International Students - 3 Things You Need To Make Your College Decision

International students, I love working with you.

You're a fantastic group -- so ambitious and hopeful, full of energy and enthusiasm for U.S. colleges. 

Things You Need To Make Your College Decision

My students "dream" (their words) of coming to the United States for college. The dream is wonderful, but the reality sometimes isn't. With that, here's a list of 3 things you want to pay close attention to when making your college decision.

Financial Aid

More than likely, you won't be awarded financial aid based on financial need (e.g. parent income). You may be eligible for merit-based scholarships, but it depends on the college and how aggressively the college is looking to recruit international students.

Colleges that are looking to increase international student enrollment may be more generous with scholarships.

Popular colleges with international students, like the University of California system and the University of Michigan, expect that you will pay the full sticker price of the tuition.

Some colleges will publish how much financial aid is awarded to international students in their Common Dataset (CDS) - a document you can download on the web, such as Vanderbilt's Common Data Set, which you can download here

If you check Section H of the CDS, you'll see that Vanderbilt awards generous financial aid to international students. In 2017, they awarded 140 students financial aid with an average dollar amount of $54,292. However, this financial aid only covers about 1/4 of the approximately 530 international students at Vanderbilt.  Institutions tend to use financial aid strategically for recruitment, so unless you're on top of the pool or have an extreme need for financial aid because your family is low-income, you can expect not to receive much financial aid from Vanderbilt. 

Cultural and language immersion opportunities

International students should consider the geographic location of the university as well as on-campus opportunities to work with American students. If a student has a lower level of English, that international student may need to take makeup classes with other international students before integrating with the general undergraduate population.

The TOEFL score is one indicator of how much support a student may need before starting college. However, even students with a higher TOEFL score (over 100) often need some kind of linguistic support, whether with writing, speaking or reading.

Information to seek before applying: Check the availability and scope of these cultural and linguistic resources.

International student-specific resources.

Find out about the resources the university has to support international students when visa issues arise (e.g. study abroad in another country besides the U.S., finding part-time jobs on campus, getting approvals to return to campus). You want to have good people to support you in the event something goes wrong.

Information to seek before applying: How does this college support international student visa issues? Is it easy to get a hold of someone over email or over the phone? How quickly do they respond?

In my experience working with international students, many parents are unable to get as involved as American parents as they are less familiar with U.S. higher education and do not speak English well. Parents can help their students by hiring a reliable and trustworthy college counselor who empowers students and parents to successfully navigate our very complex and large system of higher education.

Contact me if you need any help. 

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