American universities are opening their doors to foreign students at a rate that they’ve never done before. More than one million foreign students study in the U.S., which is 50 percent higher than the number in 2010. That dramatic increase is both good and bad news for prospective students.
The good news is that schools are more than willing to find students overseas and now offer better infrastructure for students coming from abroad. The bad news is that colleges can afford to be more selective during the admissions process. With colleges now able to pick from a larger group of applications, prospective students need to make sure their college applications are in top-notch shape.
To ensure that you have everything in order with your application, you’ll need to have a good understanding of how colleges evaluate student applications.
What’s Most Important?
Every college is slightly different when it comes to their admission decisions, so there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to this process.
“Rarely is a student admitted based on only one factor. American colleges and universities evaluate many things to determine admission,” Mike Steidel, director of admissions for the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University said, “It’s the combination of many different pieces about you that ultimately makes the American admission process unique. In many ways, it is like a puzzle that an admission office must piece together to decide whether or not you will be a good match.”
While universities value different things, most schools take certain important factors into consideration.
Standardized test scores aren’t the perfect way to gauge a person’s intelligence, but they’re one of the only ways to do it efficiently at this time. Many colleges require high standardized test scores to get in, so the better the score, the better your chances. Colleges require different exams, so make sure to check which ones your university needs. The most common are the SAT and ACT scores for undergraduate admissions. For graduate school, you’ll likely need to take the GRE.
English Language Proficiency
Strong English skills are also a requirement for many international students depending on which country they come from. TOEFL tests are often requirements, and a great score can ensure your application is approved.
If you’re applying as an undergraduate, the university will want to see your high school grades and any college credit transcripts you have, if any.
College essays are a long-held tradition for the college application process. While anecdotal stories feature students being accepted based on the strength of their essay, this part of the application process isn’t always considered extremely important. Experts say that that essays rarely get much attention from admissions officers, who were busy considering other factors. Obviously, it’s important to write a strong essay just in case, but your background, test scores and grades will make a bigger impact on the application process.
The Different Admission Methods
While schools have varied preferences when it comes to accepting students, many schools have completely different standards. This creates a lot of confusion for prospective students, who need to tailor their lengthy applications to each school they apply to.
Fortunately, processes are becoming a little more standardized and simpler. Government-run schools within a state often share similar application procedures, so applying for those schools is fairly intuitive. Now, both private and public schools from across the country are working to make their application processes more similar.
So far, more than 80 schools (including some top universities) have worked together to create a new, uniform application process. This is great news for students who struggle to know what colleges are actually looking for.
Despite these changes, understanding exactly what colleges want and what they consider most important in an application can be difficult. Do your research with each particular school in order to give them the best application possible.