By Amy Rader Kice




Applying for international admission to a U.S. college is daunting. But here’s a secret from a longtime admissions director: Many American universities wish they had more international students.

They want their classrooms to reflect the interconnected world we live in, because students learn as much from each other as they do from their professors.

That’s why your unique cultural identity and experiences will set you apart – if you can avoid these five common mistakes that many international students make during the admissions process.

1. Not doing research: Most international students know a little about a few universities and not much more. They haven’t researched key things like academic programs and financial aid. They haven’t considered the accessibility, weather or cost of living in the city where they’ll be living.

One recent transfer student didn’t realize she craved warm weather until the middle of winter as she rode the freezing metro to her Chicago college. She did some research and found what she was looking for here in Austin – 300 days of sunshine each year.

2. Not asking questions: Most universities who recruit internationally have at least one admissions counselor dedicated to advising students from other countries. But students often overlook this phenomenal resource. You can – and should – ask about the American college experience.

Look for links on a university’s website like “Contact our international admissions counselor” or “Chat with a current student.” Email the university’s international education office or an international student group on campus. Chances are, you’ll connect with someone who is happy to help.

On any given day, for example, I answer questions over email or at college fairs about everything from our gluten-free menu options and nationally ranked rugby team to our prayer room for Muslim students and internship opportunities.

3. Not planning ahead: Most international students expect U.S. college admissions to be very streamlined. In reality, every university has a different process and schedule.

Even though many colleges, like mine, accept applications throughout the year, it often takes months to get your immigration paperwork finalized with the American embassy near you.

Admissions counselors are happy to help you determine the documents and information you need but have no control over how long the immigration process takes. Understanding that it takes time can help you plan more effectively.

4. Not thinking about the future: Studying in the United States is exciting and eye-opening. But what happens after the first day of class? After you graduate?

Answer these questions by exploring options for internships, research, faculty mentors, conferences and study abroad programs.

I’ve worked with a French student who wanted to study bioinformatics. Now a senior, he is collaborating with professors on genetic research and will be a co-author on the project paper – an experience that will stand out on his resume or CV.

Be sure to seek similar opportunities at the colleges you consider, even before your first semester. Read about professors and their research on a university’s website. Contact its career planning staff for information about internships with American companies. Ask the study abroad office about opportunities for internships overseas.

Once you explore all that’s available to you as an international student at an American university, you can start to make it happen.

5. Not bragging about yourself: When you apply, you will almost always include a personal essay and a list of your accomplishments. This is very important – the admissions staff wants to determine if you are a good fit for their university and to see how you can contribute to the campus community.

Don’t overlook or minimize this part of the application. Have you done well on exams like the British A-Levels, French Bac or IB exams? Have you played sports? Have you been involved in music or theater? Make sure to include this.

Sharing your accomplishments and interests enhances your application and may also present opportunities for scholarships and college credit.