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What Do US Colleges Look for in International Students?

Not that long ago, it was rare for US colleges to have many international students. Now, the trend is shifting. According to a report at US News, there have been record-breaking numbers of international students at US colleges and universities. There are now about 900,000 international students, which is a 70% increase from 2000.

International students bring diversity to campuses and, as Wall Street Journal points out, they bring money. For college coaches, international students also means a wider pool of talent to choose from. But simply being an international student doesn’t mean you will get accepted to the American college of your choice. Here is what US colleges are really looking for in international students.

college students

Grades

Your secondary school grades are one of the most important things that colleges look at when deciding whether to admit a student or not.

American schools use a Grade Point Average (GPA) system for grading students. As a foreign student, US colleges might have a hard time interpreting what your grades mean – which is why your SAT scores will matter more.

There are no minimum academic requirements for all colleges in the US. Each college is able to set its own requirements, and they won’t look at grades alone. But it is good practice to research the colleges and find out what the average GPA of accepted applicants is.

How do your grades compare? The website Foreign Credits has a GPA calculator which allows you to put in your classes and grades and get the US GPA equivalency.

 

SAT or ACT Scores

These are two standardized tests which students take to apply for college in the United States. Only one of the tests needs to be taken, but some colleges prefer one test over the other. In general, the SAT test is more used. Colleges use the scores to determine your academic eligibility. You can readily find information about the minimum and average SAT scores of accepted students.

Since colleges may have a hard time interpreting what your foreign grades mean, they will rely heavily on your SAT scores to determine your academic abilities. Foreign students should start early with preparing for the SATs. There are many prep courses available and you can take sample SAT tests to see how you will likely score.

 

Extra-Curricular Activities

American colleges are looking for “well-rounded students.” This usually means students who participate in extra-curricular school activities, but it can also mean students who have a fulltime job, do community work, or volunteer work.

These sorts of activities show a lot about your character and what you will contribute to the school, and in ways that your grades will not.

Having a job outside of school shows that you can manage time well.
Participating in school sports shows that you work well as a team.
Being in student government shows that you have leadership skills.
Volunteering in your community shows that you are compassionate and involved.

Don’t just sign up for a bunch of extracurricular activities in hopes that it will impress the college admissions boards. It is better to be actively involved in one or two activities than have a bunch of superficial activities on your transcript.

 

For Student Athletes – Eligibility

If you are a student athlete hoping to play sports at an American college, then you also have eligibility requirements to consider. Did you know that the NCAA requires international students to meet a core curriculum of classes? Research these requirements (and for the NAIA) and see if you meet them. If not, start making adjustments to your classes and get your grades up so you will be eligible when time comes to apply.

 

What US Colleges to Apply For?

While US colleges may be accepting more international students than ever, keep in mind that, as an international student, you’ve got competition on an international level!

Most international students will apply to US colleges based on their name recognition. If you take the time to really research colleges and their programs, you will find a lot of great but lesser-known schools which aren’t as competitive. For example, rural schools and schools in the Midwest USA tend to get fewer applications from international students. This not only increases your likelihood of acceptance, but of getting a scholarship as well.

Image credit: Students take place in a workshop, by Novartis AG; Found on Flickr; CC License BY NC ND 2.0

 

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