There are now more than one million international students that apply to study in the United States each year. To increase your odds of getting accepted, you’ll want to avoid these common mistakes.
Mistake #1: Presenting yourself as “well-rounded”
Conventional wisdom says you must do a lot of extracurriculars because colleges like well-rounded candidates. But if you want to be admitted to a more selective university, don’t follow this advice.
Good grades and well-rounded extracurriculars just won’t cut it anymore to get into a great university.
This is because you’re competing with a huge number of other strong applicants with very similar profiles. According to the last annual Open Doors Report put out by the Institute of International Education, the number of international students in higher education has increased 73% in the last decade and 10% last year alone, the fastest recorded annual increase ever.
The goal is to stand out from the crowd. Selective colleges tend to look for “T-shaped” applicants: students who are accomplished at and interested in a wide array of things but also have a “spike,” a special depth in one area of genuine passion.
Mistake #2: Preferring “big brand” or high-ranked universities
Global universty ranking are heavily biased towards “big brand” universities and their research departments while the most important attributes for you (safety, access to student jobs, graduate salary, quality of teachers, feeling welcome etc.) are not included.
At UniAdvisor we believe the best recommendation comes from other international students and alumni.
You’re much better off looking at what current international students and alumni have to say about their international study experience and their employment outcomes, keeping your needs in mind. Try categorizing universities into reach, match and safety groupings, and then picking the ones that will be your focus based on you top criteria.
Similar to rankings, international students tend to have a strong bias towards well-known U.S. universities and underweight other potentially excellent undergraduate programs at smaller liberal arts colleges or at lesser-known regional universities.
Don’t let an expensive marketing campaign push you into a certain college and look the experience data and written reviews from other international students on UniAdvisor.
Mistake #3: Applying without a “narrative”
When you apply to university, you are not just sending in your application. Whether you realize it or not, you are submitting a story about yourself and that story can be told well or told poorly.
Many people within the college admission office read your application and come away with a narrative about you that forms the basis of their picture of you as a person—they don’t remember details. Here, you have the power to frame that impression.
Instead of trying to explain everything you are doing in high school, focus on the one or two primary areas that you are most passionate about. And be sure to backup your passion with impressive achievements.
For example, if a student loves environmental sciences, then she should make sure all the components of her application emphasizes this area of passion, and she should be sure to highlight all related achievements. She should showcase her summer research with respected college professors and her research papers that got accepted to and published in science journals.
Another thing to keep in mind: It is important to put together the major elements of your narrative long before university application season. If you start outlining your story at the beginning of high school, for example, then you have many years to work on building out the achievements that make a great story stand out.
Mistake #4: Starting test prep in your senior year
We talk to so many students who start too late prepping for their standardized tests, like the ACT/SAT and the SAT II subject tests. Don’t wait until the end of junior year and the beginning of senior year to take these tests—and definitely don’t wait until then to start studying.
Whether we like it or not, standardized tests are one of the most heavily weighted part of the college admissions “formula” and if you plan in advance, you actually have a big advantage over other students. Don’t be one of those late starters. This is something under your control.
The SAT II subject tests are best taken soon after studying the subject at school because the material is fresh in your mind. So if you take Chemistry in 10th grade, take the SAT II right afterwards (leaving time to study for it, of course).
Mistake #5: Having no clear passion
This ties back to the first mistake: Your application is unlikely to be compelling to universities if you’re not accomplished in an area of genuine passion.
University admissions officers are looking for students who show deep curiosity and interest in some academic areas and some non-academic extracurriculars. It’s not enough to just get very good grades and test scores, you need to have authentic passion and have attained some notable achievements that area.
If you need help with you University Application contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org