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College Application Checklist for International Students

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By Shorelight Team
Last updated on March 18, 2021

Get ready to study abroad in the USA with our college application checklist.

Now that you have decided to study in the USA, you may be tempted to jump right into the college application process. However, it is important to have a good idea of what tests, paperwork, and documentation you will need to successfully apply. Take a moment to review our international student college application checklist—think of it as your first step to studying abroad in the United States.

1. Passport There is a reason this should be first on your applying to college checklist. Without a valid passport, you will not be able to enter the US. In addition, if your passport is not up to date, then the school you are applying to will not be able to issue your Form I-20. You need an I-20 before you can get your student visa. Since this can take some time, you should start the process right away if you do not have a passport or if yours is expired.

2. Money for Application Fees Some US universities waive the application form fee for international students, others require you to pay. The average application fee charged by a US university in 2019 was $50 USD. Make sure you research how much your schools charge as part of your college applications process checklist.

3. Bank Statements College admissions require you to prove that you can pay for your education before you can successfully acquire a student visa. Many universities will not consider students who cannot show adequate funds available to pay for school. As part of your college process checklist, be sure to get your or your guardians’ financial documentation in order before you start applying.

4. School Transcripts Your high school or secondary school transcripts are official documents with the classes you took and the grades you received. Colleges and universities use your transcripts to determine what kind of student you are. Some schools require translation, others want you to send the documents directly from your secondary school to the university admissions offices. There may be special rules if you submit a college online application or mail yours to your school. Pay close attention to the admissions office’s transcript requirements. If you send your transcripts incorrectly, you may not be considered until you resend them properly.

5. English Test Scores Most US universities will require you to take one of the major English language tests, such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International Language Testing System (IELTS) exam. You will have to include your English language test scores to complete your application.

6. SAT or ACT Scores In addition to your English language test scores, you may be required to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Test (ACT). The SAT consists of a reading, writing, essay, and math section and is meant to assess your academic ability and readiness for college-level work. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare for the test in advance of your university application deadlines. Also, be sure to review all SAT and ACT requirements with your prospective university before you schedule your tests.

7. Personal Statement or Essay One of the ways colleges and universities get to know you as a student is through your personal statement or essay. Some schools will allow you to answer a common application essay question—one that can be used for multiple university applications. Others require you to answer a unique question. Your essay will be due with your application.

8. Letters of Recommendation Most schools will require you to submit letters of recommendation from a teacher or other school official. Keep in mind that your recommendation letters will have to be in English or translated to English before you submit them to your schools.

9. CV or Resume Your university may require you to document your extracurricular, work, and volunteer experience in the form of a resume or CV. Finding volunteer and extracurricular activities to add to your resume should be on your college application checklist, too.

Be sure to read your university’s application requirements closely, as every school has its own rules for international students. Remember, in addition to our list, you will also have to start your visa application process as well.

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