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Articles / Campus Life / College Advice for American Student Overseas

Feb. 12, 2012

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)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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