Supporting International High School Students in the College Admission Process: A Qualitative Study of College Counselors

By Tara Nicola

Supporting International High School StudentsIn recent years, international students on F-1 and J-1 visas have constituted a growing segment within the US secondary school population. Because many international families choose to enroll their students in an American high school in order to boost their prospects of admission to top US colleges and universities, college counselors play an important role assisting these students during their transition to postsecondary education. Drawing on interviews with 20 college counselors from a diverse set of high schools across the country, this study explores the unique challenges counselors have encountered advising this student population, as well as what resources these professionals need in order to more effectively serve their foreign pupils.

Key findings included:  

  • Negotiating language and cultural barriers can be a significant obstacle for counselors, especially if international students arrive in the US with limited English language proficiency.
  • Seventy-five percent of all counselors, and 90 percent of private school counselors, reported their international students work with third-party agents. Because no schools in the study had a written policy outlining the relationship between the counseling office and agents, counselors were unsure of how to collaborate with the external consultants. 
  • Most counselors reported their graduate programs in counseling and education did not address working with nonimmigrant international students specifically. 
  • Only four institutions offered formal multicultural competency training to college counselors.
  • On average, college counselors felt less comfortable advising international students about the college admission process than their domestic students.

Read the report and the Executive Summary or view the PowerPoint presentation to learn more.

Related NACAC Resources

Explore the resources NACAC offers for counselors who work with international students

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  • #NACAC17 Preconference Workshop

    This fall, NACAC is offering a new preconference workshop for college counseling and admission professionals. The Fundamentals of Recruiting and Counseling International Students workshop will take place Sept. 13-14. Don't miss this opportunity to network, build your skill set, and take your CE credits.

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  • Counselor Toolkit

    A resource for counselors who advise international students attending US high schools as well as secondary schools which are considering enrolling such students

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  • 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.

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  • International Student Recruitment Agencies

    Learn about concrete steps schools colleges, and universities can take to engage with agencies responsibly.

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NACAC Research

College Counseling for Latino and Underrepresented Students

In order to understand the role of the school counselor in preparing Latino and other underrepresented students for the transition to college, Excelencia in Education and NACAC conducted a national survey and observed counseling practices at six US high schools that were successfully supporting underrepresented populations during the college application process.

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.

A National Look at the High School Counseling Office: What is it Doing and What Role Can it Play in Facilitating Students' Paths to College?

This report draws on data from the second wave of the US Department of Education’s High School Longitudinal Study to explore how high schools and counseling offices across the country support students as they transition from high school to college.