How to apply for college in the US for international students: Process, requirements, visa, and more
All you need to know about university application in America – from admission criteria and test scores to essays and visas.
To get into a top-tier college in the US, you will need to start preparing at least four years in advance. Most top American universities take a holistic approach to admissions; in addition to your grades and test scores, they consider your extracurricular involvement, community service, and personal qualities that come through your recommendation letters and personal essays. Here are the things you should take note of if you are looking to study in the US:
The Admissions Formula
Each school’s admissions officers use a formula to determine acceptance based on the following core components:
- GPA and Course Rigor
- SAT or ACT Scores
- Extracurricular Activities
- Recommendation Letters
- Demonstrated Interest
- TOEFL Score
GPA and Course Rigor
Top-tier schools are looking for students who have demonstrated themselves academically. You need to show that you can excel in challenging classes. The math and foreign language class you take your freshman year will determine what level you’re able to reach your senior year. You should take the most rigorous science, math, history, and English classes available. Grades matter!
Many schools publicize the median GPA and test scores of admitted applicants, so prospective students will know what they need to be competitive. The goal for candidates is to apply with components equal to or above the admissions standards set by the admissions office.
SAT and ACT
Start studying for the SAT or ACT three years before applying to college. Take your first SAT or ACT a year before you plan to apply. If you fall short of your target score on your first attempt, you will have time to retake the test before your applications are due.
The quality of your extracurricular activities can mean the difference between being accepted to your top choice or being rejected. Colleges want to see that students are active, contributing members of their communities who are developing their talents and passions into exceptional achievements.
Colleges want a sustained commitment, not four years of four different activities. It is not enough just to list your extracurricular activities; you need to describe what you’ve done, so be specific! The more specific you are, the better understanding the admissions officer will have about what you achieved.
Where to Apply
There are more than 4,000 colleges and universities in the U.S.. The process of narrowing down where to apply can seem daunting – it is! That is where a college counsellor is most helpful! Quality counselors have researched each school and can help you decide which campus communities are good matches for you.
Recommendation letters have tremendous weight in the admissions process. Admissions committees want to know who you are, beyond the grades and test scores. A great recommendation letter should rave about your remarkable qualities and open a window into your character. It should speak to your qualities, as well as your academic ability. Ask people who know you well and tell them what values, goals, and experiences are most important to you.
Some schools ask you to respond to multiple prompts and provide supplemental essays in addition to a personal statement. Writing your college essays are the most challenging and time-consuming part of the actual application process. The personal statement is your best chance to show off your writing. Many colleges ask you to write about why you’re applying to their school. Admissions officers are trying to ascertain if you are excited about the school and if you are likely to attend if accepted.
You have to open up in your essay to let them see your personality. Writing a good college essay means being honest about your feelings and experiences. Use clear language that explains a point or evokes a feeling. Avoid using fancy words when you don’t know what they mean. Avoid using slang and consider writing in the first person.
Many top schools offer interviews conducted by alumni to many international students in their home countries. Often it is the responsibility of the applicant to obtain the name of the local alums who do interviews, or an alumnus will contact you after you have applied. Do your homework; learn about the university, its history, philosophy, and student body. Be prepared; make a list of intelligent questions based on your research. Give specific examples and detailed answers when answering personal questions and how you plan to contribute to the campus community. Bring transcript copies, letters of recommendation, and samples of previous work, whatever achievement you think may be relevant to the conversation.
As an international student coming to the United States for academic studies, you will be applying for an F1 Student Visa. Students need to maintain the minimum course load for full-time student status. F1 student status allows for 20 hours or less of on-campus employment. Optional practical training is available for students for up to one year after they complete their academic program. Students need to complete their studies by the expiration date on the I-20 form.
A Better Path With U.S. School Accept
Do you dream of studying abroad at a top U.S. university? Do you think you want to study in a top technology and research university, but you have yet to take the SAT, and your grades are just okay? You can spend the next 6-12 months studying for the SAT and applying to second tier schools. Alternatively, you can go right into a 2+2 Bachelor’s Program where you start at a community college and finish at a top university like the University California, Santa Barbara, that counts six Nobel Prize winners for landmark research in chemistry, physics, and economics among its renowned faculty.
U.S. School Accept can help you navigate the college application process and determine a major and a career path through career and academic counseling. These decisions guide the identification of the best-fit university for you. You enter the 2+2 Program at California’s top community college in one of the safest and most beautiful small cities in the world – Santa Barbara. This crucial step, helps you acclimate to college life in America, saves money on tuition, and side-steps the TOEFL and SAT/ACT requirement when entering a university as a freshman. We walk you through the entire process, from community college to university to bachelor’s degree.
For more information, visit U.S. School Accept’s website.