10 Mistakes International Applicants Make When Applying to U.S. Schools

February 22, 2016
* Sponsored Post

Applying to college as an international student can be a difficult process. From figuring out your most important priorities to understanding the application completely, it’s crucial to take time to complete the entire admissions process. We have worked with hundreds of students internationally, and trust me, we’ve seen our fair share of mistakes! Here are the ten worst mistakes that we see international applicants make:

1. Spending Almost All of Your Efforts on Standardized Test Preparation

To many people, the idea of holistic admissions evaluations run counter to everything they previously thought they understood about meritocracy. Standardized test scores are just going to get your foot in the door, but they aren’t going to be what closes it behind you.

2. Treating Extracurriculars as a “Box to Check”

Extracurricular involvement is the best way to frame the debate about a student within the admissions office. What separates two candidates with 2200s and identical GPAs? The answer lies in the honors and activities list: what they have chosen to do over the years and what they have made of those opportunities.

3. Exaggerating “Hours Spent per Week”

We have seen plenty of students fill out the Common App and artificially inflate their time commitment. Sometimes even so much that the aggregate hours spent per week for contemporaneously performed activities get up into the hundreds! Major red flag.

 

4. Treating Letters of Recommendation as an Afterthought

Many admissions offices don’t give much weight to recommendations written for international applicants. They simply don’t know how much credibility to accord them. International students should foster relationships with mentors and educate those writers about the letter of recommendation process.

5. Basing School Lists off the U.S. News and World Report Rankings

Rankings are a helpful starting point for doing research about schools. However, all too often we see students deciding that their school list will be the “Top 20” schools. Such a cookie-cutter approach will usually lead to bad admissions results and unhappy students.

6. Not Checking Your E-mail!

We have encountered this problem frequently in China in particular because students are not used to communicating via e-mail. Unfortunately, many students miss important requests (such as interview sign-up dates!).

7. Not Planning Far Enough in Advance

Students candidacies begin years before they actually apply. Preparing for the relevant standardized tests, picking the right classes, and building meaningful extracurricular involvements are pivotal in maturing students’ candidacies.

8. Preparing Financial Documentation

Some schools require international applicants to provide financial documentation supporting their ability to afford tuition. Although many schools don’t have such requirements, doubts about students’ ability to pay may still be detrimental.

9. Forgetting SAT Subject Tests

International students focus so much on the SAT and TOEFL/IELTS that they are prone to overlook preparation for SAT Subject Tests. They need to chart out their test-taking dates well in advance, build in some wiggle room, and prepare accordingly.

10. Omitting Transcripts

If an applicant took classes for credit at another school, almost all schools require you to submit transcripts from those programs. If the applicants are late in the process of obtaining these transcripts, they could struggle to meet deadlines, or worse yet, give rise to the inference that they are attempting to hide pertinent information.

Are you applying to college as an international student? Search our database of accepted international students to find application files, essays, stats, and advice. Find out how you can get in by chatting with mentors or getting their help on your application essays!

 

About The Author

David Mainiero, Guest Blogger
David Mainiero, Guest Blogger

David is the Co-Founder and College Admissions Expert at InGenius Prep. He is an experienced educator and admissions counselor with over almost a decade of experience helping students unlock their potential and achieve their dreams.​ David graduated from Harvard Law School after completing his undergraduate degree at Dartmouth. 




Browse Successful Application Files

Serena2020
Harvard ‘19


Accepted to Harvard, UChicago, Northwestern, Swarthmore, Emory, Oklahoma U, UKentucky, K College , OU, Alma

Premed on track to graduate a year early. But I love my school! National merit scholar, into surgery, arts & community…
Yalie
Yale ‘19


Accepted to Yale, Stanford, Columbia, Rice, Williams, Amherst, UVA, UNC, W&L U, Rutgers, UVM

Entrepreneurial sophomore Mathematics and Philosophy major at Yale University who also loves the liberal arts.
nyudotedu
NYU ‘19


Accepted to NYU, BC, BU, GWU, Northeastern

I was born and raised in Korea, but I've studied in in U.S. boarding school for 7 years. I love people, building, and cars so I love every cities in the world.
uhoh29
JHU ‘19


Accepted to JHU, Cornell, Northeastern, Fordham, UMD, Wisconsin, Temple

Senior Woodrow Wilson Research Fellow at Johns Hopkins majoring in English and Writing Seminars

New Posts

Dartmouth College 2018-2019 Supplemental Essay Prompts
Dartmouth College 2018-2019 Supplemental Essay Prompts
September 17, 2018

Drafted your personal statement and ready to get started on your supplemental essays? Here are the supplemental essay prompts for Dartmouth College.Dartmouth College requires two additional pieces of writing on top of the Common...

What You Need to Know about Athletic Scholarships
What You Need to Know about Athletic Scholarships
September 14, 2018

For many families, the only way to afford a college education is for their student to receive some financial aid. An athletic scholarship is one way that can help lower the price. Here’s what...

Still Figuring Out What School to Apply To?
Still Figuring Out What School to Apply To?
September 12, 2018

The school year is already in full swing. What if you’re a senior who hasn’t yet decided on a final college list? Don’t panic. Let’s get started. If you’re a...

Freshman Year: My First Weeks at Cornell University
Freshman Year: My First Weeks at Cornell University
September 03, 2018

As many of your are settling into your first weeks at college, we thought we’d ask our College Admits how their first weeks at college were. Here’s a reflection from JerBear, a Cornell...

Load More Posts