How to Apply to College as an International Student
Learn the steps you need to take to submit your American college application.
Applying to college in a different country can seem intimidating. The seemingly endless number of phone calls and stacks of paperwork might be overwhelming, but in the end it can be a satisfying and rewarding experience.
Once you decide you want to pursue a college degree in America, you should start narrowing down your choices. Browse through our college finder and look for colleges that suit your academic and geographic needs and bookmark them. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few choices, you can begin your application process.
As an international student, you want to start applying to colleges as early as possible. At the latest, applications should be sent a year in advance and it’s preferable to start applying at least two years ahead.
Keep in mind that most schools have a deadline between November and January for entry into the fall semester, so plan accordingly.
Foreign Student Application Process
No matter how good your grades were in your home country, it’s advisable to apply to at least three to five colleges since international student admissions are so competitive.
Before you start gathering documents to send to your intended colleges, you should contact them to get information and application forms. Most American universities have an international student services department to help students like you.
When you speak with a college adviser, make sure you meet the academic requirements of the school. You don’t want to waste money on an application for a school you are not qualified to attend.
Generally, colleges will require you to submit:
- Certificate of completion from your secondary school (or post-secondary school if you are applying to graduate school)
- Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores
- SAT or ACT scores for undergraduates and the GRE, GMAT, MCAT or LSAT for graduates.
- Letters of recommendation
- Application fee
Although this is the general admission process, each college has its own unique application restrictions and requirements. For example, UCLA, a highly selective university, requires students to have a superior average in their secondary school transcripts. They require students from India and Pakistan who are applying to a master’s degree program to hold a bachelor’s degree in engineering or a master’s degree in any other area. Otherwise, the student must enroll in an undergraduate program.
Odessa College in Texas requires international students to provide proof of immunizations against diphtheria and tetanus within the past 10 years, a negative test result of tuberculosis and a sound bill of health both physically and mentally.
I’ve Submitted My Application ... Now What?
It takes between six and eight weeks for colleges to send out determination letters. It’s also common for them to send out acceptance or rejection letters between April and May for the fall semester.
Once you receive all your determination letters, it’s time to whittle your choices to one. If you were accepted by more than one school, it’s considered good manners to contact the schools you will not be attending to let them know.
After you have been accepted, your TOEFL or IELTS scores are submitted, and the college is certain that you have the funds to attend, the institution will send you a certificate of eligibility, which is required for the next step in your journey: the student visa application.
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