Leverage U.S. high school experience as an international college applicant

Record Number Of International Students In U.S. Colleges

​The number of international students who graduate from American high schools and go on to enroll in U.S. colleges is on the rise. In fact, almost half of the country's private high schools – and 4 percent of public ones – actively recruit international students, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

This is because high schools, right along with colleges, are now realizing how important international perspectives are to a school's campus and community. For international students at an American high school, this has big benefits in terms of time, guidance and proximity for the college search process​.

1. Take advantage of your prior experience in the U.S.: Whether you've spent one, two, or more years in a U.S. high school, you understand the way American education works, what your teachers expect of you and the importance of activities outside the classroom.

Use that to your advantage when you're applying for colleges. In interviews and application essays, be sure to highlight clubs, sports or community service you've been part of. If you don't have much to talk about, get more experience. Spend Saturdays at a local animal shelter, try out for soccer or join the yearbook staff. You can even start your own organization based around your home country and culture.

2. Get to know your guidance counselors: The guidance office is one of the biggest resources at your high school. Applying to an American college is often a yearlong process, and your high school's counselors will be there to help you every step of the way.

They can organize trips to visit college campuses, help you register for required exams like the PSAT, SAT, ACT or TOEFL, recommend study aids for those exams, review applications and essays, lead practice or "mock" interviews and much more. Visit the guidance office regularly, if only to get to know the counselors. In the process, they'll also get to know you and which American colleges will fit you best.

3. Get out there and start looking: Logistics work in your favor as an international student at an American high school. You've already secured the documents to study and live in the country. You've adjusted to the time differences and likely gotten familiar with things like means of travel, currency, geography and the English language. Why not go ahead and start visiting potential colleges during long weekends and school breaks?

Email or call admission counselors at the universities you'd like to learn more about. Just as your guidance office is a key resource at your high school, the admissions office at each university will be invaluable, too. You will likely find that how you apply is different – and a little confusing – at each university.
There are several questions you should ask. Ask if you'll need a new or updated visa, and if you should use the application for international or domestic students. See if you'll need to take an English proficiency exam.

You should also ask if you are eligible for the same financial aid as American students as well as how your tuition will be calculated.

Each of these questions will probably have a different answer depending on the university, and connecting early with the admissions office is the best way to figure it all out.

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

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