Applying as an International Student

Hello! I´d like to know others international students´ experience studying in the US. I´d really appreciate any advice you can give me for my application. Thank you very much!

What class are you in?
What country or area of the word are you from?

From reading the forums, it seems that many international applicants focus on a narrow group of schools, and therefore sometimes fail to match their applications to suitable colleges. Seeing schools arranged roughly by selectivity could help you identify appropriate colleges to research from the wide range of choices in the U.S.:

Note that the second list is older and limited to (dated) standardized scoring attributes, but extends further.

@merc81 Thank you very much! I will take it into consideration.

@MYOS1634 I´m from Uruguay, South America. Here the academic calendar is different, we start in March and we finish in November. I´m starting my Junior Year.

That will actually give you some advantage in preparing since you’ll have all of November and December to complete applications. It’ll make ED harder though since you’ll have to handle ED essays at the same time as final exams.

@MYOS1634 Ok. Thank you very much! I´d like to ask you something… Applying Early Decision means that if I get accepted I must go to that University regardless of others universities´decision?

Yes. It’s only possible for an international to apply ED of 1) they don’t need financial aid or 2) you apply to a “meet need” university.

OK, thank you very much!!

I think that the experience of international students studying in the US will depend quite a bit where you are from.

I was an international student in the US a long time ago (I have now lived in the US for many decades). However I was only a five hour drive from home, which made going home for vacations relatively easy. Coming from Uruguay you would be a lot further from home and would need fairly long flights to get back and forth. Of course the flights would add to the cost of studying in the US.

University in the US can be relatively expensive. There are a small handful of universities which provide full need based financial aid to international students – all are very competitive for admission. Therefore studying in the US can be affordable for a small number of very strong students who qualify for need based aid. If you can afford to be full pay, then there are a huge number of universities to choose from which range enormously in terms of academic strength, reputation, and many other factors.

International students in the US are expected to return to their home country after graduation, or after they finish their studies. Do not come here expecting to be able to stay after graduation. There are some other countries that make it easier for international students to stay in the country after graduation.

I agree with @merc81 that international students will often focus on a small number of well known and highly ranked universities. Personally I attended the highest ranked university that I was accepted to. This was probably a mistake in my case and would probably be a mistake for many students. There are a wide range of schools to consider and many factors to think about in deciding what school makes the most sense for you.

One issue that comes up fairly often is that students wonder how to convert their grades to the US GPA scale. In general this is unnecessary and hard to do. The universities in the US will know a lot more than you might expect about the grade scales used in your country. As such, what is more important is to consider how your grades will compare with others from your country. For example if you were to apply to a very selective university such as Harvard, MIT, or Stanford, you would need to be one of the strongest students in your country. However, how your grades compare to a student from the US or from Canada would not matter – admissions at these schools would be comparing you with students who have studied in the same curriculum and with the same grade scales.

Probably someone could take the combined wisdom of several years of posts on College Confidential and write a book for international students applying to universities in the US. There is a lot that we could discuss.

Where are you applying from?

What can you afford to pay?

What are your grades?

Have you taken any of the US admissions tests yet (ACT, SAT, TOEFL)?

@DadTwoGirls Thank you very much for all that information!

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@happymomof1 Thank you very much for answering.

I’m applying from Uruguay, South America. My parents can pay part of my Education but I don’t want to ask them to pay that much, so I’ll try to get as many scholarships as possible.
My grades are good. Here the scale is from 1 to 12 (12 being the maximum) and I always get an average score of 11 or 12.
I’ve already started studying for SAT on Khan Academy, but I haven’t taken any official test. I’m starting my Junior Year (here clases start in March and finish in November). According to English, I haven’t taken neither TOEFL nor IELTS but I’ve taken Cambridge Exams. Last year I took CAE which is level C1.

It is almost impossible for international students to understand how expensive university-level education is in the US, and how difficult it is for students to be admitted with significant scholarship money. So please find out what your parents can afford to pay. That will define your application list.

You haven’t written anything about your reasons for wanting to study in the US. So think that through very carefully. Studying in another country might serve you just as well. For example, in recent years Canada and Australia have had much more favorable policies about work permission while studying, and after graduation, than the US has.

One excellent resource for you is the website of EducationUSA, and the counselors at the advising center closest to where you live. There are two in Uruguay. If you cannot travel to Montevideo to meet with a counselor in person, they still should be able to give you some help by email or telephone.

Wishing you all the best.

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Have you developed tentative academic interests, fields you would like to study in particular?

@happymomof1 Yes, I know how expensive and competitive it is . I really like the education system in the US and all the opportunities offered in the class and outside the University, that´s why I want to study there.
About EducationUSA, I´ve already heard about them and went to a few chats last year but they told me I was still too young and to come back this year, so that´s what I am going to do. Thank you very much anyway.

@merc81 I haven´t decided yet what I want to study. I think I´ll apply as undecided student and declare my major later on. I´ll probably do something related to science like engineering or something like that, but I´m not completely sure yet.

@isabella28 It is fantastic you are looking to study here in the US, I would say education here is wholistic and expensive. Generally almost 100% of state schools do not provide any scholarships or grants to international students. Having said that there are many private schools that do provide tution and other other grants to international students.

Private schools are 2 types - Universities like Havard, Stanford, Syracuse, Tulane and smaller liberal arts colleges like Amherst, Mount Hollyoke, Reed College, Wesleyan, Swathmore etc. From what I know the smaller colleges provide more assitance to international students than the larger universites in term of scholarships and grants. Please go to the US News web site and look up these colleges - Pick a few colleges, go to thier web site and email the international counselor of your interest in the college, you will generally get good responses.
As for how they look at your application its a combination of 4 factors - Your grades in schools (because your grades don’t easily translate to the US system - class rank would be most important), your SAT or ACT score, your extra curicular activities (what have you done meanifully out side the classroom - sports, social service, leadership activities in things like model UN etc) and finally recommendation letters from your teachers.
Hope this helps.

@FunnyDad Thank you very much for that information. It has really helped me.

Hi all! I am a current Denison University (OH, USA) senior with a Concentration in Narrative Journalism.

I am currently writing a long-form article for my Journalism Senior Project about the effects of COVID-19 on the international students’ college admissions process. I am hoping to speak with some newly-admitted international students about their application process this past year.

I realize that this is a strange ask on this forum, but if you are a newly admitted international student and interested in being a resource for my project, please reply to this post or PM me, and I can provide my school email address for contact.

Thank you, and hoping to hear from some of you!

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