College Advice for American Student Overseas

Question: I’ve recently (in the middle of 9th grade) moved to a new country, and have enrolled in the IGCSE (the international Cambridge board) program. In my new school, leadership opportunities, clubs, etc are very scarce, and therefore I do not have the same opportunities as I did in America. I am probably going to complete the IB diploma program in 11th and 12th grade, and would like to attend a university in America once I finish. I have a U.S.A citizenship. Would I apply as an American citizen or an international student? Also, what would I need to do in order to have good chances at being accepted into prestigious colleges?

When you complete your applications, you will indicate that you are an American citizen, and college admission officials will treat you as a domestic student for financial aid purposes. (If you are applying for aid, being a citizen gives you a huge advantage over non-citizens at most colleges.)

Although you will not be officially considered an “International Student,” your school counselor should complete the Common Applications supplementary school report for international students. This is because you are attending a high school outside of the U.S. that follows the IGCSE system, and colleges will need to know this. (If you are applying to colleges that don’t accept the Common App, look for similar forms for your counselor.)

As you select your target colleges, you should check out the section for International Students on the admissions Web site to see if there are any other requirements that might apply to you. Most of the special requirements for international applicants (e.g., certification of finances and TOEFL) will NOT apply to you.

American admission officials (especially those at the most sought-after colleges) realize that overseas high schools often do not offer students the same number and range of extracurricular offerings that domestic high schools provide. However, in order to strengthen your application, you should look for other ways to stand out in a crowd. These “Admissions Without Borders” blogs may help you to highlight your extracurricular undertakings and other strengths at application time, even if you haven’t taken part in traditional American “EC’s.” See http://www.usaeducationguides.com/borders/?p=197 and then http://www.usaeducationguides.com/borders/?p=389

The vast majority of applicants to the most selective colleges will submit strong grades and test scores. Thus, if you can show off different talents, accomplishments, or unique interests and experiences, you will improve you acceptance odds, although at the hyper-competitive places, these odds will be daunting for everyone.

(posted 2/12/2012)