minute.  This is important for anyone applying to college, but it’s especially important for international applicants.  Do your research early, and don’t be afraid to call or email the admissions office, if there are questions you have about applying that aren’t answered on the college website. There are many wonderful colleges in the U.S. you may not have heard of, and its worth consulting US News and World Report, or the Fiske Guide. If you’re from another country, even something as straightforward as a high school transcript is more likely to be in a format–or language–unfamiliar to college admissions officers in the United States.  Give yourself plenty of time to adjust for any confusion.

Speaking of foreign languages, if English is your second or third language, you’ll need to put in extra time to compensate and prepare yourself to take the TOEFL exam.  If possible, find a native English speaker to read your admissions essays, in order to make sure you sound completely fluent. Additonally, these college admissions essays need to be authentic, forthcoming, and reveal a side of  you that isn’t represented anywhere else in the application.

Learning SAT vocabulary is a challenge even for students who grew up speaking English, so you’ll definitely want to put in extra time to your vocabulary study.  Make sure to look into the format of the SAT essay as well.  What the College Board considers a first-rate essay may be different from what your teachers consider a first-rate essay.

Even the Math Section may present unexpected challenges.  Math is taught differently in different countries, and you may not have learned all the material covered on the SAT, or may have learned certain techniques that aren’t optimal for the SATSAT math questions are asked in a particular way, and you’ll want to make sure to familiarize yourself with both the content and format of the Math section of the SAT, as well as the other sections.

The international application process is more complicated than the domestic one and includes extra steps, like financial screening. The bottom line is: start early, do your research, prepare thoroughly.  That’s good advice for any student applying to college, and it’s especially important for international students applying to colleges in the United States.