“It’s exactly because international students see colleges as less desirable than universities that they have a better chance of getting in. There is less competition,” Sack says.
Susan Smith, founder and principal of Starbound Partners Educational Consulting LLC in Delaware, says schools that don’t already have many international students “may be more flexible when it comes to grades and test scores for interesting international candidates.”
But, she advises, students who do apply to schools with fewer international students should consider how they feel about being part of a small, but possibly growing, segment on campus. She says for some, a college without a sizable international student population can be very appealing but for others, it might feel alienating.
Experts say most schools generally have a quota for the number of international students they admit, around 10 percent of total enrollment, though they may not publicly reveal that figure. However, Jonathan Dunn, a college counselor at Creative College Counseling LLC in California, says both public and private schools with financial concerns “are definitely looking to increase their international enrollments and even go well beyond 10 percent.”
Step 2: Take Advantage of Targeted Recruitment
Thanks to efforts by school representatives to recruit prospective international students, applicants have access to U.S. colleges through various avenues: in person, phone, Skype, email and chat.
Marilyn J. Jackson, director of the Office of International Programs at San Francisco State University, says each year the school’s international office visits more than 100 high schools, colleges and English language institutes in the U.S. and abroad. She says the university also participates in international educational expos, fairs and conferences.
“I did connect with university representatives who came to my school to conduct workshops and information sessions with students,” says Raghav Chaturvedi, a student from India who is pursuing a dual degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering and applied science with a concentration in finance at the University of Pennsylvania.
He says he continued to remain in touch with several representatives when he applied. “It helps you assess whether you would be the right fit for the university and what possible value you could add to the student body,” Chaturvedi says.
Abby Freeman, director of admissions at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, says the school travels to, hosts and attends admissions events across the globe, primarily in China, Malaysia, India and Brazil. She says the school also has Skype sessions hosted by admissions and retention professionals to help students prepare for their transition to living and learning in the U.S.
“The best way for international students to take advantage of opportunities is simply to reach out via email or chat and ask,” Freeman says.
Step 3: Emphasize Global Citizenship in Applications
Experts say U.S. universities value students who demonstrate global citizenship – the exploration of personal and social responsibility in an interconnected world. Students can use the new year to build their global citizenship experience to include on their applications in the fall.
Smith says colleges are looking for students who adapt easily to new situations, especially those involving multicultural contexts. “Any activities that involve new situations or cross-cultural interactions can help demonstrate a student’s ability to thrive in such settings,” Smith says.
Examples she notes include cultural exchange programs; summer programs in other cities or countries; Model U.N. conferences; and debate, quizzing, science or other academic competitions. She says for students who cannot easily travel abroad, finding ways to connect with diverse groups of people within their communities – such as volunteering as a tutor or at aftercare school programs for immigrant or refugee populations – can provide similar opportunities.
Dunn says the fact that a student seeks to study in the U.S. means the applicant will automatically be adding diversity and a sense of global citizenship to a college campus.
“They need, of course, to have strong academic records, but more than anything else, colleges want to see international students who demonstrate passion and energy,” Dunn says. It doesn’t matter where students’ particular interests lie, he says, as long as they have identified things they love and do them.
Dunn says admissions counselors want to see students who have used their time to explore life and the world and even have transformative experiences. “They definitely do not want to see students who have spent their entire summers in SAT, ACT or TOEFL prep classes,” Dunn says.