Posted by Sponsored Post Posted on 25 November 2021

Common Mistakes International Students Make When Applying to College

Millions of people apply to study in colleges abroad every year, and the number keeps increasing yearly.  Of the millions that apply, only hundreds of thousands are accepted. That means that aside from qualifications, there are other factors involved in the decision to accept international students. Therefore, your application needs to be top-notch.

There are various benefits to studying abroad, especially in the U.S., even at lesser-known schools. The main is that you get access to more options in terms of courses and even employment.

Since the competition is harsh, the way to enhance your success chances is by avoiding mistakes many other applicants make. Here are some common ones we’ve identified in recent years. 

Banking on Good Grades and Extracurricular Alone 

Times have changed, and excellent grades and extracurricular alone aren’t enough to vouch for one as an all-rounded person in their resume. Due to the high competition, you need something that makes you stand out from the other applicants. 

Picture this: admission offices of top universities have to sift through thousands of applications to choose who to admit. Some contenders stand out due to their excellent high-grade point average, but majorly, the transcripts are always somehow similar. So, the admissions personnel will base the selection on more subjective things like passion or what the applicant wants to do after graduating from the institute.

Having a broad range of accomplishments and interests will work in your favor. However, the more important area to focus on is your passion or area of interest. It is where you believe you can convince the selection panel you can flourish. 

Writing a Weak Essay or Having a Weak Story to Tell

Essays are a crucial part of any college admission process, and this is an area every applicant needs to nail. Unfortunately, a lot of people struggle in this area probably due to challenges such as: 

  • Subpar writing skills
  • The Language barrier 
  • Not having a good story to tell 

Some of the simple tips we can provide here are keeping it simple, avoiding jargon and unnecessary words, and focusing on the story instead of the reader. However, you will still need an impressive story to tell. 

Think of it this way; since the panels receive thousands of essays, they won’t remember your details but the strong impression you give them from your story. So, you should tell your story in a way that delivers the most impact. When writing, select one or two areas of focus, areas you are most interested in. Then, display your achievements in these areas in the most impactful way. 

Also, understand that creating a powerful essay does not mean it needs to be perfect English. Even native English speakers sometimes struggle with the essay aspect of the application. With the right attitude and approach, an international student can produce an essay as good or even better than one written by a native American student. It can work in your favor since it proves you are a worthy addition to the campus. 

Trying to Manipulate the System

It is a known fact that there is a lot of pressure and competition for international students, especially when English isn’t your first language. However, it is important to submit an original and honest application. Write the essay and take the tests yourself. It’s not worth it to try to cheat the system. 

We discourage cheating on essays because having someone write your application can have severe consequences. Getting caught is easy, for example, when the English level in your essay does not match what your test scores reflect. It doesn’t mean your essay needs to be full of errors. Essay proofreading is still important; just make sure it is your essay. 

Another incentive for not cheating is that American universities are now using a holistic approach to college admissions. This approach considers multiple factors when accepting applicants, such as; your academics, non-academic commitments, and even individual circumstances. So, they give you a chance to showcase all you can offer aside from GPA and one’s test scores. 

Inadequate Financial Preparation 

While finding financial aid might be more challenging for international students, those who act early have a better chance of receiving it. When you start researching grants and scholarships early, you might have a better chance of landing them. Some places of finding scholarships include:

  • Official websites of the universities
  • Official study abroad webpage of your home country
  • Other reliable sites on the internet

Various colleges use a need-blind system to admit students and will often help cover the amount of aid an individual needs for college. So, international students can be admitted regardless of their financial capabilities. 

Take some time to research and understand how local students pay for college, and you’ll likely find some financial aid options. International students are limited when it comes to federal or state grants or scholarships. Still, you can look out for university-specific scholarships and grants. It would be best if you also researched financial programs offered from your home country. 

Focusing on Highly Ranked Colleges or Having no Plan B Options 

The appeal of Ivy League colleges in the U.S. stretches beyond its borders. Many students apply to these top-ranked schools, and thus, their selection process is strict. While some do manage to be accepted, many people don’t. 

Having a plan B means that if you fail to land your first choice, your backup choice might accept you. Being rejected also doesn’t mean that you should give up; always be ready to try again in the future. 

When choosing institutes to apply to, people also make the mistake of using world rankings from the counselors and websites online. You should instead design your own criteria for ranking institutes based on your needs. How fitting is the institution for your career choice? Is the school’s culture a good fit for you? 

It’s also worth noting that your chances of acceptance are higher at less-known universities than globally recognized ones. It is not because they have lower standards or take just any student, but because they receive fewer applications. A lot of these less-known institutions also have good programs for students. 

Forgetting or Ignoring Application Requirements

International students need to submit extra paperwork when applying for U.S. colleges. It can range from authenticated transcripts to recommendation letters. When applying for college, read every requirement specified for international students. In case you need clarification or you have some questions, contact the admissions office for assistance. 

Remember, failure to submit required documents almost always results in the automatic disqualification of an application. 

Also, understand that paperwork requirements vary across different colleges. So, read their specific requirements since you will probably want to prepare applications for your plan B choice. Only send what each school has asked for and nothing more. 

Final Thoughts 

Applying for studies abroad can be a hectic exercise, but you have to see it through and be fully committed to it. It’s also important to ensure that it is what you want. It is easy to get carried away by friends, family, and even counselors who encourage the idea of learning abroad.

However, remember that you will be the one studying abroad, thousands of miles away from your family and friends. So it helps to have a passion for what you intend to pursue. Finally, remember that rejection is not the end; as we have mentioned, always be ready to keep trying.


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