Applying to College as an International Student

Are you an international high school student dreaming of pursuing your higher education in the United States? Join former admissions officer Aaron Brown for an insightful webinar on “Applying to College as an International Student.” This webinar is specifically designed for both students and parents seeking guidance and valuable tips to navigate the complex college application process.

Key Learnings to Expect in the Webinar:

  • Understanding the unique challenges faced by international students during the college application process.
  • Exploring the benefits and opportunities of studying in the U.S. as an international student.
  • Gaining insights into the different types of colleges and universities around the country, including their admission requirements, application deadlines, and selection criteria.
  • Discovering effective strategies to build a competitive college application profile as an international student.
  • Learning about standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT, and English language proficiency exams, and understanding their significance in the application process.
  • Exploring the role of essays, recommendation letters, and extracurricular activities in enhancing your college application.
  • Understanding the visa and immigration requirements for international students and the necessary steps to secure a student visa.
  • Gaining insights into cultural adaptation and student support services available at colleges and universities.
  • Accessing resources, tools, and online platforms to streamline the college application process as an international student.

Don’t miss out on this valuable opportunity to receive expert guidance and advice on applying to college as an international student. Register now for our informative webinar and take the first step towards achieving your educational aspirations on a global scale!

Date 07/12/2023
Duration 1:01:53

Webinar Transcription

2023-07-12 – Applying to College as an International Student

Anesha: Hi, everyone, and welcome to tonight’s webinar. My name is Anesha Grant. I am a senior advisor, CollegeAdvisor, and I will be your moderator today. Today’s webinar is, “Applying to College as an International Student.” Before we get started, I just want to orient everyone with the webinar timing. We’ll start off with a presentation by our presenter, and then we will answer your questions in a live Q&A.

You can download our slides on the, on the sidebar, under the handouts tab, and you can start submitting your questions in the Q&A tab. Please only submit your questions in the Q&A tab. Now let’s meet our panelists. Aaron. Hi, Aaron. How are you doing?

Aaron: I’m doing well. Thank you. Tell us a little bit about yourself, Aaron. My name is Aaron Brown and I’m a former admissions officer at two different institutions, uh, in California. Um, so first I worked at the university of Southern California, USC in Los Angeles, which is my Alma mater. Um, uh, where I was someone who went out and recruited students, um, and actually did a lot of international recruitment in countries like China and the UK and Canada. Um, and then, uh, I moved to UC San Diego and, uh, did similar work there. Just like at USC, where I was reviewing applications, running the application evaluation process and also recruiting.

And I got the privilege of visiting India when I was at UCSD. So for some of you who might be in and around those countries, I’m familiar with those systems. Um, then, um, During the pandemic, like many people, had a bit of a reset when it came to priorities and interests and switched to the high school side of the desk.

And so now I am a high school, uh, you know, university or college guidance counselor helping students like you, uh, through this process on a daily basis in addition to doing work with CollegeAdvisor.

Anesha: Awesome. We and your students are so lucky to have you. Um, so looking forward to your presentation tonight.

But before we get started, we do want to do a quick. So for folks in the room, let us know what grade level you are in closest to. So for us, for folks may not be familiar. 12th grade is the year right before you move into college. And so that if this is your last year before college, you would be 12th grade and then moving backwards in time from there to 11th, 10th, 9th and 8th.

I know we don’t have all the information. International equivalence. But 12th graders would be the folks who are applying to college this year. So please let us know what grade level you are in or will be going to for next year. And if you are parents or caregivers, you can select other. I feel like I put you on the spot and asked you this before, but which between your two institutions you prefer, um, but which I would just say, do you have a favorite country that you’ve traveled to or that you had a, a standout experience in your international recruitment phase?

Aaron: Oh, that’s hard because each one definitely, you know, had something really fun and unique. Um, you know, I think, you know, Something that kind of speaks to USC a bit also as part of that answer was, um, my first day of school visits in Beijing. I was visiting an independent school there in Beijing. And after my presentation, a teacher came up to me and said, fight on, which is, you know, what we do, uh, and USC and, uh, Turns out he’d gone there the same time that I did, and we didn’t really know each other, but I ended up chatting and they asked how long I was in the city and ended up reconnecting a couple of times while I was there.

And he took me out for dinner around the city and had a really authentic experience. And, um, you know, he showed me a side of Beijing. I definitely would never have experienced. And it was a really, really great, uh, couple of days.

Anesha: That’s awesome. I mean, I think you’re selling the, the USC, uh, alumni network, um, which I feel like it’s famous for the Trojan.

So, um, I appreciate you, I guess, confirming that for folks of like, that’s one of the benefits of being an international student is developing access to a very broad network, um, internationally and within the U.S. So, um, awesome. All right. I’m going to go ahead and close our poll. It seems like the majority of folks with us might be parents, but there are, there’s a couple of 12th graders, some, a ninth grader and 11th grader folks who are in the equivalent of that, um, in, in the room with us today.

And so we’re, and I’m sure other folks will join us, but I will stop talking and hand it over to you, Aaron, to get us started.

Aaron: Awesome. All right. Thanks, Anesha.

Okay. So this evening. And what we want to do is kind of talk to you about some of the, uh, unique kind of challenges that you might face as a student applying to university in the U.S. as an international student, uh, both in terms of the application process, in terms of funding your education, and, uh, Kind of going through the necessary, you know, bureaucratic hurdles to arrive in the country, things like that, uh, and doing the best that, that I can and that we here at CollegeAdvisor can in helping to kind of begin the process of demystifying that for you.

Um, you know, obviously a lot of students look at studying in the United States for all kinds of different reasons. Um, and one of those, it might be access to an international alumni network, like Anesha just mentioned. Um, but it is for everyone, regardless of their reasons why, um, and a really exciting opportunity to study outside of your comfort zone and try something new.

Um, and it can absolutely be confusing. The U.S. Admission process is fairly unique amongst higher education systems in the world. Um, I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way. Uh, but when it comes to admissions, it is definitely very different than many systems where it’s about how you score on an exam.

Uh, and then you’re admitted or denied, right? It’s a very, very different process. And so I want to talk a bit about that. Um, There’s definitely conceptions, uh, that exist out there that it’s absolutely much more competitive if you’re an international student, and sometimes that’s true, sometimes it’s not.

I’m just gonna talk a bit about that. Uh, but the most important thing to know, of course, is that you’re going to be reviewed in your appropriate context. As a student applying from outside of the United States, uh, and, you know, even perhaps as local as the country from which you’re applying, you’re often going to be read by a different kind of admissions team at that particular institution who specializes in international applicants.

Um, the ones who often are doing the international recruiting, and so they’re familiar with what it’s like on the ground in the country, um, who can then present your application in its appropriate context to the admissions committee. So you, you know, students often worry like, well, I don’t have the same activities because that’s not really how my school system works and it’s very different.

And to, and to know how. You know, A levels work or GCSEs? And the answer is yes, and you are going to be reviewed in that appropriate context, and we’ll talk a bit about that, uh, you know, later this evening, or morning, or wherever it is that you’re joining us from. So, kind of first talking a bit about, you know, the admissions side and what you can do to help make yourself more competitive moving into the process.

Um, of course, academics, they’re looking Ultimately, to see that you’ve taken a challenging and rigorous curriculum in the context of your school environment where you’re kind of your country’s national curriculum, um, whatever that might be right. So if you’re in a level system, um, whether in the UK or elsewhere, what are the courses that you’re choosing to take?

For a level, right? Or if you’re applying to engineering, have you taken courses in maths and physics as part of your a levels? Um, how rigorous are those courses? Are you going above and beyond? You’re taking for a levels, which is definitely not required, but perhaps they see that and like, Oh, wow. Okay, that’s that’s a lot of work.

That’s really impressive. Um, so you’re kind of planning out your curriculum in a way that shows the admission officer that you can handle the rigor of their particular institution. Right? Um, and of course, it’s imperative that you do well. Uh, and that’s another question that we get to often. I got a lot of that question when I was recruiting in India is about like, well, you’re like, you know, I know that the year 10 board exams and year 12 board exams that you guys take that really seriously.

But, you know, the internal marks in year 11 hurt really good. Like, do those matter? And again, you’re gonna be reviewed in that context, right? Extracurricular activities. Again, that’s going to really hurt. differ based on the environment that you’re implying from. And officers who are reading your application will know that.

Um, so seek out ways to kind of meaningfully engage with activities that matter to you, whether in school or if that’s not really an option, out of school. Um, And look for ways that you can again make that kind of authentic engagement and connection with the things that you enjoy, perhaps related to things that it is that you want to study, uh, to to show again the admissions folks that you are someone who’s going to come and contribute.

on their campus and that kind of has a sense of understanding of why you want to study what you want to study and someone who’s going to make a difference.

Obviously, we get a lot of questions in the admissions space around testing, uh, when it comes to international students, um, and as always in admissions, the very unhelpful but often true answer is it depends, uh, which I know is perhaps not the answer that you want to hear, uh, but is one that you will often hear.

Uh, when it comes to kind of demonstrating English proficiency. Every institution in the United States will have some requirement to do so because obviously they want to make sure that you have a sufficient level of Proficiency in English whether it’s you know, speaking, reading, listening, writing, etc to come and do well in their classrooms They’re gonna have different kind of benchmarks Some thresholds established that they want to see that you meet.

Um, and so they might ask for that with the TOEFL score or an IELTS score. Many schools are now accepting Duolingo, uh, as an option, uh, the Duolingo English test. Um, Perhaps you might be exempted from having to submit proficiency from English language because your SAT score is so strong. So if you submit an SAT score, and I’ll talk about that in the next bullet point, but say you submit an SAT score and you have a 750 on the evidence based reading and writing section, perhaps you’re then exempted from also having to submit a TOEFL.

Some, like when I was at the UCs, uh, you know, they exempted you from submitting English proficiency if you’d been, uh, studying in an English language school. for your last three years of high school. Um, so if even if you were, you know, in China, but you weren’t at an international school where the language of instruction was English, uh, then you wouldn’t need to submit results from a TOEFL, things like that, right?

So each school is going to approach it a bit differently, but they are absolutely going to want to see that proficiency demonstrated in a number of different possible ways. So it’s really incumbent on you to do that research kind of sooner rather than later, because you don’t want to be, you know, to have your application denied solely because you just.

Didn’t submit the required TOEFL exam, right? And otherwise you might’ve been a competitive applicant. So, uh, SAT and ACT. So we’re very much, uh, continuing to exist at admissions in a kind of test optional landscape, uh, which, you know, that kind of movement was beginning to gain steam, um, prior to COVID, but then really took off because of COVID when obviously test centers couldn’t offer tests, uh, around the world, right?

And so universities pivoted to test optional, um, and realized, you know what, we can actually still make these decisions without having tests, but they can also help. To tell us if a student again is perhaps well prepared to succeed academically at our institution. So many schools remain test optional where if you score well on the SAT or the ACT, Um, you are welcome to submit that score and it can help you.

Um, They, you know, will look closely at that score. And again, in the context of where it is and where you took it, understanding that, you know, access to testing centers and test prep varies, uh, by country to country around the world. Um, there are also many institutions that are test free. So like the University of California schools, even if you have, uh, that 35 ACT and you really want to say, Uh, you know, at, at us uc to see it?

Nope. They don’t, uh, accept test scores at all. They will not consider them in, in, in the process at all. So, um, you know, don’t try to send your test score to UCLA ’cause it, it, it won’t be looked at as part of the review process. Right. So, um, again, it’s about kind of doing the research on university websites to see.

Are test scores accepted? Uh, are they required? There are a handful of institutions that have gone back to requiring test scores. MIT is one of the most prominent examples. Um, Georgetown, as an example, say that they’re test optional, um, but that’s kind of in quotes. You have to essentially defend why.

you’re not submitting an exam. Um, so if you say like, Hey, it’s not offered in my country, or I have to fly somewhere to go take it. Okay. That might be an excuse, but, uh, if there’s a test, if your school is a test center in your country, you’re going to need to submit, uh, an exam result. So again, it’s about doing the research, unfortunately, across each institution, uh, or, or asking that question of a, of an advisor you might be working with to help navigate.

Those. So how might you decide where you might want to apply? There are literally, uh, thousands of institutions of higher education in the United States, uh, in every state, uh, across the country, right? Often, a lot of students that I’ve worked with, you know, they kind of open up U.S. News and, and just start from the top and work their way down.

Um, you know, rankings can be helpful. But it’s really important to know what they measure, what they don’t measure, um, how they can, in many ways, are inherently flawed, how they can be gamed, um, the kinds of things that they reward, what they don’t reward, and ultimately you want to look at, see those measures, you know, what are they actually measuring, and are those the same kinds of measures that I’m interested in.

Right. And so we’re going to look at different types of rankings and see how an institution might be rated based on different factors that are included, because they do change pretty dramatically. And, you know, it’s also important to note, um, you know, I had a conversation with an international student a few years ago who, um, you know, basically was just looking at, you know, average test scores, finding test scores where her test was a, or institutions where her test was above the 75th percentile, uh, ended up applying.

Right. got admitted to Northwestern amongst a bunch of other really great schools too, and chose simply because her favorite color was purple. And that was the school colors. So I think it worked out for her, but at the same time, perhaps do a bit more research than, than just that. Um, education USA is a great resource.

Um, uh, not only about kind of, you know, helping you to find different institutions, but about studying in the United States broadly, helping to navigate the visa process, um, cost, things like that. Uh, if your school has a counselor, if you’re lucky enough to have a university counselor, asking them questions, going to college fairs, Um, those tend to, um, happen, um, in the fall or, uh, in the spring when admissions counselors are, are doing recruitment most, uh, most heavily, um, going to university websites.

Really, that was one of the kind of, um, byproducts. Um, and one of the big benefits of covid is that, um, institutions really had to kind of beef up their online options because people couldn’t come and visit their institutions, right? So virtual tours, virtual visit programs are really quite robust now at most institutions, so I would absolutely encourage you to go to the website of each school that you might be interested in and see what those options might look like.

As you’re thinking about the type of institution, um, that you might apply to, these are some examples of things that you might want to consider, right? So why are you applying to study in the United States? Uh, what do you intend to gain from that experience? Are there unique academic programs that you want to take advantage of?

Are you looking to apply to the U. S. because you really want to study film? And so you’re looking at programs like NYU, uh, you know, the Tisch School, right? Something like that. Are there particular student life experiences or opportunities? That you might be excited to take advantage of you looking at certain parts of the country in certain states You’re coming from a cold weather climate like the students that I recruited in Canada And they’re like I want to get to California or Florida or Arizona or someplace warm, right?

admissions requirements Where are you eligible to be admitted? Where do you have perhaps a higher chance of being admitted? What are their outcomes? You know, kind of like Anesha said at the beginning, what’s their alumni network like? Uh, do they help you as an international student perhaps find work in the U.

S. or abroad after you graduate? Do they have an alumni network, um, that is truly international and global so you go back to your home country and you might be able to connect with alumni from that institution in your home country? Some students want to go to a place where there’s all kinds of other international students.

They want to be with people from their country. Perhaps that gives them a sense of support or community in addition to meeting, you know, students from the States. Others might want to be one of a handful of international students and truly have a unique experience outside of their comfort zone. They might look at where can I be supported, right?

What institutions have really robust student support services for international students? And what kind of place will help support me? Because it is a big change, it’s a big journey. Um, and to do well, you want to be sure that you have the right support services in place. So these are all kinds of important factors to consider.

Um, you know, again, beyond just looking at a ranking. When applying to U. S. Institutions.

Anesha: Sorry. Yeah, there was a student with the, um, sorry, sound issue of trying to help him navigate. Okay. Apologies. Um, but we’re going to do another quick poll. So please let us know where you are in the application process. Have you started? Are you almost done? Um, especially for some folks who are a little bit younger, I hope you’re still in the researching process, um, but let us know where your stage is.

Um, I was laughing at some of your commentary along the way. So, um, I feel like you’re making great jokes and you couldn’t tell, you couldn’t get the feedback. So I just wanted you to know that they were great. Thanks so much. Appreciate it. Close up presenting to your computer screen.

Anesha: Okay, sorry for folks.

If folks are having any issues with the sound, you might have to log out, log back in. There are some people who I can see are logged in twice, so that might be part of the issue if you maybe accidentally logged in to two different devices or on two different windows. Um, so I hope. Too many folks aren’t having too many sound issues.

Uh, it’s not on our end. So, um, apologies for that, but you might have to log out, log back in, um, while we’re doing that. Okay. I think most folks have, uh, given us a response. Um, so I’m going to go ahead and close our poll and I’ll just also let folks know that there is, um, if there was a question, today’s session is being recorded.

And for those who registered for tonight’s session, you should get an email and also be available via the link, um, that’s at the top of your, um, screens or at the top of the chat, uh, for the polls, uh, just to know where folks are. 33 percent have not started, which is totally fine. A bunch are in the process of researching schools, which makes sense for, uh, being at this point in this process.

And, uh, the other folks are working on essays or getting application materials started. So I think a lot of folks are still in the finding, fact finding and research, uh, stage. Aaron, if that gives you any context on the next kind of half of the perfect.

Aaron: Yep. Makes sense.

Anesha: Turn it back over to you.

Aaron: Thank you. Okay. So a really important topic, uh, and one that you want to make sure as a student that you don’t overlook, um, and that you have a conversation definitely sooner rather than later with your parents about this, uh, or for parents that you start that research now as well.

Is funding. Um, you know, there’s no question about it. A U.S. Um, university education is quite expensive, especially in the context of perhaps some other systems that tend to attract large volumes of international students like the U. K. Um, Ireland, Canada, Australia as examples. Um, and so it’s important to start those kinds of conversations early, both as a family and then, um, you know, kind of doing the external research about sources of funding.

Um, it’s also the case that, you know, again, schools are expensive, and many U. S. institutions don’t offer any sort of aid or especially need based financial aid where it has to do with how much, you know, money your family has or has access to. They tend not to give need based financial aid to international students, which often means that they’re expected to pay that full cost of attendance, that oftentimes daunting number you perhaps see on a university website.

So one potential way to help reduce that cost is through merit based scholarships. And those are scholarships given out kind of irrespective of your financial situation, but based on, you know, how you’ve achieved in the classroom and what you’ve done outside of the classroom, the application that you put together with your essays and the letters of recommendation and things like that.

So check your home country. Um, oftentimes there may be that certain, uh, countries will have scholarship programs. for students to study abroad with the intention, of course, of bringing that back to their home country, right? So, as an example, I know that a lot of countries in the Middle East have some pretty robust scholarship programs, um, to have students go and study in certain kind of in demand fields.

That perhaps they don’t have the resources or the spaces at their home universities to accommodate the need. And so they say, you know, go and study in the engineering field in the United States, uh, and we’ll pay for it. Right? So, so look into things like that. Um, look at private options. Uh, there’s actually a U.S. government tool that, that helps to kind of show you where to search. So go to EducationUSA’s website and they have a link to that. It’s a pretty great scholarship skirt search engine, and so you can kind of put in a whole bunch of different factors about yourself obviously want to make sure that you click the international student one right to make sure that you only are searching scholarships.

open to international students, and you can see, you know, which ones you might want to apply for, kind of taking into account, well, how much money might I get versus how much work is the scholarship to fill out, right? And kind of doing that, uh, you know, cost benefit analysis, uh, as it were, and also looking at university specific scholarships.

It’s true that some institutions don’t provide any merit scholarships, right? So like the Ivy League institutions, No merit scholarships whatsoever, international or domestic doesn’t make a difference. Some other institutions do provide merit based scholarships. And you have to think kind of why they’re doing that, right.

You know, for an institution to provide merit based scholarship, which is money they could perhaps be using elsewhere. They’re using it to, in essence, buy your enrollment by giving you a discount. Right. So, uh, you know, schools that are perhaps, you know, not at that Ivy league tier, but right below that, who are trying to say, Hey, well, if you got into Harvard, But we’re giving you a full tuition scholarship, so it’s basically like you’re saving 55, 000, maybe you’ll consider, think twice about going to Harvard, right?

Um, and so schools like Vanderbilt, uh, Boston University, Rice University, USC, um, offer merit based scholarships. And so check the websites. schools that you might be interested in to see. Do you have to fill out a separate merit scholarship application? Is there an earlier deadline you might need to apply by?

You know, what does that process look like? look like, right? But many schools do have scholarships available for international students specifically, or they might be eligible for kind of the broad university scholarships that all students are eligible to receive when they apply.

So, some schools do give kind of university specific, need based It’s financial aid for international students, and it’s really kind of important to navigate that sort of terminology and to understand it. And so I kind of want to help you understand that now in terms of what that means, because you’re going to see a lot of different terms across websites.

Um, so the 1st 1 to understand is institutions are going to oftentimes fall into 2 camps, right? Or 2 buckets, those that are need blind in admissions and those that are need aware. Uh, an institution that is need blind means that. They, when they’re reading your application, they don’t know if you’ve applied for financial aid.

They don’t care if you’ve applied for financial aid. They don’t care how much aid you might need. They read and admit you based solely on your application and kind of their sense of, Hey, we want this student in our class. They’re going to help us meet our enrollment goals. There’s someone who’s going to thrive on our campus.

We want to take them. And then you have schools that are need aware, which means that They do know if you’ve applied for merit or for need based financial aid and how much aid you might require could be a factor in their admission decision. Often this happens kind of on the margins, kind of at the end, right?

You know, if you’re a student that they absolutely love and want and really help them, you know, again, meet one of their goals, they probably can still take you even if you need aid. But when they’re coming down to those last few spots in the class and they’re like, well, this student. We’re looking at their kind of, you know, financial information.

They can afford it. This student needs 50,000 a year to come here. And our financial aid budget is kind of running out. They might then take the student who can afford it, even if they’re not quite as strong. Because they just have to be aware of that because they have finite resources, right? And they can’t admit everyone, unfortunately, who needs aid to attend.

So it’s important to understand again, what does need blind mean when his application, when your application is being reviewed and what is need aware. And then another term to understand is, you know, if an institution meets full need. So kind of the holy grail in essence would be an institution that is both need blind and meets full need.

So what they’re saying is we don’t care how much money you need, we admit you and then we commit to giving you as much money as you need to attend here. You have some other schools who are need blind, but may not meet full need. So like, hey, we’re going to admit you, but then turns out you need 50,000 to come.

We’re only going to give you 20,000. Good luck figuring out where that other 30, 000 is coming from. Right. So kind of understanding those different kind of nuances as well. Also do the research on kind of how aided eligibility might be affected by the passport you hold. There are certain institutions like, say, um, University of Pennsylvania, uh, University of Rochester, where if you are a Canadian or Mexican citizen, you actually are eligible for need based financial aid from the institution.

just like if you were a U.S. citizen. Uh, and so that’s kind of something to keep in mind, right? Does my passport affect the aid I might be eligible for? Obviously, international students, as you might expect, are not eligible for most federal or state grant aid. Um, you know, aid that is coming from the taxpayers in that, you know, municipality.

So as you might imagine, Cal Grants, which is the state aid for California residents, is only for California residents because it’s funded by taxes on Californians. Um, so any aid that you do receive from an institution is coming directly from that institution, um, and often out of their pot, uh, that’s coming from tuition dollars.

Private based financial aid. Is an option. Um, that’s something I want to mention because we do get questions about it, but also one that I want you to just be aware of the challenges and kind of the implications with that. So many of the major US banks offer education loans. If you’re looking for kind of a way to bridge that gap, right, if the school says, here’s 20 grand, but you need another 30 grand to do that.

However, it oftentimes requires a U. S. citizen or permanent resident to co sign that loan. So perhaps if you have a family member who’s already here, who is willing to, you know, in essence, take on that debt alongside you. Um, But, because of the fact that often it needs a cosigner, interest rates are typically quite high, um, and it’s accruing while you’re in school, with perhaps an inability to earn money to pay that back.

Um, you know, it’s not always the best option, but it is an option, so I want to mention it, but it’s something for you to keep in mind.

So those schools that I mentioned that are kind of like the holy grail of like, meet, full need, and are need blind, There’s not many, as you might expect, and they tend to be some of the wealthiest, uh, and also the most competitive institutions in the country. And so they’re here on the screen. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, MIT, and then two very well renowned, uh, liberal arts colleges, Amherst and Bowdoin.

So if you were to apply to those institutions, they don’t see if you need aid. And if they admit you, they commit to fully funding the amount that they determine you need to be able to come. Um, but again, these are some of the most competitive institutions in the country to apply to. So, something to keep in mind.

So, switching gears a little bit, back to kind of the application. You know, are there differences? Uh, are there things that, uh, you kind of should look out for, that you should understand when it comes to how applications are read? And kind of the opportunities for you as an international student. Broadly, the admission process is the same.

Um, the same application components, you’re oftentimes filling out the exact same application through the Common App or Coalition or the kind of, you know, the UC application if you’re applying to the UCs. And, you know, they’re going to ask for some variation of a transcript or some sort of academic report, right, to understand your academic performance, an essay of some kind, whether that’s in the Common App or some other platform.

Perhaps short answer questions and a supplement that that school might offer, perhaps letters of recommendation, you know, those kinds of things, right? But oftentimes, they’re exactly the same. The only kind of difference for international students might be the need to submit English language proficiency.

So what are schools looking at? Um, what do they consider? It’s a lot and oftentimes quite different than again, the system in your home country. So yes, the most important piece is absolutely your academic profile, right? Your ability to show that you can come and do the work academically at that institution.

So they’re looking at, you know, transcripts or, or tests or, you know, exam results, again, depending upon the context of your country, how have you challenged yourself academically and how have you performed academically? In that context, right? So, uh, you know, looking at your, you know, CBSE exam results or looking at your predict your score on the French back, uh, you know, those kinds of things, right?

They’re looking at essays, um, because they are, you know, most US institutions, especially the ones that tend to draw. international students are residential, meaning that their student community is often living on or around campus, is very engaged in campus life, even when they’re not in the classroom, that they are really building a community of people who live together, work together, you know, have fun and get involved in activities together 24/7 from August until June.

And so who you are. As a person, in addition to, you know, how you can do academically really matters in the US process. You know, what’s your character like? What are your interests? What are your motivations? Um, how are you going to come and contribute, um, either in the classroom or, uh, you know, in the dorm rooms, in essence, and those conversations you’re going to have with your fellow students, what are you going to bring and a transcript or test course can only tell an admission officer so much.

so much. Uh, and looking to understand what are you going to bring and how might you fit the goals of that institution. So they’re looking at your essay, you know, really, really in depth where you write a bit about who you are and what’s important to you. What have you done? What do you want to do? Telling an admission officer a story.

that kind of reveals a bigger picture about, you know, again, that side of who you are. Uh, answering supplements specific to that institution. So questions about what you want to study in terms of the academic program you’re applying to, perhaps why that institution, uh, or kind of, you know, unique questions like Stanford has the one about writing a, a, a, A letter to your future roommate, or Yale asking about what course could you teach, or would you teach if you, you know, were tasked with teaching a course here at Yale, right?

You know, things like that, that help the admission officer to get to know, again, what you value, how you think, those kinds of things. Looking closely at your activities. because they want you to come and be involved, uh, outside of the classroom at their institution. So what have you done outside of the classroom?

Again, in its appropriate context during your time, uh, in high school. And looking at letters of recommendation because they want to understand how you contribute to the classroom context or to your broader school community. Um, and again, The information that you’ll submit tells them a lot, but it doesn’t perhaps give them the full picture.

And so they want to hear from adults in your community, uh, who interact with you on perhaps a daily basis, uh, who are your teachers, who are your counselors, who are your coaches, your club advisors about what you’re like, um, and what you contribute and how they kind of, you know, view you as, uh, how you’ll contribute in university or in college.

And ultimately remember that they’re doing this to build a class of students. It’s not a prize to be won. It’s not entirely based on, you know, merit, however one defines that, right? So they’re not taking test scores and sorting and taking the top, you know, 150 students and saying, okay, here’s our class. Um, and again, it’s very different than how it might work in your, your country and not that one system is better or worse.

That’s just how they’ve chosen how to do it. Right. Um, and so it’s important to understand that. They’re looking for students who are going to help them meet the goals of their institution, uh, the goals that they have in that class, and seeing who might fit and best contribute, uh, in meeting those goals.

And so it’s not really a bearing on, you know, are you able to do the work? The vast majority of students who apply could probably do the work if they were admitted. They just don’t have space because they have way too many qualified applications from literally all over the world. Um, you know, as an example of this, my last year at USC, we had about 66,000 applications, um, this was four years ago, so it’s gone up now, um, of those.

And a freshman class of 3,000 students of those 66,000 students, 9,000 had what essentially was a perfect 4.0 GPA on the U.S. style scale. That’s three times the freshman class right there with essentially a perfect classroom record. 19,000 had test scores in the 20, uh, the, sorry, the 75th percentile, or sorry, the 95th percentile or better.

So again, how as an admission officer are you supposed to only use those kinds of metrics when you have an application volume that’s so high With so many qualified students, and so they turn to all of these other factors, the kind of more qualitative factors, the holistic pieces of the application, as it were, to kind of assess your fit for their particular institution. And so that’s why these things matter in the way that they do.

Some schools, um, We’ll ask for admission interviews, um, perhaps, you know, more so for international students. Um, other schools might accept, uh, interviews from, you know, various platforms like Barricant or InitialView, uh, to help, again, understand a student’s kind of English language. ability, uh, beyond a TOEFL score, a Duolingo score, things like that.

Um, and so we do get questions a lot about, you know, well, what should I do to prepare for one of these interviews? First, do not memorize the script. Um, you know, kind of sit there in your bedroom for a week and memorize your answers to why that institution, what you want to study, what’s your favorite activity.

It’s likely they’re going to ask you, Some variation of those questions, but interviewers can absolutely tell when you’re reading from a prepared script, and they will often try to then ask a kind of out of the box question that perhaps you haven’t prepared for, uh, you know, to kind of see, Hey, is this student like really capable of thinking deeply and critically and answering these questions or do they just memorize things?

There are some kind of common questions listed on the slide here that you are likely to have to answer. So make sure that you, you know, again, don’t have a memorized answer, but at least have prepared a series of thoughts as to how you might answer those kinds of questions. Make sure that you engage with that interviewer.

Um, there are all kinds of different people that you might interview with. It could be an alumni, um, you know, alumnus or alumni of the institution. Uh, it could be an admission officer. It could be a faculty member. Um, engage with that person. Ask them questions. It’s a chance for you to learn about the institution too.

And then that was always something when I was in the admissions and I was interviewing students. What’s quite disappointing is when you would finish an interview and be like, Okay, well do you have any questions for me? And they’re like, no. Okay, well, are you interested in this place? Like, you have an admission officer right in front of you who can answer all kinds of questions about the institution.

Even if you don’t, pretend that you do, uh, you know, engage with that person, show, show that, and make sure that you do research about the institution beforehand, uh, so that you are prepared to engage in that kind of dialogue, you know, with the interviewer.

Wrapping up, we’re kind of moving on to one of the last sections we want to talk about is, okay, well if you’ve been admitted, now how do you actually enter the country, right? Um, because that is another hurdle to go through. So typically how it works is you will often, although not always, but for the vast majority of students studying in the U.

S., you will come in Uh, on an F1 visa, which is the visa for students who are studying in the United States. After you are admitted and you accept an offer indicating, Yes, I plan to enroll at that institution, a school will send what is called an I 20 form. Uh, so once you have that I 20 in your possession, you register with, um, SEVIS, which is kind of like the online tracking kind of portal for international students in the United States, and schedule a visa, uh, interview.

to interview for that student visa in your home country at a U.S. consulate or embassy. That is something you absolutely need to try and schedule sooner rather than later. And again, this is all happening after you’ve been admitted. So, you know, you’re talking about You know, May, uh, April or May essentially before you intend to enroll in that following August or September.

Um, I just checked the website, uh, for the State Department wait times before the webinar tonight. Uh, and it, you know, varies quite a bit depending upon the country and the city even within the country. Um, you know, as an example, Shanghai, um, right now is saying that it’s a 21 calendar day wait to get an interview for an F visa.

Uh, Mumbai. Was 42 days. Um, so you definitely want to start this process early. Um, and make sure that, you know, school doesn’t start and you’re still waiting for your visa interview to be able to enter the country. Um, so you then apply for that visa online after you’ve scheduled that interview, attend the interview.

Hopefully everything goes well. You know, essentially you’re proving to them that yes, you have a legitimate offer. You have an interest in studying in the United States. Uh, you have the funding and kind of means necessary to do so, whether that’s coming from the institution. Or from your family. Um, and then, you know, they typically wouldn’t grant it, although it’s not guaranteed, but typically, you know, from for most US institutions, you shouldn’t have a problem with that.

And as I mentioned earlier, at the very beginning, you know, thinking about what type of institution might you want to apply to. Um, you know, for most students that have are for most institutions that have pretty comprehensive numbers of international students, they have some variation of like an international student center or student support service center, something like that.

Um, and so they tend to have some of these types of opportunities, um, and they exist solely to help you as an international student navigate coming to the U. S. life in the U. S. and also life at that institution. So they might have a special international student orientation, you know, the day before the orientation for domestic students where you learn about, you know, U.S. customs, like, hey, you have to tip here, uh, or holidays, right? What is Thanksgiving? Um, you know, what are the laws that you need to be aware of, um, you know, as a student studying? Um, they will help you navigate opportunities about, well, how can you work? While you’re studying, because that is possible, but there are some specific regulations around you know, when you can work, like after how long you’ve been in the country, um, in what field, is it related to what you’re studying, is it on or off campus, how many hours a week, all these kinds of things, and they’re happy to navigate and help you navigate that.

Um, provide support around any sort of issues with your visa, you know, navigate the kind of university bureaucracy, which might be a challenge that you’re just not used to, or perhaps not as well equipped to navigate, because Your support services are, you know, at home, thousands of miles away, um, any sort of kind of government bureaucracy that you need issues with, um, perhaps helping to ensure that there is, you know, representation that, you know, job fairs with employers who are willing to sponsor visas, talking to you about your OPT period after you graduate, optional practical training where you can work in the U.S. after you graduate for a certain amount of time, all these kinds of things, they are there to help you navigate that. And so it’s kind of, you know, I would say any institution you’re looking at applying to, if that’s important to you, I would encourage you to, you know, look at International Student Support Center of XYZ Institution and see what kind of support services they offer and if you feel that that can meet your needs.

So lastly, as I wrap up before we go to some time for Q& A, Um, obviously this is a lot and in many ways quite different than both the experience in your home country and the application process. And so at the end of the day, you know, before you embark on this, because it can be expensive, it’s absolutely time consuming.

Is this the right option for you? All right. And kind of really thinking critically about what you want out of your university experience and where you can best achieve that. Thinking critically about how and where should you seek guidance. Right? Um, because this can be a very kind of confusing process, a bit of an opaque process.

Um, do I have the support services that I feel that I need to navigate this? And when do I start? Um, it was typically earlier is better. Um, but kind of, you know, what should I be doing at different times of the year? Uh, or different years kind of ahead of my intended time to study in the States. Um, and kind of thinking about that when you’re moving forward in this process.

Anesha: All right. Thank you so much for that. Um, a lot of information. I learned some things. I really appreciated that slide with the full need met schools. I wasn’t aware of that. So I really appreciate you sharing that for context and as a resource. All right, I’m going to skip ahead just for a quick PSA for any folks who are in the room who aren’t already working with us.

We know that the process, uh, is, um, overwhelming can be a lot and it will actually be different, especially as an international student. So, uh, if you are interested in connecting with our team of over 300 former admissions officers and experts, we are available and ready to help you and your families navigate.

The process through 1 to 1 advising sessions, you can take the next step and sign up for a free 45 to 60 minute strategy session with an image specialist on our team by using the QR code. That is on the screen during that meeting. We’ll review your extracurriculars. Talk about your application strategy.

Talk about college list and help you figure out an initial strategy to stand out in the admissions process. Process. So we’ll definitely take everybody up or encourage everybody to take us up on that offer. Use the QR code that is on the screen and we are gonna transition into the q and a. Uh, if any folks are having any challenges with submitting the q and a, please submit your questions through the q and a tab that is on the left hand side, right hand side of your, uh, screen under the under, under the, um, sidebar.

Um, if you are not able to submit questions, just double check that you joined through the webinar. link in your email and not through the landing page. You may have to log out, log back in. Okay, one thing I really wanted to say before I get to their first question as far as support for international students, and I don’t know if this is consistent, but I wanted to at least raise it.

It was one resource that was available at my alma mater, which is host families. Um, I know that at least they allowed for they connected students with families locally so that they had a place to go for Thanksgiving or times when campus is kind of shut down because it’s harder to kind of get away, um, around, uh, U.S. holidays. So that might also looking into if that is a resource or a form of support. Support that that colleges provide. Um, so you’re not kind of stranded, uh, for a random American holiday in the winter. Um, so yeah, I just wanted to add that as a resource. I’m not sure if that’s, uh, u ubiquitous, but I know it is available at some institutions.

Okay, I’ll stop talking and we’ll ask the first question, which is, um, a student asked, so for international students, are they essentially competing against their, their own peers? So if a Chinese, a student is applying from China, are they competing for a limited set of spots against another Chinese student?

Are they in a different kind of pool than the American students and how they’re being kind of vetted and competing for spots?

Aaron: Sure. That’s a good question. Um, And kind of as I mentioned, you know, earlier in the session, um, that unhelpful it depends definitely rears its head here. Um, yeah, I would say broadly, you would likely going to be kind of considered in the pool of, you know, international applicants, just because it is a bit different, right?

And so you need to have some kind of readers who have some specialized expertise, um, and you want to be sure that you’re being reviewed in that appropriate context. Um, and, you know, it’s very different if you’re applying from Brazil than if you’re applying from Hong Kong, right? And so, yes, you tend to be kind of considered in the context of of the country from which you’re applying.

So if you’re applying from China, then you’d kind of be looked at uh, in the context of all the other applicants that school has received from China. Um, some schools will kind of have a, kind of a set percentage of their class that they intend to be international, right? And so they’re kind of looking at, okay, we want our class to be 14 percent international.

You know, maybe they, Only have 12 percent of their applicant pool is international. So it’s actually a really good thing for you to be international that year, right? Or maybe 25 percent of their applicant pool is international. So that’s going to be a challenge, right? So, um, there’s all kinds of factors like that that go into it.

But broadly, yes, you are likely to be considered in the context of your country amongst other applicants.

Anesha: This is a specific one. Um, so let me know if you don’t know what I’m referring to. Does taking a rigorous course load in my IGCSEs boost my prospects of getting into the IBs? I

Aaron: mean, yes. Again, it kind of depends on, in the context of your particular institution.

Um, so if everyone at your school is, you know, taking 10 IGCSEs, um, versus, you know, another school where everyone’s taking six. Yeah, okay. Um, but it’s in the kind of in the context of your school, but, but yes, they will want to see that you’re taking, you know, more than I would say five or six. Absolutely.

Um, depending a bit on the country that you’re in, right. I tended to see students taking more IGCSEs like in the UK than I did perhaps in some of the other countries. Uh, well, obviously they wouldn’t, they would be taking GCSEs in the UK. Um, but that in and of itself, of course, is not going to perhaps guarantee admission to one of those institutions.

But, um, you know, if you have the ability to do those, if your school kind of encourages you or allows you to take additional exams, um, yeah, that can help.

Anesha: Um, so the student who asked the question earlier kind of rephrased, um, given that there are going to be, you know, there’s typically a very large number of students applying from Chinese, from China.

Um, Is there any trick for Chinese students in particular, um, to avoid having admissions officers be bored? So, um, uh, they specifically said a massive Chinese applicants, any trick to avoid, um, getting admission staffs bored. So any, anything for, I guess, students who might be coming from a country that is going to be sending a lot of applicants, any tricks for them?

Aaron: Um, I would say just broadly, it’s about being authentic and being you. Um, I know that there are a lot of, um, places that one can get U. S. admissions advice, um, all over the world, but specifically in China. Um, and, you know, I, I think if you’re working with CollegeAdvisor or other kind of U. S. based companies, they might have a different perspective on that.

Um, but, you know, I, I read Chinese applications, uh, and it seems like seemed that there was like themes that you would see in applications every year, where somehow, you know, one person maybe got in because their essay was about that. And then the next year, everyone decides that they really care about the environment.

And somehow everyone was doing research in their school about like the impact of. You know, water pollution in the river that went through their town, which isn’t, okay, a real thing and absolutely legitimate and great, but like when you start to see it over and over and over again, you start to wonder who’s telling you this, or everyone is an LGBTQ ally, which I love as an LGBTQ person, but also when every single applicant is writing their essay about it, you start to wonder, Is this real or is someone telling you that that’s the way that a U.S. Submission officers and be like, Oh, you know, So be authentic, be yourself. Talk about your actual interests, be careful who you’re getting advice from, uh, and that’s really the best way, I think, to not, you know, uh, worry about kind of being a mass, uh, of, uh, a student and a mass of applicants.

Anesha: Yeah, you’re not reading anymore this year, but I think for the class of 2024, there are going to be a lot of identity essays about, especially post SCOTUS of people trying to figure out how to convey the rest of race or ethnicity, um, without kind of, yeah, I’m anticipating a similar flow for American students.

I have all that to say. Um, For for the upcoming year, um, you kind of touched upon this, but, uh, just to go a bit deeper on it. How do American universities consider extracurricular activities and volunteer work from international students for reviewing applications and an additional nuance that I’ve heard from other students?

Is that because those resources aren’t always, um, highlighted at, um, international high schools or high schools in other countries. They’ll focus on those types of how do students kind of make up for that missing on their applications as well?

Aaron: You have. So, you know, I think, again, most international readers kind of come from, tend to have more experience, and so they understand that different systems in different countries are going to have, um, you know, different kinds of opportunities when it comes to extracurricular activities.

Um, but, you know, broadly, if your school just doesn’t offer any, um, to get involved in your community instead, right? So like, is there a local, if you’re really interested in athletics, is there a local athletics team, uh, that you can play on? Um, you know, can you work like, you know, starting, uh, something, um, can you get a part time job?

Um, you know, can you, is there a local university where maybe you can work with a professor? Um, you know, can you help that under resourced institutions in your neighborhood, right, where you’re helping with, you know, younger kids and, and doing things for them, right? There are ways to kind of pursue your interests, um, on your own that don’t involve something through your school, perhaps.

Anesha: Okay, someone just asked, is TOEFL, is the TOEFL score important to apply?

Aaron: Um, again, it depends. Um, broadly, yes, because every institution is going to want to understand your level of proficiency and preparation in English. Um, and so they’re going to ask for it in different ways. One of those may be the TOEFL.

And so it’s important to kind of understand what might the cutoff scores be for those institutions. Because oftentimes if you’re below that, they’re just really not going to consider you because that’s kind of the level that they’ve determined like through their faculty and their kind of admissions policies that like if the students not performing at this level, they’re not going to be successful in our classrooms.

And so the TOEFL helps to inform that alongside also IELTS or Duolingo or other exams. But, but yes, it can be quite important.

Anesha: Um, okay. We spoke a little bit about support provided, um, for students, but it’s more, someone was asking specifically support provided to students who adapt to the academic aspects of the campus life.

Um, so what resources or support services are provided to help international students adapt to the academic differences, um, on college campuses?

Aaron: So in that way, you, you often would have kind of. access to the same, you know, kind of support services that domestic students would have too, right? Because there’s going to be a lot of students who have questions about kind of navigating that space and have perhaps a challenge in the transition to university life coming from high school.

Um, and so, you know, again, each institution will be slightly different, but they all typically have variations on a variety of things. Um, they will perhaps have like, uh, resource centers for particular So like maybe it’s a writing resource center where you come in and you get help on your papers or language center for if you’re studying a second or for many of you a third or fourth language and you need help with that and you come in and you have conversations with people in that language.

You know, maybe they have undergraduates who have taken a particular course before, you know, like the general chemistry, general biology, who did well in it, and then they kind of offer tutoring services, um, you know, for students kind of coming behind them, uh, professors often have office hours. Uh, every week where their doors open and they’re there for you to come in and ask questions.

Um, you have an academic advisor often assigned to you by your major who is there to help you, you know, navigate. Am I taking the right classes to graduate on time? How do I access this support service or this resource at the university? Your dorms are going to have, you know, specially trained students who are kind of leaders in that space.

And oftentimes, you know, we’ll also include, you know, full time adults. members who are there in student affairs to help you navigate that. So there are all kinds of different options. available for you to take advantage of for that kind of support.

Anesha: Um, I guess one question, again, this speaks a little bit to more resources and things like that, but, um, what support do do folks, do universities provide regarding housing, health insurance, and other kind of overall student welfare?

Aaron: Yeah, so it might be that those things are coming from the international student support. sort of center, or they might be kind of kind of decentralized around to the different offices. Usually, um, schools will often have a health insurance plan for either international students or for U. S. students who don’t have insurance, um, so that they have access to healthcare needs.

On campus or around campus, each school might be a little bit different, but they typically have one that you would often have to buy into, um, if you don’t have a U. S. insurance plan, um, you know, with housing, again, it depends a bit on the institution, but so, you know, say that housing is guaranteed. All four years.

Great. As long as you apply on time, you’re all set. Other schools, it might be that you only are guaranteed your first year and so they might have resources in the housing office to help. Okay, here’s a list of apartments in the local area with like reputable landlords who don’t rip you off and have nice places and things like that, right?

Um, So they’re kind of all those types of support services that that might exist to

Anesha: I guess that’s also just a question to keep in mind in the research of like is housing guaranteed for all four years on campus? Or is that something you’re gonna have to figure out? Um, you know, on your own to go, right?

Um, so I think what will be a last question is EA/ED Help the chances of admission for specifically for international students.

Aaron: Yeah. Um, So EA, broadly, no, because early action is not a binding. commitment, right? So if you’re admitted early action, you don’t have to attend that institution. And so the school isn’t necessarily counting on your coming to help them meet those goals that they have in giving you an EA spot.

So it may not necessarily be any less competitive. It may not increase your admission chances for EA. Um, ED Again, it depends on the institution, but broadly kind of speaking in generalities. Yes, it does tend to increase your admission chances. And the reason for that is by admitting you ed when you have guaranteed that you will attend that institution.

If you’re admitted, you’re going to withdraw your applications from all their us schools. Um, they know that if they’re looking for an oboe player from Bolivia and you are that person and you’ve applied an ed, Well, great. They’ve met that goal that they have right away and locking it in with their class, right?

And so they might stretch a little bit more for a student who perhaps wouldn’t be as competitive in the regular decision process because they know that they can count on you coming in their class. And so that’s why the admit rates tend to be slightly higher. How much higher varies by institution, what percent of their class comes from ED, varies by institutions.

These are all important questions to ask, but broadly, yes, it can help.

Anesha: All right, well, we will leave it there. Thank you so much, Aaron, for your time and thoughtfulness tonight. Um, that is the end of our webinar. We hope That you deepen your understanding of the college application process as an international student.

Also, we do hope you’ll join us for our future webinars tomorrow, July 13th. We will be hosting a Q&A session with admissions officers. So you can dive more deeply into how officers are reading and interpreting things. In addition to what Aaron’s already provided, we’ll also have an Ivy League panel on July 17th, comparing all the different types of institutions.

If those are important. To you, and then we’ll have a session on writing about extracurriculars. Uh, that came up a couple of times. So join us on July 19th for that session and we’ll end the month with advice from an admissions officer on making strong college applications on July. 27, so until next time, take care and have a good evening.

Thanks again, Aaron. Take care. Thanks. Bye.