Independent college counselor and founder of MoonPrep.com
Attending college in the United States is a goal for many international high school students. (Shutterstock/Edella)
The United States has the largest number of international students enrolled in its universities (more than 1,000,000). Over 5% of the students studying in the US are foreign students. Universities report that the number of international students keeps growing year after year.
Attending college in the US is a goal for many international high school students. We are dispelling 10 myths about studying abroad in the US as follows.
Myth 1: I need to be rich to attend college in the US
Yes, American universities can be expensive. However, sticker price does not always equal net price.
There are merit-based scholarships available to international students.
Also, the cost of attendance can vary greatly at private and public universities. It is often less expensive to attend a public university.
Myth 2: I do not qualify for financial aid.
International students do not qualify for federal aid.
However, they can often qualify for merit-based scholarships. Each university decides how they want to distribute their funds. If they want to offer international students institutional aid, they can.
Myth 3: I am fluent in English, therefore I do not need to take the TOEFL.
There is no standard application process for US universities. For this reason, students must check each university's criteria for the TOEFL exam. Numerous universities require international students from a country where English is not the national language to take the TOEFL exam.
Each university also sets their own TOEFL passing score.
Myth 4: The TOEFL and IELTS are both accepted at US universities.
The TOEFL and IELTS exams have numerous differences. The TOEFL is more widely used as an entrance exam at universities and, therefore, offers only academic English, while the IELTS offers an academic option in addition to a general test.
TOEFL is more widely accepted at US universities. Almost every US college will accept the TOEFL score. This is not always the case for the IELTS.
Generally speaking, if you're applying to an American university, go with the TOEFL.
Myth 5: Applying to college in the US is centralized.
Things would be much simpler if this were true.
The college application process varies from college to college. Each college sets their own rules, criteria and deadlines.
There is no one true "universal" application.
Myth 6: Since English is not my first language, colleges will not expect my essay to have perfect grammar.
Nowadays, colleges are more competitive than ever.
In order to study at a top-tier university, students must have a strong grasp of the English language and grammar.
Myth 7: The US does not have very many international students enrolled in its universities.
For the 2015-2016 academic year, the number of international students at US colleges exceeded 1 million, according to a recent report from the Institute of International Education, a nonprofit that works to advance international education.
Myth 8: The steps involved in applying to US colleges are completely different for international and domestic students.
The steps involved in applying to US colleges are largely the same for international and domestic students. But international students need to undertake a few additional steps to make up for the differences in the school curriculum, grading system and language.
Myth 9: It is difficult to obtain a student visa.
Once a student is accepted to a university, the steps are fairly straightforward. The first step for international students is to ensure that the university they are applying to is accredited by the US government’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).
Only SEVP-approved institutions can enroll students in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
After an international student has been accepted, the university will enroll them in the SEVIS system. SEVIS will provide the students with the necessary documents to apply for a US student visa.
Myth 10: As soon as I graduate, I must leave the US
Upon graduation, many international students hope to stay in the US. These students can apply for twelve months of optional practical training (OPT). This allows them to work in fields related to their areas of study while building their skill-set.
The difficulty is that not just any job will do. The job must be specific to their field of study.
An additional option is to pursue an advanced degree. This will extend the student visa. After the advanced degree is obtained, the student can apply for an additional twelve months of OPT.
The process of finding long-term employment and receiving company sponsorship is not always easy. But it is certainly doable. The more specific and in-demand your major is, the easier the process becomes.
Studying abroad in the US is a lifelong dream for many. That dream can be realized with proper planning and diligence.
Kristen Moon is an independent college counselor and founder of MoonPrep.com. She specializes in Ivy League, Gap Year, BS/MD Programs, and International Students.
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