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Articles / Applying to College / Will Exchange Year in U.S. Help International Student's Admission to Elite U.S. College?

Will Exchange Year in U.S. Help International Student's Admission to Elite U.S. College?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | March 27, 2003

Question: I am an international student and current high school senior. I plan to apply to top U.S. colleges next year. Would it be an advantage for me to repeat my senior year as an exchange student in an American high school? How will admission officials view a student who has spent time in two high schools, one in France and one in the U.S.?

College admission officersâ€"including those at the most competitive institutionsâ€"are always interested in attracting qualified international students. However, whether or not you spend your senior year in the U.S. will not affect your admission as much as the following factors will:


·Your overall strength as a student in your own country

·The special talents or accomplishments that you offer in addition to your academic achievements

·Other unusual aspects of your background (a parent is a diplomat or other VIP; you grew up in a winery or traveled the country as a gypsy, etc.)

·Your standardized test scores (SATs and TOEFL, if English is not your first language)

· Your country of origin. That is, colleges are most attracted to applicants from nations who don’t typically send students to their school. If you are from France, you are not from an underrepresented country, but you are not from an over-represented one eitherâ€"so that’s pretty good news.

· Your ability to pay your own way, if you are not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (At some colleges, all studentsâ€"including international applicantsâ€"are evaluated with no regard to their finances. At others, however, there is a far, far higher standard for international candidates who require aid because the U.S. government offers no support to non-citizens.)

These considerations listed above will be far more critical to your admission to a top U.S. college than where you spend next year will be. However, if you do decide to study here, in an American high school, admission officials will certainly view your adventurous spirit and your obvious interest in American education as a plus. In addition, your year in the U.S. should have an excellent effect on your English skills, which, in turn, will not only help your TOEFL score but also will make your transition to an American college curriculum much smoother.

Finally, since you say you are a senior now and are applying for U.S. college admission next year, it’s not clear to us what you plan to do in the intervening year, if you don’t attend high school in the fall. The way you choose to use your time in the months ahead will also be considered when admission officers evaluate your candidacy, and, certainly, enrolling in a U.S. high school will be seen in a positive light, but so would other endeavors such as working or volunteering.

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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