Looking Stateside: US College Admissions for International Students

In 2017, over 1 million international students were enrolled in U.S. schools. To join that group, it’s important for students to understand the admissions process for international students when applying to U.S. colleges because it can be lengthier than what domestic student applicants go through.

What is the Common Application?

The Common Application is a single application that can be submitted to multiple institutions. If several of the colleges you’re applying to accept the Common Application, consider filling it out to save time. The Common Application includes some essay questions that colleges use for admissions purposes. You’ll want to double check with each college that there aren’t additional supplemental essays to provide for your admissions application.

What is the deadline to apply for admission for international students?

Each college has their own set of deadlines for admissions applications. It’s best to check each institution’s admissions webpage for their indicated deadline, so you don’t miss it.

If you’re filling out the Common Application, it’s a good idea to have that completed by the earliest deadline to ensure all your applications will be received on time. Don’t forget to check for any additional admission requirements that aren’t part of the Common Application for each college.
What documents do I need to provide with my application?

At the very least, you’ll need to provide official copies of your academic transcripts from your secondary school. Some colleges will ask for a copy in the native language along with an English translation.

Other documents that are required as part of your application may be dependent on your home country. You can search on admissions web pages with information on international students to find you need to provide based on where you’re from. If you still have questions, contact the admissions office by email or phone if you’re able.
Do I need to speak English to apply?

As an international student, you’ll likely need to provide some evidence that you have English language proficiency. The majority of instruction at American colleges is done in English, so it is crucial that you understand the language to do well in classes.

Three popular tests for English language proficiency are TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE.

If English is my first language or I come from an English-speaking country, do I still need to provide an English language proficiency score?

Each college is different when it comes to which test is required and if a score is required as part of your application. To make sure your application is complete, call each institution’s admissions office and inquire about what you need to do for your particular situation.

“As an international student, you’ll likely need to provide some evidence that you have English language proficiency”

What is the ACT and SAT, and do I need to take it?

The ACT and SAT are standardized tests to help admissions committees evaluate a student’s readiness for college. They are commonly taken during secondary schooling in the U.S. Not every college requires an SAT or ACT score to be admitted.

These tests can still be required for international student applicants even if they are not common in your home country. The ACT and SAT tests are administered internationally, so it is your responsibility to determine how and when to sit for the test.

Do some research before selecting which test you’ll take to see which you believe you’ll score higher on and increase your chances of being admitted to your dream college. If you score high enough on certain portions of the test you take, you may be waived needing to provide an English language proficiency score.
I got accepted to a college in the U.S. What now?

First, congratulations! Welcome to the next chapter of your life. As an international student, you will need to secure a student visa. The two most common types of student visas are F-1 and J-1. Now that you’ve been accepted, it’s best to speak with the department or office who serves international students to learn the next steps for acquiring your visa.

Jason Patel is the founder of Transizion, a college admissions and mentorship company that provides boot camps and tutoring on college applications, college essays, AP exams, academic subjects, and SAT prep.