Applying to College/University

Many institutions have admission processes and requirements specific for international students. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do you convey to international students and their parents the holistic approach of American admissions?

A:  The first review takes into consideration the performance and the strength of coursework but building a well rounded student profile from grade nine onwards is also essential for US applications. Encourage student participation in extracurricular activities. Share the college updates on the admissions statistics which come out each year and highlight hours of volunteer service, leadership positions, research and project work. It is helpful to have the students hear this message when the college representatives visit.  It is also helpful to have college reps speak to this issue at parent events. 

Q: When being evaluated by an admission office, are the applications from international students enrolled in US high schools subjected to a different reading process than their domestic peers?
A:  It depends on the university/college and is an excellent question to ask of your college admission representative. Some institutions read all applications from the high school, regardless of their status, and others separate international students entirely in the review process.

Q:  What happens if a student uses multiple names and they do not match on all documents being submitted in the application (ie: tests, transcripts, documents from the US and documents from abroad)?
A:  Reinforce and explain to students that they should always use the name as stated in their passport on all documents--school transcript, testing accounts, university applications, etc.  If a document is submitted using a nickname, for example, the admission office computers will not make a match between a document with the full legal name and a document with the nickname and thus, the folder will remain incomplete for review. This will cause unnecessary delays or possibly, a decision that is unfavorable. The use of names is often problematic with families with multiple names in their family/last names, such as in many Latin American countries, and often, international students may drop one of the formal names for expediency.

It is also important to reinforce and explain this policy to your faculty and staff, so that the use of given names is encouraged on formal documents (written reports, etc.) throughout the school.

Q: What address should the applicant report on their application—their home address abroad or their place of residence in the US?
A: Students should report both addresses, whenever possible.The US address is their temporary mailing address and they should list a start and end date for its use during the application process and beyond, if they are matriculating to that institution.  Their address abroad is their home address.

Q: If dual citizens of the US and another country, should a student apply as a domestic or international applicant? 
A: Students must apply as a US citizen (domestic) and then they are eligible to apply for US government financial assistance programs using FAFSA.

Q: Should a student classify themselves as an international applicant if they are in the US on a green card? 
A: They are still international students but they should make sure to check the box which indicates that they are a permanent resident (green card holder). It is the student and family’s responsibility to make sure that the green card is valid or renewed in a timely fashion. As permanent residents, students are eligible to apply for US government financial assistance programs using FAFSA.

Q: Whose responsibility is it to translate any transcripts from a student’s home country? The high school? The college receiving them? An outside company at the cost of the student?
A:  It is the student and family’s responsibility to provide certified translations in English of all transcripts and testing records. The school can be helpful by providing names of companies that do this. This should be done prior to the student enrolling in your school.

Q: How should US high schools provide record of previous academic work completed outside of the US high school (e.g., on the US high school’s transcript, separate official copy, etc.)
A:  The high school should have copies of every student’s high school transcript from prior schools. It is much easier to send prior transcripts as they are provided, rather than trying to make them conform to your high school transcript. Original documents should be certified true copies by a notary public and attached to the current school transcript. In some cases, the university will also want the original document sent directly from the issuing school. 

Any international credential such as examination results or educational certificates should be retained by the high school counseling office/registrar's office (by copies in the file, pdf scans, etc.) and included in the transcript packets sent to colleges.

Q: If the international student has been studying in the US for three years and is doing well in English, does s/he still need to take an English language proficiency exam?
A: It depends. If the native language spoken at home on a regular basis is not English, it is generally recommended that a student consider taking an English proficiency exam unless they are able to earn an SAT Critical Reading score of 600 or better or an ACT English subscore of 25 or better.  There are some colleges that will not require the English proficiency exams in this instance, but this is institution-dependent, so each institution’s policy will need to be verified.


  • Check out "Eight Tips for Counseling International Students at US High Schools" compiled by OACAC and NACAC member Joan Liu.
  • The Journal article "Advising International Students: Perspectives from the Field" provides insight from two NACAC members about their expeirences counseling international students. 
  • International students at SEVP-certified US high schools that are interested in continuing their post-secondary education in the US should only apply to SEVP-certified colleges or universities.
  • Sending award certificates along with a college application will not necessarily increase a student’s chances of admission. Encourage your student to use the application itself to highlight his/her successes.
  • Some colleges require or recommend an interview component for their international applicants, either done by a third party vendor or by the school itself. Make sure the student is aware of which category the interview falls under and how an interview is set up and takes place.
  • In many cultures, ninth grade is in middle school. Students can feel odd sending their middle school transcripts as part of their college application and sometimes have a hard time retrieving copies. However, their applications cannot be considered without them and so counselors need to insure that their students are obtaining these transcripts to account for their ninth grade year. 
  • Encourage international students to take deadlines seriously. Colleges and universities do stick to them!

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Relevant Resources

Guide to International University Admission

A comprehensive resource for counselors and students about undergraduate college options abroad.

The State of College Admission Report

Examining the transition from high school to postsecondary education through survey data collected from colleges and universities across the country.

Trusted Sources: Seeking Advice on Applying to Universities in Another Country

Are you a student who would like to apply to a university in another country? Researching and applying to universities in another country, and selecting an institution to attend can be both exciting and overwhelming. Trusted Sources: Seeking Advice on Applying to Universities in Another Country describes the advisors who can help you through the admission process.