Advice for International Students

Advice for International Students

By Tasha

International students applying to American colleges often wonder: will my application stand out?

Hey Tasha!
My name is Tushar and to tell you the truth, I'm freaking out. To begin with, I don't live in the US. I am from India. What's freaking me out is I never had the opportunities that other US high school students had. We never had any significant extracurriculars. All this leaves me thinking is that my school was
the worst.

But before rambling on, I'll tell you a little bit about myself. I lived in Lagos, Nigeria for the first 13 years of my life after which I moved to India to give my GCSE's and A-Levels( 5 of them). My grades in all these exams are stellar, save for English which was a  tough subject in which people rarely got A's in. In addition, I received awards in my Biology and Chemistry A levels by topping all other students in India who gave the exam that session. I plan to  include it in my application, but even though it gives my application a boost, I still feel a little short-handed when compared to the other students whose, for lack of a better word, amazing resumes clearly  over shroud mine. I do play tennis but have never gotten any award in that area. I was house captain and later cultural head (sort of student government at school). I participated in a few competitions in school i.e debate and public speaking, but these were only school based competitions. I speak French, and to a little extent, my native language Hindi. Plus, my SAT score is a modest 2200 (my first try, i got a 1950).

Basically, I wanted to ask how I can make my application outshine  everybody else's with such a small list of activities (academics and  extracurriculars).
Please help! Thanks so much!
I eagerly await your reply!


Thanks for your question. What an interesting background you have! I know that on this blog I often say how important extracurriculars are to a college application, but remember, admissions committees evaluate you based on the entire application—not just one segment. It’s clear from your question that you don’t think you can compete with American students in the college admissions game, but I think you can. You have a fascinating life story, stellar foreign language skills, and an unusual background, all of which will certainly make your application stand out.

What you may not realize is that many colleges and universities in America have begun implementing diversity initiatives to attract and retain intellectually gifted foreign students just like yourself. If you don’t believe me, just check out Cornell’s Commitment to Diversity page. Many universities are establishing offices of Multicultural Affairs to promote and encourage multiculturalism on campus. Therefore, don’t think for a minute that you can’t compete with American students—colleges are hiring foreign recruiters and developing minority student scholarships with the hope of attracting students just like you.

I know that comparing your grades to the American system can be a little troublesome, so I would encourage you to take the standardized tests offered by College Board ( College Board is the company behind the SAT, ACT, PSAT, and SAT Subject Tests. I see that you have taken the SAT, and I would encourage you to take it again. Also, consider signing up to take the Chemistry and Biology Subject Tests, since these subjects are your strong points. By taking these tests, you'll show admissions committees your strengths. Also, by doing well on these tests you may be able to “test out” of some of the more basic general education requirements at many colleges and universities. In the long run, doing well on these tests can save you both time and money.

If you do choose to attend an American university, I would encourage you to research diversity student scholarships and minority scholarships. Many universities offer scholarship opportunities to high achieving underrepresented students. You should be sure to get in touch with either the Academic Scholarship Office or Office of Multicultural Affairs (depending on the university) to learn more about these opportunities.

Good luck!


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Topics: india, SAT, college admissions, a-levels, hindi, french

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