By Donald C. Martin
Last Updated: May 14, 2012
As you complete your U.S. college applications, you will engage in personal reflection and self-discovery which can help you better understand where and why you want to attend college in the United States. With that being said, the college application process for international students can sometimes be overwhelming and confusing.
Each institution might have different application procedures, but as you navigate the process, follow the six tips below.
1. Allow time
As you begin to research the U.S. universities where you want to apply, be mindful of the application deadlines. It is important to allow plenty of time during the search process, which then allows you plenty of time to complete your applications.
2. Follow directions
Application instructions exist for a reason, if they don’t make sense to you. It raises concerns about how well you might follow policies, procedures or understand the English language if you do not follow directions on your college application. Let me give you a few examples:
• If you are asked for two letters of recommendation, only send two. Some institutions will permit an extra recommendation, but usually no more. Honor that.
• As an international student applying to a U.S. school, you may be required to take a test to measure your English language skills, do so. Do not argue even if you are fluent in English. If that is the case you will obviously do very well on the test, which will serve to strengthen your application.
• Be careful about sending extra materials. Some applications allow for this, or will allow you to write an extra essay question. But if they do not, first check to see if it is okay for you to send extra information rather than assuming that it is okay to do so.
• If there is a word limit for essay questions, follow it. Remember, application evaluators are reading hundreds, maybe thousands of essays. You will not get a positive response if yours is longer than it is supposed to be.
3. Be professional at all times
You are one of many applicants being compared with each other. Always present yourself in a calm, assertive and sincere manner. It is appropriate to be inquisitive about your application, but it is never to your advantage to be argumentative. Be confident but not arrogant; be kind and patient, not abrasive and demanding.
4. Content and presentation are both important
While what you say in your application is very important, so is the look and feel of your application. Some applications are sloppy, wrinkled and disorganized. Others are hand-written, this is not acceptable. Some have coffee or tea stains on them. Some are not proof read and have many grammatical errors and pages are out of order.
Applications with these kinds of presentation errors quickly become less competitive. The admissions committee tends to assume that the applicant was not really serious about this application, and they tend to respond in a similar manner.
5. Be yourself. Resist the temptation to lie, embellish or make excuses
Don’t be someone you’re not. At times, applicants try to make themselves look perfect. As we all know, no one is perfect. Trying to look that way can often cause application evaluators to be more suspicious than impressed.
6. Make contingency plans in case you are not admitted.
Be prepared to be denied admission, perhaps to every one of your options, or to be placed on the waiting list by several of your options. Also, be prepared for what you will do if you end up not attending school in the U.S.
Above all else, during the application process remember to be calm, reflective, thoughtful and relaxed!
Search our directory of U.S. degree programs
Dr. Don Martin, Ph.D., is a higher education admissions expert, author, former admissions dean and a current education columnist for U.S. News and World Report. Find out more at GradSchoolRoadMap.com.